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October 10, 2008

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Joe Torre.

Q. First time you saw Chad and you measured the progress between then and now in terms of his development as a guy who can kind of harness his emotions and stuff during a game?
JOE TORRE: I heard a lot about him going in, and then spring training, you know, you never know when pitchers especially are trying to show their new manager what they have. I think sometimes they put a little pressure on themselves.
Chad's case this spring he had a little leg issue, nothing major, but we shut him down for a little bit.
And then early in the season he had a bad sprain. Then in the season he just struggled just with rhythm. He was striking a lot of people out but he wasn't really winning a lot of games. And then once he sort of hit that stride where he got a little rhythm, I saw the guy that I was told about.
And I was very impressed with his start in Chicago, because normally, and I put him in a category of a Clemens type where he really gets pumped up for a start and sometimes it takes a few innings just to get his rhythm going. Soriano got the single and got to second on the wild pitch and all of a sudden he just shut it down. He really got into that rhythm early and kept it the rest of the game.
He's been a horse for us, he really has. And the thing about it, he never looks at what inning it is. Basically we tell him that's enough because he's just ready to take the ball every day. He's been pretty special. And to be as young as he is with that kind of heart, I think, is pretty special.

Q. Loney had some nice at-bats against Hamels yesterday. How do you feel about his development against lefties?
JOE TORRE: James is so unpredictable. He can have some really feeble-looking at-bats, then all of a sudden a big swing on a ball. He handles the pace of the game very well. Left-handers, I think the ability that he has, and Ethier, they both have, is the fact that they can use the off field real well.
So in facing left-handers, I think when you don't try to pull the ball you've got a better chance of putting the ball in play, and he has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark in left field. Right now that home run that he hit in Chicago certainly helped his confidence. And he's been that way all year.
Every time you think he has a slump ready to happen, you get a big hit, whether it's hit hard or hit soft. He seems to have a plan up there.

Q. How pleased were you with how Kuo pitched in the 9th yesterday?
JOE TORRE: I was very pleased. Again, when you're in the post-season, it's tough to say you'd like to put him in a situation that isn't pressure packed, but every out is so important in post-season play that you threw him out there and you hope for the best. Because we monitor in the bullpen as he was throwing. It didn't take much time for him to warm up. I thought his breaking stuff, especially, was a lot sharper than I could have hoped for being that he hadn't pitched for a while.

Q. How did he come out of it?
JOE TORRE: He came out of it really well. He did some running this morning. Felt good. But he hadn't played catch yet. I'm probably thinking about not using him because it's back to back. But again we'll see what he says and we'll go from there.

Q. You've batted Russell Martin all over the batting order this season. What are the qualities that makes you able to do that?
JOE TORRE: Well, Russell has a lot of ability. Probably didn't have the kind of year that he feels he's capable of. I think a lot of it sometimes it's where he tries to do too many things. I think he really thrived in the top half of the batting order, whether it be first or second. He batted first for a good period of time. We started that in Arizona and started our winning streak and we just kept him there. Of course, Furcal came back and we moved him down to the 2 hole which affected Ethier who had been doing well in the 2 hole also.
But his ability to hit the ball again all over the field, line drive type hitter, and he led our club and probably up there in the league in walks. So he has quality at-bats, makes the pitcher work hard, and to me that was really important. And I think he finally was able to utilize Manny hitting behind him, because early on, when we had him hitting third and Manny was hitting fourth, I think in his mind he probably thought it was automatic he was going to get a fastball down the middle.
And I think he sort of reeled himself in from that and he's really taking advantage of it now.

Q. Derek didn't whine about it or anything but he did make mention that the home runs yesterday, it's a hitter's park, do you think Chad gets affected by seeing two shots like that, do you think that that makes a difference with him at all tonight?
JOE TORRE: I hope not. I certainly don't think he's going to do anything other than pitch his game. We came from Wrigley Field. And Wrigley is certainly a hitting-friendly park. Again, I think if you talk to Derek, too, he felt he wanted those pitches to be somewhere other than they wound up. So that's what happens. Especially in post-season when you're playing the best teams, you certainly can't say I got away with something very often, because it usually isn't a fact.
But I thought Derek pitched well, but we all know about this ballpark. It certainly -- for a pitcher, you have to be a little more precise than in other ballparks because there's not a lot of room for error, except for hitting the center field is pretty honest here.
But, again, if you're going to left or right, you can reach these stands pretty easy. But, again, that's part of the home field advantage, I guess.

Q. With ALCS starting tonight, you saw Tampa Bay a lot with the Yankees. How much of a surprise has it been to see that club do what they've done this year and be alive still at this point?
JOE TORRE: Well, the one thing about Tampa Bay, and we played them 18, 19 times a year and they're two teams you had to beat, you have to beat the Red Sox and Tampa, Tampa because we had our spring training, just a lot of needs over there.
But you could see every year they were getting tougher to beat. If it wasn't Baldelli, Crawford and they kept adding one factor after another, speed, sneaky power, and then once they started addressing the pitching and once the pitching that they had started growing, you knew it was just a matter of time before they were able to control the game a little bit better.
And so it's really not that much of a surprise. For them to go from worst to first, yeah, sure, that's probably a surprise it happened that quickly. But I think they just got a little bit of a roll and they certainly were tested all year, even though they had the year all year, they still had to go out there and fight off Boston all year long.
So I give Joe Maddon a great deal of credit for that just to keep these young kids focused and not getting too excited. I think he did a great job.

End of FastScripts

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