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October 4, 2007

Eric Wedge


ROB DOELGER: Questions for Eric Wedge.

Q. Game 1, you've been waiting for this, the players have been waiting for this. How important is it to get off to a good start? What happened in the regular season, obviously you try and put it behind you, but how important will it be for your team to get off to a good start in Game 1?
ERIC WEDGE: We've always put more emphasize on the first game of a series. What we have here is just a longer series. This is the playoffs. This is a spot we've worked to get to for a long period of time now. But there's not a team out there that doesn't want to get off to a good start in the series.
We've got our best guy going. They've got their best going. It's the way it should be. So it's time to play. We've had enough time off. I think the time off did us some good from the way we really had to grind out everything. And I think everybody's ready to play now.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the transformation of Carmona from someone you considered a closer last year to a starter?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, Fausto has always been a starting pitcher coming up through the minor leagues, we brought him out of the bullpen and was one of the top setup men for about six weeks. He was dominant. After we traded our closer at that point of time, it was just Fausto's role. He didn't work out. Didn't last very long. But what we did, we immediately took him out of that. Got him built out of that so he could start some more. Brought him back up, had four or five starts I want to say up here then continued it on to winter ball.
What Fausto has done a great job with is learning from all his experiences, the ups, the downs, the good days, the tough days. The different things that a pitcher has to go through, a young pitcher, young starting pitcher in particular as you make that transition. And I think the best thing we could have done is to get him back in that starting role, allow him to continue pitching on in the wintertime and come into spring training as a starting pitcher knowing we could ultimately use him in other roles as well.
But needless to say, things worked out very well for him and for us as a starter.

Q. Along that same line for Game 2, how about Pettitte, what challenges does he present, a veteran, obviously a lot of big game experience? What are you looking for from him?
ERIC WEDGE: I haven't allowed myself to dive 100 percent into him as we have this game tonight. But obviously this is a guy with a lot of experience, a lot of post-season experience. Smart, good stuff. Really utilizes a cutter probably as good as any left-handed pitcher out there and uses it in different ways.
So we'll definitely have our challenges with him. As I mentioned I really haven't allowed myself just yet to dive into that 100 percent.

Q. Back to Carmona for a second. What was it about him that showed you he was tough enough to overcome that stretch as a closer last year and become the pitcher that he became for you this year?
ERIC WEDGE: Probably what we saw when he was going through that stretch. I mean, it couldn't have been more of a high-profile situation, the way it played out and the drama. And, I mean, you gotta love this game. And we talk about it all the time. The toughness that he's shown and just the way he's handled everything. I mean, that would be difficult for anybody, much less a young pitcher. To be so close. He was so close so many times there.
And it upsets me a little bit that people, they all remember the six weeks prior as to what he did in the setup role for us. He did a great job for us. But it's understandable with everything that he went through there. How he handled that, the way he learned from that, then getting back on track and built up as a starter, and then he goes and plays winter ball.
And wants to and needs to and understands why. And obviously the way this year's played out, you know that was as important for us as anything for him to continue to pitch last year.

Q. Sometimes when teams clinch early and have a few days off, their first game back they're a little flatter, just not as sharp. Are there any warning signs that you'll be looking for early in the game today that might show?
ERIC WEDGE: No, we play it all the way to the end because we were trying to work hard to get the best record so we could have priority in regard to our choice of the playoff format. So with the exception of that last day, we were pretty much game on. We still worked some guys off, days off, still needed to get some people in there that were going to be on the playoff roster that needed play and sharpen up a little bit.
But one thing I don't worry about with this group of young men is whether or not they're going to show up and play. They've proven that time and time again. That's not just this year, it's years prior. We've got a core group of players here that understand just what it means to respect a game and just how important it is to go out and play the game the way it's supposed to be played.
I don't care where we're playing or who we're playing, what time of the year it is. Everything means something. And I've got a great deal of respect for the fact that they understand that and they don't just talk about it. They walk the walk.

Q. Could you just talk about the contributions you've gotten from Cabrera and Gutierrez and how you think they'll be in this situation?
ERIC WEDGE: Couple young players. Franklin Gutierrez and Asdrubal Cabrera have made contributions to us this year that we could never expect that quickly. I feel strong that both of them are going to be very good players. But if you respect the game, you don't expect it to happen that quick. You expect it to take a little more time than that. They'll have their adjustments in the future.
But they've both done a great job, worked their way into the roles. Worked their way into starting everyday roles. First Franklin then Asdrubal. That was nothing by design, that was purely by the way of their contributions and the way they took advantage of opportunities.
And very similar in the fact that they've helped us on both sides of the ball. Offensively and defensively, with their energy, the way they run the bases and really with the way they've handled certain situations.
And even with the success they've had, obviously they're still learning a great deal. And I'm sure this is just going to be another step to that.

Q. Another question on Carmona, can you talk about his stuff a little bit? I know he throws hard and gets a lot of movement. Do you agree with it? What are his strengths and is there a pitcher you can compare him to, people we're more familiar with?
ERIC WEDGE: I certainly have my weaknesses, one of which is comparing ball players to ball players. I learned that a long time ago. It's tough for me to do. But Carmona is a power pitcher, but he's a guy that's going to be powering the sinkerball up there and moving the fast ball around a little bit and utilizing all of his pitches.
But we need to emphasize, he's a pitcher, he's not out there throwing the baseball. He's out there pitching. He has a game plan. I think Victor and Fausto have worked good together and Victor with his leadership qualities and the experience he's gained as a game caller, as a catcher, has really I think helped Fausto as well.

Q. For a lot of these players it's the first time in the playoffs, for you this is your first opportunity at the Major League level. What are you going to use to base some of your decisions on what you did in the minor leagues when you were in the playoffs? Have you talked to anybody about this, or are you just going to let it happen, basically?
ERIC WEDGE: No comparison between the minor leagues and the Big Leagues, obviously. It's just two different scales. Mileage is so much about development. And part of development is winning.
The reference points here are just conversations that I've had over the years, what I've seen over the years. Knowing our ball club. Preparing as well as we can for their ball club. And making adjustments as we go. One thing we always do is we focus on ourselves more so than anything else.
Again, I keep saying it, but it's not about who we play or where we play but it's how we play. If our guys go out there and play as a team like they have all year long, everybody comes to the ballpark and does their job, then in the end we're going to have a chance to win that ball game.
So certain things that obviously you can do in the playoffs versus the regular season, and particularly now with the days off that you get in between the second and the third game and the fourth and the fifth game, you can maybe go to guys a little bit quicker or stay with guys a little bit longer.
But we'll work hard to get a feel for the baseball game and see if we have to push it or let it come to us and we'll go from there.

Q. Are you concerned at all about how this atmosphere at this stage may or may not affect your guys?
ERIC WEDGE: I don't think you know what to expect until we get out there. Because we've got so many people in unchartered waters and worked hard to get here and be there. But I think as a ball club we've gone through just about everything you can go through during the regular season over the last five years. The next step was for us to get to the post-season and these guys have done a great job getting us there. Now it's time to start another chapter. And we'll work off of everything we see today and then we'll press on to tomorrow.
But just understand that I've got a tremendous amount of confidence in what these guys do on the field and I think that they've got a much better feeling for just how they need to handle themselves to be the best that they can be.
And there's going to be adrenalin. There's going to be a lot of atmosphere, and there's going to be a lot of excitement. And that's all part of it. So it's time to go out and play.

Q. Another question about Carmona. When you look at him physically, how big he is. I covered him in 2003 and he was big then and he's much bigger now. As you project three, four, five years down the road, does he look like the kind of guy who could just -- you could just pencil him in for 230, 240 innings every year and really not worry about it?
ERIC WEDGE: You're talking about a guy that's still growing, too. He was a baby. I mean, it's not just a guy that was full-grown and got bigger. He was still growing up and body was still developing and now he's a guy that has a real good understanding of what he needs to do with this five-day routine, the routine in which he works physically and fundamentally and mentally.
That's another area amongst so many that he's come such a long way in a short period of time. So he works too hard to not be a strong, very durable pitcher for us. And I wouldn't expect anything other than that.
ROB DOELGER: Thank you.

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