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October 4, 2000

Al Leiter

Bobby Valentine


Q. Explain your final decisions on your postseason roster?

BOBBY VALENTINE: I don't know if there's explanations. We're going with the 25 guys that will help us win three games out of the next five. And if you have a specific question --.

Q. What's the advantage of 10 pitchers?

BOBBY VALENTINE: I think that's all we'll need.

Q. Benny Agbayani has been slowed with injuries the last few weeks. How important was it for you to get him in the lead-off spot tonight?

BOBBY VALENTINE: Benny has been one of our most consistent hitters all year, and the hamstring kept him out of the line-up for a while. But he's feeling healthy now. I think it's important for a team to have Benny in there.

Q. Could you talk about the emotions that go on now? Is it nerves, is it butterflies? What do you feel before the start of a series like this?

BOBBY VALENTINE: You know, I'm kind of like an old petrified fossil here. You should ask someone with younger emotions running through their veins. Maybe Al can help you with that.

Q. Knowing the Giants have played an entire season at the stadium, with the unusual contours of the outfield. You guys only played a few games here. How big an advantage is that, not just the home crowd, but the fact that they are more familiar having played a season?

BOBBY VALENTINE: Well, we've had meetings where we've instructed our pitchers to keep the balls in front of our outfielders so that the walls won't come into play. And everything in front of the outfield, as we've noticed, is the same as any other ballpark in baseball (laughter.) Other than that, it's different. And we came out yesterday and we worked our butts off hitting balls off the wall and trying to get everything we could. But until you experience it -- I don't think that Ellis actually knows what's going to happen when the ball goes off the wall, because he hasn't experienced it at all, I'm sure, in one season. So it's a neat place to play. I think we're excited about playing here, because it's a nice ballpark. And you like those nice things.

Q. I'll pose the same question to Al. Tomorrow, Game 2 for you, what are the emotions for you?

AL LEITER: I think what I've been able to do over the last several years, especially having played in a couple of World Series and some big games, I've been able to limit those emotions and just focus on what matters, and that's executing a pitch, knowing who's up, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, and having an aggressive, controlled delivery and attitude, and not really worry about it. There's nerves, there's feeling of the excitement of the unknown of going out there wondering how my stuff is going to be and how things are going to go. But as far as being nervous, I have gotten less nervous over the years, and I think it's just mainly because of my experience in some big games.

Q. Al, you've been watching some of the playoffs, and pitchers with more experience and less experience, it's been pretty bizarre. Is there anything you can take from watching things like that?

AL LEITER: Well, it tells you that baseball, anything can happen. I was just watching the Seattle, White Sox games, and there was somewhat difficult play to the shortstop, and he pulled the second baseman off the base, and he didn't make the play. Someone said that is tough play. This is the major leagues, and this is postseason, and tough plays have to be played. Teams that execute and do the little things and go above and beyond, make the tough pitch and get a big-time hitter out in an inning, that's who goes to the World Series. I'm not surprised that what the Braves went through is not all that unusual, but it's part of the game that we love and hate sometimes.

Q. What scares you the most about the Giants line-up?

AL LEITER: I respect every Major League line-up, whether it's a quality hitting team in the Giants or teams that you're supposed to beat and pound on or strike everybody out. I think it's obvious with Bonds, Kent and Burks, it's a very formidable middle line-up, that a pitcher has to execute. If a pitcher is on, and there's nothing wrong and he's physically fine and mentally strong, and he's making quality pitches, it's going to be a low-scoring game. And if a pitcher is able to do that, I don't care who's in the box, it's going to be difficult for the best Major League hitters to put the solid part of the bat on it. If I think of being nervous or anything like that, I think it's going to lessen my ability to do what I'm able to do, and that's make good, quality pitches. But the middle of their line-up is something to watch out and be aggressive and make good pitches.

Q. Al, kind of a nasty twilight with the glare off the board as you're pitching. Does that make a change to how you're going to pitch?

AL LEITER: Nasty, good for me, right? Is that what that is? Good for the pitcher. That's a big change, yeah. No, of course not. It still comes to knowing the hitter, knowing his weakness, and getting together with Mike and exploiting, and being aggressive and pitching to my strength and their weakness, and make pitches. But as far as the hitter's perspective of seeing glare and all that, I guess it's bad for our hitters; and hopefully, I do my job.

Q. Al, the Giants finished with a losing record against lefties, is there something they were doing earlier in the season that they're not doing now?

AL LEITER: I pitched against them once in the end of August; I threw the ball well. I really haven't paid that much attention to how and why they haven't hit lefties. I really just continue to say the same thing, but I think it's just a matter of making good pitches. It does surprise me somewhat, only maybe perhaps Benard and J.T. and Barry as the lefties, but to me it's pretty much a right-handed line-up, so I don't know. It's just one of those things that I can't explain.

Q. Al, you talked before about your postseason experience. Was there any one game that you learned most in your early career in the postseason?

AL LEITER: I would say most recently, the Game 7 start in the World Series with the Marlins against the Indians, Game 3, numbers-wise it looked like I didn't do well. But I gave up a few runs, and I went back, and I was able to internalize a lot of things and just focus on really just making good pitches to a good line-up. I use that reference now and then, and the few big games that I've had here, and it's helped. So I would say that '97 start World Series.

Q. Do you feel differently now than you did?

AL LEITER: Absolutely. I think every day is a learning experience; every game you learn from. I played with Tommy John, basically his last year. He had 26 years in the Big Leagues. I was a rookie, and he was tinkering and working on something. T.J. was always working on something. And I asked what he could possibly be learning. He had 276 wins and a great Major League career. He said: You will forever learn. Every day you'll see something different, you do something differently. A hitter reacts and plays, and on and on. And I believe that. Even from that point in '97, my other references were the World Series in '93. And I remember those moments, mentally, and how I handled it. Hopefully, after we experience a World Series this year, next year I'll have the World Series 2000 to refer back to.

Q. What did it do for you last year, before you got to the playoffs you had three must-win games. Did that do anything to prepare you mentally once you got in the postseason? What is the difference this year where you didn't have the must-win games to pitch?

AL LEITER: We learned a lot last year, having to overcome a lot of things, as far as being kind of our backs-against-the-wall situation, and having to go as far as we did. Yes, we were disappointed. We were two wins short of playing the Yankees in the World Series. But we didn't do it together as a team last year, because a lot of us have been in different playoffs with other teams. And I think this year, hopefully, we will grow and remember the mindset and the mentality and the importance of every pitch and feeling that we went through last year. I think it's hopefully a positive, valuable experience in what we experienced last year. But to tell you the truth, I certainly liked this ending right here. There's certainly no letdown or relaxed feeling going to the playoffs, just because we clinched a few days earlier and it was easier than last year.

Q. Al, Dusty has indicated that because of your success against left-handers again, that he might go with what they call the right-handed line-up here, guys like Murray and Martinez. My question is, as a pitcher, would you -- do you prefer facing maybe a higher caliber of Major League, more experienced hitters, that you see over and over again, as opposed to guys who maybe you haven't seen a lot of, but may not have the hitting credentials of the other guys?

AL LEITER: There's an advantage to both sides, too. Not only just the pitcher, but the hitter. If there is a history, and there's at-bats and there's moments in which I know I faced Kent or Bonds or Burks, I'm just bringing up those names, because I have the most at-bats against those guys, and you remember how the outcome was or how things were. Sometimes there is the unknown when a rookie comes up, and you're not quite sure. And generally the mindset is you go with your strength and not worry about what they like. But in this day and age with video and scouting, we cover it. I go over these videos, and what I've really liked, since I've been with the Mets, is that the use of video has been very, very valuable for me. And I believe in it. And I have seen Murray's at-bats against other lefties, and the same with Ramon Martinez. And so not much goes unnoticed or unscouted nowadays.

Q. Bobby, Joe McEwing getting on the roster, his versatility, he gives you so much with Timo and Benny's hamstring problems, is that the reason he was chosen?

BOBBY VALENTINE: You had the roster, that was very good work on your part. But I would say that, yes, Joe adds versatility both in the outfield and the infield. We had three left-handed hitters, Hamilton, Harrison, and Timo, and as good as Matt Franco is, I thought -- again, you can't predict all this stuff. You don't know what you're going to need. I don't know if this is the 13th inning today, what it is I'm going to need. I'm just guessing that we're protected most in this grouping.

End of FastScripts….

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