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December 6, 2006

Lou Piniella


Q. Hear about Schmidt?
LOU PINIELLA: Schmidt to the Dodgers. Yeah, Charlie Steiner was telling me that. He is a good pitcher. Dodgers got themselves a good starting pitcher.

Q. A lot of money?
LOU PINIELLA: Not mine. You know, you have to pay for good talent. Jason's had a great career.

Q. He was a pitcher that was kind of on the Cubs' radar, too, wasn't he?
LOU PINIELLA: Not really. We didn't really get into talking about Jason. We liked him a lot as a pitcher. We thought that we would stay out of that one.

Q. Looks as though Ted Lilly, the agent said that they are very close to making a decision today. If he decides Chicago, what would that mean for your team?
LOU PINIELLA: We are looking for starting pitching. We've added some offense to our team and some versatility. Now we are looking for starting pitching. And Ted is certainly one of the pitchers that we made a really nice offer to and somebody we'd like to see pitching in Chicago.

Q. What do you like the best about him?
LOU PINIELLA: He is a competitive guy. He likes to pitch. Left-hander, you know, he's got a good breaking ball, but the good thing about him is that he gives you innings, he gives you a chance to win and we think that he would be a fine addition to our pitching staff.

Q. Do you mind, do you want X number of lefties, righties, people in the rotation out there?
LOU PINIELLA: Get people out. Does it really matter? I don't think so. That's really what you're looking for. Starting pitchers, you're looking for innings, people to give you a chance to win. You know, you look at Major League Baseball today, most of the games are decided from the sixth through the ninth. So you need starting pitching that can give you some innings and keep you in ballgames and give your bullpen a chance to win it.

Q. You get hung up on the one through five and we have to match up our one against their one or two and you know is there much to that anymore?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, you know, the teams that have dominant 1, 2, 3 starters have a huge advantage over everybody else but there aren't that many teams that have that luxury. And you can sign some solid pitching that, starting pitching that can give you innings, like I say that can stay healthy that are durable and keep you in ballgames and give you a chance to win them, that's really what you're looking for. The guys that we focused on here are all young and still some upside to them and hopefully they'll choose the Chicago Cub organization because it's a wonderful place to live and a wonderful place to play. And Wrigley Field especially.

Q. What's been the reaction among your peers and your friends to you taking this Cubs job?
LOU PINIELLA: Everybody's very pleased. My buddies in Tampa are all planning vacations in Chicago this summer and they've asked me to get a huge condo so they have a place to stay. You know, I've been surprised more than anybody else is, the legion of fans in the Tampa Bay area, Cub fans. And I guess it's because a lot of people migrated to that area but just as important, you watch WGN every day and you can watch it down there.

Q. Plan to be back in this setting after being away for a year?
LOU PINIELLA: Last year, I sort of regrouped and reinvigorated myself and did some work with Fox, which I'm appreciative. I really enjoyed what I was doing but the challenge of managing and the challenge of winning one more time and the opportunity here with the Cubbies was too hard to say no to and here I am, but this is my last job, I've said that before, but this is it. Age is finally gonna catch up to me. But I look forward to a good relationship and a long stay with this organization and more important to win here.

Q. Complete 180 now with how you had such a limited payroll in Tampa to now where it just seems like anything is an option?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, you know, yeah. When I talked to Jim about this situation back in, I guess, the second week of October, he said that they're gonna get after it and they sure have. I mean, they're going out and trying to get the best talent that they can and they are putting resources forward and, you know, that's what it takes. So, I hope we get just as fortunate with our pitching as we did with some of the players that we got here offensively.

Q. How much input do you give Jim on players you would like to see or you let him handle that?
LOU PINIELLA: I have input, but, you know, I'm from the school where few minds are much better than one. And I'm also from the school where I've got two ears and one mouth, so I'd rather listen than talk too much. But if I'm asked, I'll give input, yeah. We've got really good scouts in the organization, they've got opinions, and rightfully so Jim's got a good background in baseball and he is an aggressive guy. A fun guy. He reminds me a little bit of Robin Williams, the way he cracks jokes all the time, makes me laugh. But I will tell you what, he is getting after it and I'm appreciative of that because, you know, I was told when I came here that there is urgency to win and believe me, they are showing that commitment.

Q. How difficult is it to go from 96 losses to -- you are talking about the playoffs, I assume this year?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, I lost in the 90s in Tampa Bay three years in a row. I wasn't used to it. One thing that did for me it taught me a ton of patience and I enjoyed the situation over there in ways, seeing young kids develop and getting better and earning their stripes at the big league level. But boy, the losing got to me and I don't have the patience nor the time to sit and wait for another two or three years till things fall into place. So, this is the right situation for me and I like a nice media market, too.

Q. You have to change the mindset of the team? I mean, a lot of these guys coming back have been on the worst team in the National League last year.
LOU PINIELLA: Well, you know what, I think you learn from the past, but you dwell in the present and look into the future. I'm an optimistic guy. We can compete and lose a tough ballgame I'm ready to come and compete the next day. I think my players will see that. And we will change that mindset if it needs to be changed, this spring. Believe me. We have ample opportunity, six, seven weeks down there in Arizona with the players. And we are gonna work hard and I don't think that will be a problem.

Q. You haven't been in a big market in a long time. As a manager, does it change the dynamic for you when you have so much more media and so much concentration on every word that you say?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, I had it when I first started in New York back in '86. And now I'll have it 20 years later in Chicago. You know, I was at Cincinnati, they take their baseball seriously in Cincinnati. And Seattle, when I went there originally, the culture changed quite a bit during the ten years that I was there, as far as the baseball team was concerned. And in Tampa Bay, you know, I thought we made some inroads over there.
One thing that I can tell you, and I've been fortunate, everywhere that I've worked, the media's been very fair with me and I'm appreciative of that and since I did media work last year, I learned a little bit about your side of the business too, which is good when you manage a baseball team.

Q. I know it's only December 6th, but could you give a lineup, are you --
LOU PINIELLA: I can give you a lineup but you know they change. Soriano's going to lead off. Yeah. I mean this guy here has got just a special combination of speed and power. And he's comfortable in that spot and we're gonna leave him there. Derrek Lee is just a really, really fine professional hitter. He is going to hit in the 3 hole. And then we got the kid, Ramirez that we re-signed. I was astounded when I only read he struck out 60-some times last year. For a power hitter, I mean that is a great ratio. He is gonna hit fourth. We've got Jacque Jones in the fifth hole right now. We've got Barrett, DeRosa and I haven't figured out really what are we going to do in the second and eighth holes. Izturis will be in one of them. It depends on what we do. It is the making of a real nice lineup. We have versatility. Martin, opportunity to play. The kid Soto, a nice athlete, we have got Blanco as a backup catcher, got a couple of speedsters and one of them is Pagan. (Not tourist Ventura?
So it is looking good. So I just hope that some pitching comes our way and we could go to camp and when you start talking about pitching, we haven't even mentioned Kerry or Prior here and what a wildcard that is, if they both come to camp healthy and all of a sudden, one is pitching to the bullpen and does a dominant job the way he is capable of doing and the other kid goes in the rotation and pitches like he did a few years ago, I mean, that's a wildcard of all wildcards.

Q. What you have heard about Prior, do you expect him to be ready for the beginning of the year or is it still --
LOU PINIELLA: He is working hard and the strength coach and the trainers are on top of that situation, but they are all encouraged. They are all encouraged by the way the kids are working and the way they're progressing.

Q. If it comes to keep Jacque Jones, and he has expressed some unhappiness, will you have to talk with him to make him feel better about this situation?
LOU PINIELLA: I tell you what, I've always enjoyed watching Jacque play baseball. He plays with enthusiasm and he plays hard. And, you know, I don't know what the problem was here last year but I don't anticipate any problems if he is here.
He's professional. He has always been a fun guy for me as an opposing manager to watch play and perform and he's got some talent.

Q. Boston as you know signed Julio Lugo.

Q. Boston.
LOU PINIELLA: Lugo is a good player. They will like him. The fans will enjoy Lugo, he's got a lot of energy and he plays hard every day. And he's got some pop. He is going to like hitting in that park, he always -- when I had him at Tampa Bay, he always enjoyed going into Fenway with that little -- with the monster out there. And he's got some leadership qualities, you know? It is a nice sign for Boston. He's got some energy and the people are going to recognize that.

Q. That microscope that are put on players, will he embrace that more than be bothered by it?
LOU PINIELLA: I don't think it will bother him. He is a professional guy and I know that when we play -- when we went to New York and went to Boston on these trips back East, he always enjoyed those situations. So, I don't think playing in Boston is gonna bother him one way at all.

Q. Right now, the center field situation seems a little up in the air. Would you hesitate, if you don't acquire another player, to put Pie in there?
LOU PINIELLA: We talked about that. There is a divided camp. Everybody agrees he is a very talented man and he is not very far away but I think the consensus is that we give him a little more time to develop in AAA. Now, we are going to put him to play in spring training and see what happens in that regard.
When I went to Tampa Bay, we were in a similar situation with a very talented young kid named Baldelli and another very talented kid named Crawford and two weeks into the spring training camp, I told them both, look, have some fun, you're gonna play center and you're gonna play left and develop. And that's exactly what happened there and I can anticipate if we don't do anything that we do the same thing with the young man that you're talking about, because he is a talented kid.

Q. You had some great success with some kid named Rodriguez too?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, Rodriguez, we, yeah, over in Seattle. Alex, what a talented guy he is.

Q. Broke him in slowly.
LOU PINIELLA: Broke him in slowly and let the kid go and put him back in the ninth hole and he didn't stay there very long, he worked himself out of that ninth hole rather quickly.

Q. Now that you are removed from the Devil Rays, do you see them making the strides that you had hoped for?
LOU PINIELLA: Let's hope that they do. I've always said that, I'd love to see baseball succeed in the Tampa Bay area and get to the point where when the Yankees and the Red Sox and the rest of the teams come in that you got people rooting for the Devil Rays in much greater numbers than you do for the other two teams. They've got some good, young talent over there. They need to get some stabilizing veterans and hopefully they will.

Q. Is it tough for you that it didn't work out, maybe as you hoped in the Tampa Bay area?
LOU PINIELLA: Look, I went in there and did the best I could. I took it seriously. I was getting paid quite well but I don't manage for the money aspect of it. I manage because I enjoy being around players and working with players and I enjoy winning. And I could see that the second part of that equation was going to be a difficult one, so it was best for me to deal with what happened.
But I'm appreciative that I got three years to manage in my hometown. It was fun in a lot of ways but just didn't work out exactly the way that everybody envisioned. I thought that we could go in there and really turn it around like we did in Seattle. And maybe with a little more patience, it might have, but I think what happened was best for everybody.

Q. What does Gil Meche bring to a party for you when pitching for you?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, we brought him up from AA and put him right in the rotation and this kid's a talented young guy. He really is. He has had a little bit of a physical problem but he's over that now. And he is 28 years old and, again, he's a kid that's gonna get better. You know, you start looking at young pitching, first of all, it takes them to about 24 or so to get to the big leagues and win with any consistency. And then 28, 32, 33, those are your peak years for an athlete for your physical skills and your mental skills, all that come together. And Gil is in that age category.
So he's got good stuff, he really does and a good young man. I mean, I really enjoyed the few years that I spent with him in Seattle.

Q. You talked to him at all in the offseason?
LOU PINIELLA: I've talked to him. Part of my job since I've been here in Orlando is I've been a little bit like a college recruiter calling these guys, but I enjoy that.

Q. The agent for Ted Lilly said you spoke to him yesterday and that meant a lot to Ted.
LOU PINIELLA: Ted's a good young man, he competes, like I said and Larry O'Brien, his agent, I had his brother in Seattle, Pete. So, he told Larry what a good guy I am to play for.

Q. What kind of sense have you got from Ted?
LOU PINIELLA: Ted's got a couple places that he can go to, I'm sure, and I hope he chooses Chicago because, you know, he's a competitive guy that likes to win and likes to stay out there through tough times and he's a good left-hand pitcher.

Q. He and Gil are kind of described as the same kind of guy, someone with a lot of talent that maybe hasn't capitalized on it just yet. Do you see that from both of those?
LOU PINIELLA: I think they both have been successful major league pitchers, but I think there is still some upside for them, yes. And we've got a good pitching coach in Chicago, Larry Rothschild. And they will benefit from that experience, also. Hopefully, things will fall our way in that regard.

Q. You've witnessed explosive free agent markets before. What's it like to be part of the driving force in one of them now, kind of be a player?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, I'm not the driving force.

Q. Well, your team.
LOU PINIELLA: I just drive the bus. I don't get too involved at all in the money aspect of it. I get involved more on the talent aspect but, you know, the market is a market. These guys get paid because they're good. And some clubs will spend more than others and I've been places where they don't spend and now I'm here where they are spending. So I feel good about that.

Q. Yeah, that's what I'm wondering, because you've seen the other side, prices just keep going up and you can't do anything about it and --
LOU PINIELLA: Well, again, the Cubbies last year, they had a lot of injuries and they struggled and there's some holes that needed to be filled and with the backing of our parent company, our general manager's been really, really aggressive. I commend him for that.

Q. You've been through the Devil Rays thing with not spending, now you're going to the Cubs where they are spending.
LOU PINIELLA: It's a big market team. It's a big market team. You've got to remember that when I was in the Devil Rays, the payroll there was in the 20s. Last year, this Cub club had about a $95 million payroll. This year, it's gonna go up from there.

Q. Do you feel like this is an early Christmas present with all of the things that are happening from where you've been to where you are now, you're getting players that you need?
LOU PINIELLA: You know what I said about the past, you learn from the past and you dwell in the present that's what I'm doing now. I'm dwelling here with the Cub business, I feel fortunate that I was given an opportunity. I really like the city of Chicago. It's a passionate sports town. The Cubbies have their legion of fans and Wrigley Field, it's a fun place to watch a baseball game. I've gotten that from so many people, just the other day, we had a tournament at my home course in Avila for the ALS foundation and we had a trip to Chicago. And we raised $20,000 on that trip to Chicago. So it tells you that it is special.

Q. Is Soriano a candidate to play center field?
LOU PINIELLA: Look, we might give him a little work in spring training. We'll see. But our plans are to put him at the corner position, one of the corner positions, right where I think he feels more comfortable.

Q. Left or right?
LOU PINIELLA: Right now, we're -- yeah. Exactly. Left or right. Yes. But I don't see that. We're gonna try to address our center field needs also but you know right now, it's a little bit on the back burner because of the fact that our immediate need is starting pitching.

Q. When you were hired, they showed the clip of you pulling out the base and throwing it a million times. How long ago was that? Have you done that a lot or is it just the same clip?
LOU PINIELLA: I think they run the same clip over and over again.

Q. Have you mellowed?
LOU PINIELLA: Look, I'm not proud of those things, fellas. I'm really not. I hope the people in Chicago don't expect those things from me. I take pride in the fact that I won over 1,500 games as a major league manager and that we get our teams to play and players enjoy playing for them, but those other things, hopefully, at 63, I won't have that kind of fun on the field anymore.

Q. With seven different series champions in the last seven years, how much does that engender hope for everybody, not just teams that aren't spending but teams that are spending?
LOU PINIELLA: The National League champion came -- has come out or the World Series champ came out of our division last year, the Cardinals. What a great job my good friend Tony La Russa did and the year before, Phil Garner's Houston team went to the World Series. So the last two years, it's come right out of the Central. So you know, we got our hands full, some good teams and there's some good competitive balance in baseball. It's good to see.
For a while there when I was in Seattle, I had some really good teams over there and the Yankees would dominate us in the American League Championship Series but since that Yankee domination has diminished somewhat the rest of these teams have picked it up and you see different winners every year, which is great for baseball.

Q. You've been involved in one of the greatest rivalries as a player, general manager, manager, Yankees/Boston, now you have Cubs and Cardinals against a childhood friend and someone you've competed with for years and years. Do you see that changing, do you see that feistiness between you and him picking up during these 19 or 20 games that you play during the year?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, the rivalry is still gonna be there. The fans are the ones that create that rivalry and keep that rivalry going. But Tony and I, we had a nice conversation two nights ago here till about 3:00 in the morning and we vowed that we would remain friends, that we would leave our competition on the field and that would be the end of it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tony. I really do. And I think we are both at times in our careers where we realize that hey, we are gonna go out there and try to beat each other every day but when it's over, just leave it there, go back and compete the next day.

Q. What about the gamesmanship? I mean, he is very famous for it and you know it's a part of the culture of a manager.
LOU PINIELLA: Well, the gamesmanship, we have got gamesmanship on our side too now. I mean it will be fun competing against him that way, although really when I manage a baseball team, I've learned that I manage my own team, utilize my own players' strengths and don't try to manage too much against the opposing manager.

Q. I talked to Terry Francona a couple of years ago, I remember him talking at length about the negative history dealing with the Red Sox situation before they won the series. How are you going to deal with all the talk that is going to circle the Cubs and their history?
LOU PINIELLA: Again, the past, you learn from it I will tell you this, that we will address some of that in spring training. That is part of my job as a manager, I will make the decision for them. And this spring, we will start addressing that.

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