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October 3, 2007

C.C. Sabathia

Eric Wedge


ROB DOELGER: Questions.

Q. There's some talk about the Yankees about how their season is never a successful one unless they go to the World Series or win. What do you look at for your team, being there the first time, and what are your expectations?
ERIC WEDGE: I think the greatest grind is the regular season. Talk about playing 162 games and it's kind of the battle of the fittest to get to the post-season. You have to go through everything, every peak and valley, every up and down, every set of emotions that one can have, whether it be individually or collectively as a ball club.
I think that's the greatest grind. The ultimate accomplishment is obviously winning the World Series. And that's what we're trying to do.

Q. Did you go into this season thinking that you had to have a good record in order to stay as Indians manager?
ERIC WEDGE: No. I don't reflect on that. I don't look at those things. I'm a big believer in not wasting energy on things you really can't control.
So it comes with the job. When it comes to speculation, it just comes with the territory. I'll be the first one to say if you don't do a good job, you should get booed. There should be that speculation. If you do a good job, get the hell out of the way and let your team play. That's the way I look at it.
That's not something I put any time or energy into.

Q. From a technical aspect, stuff-wise, what makes Sabathia so tough on left-handed hitters in particular?
ERIC WEDGE: He's come a long way. C.C. is a different pitcher now than he was three or four years ago. He made some strong adjustments in really every facet of his game in the mid-part of '05. And he's just been able to carry that through.
And he tweaks this and tweaks that and continues to get better. He's quite a leader on our ball club. On and off the field.
When you look at him in regard to left-handers, I don't look at him just in regard to left-handers, I look at him in regard to left-handers and right-handers, because I think he's obviously very effective with both.
But as a starting pitcher, he does a great job of commanding the baseball game. And in order to command the baseball game, you've got to command each inning, and you've also got to command each at bat. And whether it's a right-hander or left-hander, he does a pretty good job of that.

Q. You have not faced Wang since last year. Do you think he's matured and what are the chances for you?
ERIC WEDGE: He's a fantastic pitcher. With the way he comes right at hitters, the way he pounds his own, puts the ball in the ground, trusts his stuff. I think like any young pitcher, it takes a period of time before you really learn to trust your stuff and be able to get major league hitters out in the zone.
I think he's a fine example of that.

Q. Is there any Yankee in the lineup where you're saying we're not going to let this guy beat us?
ERIC WEDGE: It would be a bad idea for me to say one or the other, let's put it that way. (Chuckling). They've got a great lineup, we know that. It's about us pitching to our strengths, being true to ourselves, going in there prepared with a good game plan, and having the moxie to stick with it. And that's what we're going to do.

Q. Back in spring training, when you kind of were watching the bullpen unfold a little bit, was it uneasy for you at first until you saw it actually develop?
ERIC WEDGE: What I've learned is until you get in the season, in regard to your bullpen, you really can't be absolute about anything. Hopefully your closer, maybe one or two other guys, but as your bullpen fills out, it's going to -- ultimately it's going to evolve as the season wears on. Ours most definitely has. Joe Borowski has done what we had hoped he would do and more. Raphael Betancourt has done what we hoped and more. When you go to Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis and go on down the line, those are things that happened over the course of the regular season.
Some of them are going to work out. Some of them aren't. But that's why if there's -- you have to have depth at the major league level. But if there's a particular level that or a particular area that you may have to really have it streamed up, it has to be in the bullpen. Sometimes it comes from starting pitchers in the minor leagues and you work them in like the old school fashion, via the bullpen to where they start in the Big Leagues. That's an area where you really have to have some depth.

Q. Is there any concern so much talk is being put on in the first game with Sabathia also not having faced the Yankees for so long that if he doesn't come out of that game with a win that it's sort of -- it turns the series very quickly?
ERIC WEDGE: You know, I don't put much stock in that. Hell, we want to win the first game just like they do. But it's a five-game series. One thing our guys have always done a great job with, that's separating from game to game.
And we understand what this series is all about. We've got our guy. They've got their guy going Game 1. That's all part of it. That's the way it should be. So I'm glad we're starting here at home. Like anybody, we'd rather start at home.
But it's one game. And it's a five-game series. That's the way to look at it.

Q. Do you have a Game 1 lineup?
ERIC WEDGE: I do. I mean I'm not going to release it right now. But it won't be any surprises, put it that way.

Q. When the Yankees left here in August, they caught you in your worst offensive slide of the year, what happened in the seven weeks or so after that to get you to this point and get your team rolling again?
ERIC WEDGE: We talk about it all the time. It's such a long season. It's such a grind and you're going to have different points in time over the course of the season where different areas of your club are going to struggle. And we've had those peaks and valleys with different areas of our club, and at that particular time we were scuffling a little bit.
But what it takes is just each individual in each part of your lineup, whether it be one through three, four through six, the bottom of your lineup, to keep pushing.
I've always said to you guys, it's easier for me for us as coaches because we're privy to see everything that's going on. So you can see something happening in the cage or in BP or in a conversation here or there where you know the different individuals or your ball club is starting to work its way back.
And that's what happens. But it doesn't happen overnight. In order for it to be real, it takes time. The work has to be real. The preparation. You've got to be honest. You've got to look in the mirror. Our guys do a pretty good job at that. So eventually we'll work our way through it.

Q. Last year the Yankees were expected to sweep Detroit and dominate them, and of course we know what happened. What does it tell you about the random nature of the tournament, especially the short first round?
ERIC WEDGE: It's baseball. It's a great game. I mean, there are no absolutes. Anybody that thinks they've got it figured out, they're full of it. There are no guarantees. There are no absolutes, nothing you can assume. That's why we play. That's why we play 162 games. This is a five-game series. That's the reason we play the game is to find out. I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Would you like seven games in the first round?
ERIC WEDGE: I don't care. Doesn't matter to me.

Q. What has Kenny Lofton meant to this club since coming back and what kind of reception has he gotten?
ERIC WEDGE: The reception is great. Obviously the fans were excited. Teammates were excited. One thing we want to do in the off season was bring in some players with some post-season experience. And we were able to do that. You bring in a Borowski and a Nixon and a Dellucci and a Fultz. And to bring in Kenny, just adds more experience. And that's I think something that's already helped us and should continue to help us in the post-season.
He's been a boost for us, obviously, just from a production standpoint. We've used him primarily in the seven-hole, and it really gives the bottom half of our lineup an entirely different feel and look. And I'm a big believer in trying to balance our lineup, regardless of the inning, regardless of who is up, we're going to put ourselves in an opportunity to try to score some runs. We don't count on just one or two guys. Kenny's given us a lot more length to our lineup.
ROB DOELGER: Thank you.
Questions for C.C. Sabathia.

Q. Given it's been three years since you faced the Yankees, you watched videos that was relevant for this start?
C.C. SABATHIA: I haven't watched any video of that start. But I've been watching video of them this season against lefties and tendencies they have. But I haven't really watched my last start against them.

Q. Do you feel any pressure on yourself that you have to win Game 1 to set the series on a right note for your team?
C.C. SABATHIA: I'm feeling the pressure. It would be big to win Game 1 definitely. We're starting here at home and get a chance to use the home field advantage. So I feel like it's going to be a big game. But I don't feel any added pressure.

Q. What's the approach when you're facing a lineup as the Yankee lineup?
C.C. SABATHIA: Just to throw strikes. They take a lot of pitches. They're a patient team. They have a lot of veteran hitters. I'm going to attack the zone with my pitches and try to make them put it into play early in the count.

Q. I know you want -- all year you talked about my one goal is to get back to the post-season. What does it feel like now that you're finally here?
C.C. SABATHIA: It feels good. I'm excited. This is an unbelievable feeling. And it feels even better to do it with a bunch of guys in that clubhouse I've been playing with my whole career, just about, and get along with.
So it feels good to be in the playoffs and it feels even better to be with a team that I really enjoy. We all get along.

Q. Even though you haven't faced them, what was it like watching the type of year that Alex Rodriguez put up and knowing you'll have to face him tomorrow night?
C.C. SABATHIA: He had a huge year. MVP, hands down, probably in both leagues. He's one of the best players in the league. I will just try to go out and try to make pitches. That's all you can really do, is go out and try to make pitches, attack the zone and hope you hit it at somebody.

Q. In terms of facing Alex Rodriguez, he's had a history of post-season failure, do you look at that as an opportunity to get in his head tomorrow or use that against him at all?
C.C. SABATHIA: Not really. He's a good player. I'm sure he knows what he needs to do to get ready to be successful. I mean that really has nothing to do with what's going to happen tomorrow night. I just need to go out and worry and focus on myself and focus on throwing strikes and throwing a good game.

Q. You feel like all the national hype is about the Yankees and the odds-makers have them winning the World Series. Do you guys feel a little overlooked and, hey, we're here, too? Anything like that?
C.C. SABATHIA: No, it's good to be in the position we are in. Nobody thought we'd be here right now. So we feel good about the position we're in.
We've got a group of confident guys in there. We know what we can do against any baseball team in the league. So we go out and play our type of baseball, pitch well, play good defense and hit the ball, I think we'll be fine.

Q. Taking that a step further, in your mind, no matter what happens in the post-season, this season is a tremendous success for you guys already, don't you think?
C.C. SABATHIA: Yeah, but coming out of spring training everybody sets a goal, it's nice to win a championship. So that's what we want to do. We've been believing in our team since day one, and we are right now in the position to make that happen. So we just need to go out and play hard, like I said, play our type of baseball and play well.

Q. But you're not like the Yankees where, if you don't make it to the World Series it's going to be a failure?
C.C. SABATHIA: Yeah. I mean, I guess you could look at it like that. But I'm sure some guys are in there feeling if we don't make it to the World Series there will be failure.

Q. Your manager a few minutes ago was saying how you made adjustments to your game in '05 to make yourself a better pitcher. What is your evolution as a pitcher and why are you better now than you were then?
C.C. SABATHIA: Just I think just getting older, being more mature. In the past I am real emotional. I let my emotions get to me the umpire making a bad call would affect the way I threw the next pitch and things like that. I let it all go and focus on what I can focus on and control everything leading up to the pitch and make sure I'm in the right position to make a good pitch, and after that whatever happens, happens.
I just go out there and have fun and play the game.

Q. You've had a little bit of rest here now at the end of the season. Has this helped you and how have you been able to maintain your sharpness, because you've had a few extra days off here?
C.C. SABATHIA: I just had one extra day off here this last turnaround. Threw in the bullpen on Monday. Feel good. My arm feels fine. I'm ready to go. I feel good. I'm excited. I'm ready to go.

Q. Both Jeter and A-Rod have hit you pretty well during their careers, Jeter at 12 for 22 and A-Rod, 7 of 17. Are you aware of those numbers and do you take that into account?
C.C. SABATHIA: I wasn't aware of those numbers. But I guess I'm going to have to take them into account (laughter).
Like I said, I'm just going to go out and throw my game, man. Attack the zone, attack both sides of the plate. And just try to get some outs early in the count. Those guys have had some success, obviously, but it's a new year. I'm a different pitcher now. So we'll see what happens.

Q. The fact that it's not just the numbers, but who it is who has these numbers against you, is that more scary when you're out there on the mound, tougher challenge?
C.C. SABATHIA: No, because I don't think I ever got Mike Redmond and out he's the back-up catcher for the Twins. If they hit you, they hit you. Doesn't matter who it is.

Q. Do you remember the game at Yankee Stadium, bases loaded, Giambi at the plate, pitching out of the windup, Giambi hit one up the middle and all three runs scored, was that part of your learning process? How have you advanced since then?
C.C. SABATHIA: That was the last time I've thrown out of the windup with runners on base. Jeter scored on a single up the middle just by him getting a head start from me being out of the windup. Just little things like that you recognize and try to improve on and get better.
I think I'm a totally different pitcher than I was especially on that day. I just remember at bat, too, I had Giambi up there and I was probably throwing him 15 fast balls fouling them off. Now I can make an adjustment and maybe throw him an off speed pitch there to get a strikeout. Just my thought process and things are a little different than they were back then.
ROB DOELGER: Thank you.

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