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October 11, 2008

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Joe.

Q. What's the difference in Kuroda now as opposed to when he got here in February, just in terms of his comfort level and how that's -- comfort level off the field and locker room all that stuff culturally and how that might have impacted how he's pitched this year?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, that's a terrific question, because a lot of us always look at the ability of a player and stop right there and you don't realize, especially when you come from another country, what do you do when you leave the ballpark, where do you go, how many friends do you have, stuff like that.
And I think the adjustment for players coming from another country, you know, it's got to be tough, just culturally. But over here the baseball, I think it's a little bit different. He's pitching more often over here than he did over there.
And we try to support and show him that support as best we can. I don't always do a great job, because it's not like you can sit at somebody's locker and just have a casual conversation at times. So once he came to me, when we put him on the disabled list, I think I probably made more of an effort to go talk to him, just the check-in type talk to him more after that.
But I think he's adjusted very well. He's still that pitcher that will go out there and get himself in a good rhythm and usually you find that out early in the game. When he's on his game, you really can't sit on any one pitch because he's got about four or five pitches he can throw at any time, and they can all put you away.
So he had a real good outing, his last outing against the Cubs and hopefully we'll see that tomorrow because we're going to need it.

Q. Down 2-0, do you feel any need to have a team meeting or talk to the team formally or anything like that?
JOE TORRE: You know, I talk to them every day in post-season. That's been a habit I've -- it's become -- when we were playing well, it becomes a superstition and after that it's just becomes a habit. Just every day I say something to them. I'm not sure if they hear everything. And it really doesn't amount to a whole lot. So we'll talk tomorrow.
Today is an off day and yesterday, it was like two different games, the first three innings then the rest of the game for us. I thought we were a little on our heels the first few innings yesterday and I thought we adjusted and came back. All of a sudden we made a runaway close and had the tying run at the plate a couple times. I just thought that we got off to a bad start yesterday and never could fully recover from it.
But again we'll talk tomorrow at our normal meeting.

Q. Does it feel like a different team every day?
JOE TORRE: You sort of sense what you want to say depending on what you sense, just from what you feel and the situation. And I try to use my experience, because I've been on both sides of this thing.
I'm probably a little more nervous when I have a 2-0 lead than even or down, because you don't want people to get overconfident and, on the other side of the coin, you have to just think in terms of not looking too far ahead. You've got to win the game on the field instead of worrying about how many you have to win out of the next five, stuff like that.

Q. After having Mariano all those years --
JOE TORRE: Mariano who?

Q. How strange is it for you now to see somebody on the other team, their version of a Mariano, a guy who's been perfect. Now that you're in that position, is it a helpless feeling? How do you describe it being on the other side of that now?
JOE TORRE: You know you have a challenge, and that's why a lot of those games, especially now that we're at home, you know, your goal is to keep him out of the ball game. The only way you can do that is at the very least tie the game going into that part of the game, the 9th inning, but, yeah, you're right. It took very little managing when you got to the 9th inning with Mariano out there and I'm sure with Charlie. I know in '96 I got spoiled my first year there because we had Mariano in the 7th and 8th and Wetteland in the 9th. So it was a very short game for us.
But you're right, it does a lot for a team's personality when you know if you can put a point up there that you have somebody who can shut the door, and he's done that against us, and he's done it all year, obviously. He's been perfect.

Q. You mentioned you've been on both sides of the 0-2 situation. What's the most important thing that you want to share with your team being on the down 0-2 side?
JOE TORRE: Again, first off, you don't play this time of year unless you're capable of winning multiple games. And momentum is so important. I've preached that. I've talked about it to the press. I've talked about it to the players, that when the momentum is on your side, you want to keep it. When it's not on your side, you want to find a way to get it back. And the only way you can do that is really stay in the moment and try to think about one game.
Because, again, I've been on a club. We've had a 3-0 lead against the Red Sox in the championship series and had a lead in Game 4 and a lead in Game 5, both late and lost them both and had a tough game in Game 6 that we lost I think 3-1 or 4-2 or something like that at home and then got blown out in Game 7.
You have something to say every day to try to add perspective to what you're saying for the players to not get too rushed, so to speak.
Then, on the other side of the coin, when we lost two games at home to Oakland, I think it was in 2001, and we go out there where they hadn't lost in about a month and beat them two games and then come back and win Game 5. It's a momentum switcher is what we need tomorrow.
We need to get things back on our side. And I don't want to say it's more comfortable coming home, but it should give us a little more confidence, let's put it that way.

Q. I think you'd agree one of the things that can really get your offense going will be Furcal at the top of the lineup. And coming off this injury, and he's also going through this sort of right-left, right-left thing with opposing starters, what are you seeing in him right now and what's it going to take, if anything? Is he going to be able to get it back in time to sort of help you out out there?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, he goes after it. Sometimes he overswings and overtries, he's that kind of personality. But right now, you're right, there are advantages to being switch hitters, but then the disadvantage is the fact that you didn't start playing until the end of September and now all of a sudden this is spring training for you.
But again he's been hitting for a long time, batting practice, even before he was activated. And he's working at it. So I sense that you're right, he makes things a lot easier. He gets on base and all of a sudden going around Manny isn't that easy.
But I think he's fine. I think if he has an issue right now it's probably just a timing thing.

Q. Does your role in terms of what you say and do to the team change because you have so many guys who are playing in their first playoffs?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, but you know what, when we came back to win the division, it was sort of like playoff baseball for us. And the only thing you try to do is have them capture that or recapture that feeling that they felt and the kind of approach they had in those games. So to me I've always tried to be a positive person to try to give them something to hold onto.
And with young players, as long as there's enough of them where they can look at each other and say we're in this thing, let's get this done, to me they need to have a little fun.
I thought last night they were pushing it a little bit and maybe they lost some of their patience that they've had, which has been pretty much the signature of what they've been trying to do and what they've been doing very well.
But, again, there's something about when you're losing a ball game, especially in short series, you have to keep reminding yourself that it's still a baseball game and it's still nine innings and you still have time to get this thing righted.
That's one advantage that our sport has, is that there's no time limit. You still have your 27 outs and just make sure you use most of them.

Q. What did you learn about James McDonald with his outing yesterday?
JOE TORRE: He probably didn't learn anything about himself, I'm sure, because that's the kind of confidence he brings to the table. But he really impressed the heck out of me. I mean, I liked -- when I told him in Chicago he was going to be part of the division series roster, he gave me a little determined little silent clap of the hands, which certainly didn't make me think that he was worried about it.
And yesterday when he went out there, and that certainly wasn't what we envisioned for him or what we planned for him. Because normally when you have a starting pitcher just like we did during the course of the rest of the season, we handed him the ball at the start of an inning, but we got in a box yesterday that we needed to bring him in in that inning and it turns out bases loaded and pretty good darn hitter up there in Burrell and he dispatched him. I learned a lot from watching him, just his presence and his confidence in himself. And this kid's going to have a pretty bright future, I think.

Q. We basically keep bugging Manny for some insight into being on the Red Sox team that fought back from being down 3-0.
JOE TORRE: I haven't talked to him yet, but maybe I'll go there.

Q. But he said -- what he keeps saying is that, You know what? I just go out and play, that's all I can do here. But by doing that, when guys see him doing interviews with sunglasses on or walking around with his hair tied up, does that have an effect, just a guy acting like that, they can look and say, hey, you know what, maybe we can just kind of stay loose and play baseball?
JOE TORRE: That's the other half of the young players looking for each other. They look at guys like Manny. When he came on board, I mean, he's got a great work ethic. Again, he's looked at like he has all this fun and he's irresponsible with some of the video you see of him. But that's not the case when it comes to his craft.
But just I think when he came on board he showed the players that you can play this game and play it well and still have fun doing it. Of course, not everybody is blessed with his ability either. But he shows them when you do have ability you have to go out there and work with it and keep working at it. And I think that was a good message.
But the fun part, yes, I'd like to believe that they could look to him and sort of exhale a little bit. And Casey Blake, too, he's probably a little more intense, a little more outwardly intense than maybe Manny is. But I think just the stability of those two guys, I think they made a difference up until now, and I'm banking on that continuing.

Q. You talked about adjustments. And I was wondering, this is a crazy business, but how long did it take you to adjust to seeing a guy like Manny who you've just been competing against for so long and in such intense situations to adjust, you being allies, being here together?
JOE TORRE: About five minutes. About five minutes. Even though I didn't have to deal with him, and I thought it was a great way to say good-bye. We played Boston the last three games of spring training, I said I can't get rid of this guy even though I'm in the National League, but the surprise when the trading deadline comes and he's on my team, and having had some association with him, with All-Star games and stuff, when he sat down and he said to me I just want to play ball and go home, and I felt I couldn't do that anymore, I can semi relate to that, leaving New York and knowing what the intensity is in both those places on baseball.
But to have other managers have to make decisions and lose sleep over Manny is very nice for me after 12 years of being on the other side of that thing. But he made it easy. He became a good teammate early on for these players. A lot of times when players are that high profile they basically walk in the clubhouse and not necessarily literally say "here I am," but they just walk in and sort of give you that feeling.
But he stops at lockers with young players, talks to them, and it was somewhat of a bonus, I think, when we got him.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Joe.

End of FastScripts

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