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October 12, 2005

John Lackey

Mike Scioscia


Q. There's been a lot of discussion about the similarities between your club and the White Sox, but what in your mind would set these two clubs apart?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think there's a lot of similarities. I love the way they go about playing their game. Sometimes it's tough to defend from our side, but they're aggressive in every aspect. They hit more home runs than us. They're a little more right-handed heavy than we are in their lineup, but they play the game right, they play hard, they're aggressive in a lot of areas. Ozzie is not afraid to do something from a double play to a squeeze or whatever it takes to win a ballgame, and I think we're similar in a lot of those ways, and they're a handful trying to defend. There's a lot of baseball left. Hopefully we're going to have the success we need to get through this series.

Q. John, Bud Black said in the last year you have matured. If you agree with that, what do you think caused that maturing process?

JOHN LACKEY: I would just say experience. I think more so understanding my pitches, understanding when to throw certain things and understanding game situations better I think is what I've matured at the most, understanding that there could be one or two spots in a game that can mean a game, and you've really got to lock in and make pitches in those situations.

Q. Can both of you guys talk about what it means to have K-Rod at the end of the game and the confidence if you get a lead?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think any championship caliber club has to have somebody at the back end of the bullpen that's going to get the last three or four outs of the tough game on the road, tough environment against -- any playoff club you're going against, first class hitters the whole way, it doesn't matter what inning you're pitching in. That's important. For a long time we had Troy Percival, who was as good as there was, and we've been able to pass the baton to Frankie Rodriguez. When he was down Scot Shields picked up the baton and kept going with it. I think it's vital to a club, and we're very fortunate to have Francisco at the back end of our bullpen and it sets the tone for the rest of the guys.

JOHN LACKEY: I think as a starting pitcher, it's great for us. Our whole bullpen, being so strong down there really allows us to go hard for as long as we can. We don't have to worry about saving things for late in the game. We can really go after our pitches, try and make good pitches from the beginning because we have a lot of confidence in the guys who are coming in behind us.

Q. Mike, can you talk a little bit about managing against Ozzie Guillen? You said that he's not afraid to do some things and he admittedly makes some decisions from his gut. Can you talk about his managing style and what it is like to manage against it?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, Ozzie manages to make things happen, not worrying about mistakes, to be proactive and try to win a game. I think that's the way you have to do it. I think that he uses every strategy there is and understands the talent that he has in that dugout, and we talked a lot about the offensive side of both clubs, but the backbone of both clubs is really the pitching, and particularly the rotation, deep bullpens and the ability of guys to go out there and start and keep pitching deep in the games, and I think he along, with Coop (Don Cooper) have done an incredible job in handling the pitching staff, which is one of the best in baseball. I think you have to not just look at the offensive side of what Ozzie does but on the defensive side and the pitching side, he's put guys in great position and gotten the outs he's needed in crucial times and let the bullpen evolve into one of the best in our league.

Q. Two separate questions: One, could you explain what you've been able to do with the DH slot in these two games, and two, how has your home field advantage evolved since you've been Angels manager?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Our DH spot, as it is much of the season, is really a spot to occasionally let guys get off their feet so they don't have to play the outfield or in the case of tonight Bengie Molina catching. We don't really have a true DH on our team. We've rotated some guys through, and for most of the last month of the season Juan Rivera was in that role more than anyone and has really been terrific. As far as our home field advantage, the evolution of baseball at Angel Stadium and in southern California has been good fun to watch. I think from the first year we got here in 2000, we've been moving in the right direction, and since the middle of 2002, when we were fortunate enough to make the playoffs and go on and win the World Series, it's just been an incredible frenzy out there, and the support has been, I think, second to none. They're very, very loyal fans. It's a loud place, a great baseball atmosphere, and it's a fun place to get into the ballpark and play.

Q. How is Jarrod looking today, and will there be any limitations on him?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Wash is a little green behind the gills still, but he's going to -- he's going to be okay. He's going to be able to get out there and hopefully have enough strength to get the game to the point where we're going to have a chance to get some other arms in there and win. You have to know Jarrod; he's a gamer as all these guys are. He's going to take the ball with just really being in the middle level physically, but he has enough to go out there and pitch and hopefully pitch well.

Q. John, with Bartolo out you sort of inherited the role as the No. 1 starter on this team. Do you feel any added pressure from that? Some of your teammates are saying that they've considered you basically one of the two staff aces anyway. How do you feel about it?

JOHN LACKEY: I think in the playoffs I don't think it really matters what your number is. Every time somebody -- they're No. 1 that night. All the games are important, and I don't think I'm going to put any added pressure on myself. I'm going to go out there and get after it, like I always do. I always put pressure on myself, whether it's October or a game of the season.

Q. Mike, how important was it to get that first victory?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, you know, you take them one at a time obviously. The first victory is nice, but the only one that's going to count is when you get that fourth victory. You have to keep grinding it out. You know, the momentum changes so quickly in the playoffs, pitch to pitch. I think it's great to get one, the first, under your belt naturally, but our challenge is still ahead of us, and it's a tough challenge and it's going to be a tough road. You have to really focus on just plodding away and grinding it out, and the momentum in this game is going to change a number of times before this game is over. You can't get caught up in momentum, whether it's on your side or against you; you have to keep playing the game and keep doing what your guys do best, bring it onto the field and win or lose with that. So I don't put a lot of stock in saying, hey, it's great to get the first one and it gives us a little momentum. That's not the case. Both teams play well whether they're at home or on the road. Us going back home is going to have the same challenges as playing the White Sox here. You have to grind it out and that's what it's all about.

Q. Mike, can you talk about Chone Figgins in particular, what his versatility means to the team this year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: The versatility that Chone brought to our team gave us an incredible amount of depth from being at second when Adam Kennedy was rehabbing from his knee surgery last season to play six positions, really, playing everyday third base for the lion's share of the season, moving to center field, never skipping a beat offensively whatever position you put him at, bringing a strong defensive presence wherever you play him. Chone is a special player. I know I've never run into anyone that not only is as versatile as he is, but to bring the level of play that he brings at so many positions is -- the only guy I can think of is a guy like Mark McLemore five, six years ago, seemed like he was at a different position with Seattle. Derrel Thomas who played for the Dodgers was very versatile defensively, but Figgie can do more certainly on the offensive end. He's been terrific.

Q. Mike, I guess the one guy on your team we don't know a lot about is Guerrero. I just wanted to find out what you've learned and what you're learning with him as a person since you've had him.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: The things that sticks in my mind about Vlad is his passion for the game in all aspects of the game. When he first signed for 2004, the first day we came to spring training, we started batting practice, and he's in right field and he is working on his defense like it's the World Series, working on his angles, working on his charging balls, whatever was called for for a right fielder to do. We thought it was a one-day thing, like this guy is not going to keep this pace up. And he's done it every day from the first day he put a uniform on in spring training in 2004, and you'll see him out here tonight doing the same thing. I think that speaks volumes of the passion he has to play the game, all aspects of the game, whether it's the running game, how aggressive he is going first to third or shouldering responsibility of hitting in the middle of a championship caliber line-up. He's a special player, and a player like Vlad, we're fortunate to have him on our team. I think any baseball fan is fortunate enough to be able to enjoy his talent right now.

Q. Two questions: We were talking about Lackey in the second half, how he's picked you up. Can you comment on him especially without Bartolo? And secondly, you managed the All Star Game in this ballpark. Does that make this ballpark a little special for you in any way?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, as to the second one, Chicago is a great city, a great sports town, and managing the 2003 All Star Game here was a blast, just the whole atmosphere was all baseball. It was a great game. Fortunately the American League won that year, and it was just an incredible experience. You're always going to have special memories as you sit back and you reflect. I'll definitely remember this ballpark and that All Star Game. John Lackey's evolution as a pitcher has been happening over the last three or four years. I think from pitching Game 7 in 2002 of the World Series and winning that game, his expectations were off the chart as far as what he thought he needed to do. He thought he had to go from winning that game to Cy Young award winner next year or he wasn't progressing the way he feels he should. He's a very confident pitcher. He's had some bumps in the road. He's made some great adjustments. This year probably outside of his first handful of starts this year, he's been arguably our best pitcher, and I think that along with Bartolo, that one-two punch that he gave us, along with guys like Jarrod Washburn, Paul Byrd, the guys that just kept grinding out, Ervin Santana, we wouldn't be in this position without the contributions of those guys, and for a good part of the year John was the lead dog. He just took that ball and it was just good start after good start, and he's carried it right into the playoffs.

Q. You're sort of rotating DH. Is that something that you did by design, or did it just sort of evolve? And the second question, was there anything you saw in Guerrero on Monday that sort of suggested he was ready for a half night off?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think there's a lot of guys on our team ready for a half night off. I think if you look at the grind -- the guys that have followed our club all year have seen Darin Erstad, Guerrero, Adam Kennedy, Bengie Molina, Chone Figgins, Orlando Cabrera, the grind has been incredible. Some guys are playing a little bit banged up, and if we can take the opportunity, as you said, to give them a half day off where tonight Bengie Molina doesn't have to go through the rigors of catching and Guerrero's night, we're seeing Vlad go out and he's not going to have to go out and shag flies in right field, especially considering our schedule for the last 72 hours. We want to take advantage of that. There's nothing long-range that should impact Vlad for this series or if we move beyond this, just try to take advantage of that day, and that's pretty much what our DH role has been this year. We haven't had a prototypical DH or a guy who's up there much, like Carl Everett has done, Paul Konerko for the White Sox. We've had to rotate guys through, and it hasn't always been -- the productivity hasn't always been there just from the DH spot, if you look at just DH numbers, but it's giving guys just get a little bit of downtime and it's paid dividends and it's really the only way we can go about it right now.

Q. I have a follow-up on this question, too: How much has Bengie meant to Francisco in the last couple of years of his maturing?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, you know, Francisco came up in just the most incredible circumstances in 2002, thrown into a pennant race. He didn't come up until September 17th or 18th, it was late in September, after the playoffs had finished in Triple-A, and quickly emerged as a guy that we knew we needed on our staff. I can't tell you how important it was to have a guy like Bengie Molina, a guy like Jose Molina, guys that had the experience, had the insights behind the plate and were just terrific catchers to help a guy like Francisco to relax and execute pitches. You know, Bengie Molina has just been incredible since he came up in day one, and the biggest factor that Bengie brings to our club is his ability to call the 140 pitches and influence the game that way, and when a young pitcher comes up like Frankie or like Ervin Santana, whether it was John Lackey who came up in the middle of 2002, also, and thrown into that same pennant race, Bengie Molina has been there for him, for all those guys, and his contributions have really made a difference in our ballclub.

Q. As a former catcher, has the language barrier, been an advantage to your pitching staff having Bengie in that position, too?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, Francisco Rodriguez, Frankie can speak perfect English. When he came up he had a great vocabulary and had no problem communicating in English. I think what's more important is that baseball communication, not as much the language barrier. My experience as a catcher is when I first started, and I'm from Philadelphia and I'm Italian, I didn't speak a lot of Spanish. When he was in the minor leagues I was catching for guys that were from Latin America. As we got on that field and we got that baseball communication, whether it was to help them execute a pitch or using baseball terminology, which is really universal, that communication was there, and that's what's important, not so much that you speak the same language. Of course it's easier if you do speak the same language, but it's not critical that you have to. I think it made Francisco a little more comfortable having Bengie and Jose there, but no matter who was going to catch Francisco, communication wouldn't have been a problem.

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