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October 26, 2007

Clint Hurdle


Q. Despite the presence of the humidor, you guys had a concerted home-field advantage here this year. Can you kind of talk about what gives -- why you think you play so well here?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, I think you mentioned the humidor. Number one, our pitching staff is dramatically improved over the staffs we've had here in the past. Even through the injuries we had during the season, we were able to reload quite effectively the bullpen, actually recreated itself at one point in the season. At one time it got stronger. Offensively we've had a young nucleus of players get experience, garner at-bats and become much more dangerous at the plate. The combination of speed and infusion into our lineup has helped. We've played so much good defense throughout the time that it's paid off here at home. So I think those are a number of contributing factors.

Q. You didn't get a chance to see Daisuke in June in that series. I don't know how much you have been able to see of him, but from what you know of him and what you have seen, what kind of challenges is he going to present your team tomorrow?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, he has an elaborate mix of pitches. I think we've probably got five down on record. He challenges the strike zone. We've watched him pitch. More often than not he's like a lot of pitchers, you cover away and you react in. Use the big part of the field. He likes to spin the ball, he's got a slider, he likes the fastball. He's got an exclusive mix of pitches and I think also we can put some pressure on him, maybe get him into some offensive counts. When we get opportunities to score we need to capitalize on those. We've seen all the tape we need to see, and now we need to see him in person.

Q. Willy had said that he feels the offense charge starts with him. Have you felt he senses an unusual burden given how difficult runs have been to get on base and make something happen?
CLINT HURDLE: An unusual burden, I don't know, I never hit lead-off. But I'm sure as lead-off men go they feel responsible for a large part of the offense. Guys at the top of the order, they're table-setters, they're given those names for specific reasons. But I think our offense probably has been pretty been reflective -- they all feel accountable, and they know that for us to make a positive charge in this thing, we need to put together and string together more quality at-bats, start at the top and start in the middle. We need to find a way to be a lot more consistent from top to bottom. But that's just a player owning up and being accountable, which our players have been very good about all season long.

Q. Do you think the altitude will affect Boston's pitchers and give you an advantage, your offense an advantage?
CLINT HURDLE: We'll have to wait and see. It can present some challenges. We're aware of them probably more than anybody. But historically there's been challenges presented to certain pitchers. If you get them running around backing up bases moving around the mound to make plays, those types of things, but again, we've also had guys come in here and they make their pitches, they keep their pitch count down, they roll some ground balls and they play some defense with fly balls. Time will tell.
In the matter of Daisuke, I don't know of many Japanese players that aren't well conditioned, so I'm sure he's in top shape. This will be a challenge for him.

Q. First of all, Hidecki Irabu to answer that question about which players have not been in shape --
CLINT HURDLE: I didn't want to go there (laughter).

Q. But to move on, you've had such a special run up to this point, an historic run. Do you allow yourselves to think about kind of protecting that run by coming back here? I mean, can that be motivation, or would that be more of a negative pressure?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't know if that's a positive or a negative. I know we're aware of the situation. We're down two games, we're playing Game 3 at home and we need to make a positive statement. Our focus throughout this season, obviously it got more -- probably more storied towards the end. We're just looking for a one-game winning streak. We need to win Game 3. And then we'll go from there.
The run has taken its place, and now we've run into a situation where we've lost two games. That's happened to us before, also. A sense of urgency has never hurt this ballclub.

Q. Do you consider making any changes to try to get a spark going with the bats?
CLINT HURDLE: I'm thinking through some things. I have this habit professionally that any time I decide to make changes and when I decide to make changes I talk to the people involved first. So you wouldn't be one of the changes I would make, so we probably wouldn't be having that conversation.

Q. I had to ask.
CLINT HURDLE: I understand, that's fine. But I think any time we get challenged offensively you always need to rethink things and look at your options and maybe what has provided a spark for you in the past when you've been in these situations. We've been in these positions before offensively and found ways to get through it.

Q. Quick question for you, most teams that are down 2-0 in the World Series are somewhat discouraged but coming from the locker room and the clubhouse it doesn't really seem that way. All season long you've talked about the character of this team. Could you speak to that, knowing you're down two games to none this is still eminently winnable for you guys?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, we've been able to put together a couple different streaks throughout the course of the season. This is the last challenge. We've had some challenges before during the season. This is the last challenge. But again, I think our focus is all about Game 3. I know the guys are up -- we've got nothing to lose as far as we need to win a ballgame. There's not a whole lot of time left. As I said earlier, a sense of urgency hasn't hurt this ballclub. We've been outplayed the first two games, and we understand that. We know we need to go out and throw good effort off the mound.
If we match-up out of the bullpen like we did last night we can do it. We've got to find a way to strike up the offense and put some runs on the board. But as far as panic, that really hasn't been a characteristic of this ballclub any time during the season, and we've had some challenges on the other side of the spectrum that I think have given us good experience to get through this.

Q. I just wondered if you could tell us a little about what went through your mind the first time somebody from the organization came to you and said, well, we're thinking about putting a humidor here in the ballpark for the balls.
CLINT HURDLE: I said, "enlighten me," and once they went through the scenario, it made perfect sense because I was like many people, I had no idea the balls were shrinking and getting harder. I was a hitting coach here, and some balls would get hit from time to time, and you would go, oh, my, how did that happen. You would see other teams hit, and you'd go, wow, I can't believe that ball went out. We kept attributing everything to altitude. But through the astuteness of one of our employees in-house, the realization of the fact balls are getting smaller, getting harder, they're going farther, that adds to the complication of playing at altitude to start with. So once we could regulate that, just keep the balls regulation size. That's all we've tried to do, keep the balls regulation size as when we get them. That's leveled the playing field for us at home, which has made the swing of home-road challenges much less. It's given our pitchers, I think, a better foundation for confidence. It's just leveled the playing field. It's not so drastic of a swing.
The thing that was so challenging for so many years here was you were never out of a game. That's the way you felt. It's not that you ever just turned it off and stopped playing. But every night, 81 times, six, seven runs down late, you're thinking, hey, we can get this thing done. You're continually grinding and grinding and grinding, and mentally it became very challenging and I think exhausting at times.

Q. The Rockies set the Major League all-time attendance record here. Can you talk about maybe that passion? Is that still around, remnants of it still around 15 years later?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, I think the remnants are definitely around. I think we've seen a rekindling since the third week of September. You'll see a rekindling tomorrow night through the playoff games that we have had here through the season ending series with Arizona, the tie-breaker game.
This is a great sports town, if you're not familiar with it. I was not aware how great a sports town it was until I came here and lived here and watched them support winning franchises. You watch the love and passion they've had for Bronco Football, the way they watch their hockey team, the Avalanche, the roll that the Nuggets have put together at times to get the Pepsi Center going, and some of the other sports, the college sports. It's a great sports town. But it's like a lot of sports towns, tangible evidence is necessary sometimes to get the masses out, and I think I feel confident that's the direction we're headed in. We've given them some tangible evidence. There has been a rekindling. It's evidenced all over town now. I drove a different way to town now because I had to run some errands and they've got tents set up with Rockies gear. You were threatened to be beat up six years ago if you had a Rockies shirt on. I know for a fact because I was threatened several times. "What are you doing with a shirt?"
"I'm the coach, I've got to." (Laughter).
It all goes with the territory, but this is a wonderful sports town.

Q. Just talk about sparking the offense. How many changes or how many things can you and your coaching staff put in without affecting the identity of the team, whether it be bunts or hit-and-runs or whatever?
CLINT HURDLE: That's what coaches and managers try and put together, a game plan. We've had a conversation about that. We'll have a little bit more. You know, if you just stay tuned, there will probably be some tangible evidence of that tomorrow. You just want to find a way to let them play. Again, I think, you know, you never want to put up a lineup and the people just go, "Wow, where did that come from?" Something that you've had some history with, some history of success. But players also know there's a sense of urgency. We need to win a game. They know that I'm not afraid to throw the dice, I'm not afraid to gamble.
Sometimes the biggest mistakes in life are being afraid of making a mistake. I have confidence in our players. We have a lot of viable options. When you have good players, you have more options as manager. We'll have something ready tomorrow night to get after the game, get in the game with.

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