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March 12, 2006
POOL 1: ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA
Q. Buck, what was your view of the play at third base, and do you think that the umpire took the game away from the Japanese?
BUCK MARTINEZ: I was in the dugout, obviously, and I saw the angle of the base runner, the left field of Randy Winn. I had a pretty good angle of that. And at the moment I saw it happen, I thought he left early. I think everybody in our dugout felt the same way.
That was the reaction of everyone, and that's why we went out and talked to the homeplate umpire. But one thing that was unusual I thought was the second base umpire came around and got into the play. Left fielder goes out. A lot of times you'll see the homeplate umpire make that call.
I had a really good look at it. Everybody on the bench reacted the same way, which validates what I thought was happening. I said to Bob Davis I felt like he left early. Let's see if we can get this right. Give us a chance to get it right, and I backed out of the way. I don't know what happened after that, other than he called him out.
Q. Can you talk about the general tenseness of that game? There was a lot of guys on base at the end, and key pitches and key outs, and just kind of played out almost like a post-season atmosphere at the end.
BUCK MARTINEZ: It was very tense. The Japanese team had marvelous defensive players. The third baseman, the first baseman took hits away from us a couple of different times during the course of the day, and, you know, obviously kept it very tight.
We both had outstanding relief pitching. The quality of their relief pitching, I think, was even better than we imagined. We recognize they had good arms down in the bullpen. They had a little better fastball than we thought. Much better command, and they really had a good bullpen.
So things got very tense at the end. But at the same time, we were confident we had an opportunity to bring Brian Fuentes in. And we were concentrating on the Ichiro at-bat to make sure that we we had him in that situation.
And he made a heck of a pitch to get him out and then when we had a chance, we certainly weren't going to pitch to him at that next at-bat. So it was tense. It was exciting. It was a great atmosphere.
Our guys were into it a hundred percent. Now, I've also had a chance to be around these great players for almost two weeks now. It's been pretty special.
Q. Alex, two questions. First, how critical was this victory to the United States' hopes of going to the semi-finals? Secondly, since you never faced Fujikawa before, could you describe your thought process during that at-bat up until the time you hit the single to the middle?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: It was a big win for us. We learned in the first round losing to Canada, every game is extremely important. You almost have to take it like an NCAA type racket where every game is a must win or go home.
As far as at-bat, I thought the guy -- I studied Ken Griffey's at-bat pretty good. I had about seven pitches to study him, and it looked like he had a little hop in his fastball. It looked to me like it was 95 or 94 with a little hop on it. I was trying to slow the game down, get a good pitch, get the ball down the strike zone and then stay inside of it and just got lucky.
Q. Have you seen the replay since then?
BUCK MARTINEZ: No, I haven't seen the replay, no.
Q. And what did you think when during the argument the Japanese team did not take the field?
BUCK MARTINEZ: You know, we were aware that that's something that's not uncommon when that happens and they have a dispute. We didn't think anything unusual of it. We have enough guys who have played over in Japan. We're aware of that. So it doesn't surprise Reggie or Davie Johnson. But, I mean, obviously they felt like the call went against them.
Q. Alex, what a way to end a game in this very dramatic manner.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Well, I definitely felt very proud. It was the first opportunity of this sort that I had and that was definitely good, and I was very happy to make that hit.
Q. One more in Spanish. Can you tell us what you were thinking when you saw that the team was losing three-zero?
THE MODERATOR: Why don't we let Alex answer that in English also, if you don't mind.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Let's see, just -- what was the question?
THE MODERATOR: What were you thinking when you were down three?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: We were in that same situation down to Canada, and we felt we had enough confidence in our bullpen to hold them down and certainly enough confidence in our offense to score some runs.
But I think the key of the game is Buck put in the right guys from the bullpen standpoint to give us a chance to come back against their very good pitching.
Q. Have you expected such a close game? And the second question to Alex, which pitcher were you interested in at most?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I'll let Buck go first.
BUCK MARTINEZ: We expected a very tough game from Japan.
BUCK MARTINEZ: Absolutely. We saw them play. We know a lot about them. We know how well prepared they are. Very sound fundamentally. The first and third baseman made great plays. And we knew that Uehara was a very good pitcher.
We were very, very confident that he was going to come out and give us all we needed. It's very difficult for these hitters to see different pitches, three different pitchers three times in a game, and especially difficult when you don't know anything about them and you've never faced them before.
So for Alex to get that hit was pretty special. He hadn't seen this pitcher before. He's a very good pitcher, and it was the third pitcher he had seen all day, maybe the fourth pitcher, fourth pitcher he had seen all day.
So it's a challenge for hitters even in the United States when you see four different pitchers in a game. It's an adjustment, but at least you've faced them before.
In a scenario like this, it's a testimony to what a great hitter he is and how you can battle in those scenarios.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I was first of all impressed with all them. I was just talking with Skip about how these guys know how to pitch a game.
I feel the Japanese and the Orientals overall are the European version to the NBA. They bring so much to our game from a fundamental standpoint. They don't beat themselves.
I think the pitchers do the same thing. I mean, they throw the ball, both fastballs to both sides of the plate. They all have split fingers, but the last two I was most impressed with because good command on the fastball and really good splits.
Q. I want to make the same question to Mr. Martinez and Alex answering in Spanish. What did you expect to the Mexican team, if you can give me an opinion about this team that it was in the first place in the first round?
BUCK MARTINEZ: We are very impressed by the Team Mexico and we knew we pitched very well when we shut them out two to nothing in that first game. We saw them explode later on in the tournament.
So we have a lot of respect for them. They have three very good pitchers that start for them, and we think they are a very quality team that shows how good they are by winning the first round.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: (Spanish.)
Q. Do you think this being an international tournament having international umpires that there would be some semblance of fairness with all the umpires being American?
BUCK MARTINEZ: I don't think there's any feeling it's unfair. I think the umpires are always challenged to call the game. The game is not an easy game to call to begin with, and I don't think you can allow outside influences to influence how you work a game. I mean, they're professional umpires. I think they do their best to get everything right.
Q. Mr. Martinez, you playing Korea tomorrow. How much information and knowledge about Korean team and what kind of game do you expect tomorrow?
BUCK MARTINEZ: Well, obviously, with their victory over Japan in the final game in Tokyo, we know they're very good. We know they had a very tough injury and we're saddened by that. It's a difficult thing to lose a great player, but we also know they have many good players and a very confident team as well.
And they are fueled by their win over Japan and that meant a lot to them to be able to win that pool and come here as the number one seed.
I think we are very aware that we're going to have our hands full again, and we have had some scouting reports. We have watched videos. So we will prepare for them more in the morning tomorrow as we have a night game, and we'll have some time tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Couple more, please.
Q. Alex, Buck mentioned the variety of pitches you faced today. I was just wondering if you could discuss your comfort level at your earlier at-bats?
And also, did it ever cross your mind about the last game you played at this ballpark and how it didn't end particularly well?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I thought about it for a few minutes early on. And it's kind of a great place to come early to kind of get those demons out of the way, you know. So I think things work out for a reason.
Last time I was here, things went really bad, not only for me, but for my team. And I look at it as an opportunity to start a new year, a new chapter. And ironic enough, I come up with a game winning hit in this situation where last year, I was the biggest goat, and today I get to be a hero. There's also a lesson to be learned, I guess.
Q. What about your comfort level at your earlier at-bats?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Comfort level is always good even if I struggle. I mean, I can go for full. I always want to be at-bat. I can't wait to get up there. I feel it's an opportunity. I always feel the pressure on the pitcher.
The comfort level, however, is not as comfortable because you don't know anything about these pitchers. When you get in a hitter's count or opposite, you don't know what tendencies are. So I like to prepare and know information. Some of the guys like to see the ball and hit it, so a little different.
Q. Buck, in your professional career, have your powers of persuasion gotten calls reversed before? Did you feel more like a manager today in terms of the way you handled the game?
BUCK MARTINEZ: It's hard not to feel like a manager with a team like this. There's so much talent on the team and there's so many great arms in the bullpen. We try to match them up, but I didn't honestly know if I've ever had a call reversed. I know I've appealed a play once in Fenway once a very similar type of play, once in Seattle, but that was a good feeling today to have that one go in our favor.
THE MODERATOR: One more question, please.
Q. Alex, what was going on in the bench because Buck talked about it. He said the feeling in general was that everybody saw him leave early.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: You know, I got to be honest. I didn't see it. I just saw a whole bench at the same time react kind of like he left early.
So I just jumped on it and I said, yeah, he left early, too. But I didn't see it. I'm just cheering. I got my pom-poms on. I don't know what to do. Buck wants to sit me down, and I'm DH. I don't know what to do with myself. Buck is the player of the game today. I was very surprised the call got overruled because you don't see that often. So when Bob Davis -- is that his last name -- when he set out, I said, okay, this is our game to win right here.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you folks very much.
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