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October 6, 2009

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: Joe Torre is here. We'll take our first question.

Q. Do you know who will be pitching Games 3 and 4 yet?
JOE TORRE: We don't know if there's going to be a Game 4 yet.

Q. Game 3?
JOE TORRE: I do. Did you want to know? It's going to be Padilla, Vicente Padilla. And if there is a Game 4 it will be Billingsley. And Garland will be in the bullpen.

Q. Do you have the lineup set? And also wanted to ask you about the way Manny's swinging and all the strikeouts in the last four games and what do you think can be done to get him back to the way you'd like to see him?
JOE TORRE: Well, Manny -- remind me your first question in a minute. But Manny, Friday night he struck out four times and that was certainly uncharacteristic. Saturday he reeled himself in a little bit.
I think sometimes -- not sometimes. He understands his responsibility here and he tries to get too big and really it affects his balance.
I think when he's on his game he's probably one of the most balanced hitters there is. And I think he just has to think more in terms of smaller, like line drive instead of long way and stuff like that.
Usually the long ball will come when you sort of get yourself back in rhythm. So I was a little more -- I was a lot more comfortable with what I saw Saturday. And he seems to be in a good frame of mind.
So, again, he's been down this road before as far as post-season, and I expect him to show up for sure.

Q. Could you go through the lineup?
JOE TORRE: Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, James Loney, Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard, Russell Martin and Randy Wolf.

Q. Can you tell us about Billingsley's simulated game and what led you to go with Padilla ahead of him?
JOE TORRE: Billingsley, again, he's just been -- he's been working on getting comfortable. I was going to say struggle, but he's been working on it. It's getting better. Starting watching where it was a lot more comfortable. And, again, the only thing that's really going to get you there is to win ball games.
Here we are in the post-season. Padilla to me has been throwing the ball really well. It really wasn't a big differential in probably match-up stuff which is what we look at a lot.
But I was probably just a little more comfortable with where Padilla is right now, and I know Billingsley is getting there otherwise he wouldn't even be considered for No. 4 if I didn't think I was more comfortable watching him.
And that's basically it. That's why we made the decision there. And the simulated game was fine. He threw like 85 pitches and seemed to throw all his pitches. Seemed to have pretty good command and I talked to him today and told him that if there's a Game 4 he would be the starter.

Q. From a personal perspective, what does it mean to have reached the post-season so many years in a row? As you get further removed from New York, do you stay in touch with those players as often as you used to?
JOE TORRE: I do stay in touch with the players. I've gotten congratulatory texts from some players, and I do the same for them, and especially Joe Girardi over there, because last year was not an easy time for him.
He's a good manager. He's going to get better. And he played for me. He coached for me and I was just very happy for him. They're a good team. There's no question about it. And never in my wildest dreams, if six or eight years ago you'd tell me I'd be out here in California, managing, still managing, because once you get past a point managing one team, when I was managing the Yankees, you really, at my age, I really don't -- I don't want to have the energy to think about going and starting over again, because I don't think even though you're successful at one place that that automatically exempts you from working hard and trying to get things done here.
But it worked out great, and I have to thank my family for being so supportive of the decision. In fact, helping me make the decision. And it's been fun here these two years, and it's been very different from New York, except this time of year it's all the same. You're out there trying to win.

Q. Could you talk about the decision to go with Belliard over Hudson?
JOE TORRE: Yeah. Belliard, when we got him from Washington, we didn't know exactly how much we were going to use him. We didn't know where we were going to use him.
In fact, the first conversation I had with him I was getting on the bus -- I forget where we were at the time -- but I talked to him and asked him what positions he was playing. I think we were in San Francisco. He was telling me he played first, second, short, third, it was fine with me.
So I figured we had some maneuverability. And then just watching him come off the bench for us, play second base. He doesn't have as wide a range as Hudson does. But I think offensively he's maybe a little fresher right now. We asked O-dog to do a lot of stuff early in the year.
And he played his tail off and continues to do that. But it was just a decision I decided to make and we'll go day-to-day right now, against Carp. We'll go with Belliard and we'll see what we have.
But I'm happy that he felt well enough to do this.

Q. This last month there's a lot of talk about the Dodgers struggling the last few weeks into the playoffs and you've always had a positive spin about it. What are you seeing in your team right now heading into Game 1 that gives you that confidence?
JOE TORRE: The confidence I have is weird. I mean, this is about as unusual, I don't want to use the word strange, because I never know where it's going to wind up. It's an unusual group, because we could go through a period of time playing teams and you're wondering what's going to happen and all of a sudden we'll play a series in San Francisco, Colorado, Philadelphia, Chicago, and there they are. There they are. The Angels.
I looked at the Angels' numbers, I think they were 14-and-4 in inner-league play and we beat them three times. So there's a lot of stuff that leads me to believe that -- I'm not guaranteeing that it means you're going to win, but it certainly means we're not going to be intimidated by any of the situations.
And talent-wise, we have the ability to do a lot of things. I think we have a pretty versatile club. And just how we've played important series I think is probably what gives me the most confidence.

Q. Could you characterize your relationship with Tony La Russa and what he means to you, meeting him in the post-season situation?
JOE TORRE: Tony and I are friends. We sort of forged a relationship when I was broadcasting with the Angels and he was managing Oakland.
I felt, thanks to him, free to go down and talk to him, ask him questions and exchange thoughts and things like that. And he's obviously a great baseball mind, and he's had success everywhere he's been. And he continues to grind it out.
I don't sense we'll be having dinner anytime this week. That I can guarantee. We were in St. Louis this year. We did break bread one night. And that's our relationship. We're I guess close enough friends to feel comfortable having dinner, which is not very often that you have managers from different clubs doing that, I don't think.

Q. You were talking before about the way they play in big games, this club. Do you have a tendency at this moment to frame this as a big moment or as a big series? Is there anything you do to try to put it in perspective for them or do you just let it be?
JOE TORRE: I think I let it be. The only thing we do is make sure we don't forget anything. I mean, our scouting, like most clubs, is pretty thorough. And, again, it doesn't mean you dump it all on the players, but I have a great coaching staff and they sort of figure out what needs to be told.
I think they understand where we are right now, and I let them go, because the one thing to me, I feel, and in my managing years I've always felt that the game belongs to the players. You want them to go out there and express themselves and be not necessarily free spirits but have the freedom to do a lot of things that make them good players.
So, again, we don't send them out there with no guidelines at all. We sort of point of them in a direction and say go after it. And as I say, personality-wise, they've been pretty consistent. I've never really sensed a great deal of tenseness up until going through what we went through since we left Pittsburgh.
But, again, when you look all around baseball, games are tough to win in September. It really is. And they really are. And it's just one of those things where the human part of it comes out and you're thinking about winning before you're thinking about playing. And that's the dangerous part.

Q. Is there anything that concerns you about the lack of playoff experience of Kershaw and Wolf in these two games?
JOE TORRE: In Wolf -- Wolf's excited. He's going to wear his heart on his sleeves. You'll see emotions. You'll see him snatch the ball back from Russell Martin, and I think that's why he is who he is.
Right from spring training -- I really had no connection with him at all until this spring. And he's earned his right. That's the only thing I can say.
Concern or no concern, I really don't. He seems excited and I'm sure he's going to have a lot of butterflies tomorrow.
On the other hand, Kershaw, that's interesting, because I think we've spent the last better part of two years trying to protect him and insulate him from all this exposure, because he's just a kid.
Then you hand him the ball on Saturday and say "here, kid," and he comes back with the division title. So he's pretty well -- I think in all our minds -- not anybody to be concerned about.
I'm not going to say he's not going to try to overthrow the ball a time or two, but I think he has a pretty good grip on what he's able to do and the reality of the situation.

Q. Your 2000 Yankees sort of set the gold standard for the bad finish and then turning it on in October.
JOE TORRE: Turning it on, thank you.

Q. Is there anything you can relate to this situation?
JOE TORRE: Well, I remember, this has probably been documented somewhere, I used to spend 20 minutes trying to make a lineup out during that last three-plus weeks, trying to figure out who should hit fourth, fifth, and moving around.
By the second inning I was losing 6-0 every day and it was weird. We were in Baltimore, I remember, and just like our champagne was traveling with us, we had a lot of champagne traveling at that time. And I said you guys want to drink this stuff before the game or -- (Laughter) -- you run out of things to say to try to relax people. And then when the thing was over and we backed into the division, because at that time the wild card was coming from the West.
So it was like they're doing it in the Central, in the American League today. Once it was over with, we exhaled and we were on a run. But look at St. Louis and Detroit. They both limped into it a few years ago, and they wind up in the World Series, both of them.
So I don't know what is a sure-fire way to go into the post-season, to be honest with you.

Q. Let me run some names by you, see if they're going to be on the squad: Jim Thome, Scott Elbert, James McDonald, Ramon Troncoso.
JOE TORRE: Okay. Some of those will be on the squad. What were the names again?

Q. There was Scott Elbert, Jim Thome, James McDonald, Ramon Troncoso.
JOE TORRE: They may all be on the squad. We haven't really made our final decisions. We'll have that obviously today and I told the players when we had the meeting earlier that I would let them know by the end of the workout who was in on the first go-around and who wasn't.
I've told most of them. There's only a couple left, but I'd just as soon wait until everybody gets settled to have that for you.

Q. I apologize because I know this is incredibly premature. Could you even fathom what it would be like to manage another game in New York, if it happened?
JOE TORRE: Everybody keeps -- not everybody, but obviously I have friends and relatives back East, and they're all dreaming of this thing like it's something that's supposed to happen.
You're right. It's premature. Not because I'm trying to avoid the issue, but just from my experience and having been fortunate enough to get to six World Series and win four World Series and knowing what it took from the last day of the season to get there was exhausting.
So I really have not in my mind tried to dream, to be honest with you.

Q. Can you talk about the experience that this team got a year ago and the job that Ned has done to upgrade the depth, particularly on the bench?
JOE TORRE: I think Ned has a sense of what needs to be done. And it doesn't need to be a blockbuster thing. I think he has a sense of players' presence, players' ability and what he's done over the last year and a half, especially, I guess, since the Manny thing.
Actually right before that with Casey Blake. I think when Casey Blake showed up here, that started changing the whole personality, I think, of this ball club. And for certain what went on in post-season play going into Chicago. Chicago winning the most games than anybody in the National League, beating them twice at Wrigley Field and winning the division series, it did a lot for I think these players' sense of what they can do.
And it was evidence for me in spring training, even before Manny was signed, these guys had a completely different personality in spring training, had fun, confident, not silly but not stuff thinking that they didn't have to work.
And it just was a very -- it was a good feeling for a manager to walk through that clubhouse and just sense something that was pretty good. And I think the post-season last year -- and again a big part of it this year was when Manny was out for those 50 games, how well this ball club played.
Juan Pierre, we couldn't have done it without him, but having these individuals understand how they are in their own right very, very good and handle situations and pressure and slumps and all that stuff.
So I think the experience has really worked wonders with where we are right now.

Q. I just saw Kuroda playing catch with his teammate. Do you have any updates about him?
JOE TORRE: Kuroda, today was the first day. Felt well enough to play catch. And if we're fortunate enough to move on to the championship series and the World Series, you know, I think there's a distinct possibility he could be available for us. We all hope that's the case.

Q. Have you made a decision he will travel with the team to St. Louis?
JOE TORRE: I'm pretty sure he's going to travel. I don't know what we'd do without him. We don't want him sitting here by himself. So he will travel with us.

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