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October 17, 2007

Eric Wedge


Q. If you could briefly, or however long you want to enumerate, whatever Lofton has meant in the locker room and the lineup and everything else.
ERIC WEDGE: Well, his experience comes to mind first and foremost. He has a real good pace to himself, late in the season, into the playoffs. He's been there before. He understands where his heartbeat needs to be to be successful. I think that's good for other guys to see.
Other people we've brought in in the off-season that had some postseason experience, and I think that was important for us to do. You bring in a veteran guy like Lofton and a veteran guy like Gomez in the middle of the season, that adds to it. Everything the core players have been through the last three or four years, I think it helps the younger player, as well.
In regard to the lineup, it's helped lengthen our lineup a little bit. He's a guy that can get it in and going for you. It's been getting on base, or he can drive in a big run. He's a big-game player, and he enjoys being up there or making a play when you really need one.

Q. Looking back on the experience of the last week of the '05 season here, and obviously you guys overcame that and got to here, in what ways could that have scarred the team and in what ways did you learn things from it?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, it was a completely different situation in '05. We went on such a run to even put ourselves in the mix. Players were a lot younger, hadn't been through a great deal. It was really only our third year into this. And '04 we were in it until mid-August and hit a wall. '05 we took it to the last day, but it took a lot of energy on our part to get there.
This year we've been pretty consistent throughout the course of the season. If you look at us, just play within our division, just our over all record, the consistency with which we've played, I really have a lot of respect for our guys just for the consistency that they've shown, kind of steady-as-she-goes attitude it's been for our guys, and they've just taken it right into the postseason.

Q. You're up 3-1, but obviously if the Sox were to pull it out tomorrow, you'd have to go back to Fenway. Is there any pressure to try and win this at home and not have to make the return trip to Boston and deal with the Fenway crowd and just Fenway Park?
ERIC WEDGE: No, because again, it's not about where we play or who we play, it's about how we play. Regardless of regular season, postseason, home or away, who we're playing, it's about what we do to prepare, it's about what we do in regard to how we compete against ourselves and going out there and just trying to play good baseball.
You work hard and do that, and the results will take care of themselves. The last thing you want to do is get ahead of ourselves. Yeah, we'd love to do it here at home, but the heartbeat and the pace and the way we play, it needs to be the same we've been doing all year.

Q. Victor just told me that he's really going to keep his eye on C.C. tomorrow, even more than normal, to make sure he's not overly amped up like he said he was the last two times out. Being an old catcher, what can you do when you see a pitcher in that situation? And is there anything extra you might tell Victor to look for tomorrow?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, that's part of it, just tell him to be ahead of the game. Just awareness is usually half the battle when it comes to working for something. Victor knows C.C. as well if not better than anybody, outside of C.C. and probably Carl Willis, our pitching coach.
As you guys know, Victor has a great pace to him, and his heartbeat is in check. Even though he's an emotional leader for us, he has a great ability to slow the game down, which is one of the reasons he's a great player. And I think he's a great help to C.C.

Q. When did you start thinking about doing this job or managing in general? And also, what things did you take from your career, the ups and the downs and the injuries that have allowed you to relate to players on your team that are having a rough time?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, it was probably the mid-'90s when I started thinking about it because when you're averaging about a surgery a year, you know you're probably not going to play as long as you want to play. I think just personality and I really enjoyed working with pitching staffs or being, quote-unquote, a leader on the team as a player. I think at that point in time I knew that I wanted to transition, when it was all said and done, into coaching or have an opportunity to manage. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to manage here in the minor leagues right away and just went from there.
But in regard to the players, I said it before, I mean, as soon as you're done playing, it is not about you anymore. It's point blank, it's not about ownership here, it's not about the front office, it's not about the manager or coaches, it's all about those players on the field. Everything we do revolves around them. That's why I say this is their team and they're the ones that are doing it and they're the ones that deserve the credit, because it is so hard to play this game. That's why I have so much respect for this game and anybody that's playing.

Q. Besides keeping your team in the game or giving them a chance to win, what specific things are you going to be looking for from Sabathia tomorrow?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, you said it right there. The only thing we ask our starting pitchers to do is just to give us a chance to win the ballgame. Anything beyond that is a bonus. When he's done or I take the ball from him or whatever it is, when he leaves that game, do we have a chance to win it? If he's done that, then he's done his job.
Now, with C.C. I know that he feels like that he needs to do more, and hopefully he won't feel like that tomorrow. He doesn't need to do more. All he needs to do is just go out there and be himself and pitch the way he's capable of.

Q. Would you mind defining "pace" for us? And number two, your lineup is so balanced top to bottom, do you think of it as top of the order, middle of the order, bottom of the order and affecting the way you can use it?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, first part, when it comes to pace, just making sure that the game doesn't speed up on you. As we talked about before, it's such a difficult game to play and be successful at, and at times, particularly for young players or maybe players with not a great deal of experience, it can speed up on you a little bit. So if you can keep that heartbeat in check and you can stay cool, calm and collected when everybody else is maybe not, you're probably going to have a better chance to be successful.
In regard to our lineup, it's extremely important for us to have a balanced lineup, I've said it before, one through nine, regardless whether it's the first three, the middle three or the bottom three, we've got a chance to do something. So in regard to each and every inning, we've got people that are capable of getting on base and people that are capable of driving in runs. So we want to create an opportunity and hopefully work hard to take advantage of that opportunity. With our lineup we can do that from head to toe.

Q. When you count the postseason, I think your record now is 37-14 since August 15th, and I know that was right around the time where you had a span of five games in ten days with the Tigers or something like that. Was there something about those games or something that clicked even in that general area that kind of got this team going?
ERIC WEDGE: Good question. We had a tough road trip. I think it was Minnesota, Anaheim and Chicago, and then we were going to come back and play Detroit, and I think that's what you're talking about. I want to say it was seven out of ten games or something crazy like that. If you look at that span, we were going to find out just how tough we were, and we did. Our guys did a great job. They set the tone. They didn't get ahead of themselves and were just as consistent as they could be as a ballclub and individually as they'd been all year, and they just kept going.
We've played some good baseball prior to that in the season. But I think we all felt like our best baseball was still ahead of us once we got to the midpoint of the season, because as good as we had played, we'd been close to the top or at the top of the division most of the year. We still felt like we could do a little bit better, and that's what they did.

Q. How is your time coming up in the Red Sox organization, how has it shaped who you are as a manager? Were there a couple of guys there in Pawtucket early on?
ERIC WEDGE: When I was drafted by the Red Sox it was still the Yawkeys and Haywood and guys that had been there for a lifetime in the organization, whether it be playing, coaching or special instructors. When you're drafted by an organization and you come up through an organization, they basically raise you as a young man. So there was a number of different people there that had a great influence on me. I'm not going to mention anybody in particular because I don't want to leave anybody out. But yeah, it had a tremendous influence on me. And not only myself but when you're drafted, the class you're drafted by, you establish relationships with those people, too.
It's no different than our organization. We've got people here that you draft and you bring them up, and we're very family oriented here. They become your brothers and they become your family. It's extremely important to have that atmosphere, I think, to be the type of club that we are where you generally care about each other. I don't mean that to sound corny, but you really do have to care about each other when you're in that clubhouse, and these guys do a good job of taking care of that.

Q. The other organization you played for is already in the Series. How ironic would it be to play them? And what kind of memories do you have of being one of the original Rockies?
ERIC WEDGE: Yeah, it was quite an experience. I still remember getting that phone call in Boston. I came home and my message machine was full. I knew something was up. Going out to Colorado that inaugural year, it was crazy. They were so hungry for a baseball team, and they treated us so well.
It was an interesting experience to go through, and you talk about walking in the clubhouse and you've got 60 faces from 29 different organizations or whatever it was at the time, 27 different organizations, and just working through that first year. But yeah, I still know some people obviously that are in that Rockies organization, so it would be interesting.

Q. Are you amused by the general national perception of Joe Borowski as sort of an accidental closer, emphasizing the ERA and ignoring the 45 saves?
ERIC WEDGE: Yeah, I am amused. I think it's ridiculous, really. You talk about baseball and you talk about that closer's role, I've said it so many times but people hear what they want to hear. It's black and white, either you get it done or you don't. If you talk about saves, that's what it's all about, and he had 45, more than anybody in the American League. And that's why I say I felt like he was the best closer in the American League this year because he had the most saves. He was the backbone of our bullpen and he helped the Betancourts and Perezes and Lewises and other people in the bullpen be that much better maintain their roles. He was still the guy that finishes it off. That's why when you talk about your bullpen, it's always going to start with your closer, and Joe has done a great job for us.

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