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October 17, 2009

Joe Torre


Q. How important was it, the experience that you've had in previous postseason games, to come back the way you guys did yesterday and going into tomorrow's game being tied 1-1, with momentum going into Game 3?
JOE TORRE: There's no question, especially playing at home, to come away from the two home games 0-2 would have been not impossible. You have teams in the postseason that are certainly capable of winning on the road, otherwise you wouldn't be in the postseason. But I thought it was so important, and Padilla is the one that made it possible.
It's sort of a helpless feeling as a manager because you're watching players play hard, and then Pedro pretty much diminishing their work because he was so good. And Padilla, and to me that was -- the key is Padilla out there, just really matching Pedro and being able to stay close enough. So if you get a break something happens.
But it was very important to have that win yesterday and come in here. It's an interesting phenomenon when you win a game in postseason play, when you realize you play 162 games during the course of the year and one win makes you feel good, but not the way it does in postseason, because momentum can switch so quickly.

Q. How important has your bullpen and your bench been to your success this season?
JOE TORRE: Well, I think our bench has been -- we knew right away our bench was going to be a lot better once we added Loretta and Ausmus. Ausmus aside from being a bench guy has been a huge help to Russell Martin in the preparation, the game stuff, the going over hitters. It continues to be a work in progress.
As far as our bullpen, that sort of came together. We left spring training, we really weren't sure. Troncoso, he was sort of the last pitcher -- actually Belisario was the last pitcher we decided on. And Troncoso, we weren't sure what his role was going to be, and all of a sudden these guys were on the postseason roster and pitching very important innings. It sort of developed as the season went on, but I think it was really the addition of George Sherrill that really sort of put order to it, where he was an eighth-inning guy and we could sort of play around him.
But the bullpen has been very, very important for us, especially the fact that we've had different starters from time to time be the guy who was sort of that guy. We never really had one guy for the whole season that you felt would be considered a No. 1.
I think it helped the rest of the guys to be able to go out there and feel that they can contribute.

Q. You've had the opportunity to coach, or manage, let's say, many different teams over the years --
JOE TORRE: That's because you get fired a lot. (Laughter).

Q. Kind of a two-parter related to each other: First, one or two things that maybe come to mind about how you've maybe changed as a manager over the years. And secondly, when you go from city to city, do you find yourself needing to adapt a little bit based on the city you're in and the players you have, how you manage?
JOE TORRE: It's all about the players. It's all about the players. I think you learn early on that whatever you do as a manager, the most important thing, I think, is being able to adapt to the kind of talent you have. You know, in New York you really didn't do a whole lot. You sat back because we had so many guys up and down that lineup that were so capable of big things, even though in Spring Training we always worked on small things. I mean, every single player in my lineup every spring would hit-and-run, whether it be Giambi, Alex, because we never wanted to lose sight of the fact that small things are very important, especially when you get to postseason.
As far as how I've changed, there's no question the years in New York did a lot for me because of the success we had when I was there. You know, when you have success and you walk into another clubhouse, I think players respect the fact that you've done something, even though you really still have to earn your stripes with these players. But I think it helps to try to get a message across and sort of explain to them that this has worked in the past. And I think it helps in that regard that you've had some success.

Q. You talked about it a little bit the other day, but could you get into Kuroda a little bit more, just how impressive it is and how important it is for you guys to have him back this late in October?
JOE TORRE: Well, go back a year, and what he turned out to be, first of all, late in the season, because he had come off the DL and maybe the fact that didn't throw a lot of innings was a benefit for us and for him. He was really important for us.
And then in the postseason he sort of picked us up and pitched hugely important games against the Cubs and of course against the Phillies there in Game 3. You sort of wanted him to be a part of this, although I really wasn't hopeful with his neck issue, and it really wasn't until the night before, I think it was Monday night, that I called Rick Honeycutt and said, "I think we should go," because I thought it was going to be an exercise for him, and Rick telling me, "Let's see how he comes out." So if my pitching coach was going to tell me that I thought it was important we see it first hand, because it's not okay to have somebody else tell me he's okay and make the decision on what they say. I'm the one that really has to make that decision. So I was happy we went over there Tuesday. I was very surprised about his command.
But yes -- do you want him to make it? Yeah. Unless there was something that just was uncomfortable to watch, you know, I was of a mind that I wanted him to be on this squad and be able to pitch. But he looked a lot more comfortable than I anticipated he would be.

Q. Could you talk about with all your experience, I don't know if you've had a situation like you've got with Jim Thome, like a half a man, you always have to have somebody married to him, and with the incident in Game 1 and a huge hit in Game 2, how that is for you to get ready for?
JOE TORRE: It's great. Again, we have 11 pitchers, so it enables you to have that extra player because the other night it was a little unusual when I was debating whether to send a pinch-runner or not, and I did apologize yesterday for the delay because when you pinch-hit for your pitcher in the fifth inning, that sort of shortens your roster.
But knowing from the other side of the field how you prepare for a guy on somebody else's bench, and to have Jim Thome be that guy and know how he would affect me on the other side, I think that's what we look at now as managers is how do we feel over there. Thome is that guy that is not necessarily a one-way guy. Yeah, you'd rather have him hit against a right-hander, but if they bring in a left-hander, so be it.
He's got such great plate discipline, and I think that was a big part of yesterday. He studies. He studies all the time. He beat my brains out when he was at Cleveland. He thanked me one time for leaving a pitcher in so he could hit a grand slam. I'll never forget that one.
I always respected what he did. You get to know players when you play against them for a number of years. But to have him in our clubhouse and see how much more he was than just a player, which has really, I think, helped the core of this group.

Q. You've been around a lot of on-field post-game celebrations, and some of them can get pretty aggressive. Do you ever worry about players getting inadvertently banged up catching a spike or even worse?
JOE TORRE: Well, they're wearing goggles now, safety glasses. That's scary when you have safety glasses on. Yeah, it happens, but to me I think the celebration is important. This game is just so tense and so pressure-packed that I think at certain times during the year, and if you're able to go to postseason, I think they need to blow off that steam. But I think a couple of years ago Minnesota lost one of their players, if I'm not mistaken, a number of years ago.
It's dangerous, especially on the field when, you're right, they have the spikes. Clubhouse, I think guys will come down with colds before they get anything else with all the stuff that they put on.

Q. Wolf caught a spike from Ethier.
JOE TORRE: On the field, yeah, on the field is dangerous. When I think back at the number of celebrations we had and guys just not really caring about their bodies, just throwing pair bodies into the middle of those scrums and stuff, you hope for the best, but it's the price we have to pay, I guess.

Q. Your thoughts on facing a guy like Cliff Lee tomorrow and the challenges he presents for your team.
JOE TORRE: You know, left-handers, especially left-handers -- again, Cole Hamels is that same type of guy. Cliff Lee, I've seen him in Cleveland. He's a guy that doesn't show a lot of emotion but you know there's a lot there. Changing speeds. Changing speeds. I was fortunate enough to come to the Big Leagues in 1961 and was able to catch a guy like Warren Spahn, and he taught me a long time ago about hitting is timing, and the pitcher's job is to upset that timing. I think that Cliff Lee is that type of guy, and yet he has enough giddy-up on his fastball that he's more than just that.
But his command is the thing that's the most impressive because he's not overpowering if you're looking for one pitch, but he can hit both sides of the plate, and he's certainly not afraid to throw you the fastball. You always have to guard against that, especially if you're thinking about looking for something soft.
But watching him as soon as he came over here -- Philadelphia is not an easy place to play when you realize that the expectations are so high for the sports teams in this town. But he came over and really was seamless for them. Watching him early on, how well he pitched, and then in the postseason right away.
We have our work cut out for us. We feel pretty good about Kuroda, but Cliff Lee was a great get for this ballclub, I believe.
Q. With the off-day coming after Game 4, could that impact how you arrange your rotation subsequent to that?
JOE TORRE: We don't plan on doing anything, but I think it gives you an option. It gives you an option. I really haven't thought a lot about it at this point in time. I expect Clayton Kershaw to pitch Game 5. You know, he's a young man that we feel very strongly about. Is he still learning? Sure. Is he afraid to go out there? No. And that certainly was a big part in our making the decision to pitch him in Game 1. But I anticipate that he'll be the Game 5 starter.

Q. What's your assessment on a guy like Utley, has two errors, a few bad throws. From your perspective what happens when a normally steady guy like that kind of starts making bad throws --
JOE TORRE: I don't think it's an issue. You go out there and play every single day from February through October, stuff is going to happen. Stuff is going to happen. To me strikeouts, errors, all that stuff is part of the game. It's a little tougher maybe when you come in as an extra man and make an error, now all of a sudden it's more of an impact on you.
But the way Chase Utley is built, I'm not -- if I was Charlie, I wouldn't be concerned about him. I'd like to tell you I could count on that all the time, but I know better, because he's too tough of a kid and he's too good of a player. Stuff like that happens. Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason why it happens, but the nature of the game is what it is.

Q. Talk a little bit about the challenges of playing in the colder weather. Does it favor the hitter, pitcher, when the temperatures get down into the 30s?
JOE TORRE: I think it favors the pitcher. I think it does. I remember back, and again, I keep talking about things a lot of people in this room weren't even born, but Bob Gibson pitching in San Francisco. We used to watch it and enjoy it, especially when you're on his side, because nobody wanted to hit against him.
Hitting is a little bit tougher. The tough thing about pitching is obviously the feel of the ball. If it gets really cold, then all of a sudden the ball becomes a little slicker and you may not be able to have the command you'd like to have, especially if you're a touch-and-feel guy. So it affects both, but I don't know of any hitter that really enjoys hitting in cold weather.

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