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October 5, 2007

Clint Hurdle

Ubaldo Jimenez


Q. To both of you. How much are you allowing yourself to enjoy the ride, even though you have a lot more business to take care of?
CLINT HURDLE: We've enjoyed each and every step of this ride. That's one of the things I talked to the club -- I shouldn't say I talked to the club, but individually, to embrace this. One of the things I did is get too focused on the game; sometimes it fell into the category of job-like.
You need to enjoy the successes. Obviously, we feel the sting of the defeats and the adversity that we face. The ride has been special. It may never come this way again of this magnitude. And they have embraced it, they have enjoyed it. I think you see a lot of smiling faces; a team that's playing loose, with confidence and playing hard and playing with passion.
UBALDO JIMENEZ: It's been really fun to be here. It's a dream come true. When you are like a little kid, you always dream to get to the big league, and then make it to the playoff, and then go to the next step, to the World Series, so it's been fun, really fun.

Q. Do you believe that the pressure has shifted to you at all at this point? Do you believe that now that you have a knock-out game in hand that you're expected to win?
CLINT HURDLE: We don't get concerned about the thoughts or the opinions outside our clubhouse. We have held on to what we believe in. What we believe in is our focus is on winning the next game, and if that shouldn't happen Saturday, our focus is winning the next game, and if it shouldn't Sunday, it will be on winning the next game.
Sometimes it's played out better than others, but I think we're in control of what we can control. A lot of other's perceptions we don't pay attention to.

Q. Ubaldo, how do you feel about going into game 3 with your team having a chance to clinch the first round?
UBALDO JIMENEZ: It's exciting to be out there, knowing if we win we're going to go to the next stage, so I feel happy, very happy.

Q. Clint, considering how long it's taken you to get to this point with all the losing seasons here, and the time that you spent in the Mets organization as the manager there, how personally satisfying have the last three weeks been and where you guys stand now, just for you?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, I think for me there's some tangible evidence that, you know, I've kept, I think, my mind-set in the right place that I need to. If I have a job to do, and I'm given a job, I need to do my job, and I don't need to concern myself with areas outside my job.
And with the Mets, when I was in the minor leagues, when it was time to move on, I was able to find another fix, Dick Balderson gave me an opportunity; Don Baylor was my first major league manager who gave me my first opportunity. I was kept through two other managers, and I was fortunate. So through a succession of events, I thought I must be adding something of value for people to keep me around.
I never get outside of myself to think I'm a difference-maker. These guys are the ones who keep things in place. I have my own responsibilities. I need to show up for the team and the organization every day. Other than that, I feel fortunate that I'm -- and I'm humbled by this position that we have now, because it has not come easy, not without patience, and it's taken a tremendous amount of athletic courage to get here. So I'm in a real good place personally, but I'm so very proud of this team and of our organization in its entirety.

Q. Clint, there will be a lot of excitement in the crowd tomorrow. Then you're going to face Jamie Moyer, who uses speed and excitement. Do you do anything special to prepare the guys for this, or should I say emphasizing it?
CLINT HURDLE: We will have conversation as a group and individually. We've seen Moyer once; we'll have a lot of tapes, and patience is going to be critical against a guy like him. He's going to -- he's crafty. He's a veteran. He pitches the perimeters. He challenges your discipline.
That being said, we've faced his type before. He's a special pitcher; you don't pitch in the big leagues at 44 without being really good, so it will be a unique challenge in front of our home crowd. We might have to battle adrenaline at first, we'll see. This team is looking for an opportunity to do something special in front of the hometown crowd, and they've been waiting for this opportunity.

Q. Clint, with the run you've been on and for those who don't know the game of baseball, or those who haven't grown up playing professionally, how can you describe this run to them? What you've been going through with this run you've been on?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't know if you can, because whether your life experience is J.V. basketball or varsity soccer or it's girls' swimming, this is a tremendous run. Anytime you have matches or events and you win 16 of 17 times, it's a little extraordinary to do it in the venue we've done it, in the month of September, and basically it really didn't start off by us getting together and saying, okay, look, here is where we are.
We just said, look, we need to win a lot of games, and the best way to go about that is to win tonight, and that's the mantra we've held on to from the beginning. But the role has been special, and we're not too high about it, we're not too low about it. We've enjoyed it, and we're looking to extend it, so very unique.

Q. Clint, can you talk about the humidor affect and how it's changed the game here? And do you think it's been for the better or worse?
CLINT HURDLE: Obviously for me it's been for better. It's given our pitchers a level playing field for the first time since the inception of the ballpark in 1995. Little did we know for a number of years the balls were shrinking, traveling farther, and we would go "Whoa" and "Ahh, look at that one!" We had no clue. Nobody did.
And thanks to people in-house doing a little digging, a little studying, a little research, we found out there was something we could do too, I guess. Most importantly, maintain the regulation size of the baseball from the beginning of the season to the end. Conversely, as it's gone about, there is more conversation about that, and I'm sure it's going to filter into many other major league parks, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's in every major league park in the very near future.
So besides leveling the playing field at home, it cut down the drastic difference when we would travel on the road. Because we've been challenged dramatically on the road since the organization's inception, and that has gotten better along about the time of the humidor's existence. So I think they worked hand-in-hand, made the game a little more normal, both places.

Q. Ubaldo, can you imagine what it's going to be like here tomorrow night? Could you talk about that? And how do you think you're going to feel when you go out there in front of all those people?
UBALDO JIMENEZ: I'm going to feel really excited about it, but I'm going to slow everything down, so I can execute my pitches and go out there and compete. It's going to be fun, like, having so many people rooting for us. It's going to be fun!

Q. Clint, you talked about adrenaline early and tomorrow with the big crowd at home, et cetera. Do you think Franklin yesterday maybe was a little pumped up, a little too pumped up, and does it concern you about another rookie, Ubaldo, even though he seems cool, that that's something you're going to have to talk to him about?
CLINT HURDLE: Number one, I thought Franklin was paddling a little hard yesterday. I thought he was giving it everything he had. I thought he was pitching with his heart. I just didn't feel like it was going to get us where we needed to get yesterday. That being said, my man here is pitching tomorrow. He got to watch Franklin perform. He's got a couple more years under his belt, he has a little more experience; we'll see how it plays out.
He's a big part of us. He's faced a lot of challenges already in his short major league career, and this is another opportunity for him -- this is going to be a wonderful experience no matter how it turns out. Turned out to be a wonderful experience for Franklin. You can't get that type of experience in any other venue. The next time he gets the ball, he'll be that much better for it. The other thing I'm smiling about right here, you want to talk about an organization -- you listen to this guy, held a press conference in English. And if you would have met him when he came here, it's a testament to his make-up.
The intelligence of our organization to put a Spanish-speaking program in with these players, it's just a beautiful thing to be up here. Two years ago we were talking instructionally with Ubaldo, Franklin, Troy Tulowitzki and Stewart, and now you look two years down the road, and each one of those guys has played a major part in our '07 season. It's a good thing going on.

Q. Ubaldo, I was wondering if you would talk about your night-before ritual. Do you look at tapes, a lot of tapes, talk to anybody, not talk to anybody, what you're going to try to do to get ready to pitch?
UBALDO JIMENEZ: I'm going to change nothing. I have the DVDs. I'm going to watch them before I go to bed, but I'm going to trying to do everything the same, no change, everything.

Q. Clint, how has your managerial style changed? How have you adapted since you became manager in '02?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, I've been a work in progress, along with the organization and our ball club. Tried to pay attention to the personnel, make adjustments along the way. More experience, better knowledge of the league, better read of swings, better read of opposing pitchers, the talent pool. Better appreciation for the game at the major league level and the challenges that come with it.
I've tried to as -- as this particular group has come together, gotten more out of the way, given them ownership of the club. The analogy I talked to some people about when we were deciding our course this year, it's kind of like there comes a point in time when you stop telling your kid what they need to do, regardless if they're listening or not, because they're tired of hearing it, so flip them the keys and let 'em drive and see where it takes you.
So far it's been a pretty good ride; I think we're going to let them hold the keys a little longer.

Q. Everyone knows, Ubaldo, you have electric stuff. For both of you there is a mental make-up that goes into this game as well. Clint, what did you learn about Ubaldo, and, Ubaldo, what did you learn about yourself last Sunday in the biggest start of your career in which you needed a big performance and you dominated?
CLINT HURDLE: There has been a couple of things that have jumped out to us about Ubaldo. Number one, the maturation of the pitching poise that we saw early in spring training to this point now. I've watched him instructionally the last couple of winters, a lot of guys didn't get to see him. He came into spring training on the outside looking in, trying to get attention.
Seemed to be in a hurry, wanted to make things happen. He has slowed the game down to his pace. It's not a snail's pace, but when he thinks things are getting a little bit away, he has found a way to regroup, tapping the dirt, whatever it might be, going out and making pitches.
The command of his secondary pitches has been the most impressive from a skill set standpoint. We always knew he could bring the fastball, but the curveball, the change-up, which has become a weapon for him, and a slider. He has a four-pitch mix he could go to.
Initially it was a little bit of a struggle, so he's learned a little bit how to pitch without his best stuff, and he's learned the importance of pitching both sides of the plate with his fastball, at least that's from my vantage point. The poise had been fun to watch develop, the youthful enthusiasm. He has a million dollar smile, and when he uses it, he's got you. It's nice when you see it on the mound, not just in the dugout. And the game he pitched for us against the Diamondbacks on Sunday will speak for itself in Rockies' history because it was truly electric stuff.
UBALDO JIMENEZ: Well, what I learned is the first thing I had to do was to breathe. If you cannot breathe, you cannot do anything, so just breathe. And having to come out of my break on pitches, and, like he said, I'm able to locate my fastball, so that's the main thing.

Q. Clint, the face of the franchise has played 1,578 games just to get to Wednesday. Talk about Todd, and now that you've seen Mr. Holliday and J-Ro (Jimmy Rollins) back-to-back, can you make the case for Matt Holliday for M.V.P.?
CLINT HURDLE: I think everybody in the Rockies organization is ecstatic for Todd Helton, whether they're here, gone, been a part of him, played with him, everybody in the Rockies organization is ecstatic. The volume of the game speaks for itself. It's been a grind. He's put up numbers that take your breath away. His respect for the game, his passion for the game, and his commitment to this area and the fans. Now for this opportunity -- our team has pushed -- internally they're pushing very hard to get him to the biggest stage.
They won't be happy, regardless of what a nice role this has been and a nice story it's been to this time, we will not be happy if we don't get to the World Series. They will not be happy, because first and foremost they want to get Todd Helton in that venue. As far as Matt Holliday, he's a great player, J-Ro, and I use that term not very often, because to be great you have to be good for a long time.
That's what I tell my players. The problems for players is they want to be good, and then great. I tell them you have to be good for a long time, and then you're great. J-Ro is great. Matt Holliday has been good for three seasons, and I'm as big of a fan as he has. And no disrespect to Jimmy Rollins; this guy is my M.V.P., and I'm sure for Charlie Manuel Jimmy is his M.V.P.
The batting average, the R.B.I.s, clutch hits, he plays left field, he doesn't play shortstop, we got another guy that does that pretty well, and for the irony of the season for it to end, the play at the plate, it's been special. Holliday has grown up and become a prime time player and somebody that we count on in our lineup every day.

Q. Clint, games 1 and 2 one of the things that may have gone unnoticed was the at-bats that Yorvit Torrealba had in some key situations. He was able to get you back to the top of the order in game 1, the double yesterday. Could you talk about how he has come along, bunch of his hits lately have been for extra bases. He is a weapon for you in that 8th spot.
CLINT HURDLE: He finished very strong in the month of September, and he has probably at times not done as well offensively as he would have liked, but his defensive game has never crept into his offensive game. He has handled the staff with enthusiasm, precision, emotion. He studies the opposition's swings as much as anybody on our team. He presents a nice, defensive package.
Offensively he has had big hits throughout the season, and the month of September was a great month for him. He's got three hits, 3 R.B.I.s, the big hit the other day, an R.B.I. single early, topped the ball down the third baseline, flipping the lineup over, giving us good at-bats, the walk yesterday, which led to a bigger inning. He has some barrel to his bat.
If you're going to have an 8th hitter in the lineup, he's not a bad one to have; he can do some damage. He hit the home run the game -- over the weekend against -- wasn't it the Diamondbacks? Dead left field? So he's a pleasure to have on our club. He's done a fantastic job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you guys.

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