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November 1, 2009

Charlie Manuel


Q. I don't know if you heard these comments, but after last night's game Cole was asked about his personal feelings towards the season, and he said he just wanted the season to be over. What are your thoughts on that comment, and does that affect your decision about a potential Game 7 starter?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I was surprised when I heard that. I was surprised at that. But I don't really understand exactly how he meant that. But at the same time, when I think about it, I look back, and Cole is a guy that when he first came to the Major Leagues, he's been here -- he was the MVP last year in the World Series, and that's what everybody talks about, and they kind of rave about that.
But since day one he walked into -- when he first came to the Big Leagues he's been what they call a high profile pitcher and everybody has always talked about him, and he had success right out of the getgo, and he was considered a top-notch pitcher.
He did not pitch a whole lot through the Minor Leagues, and basically this year, I've said over and over, he's had kind of a freak -- kind of a weird season, and the more I think about it, what he's going through, here's a guy, all of a sudden he's starting to -- he's having some problems. He's inconsistent, and he's kind of had an off-year for him. Basically his struggles is kind of -- this is the first time he's going through that.
That's what baseball is all about, and it's all about experience, and it's all about how you feel. I seen him when he first came up. I'll get back to that. Here's a guy that you guys were asking me last night about his mental toughness. I saw he was very mentally tough. He was focused. He was determined. I mean, everything about it, he was one of the top-notch guys that I've seen. And I still think all that is there, and he'll get back there.
And I think this is something new to him. Every guy goes through it.
I remember Burrell as a hitter. When I first came over here, Burrell was struggling big time, just got through signing Burrell to a big contract, he come back the following year and he's having a hard time. Same thing. I've seen pitchers do it. Beckett his second year after his big year, he come back after the World Series and things in the following year, he went through a big -- there was a big trying process. This is all part of the process. And this is the first time that things have not gone his way, and he's -- that's something that you should be explained. I hope I'm explaining it well to you because that's kind of what it is.
Also, he goes through the long season, and he's getting to the point where I can see where mental -- like the mental part of it, definitely wears on you. Chuck Finley used to tell me when he pitched, he says, no one ever knows about -- he told me, "Charlie, just because I've got 60 or 75 pitches, believe me, nobody knows how from a mental toughness or how drained you get." He says, "If I start putting my right arm on my knee, on my right knee," he says, "come and get me, because believe me, I'm dead." (Laughter).
And it is a wear and tear. And I think that that's kind of where he's at, and he's never been through that before. This is all new to him, and that's something that he will get through it and probably be even better.
But I'll never -- from what I've seen of him and things, I mean, he's a competitor, and he's definitely mentally tough.
Q. Could you take us through some of the pros and cons when you and Rich Dubee were weighing whether to go with Cliff Lee on short rest compared to putting Joe Blanton out there tonight in Game 4?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Cliff Lee was -- actually we didn't talk very long on Cliff Lee, and I gave those reasons yesterday. One of them was, we're going to experience with Cliff Lee in the World Series? And the fact that -- also his workload this year and everything, and his routine. Every time -- I'll throw a pitcher out there during the season, and if I don't have him in his role or something like that, like you guys ask me about that all the time, what about if I start messing with Cliff Lee and take him out of his routine and his days' rest and everything? This is a process of where he stays. Like you look up, and you probably say, well, CC Sabathia can do it, well, CC Sabathia has been doing it. Why did he do it? Somebody got him, and they wanted to make sure that they had the best chance of winning, so they put him on three days' rest and pitched him, and he's did it before. And it's worked pretty good for him, although we banged him up pretty good last year.
Basically when you saw him last year, he wasn't the guy that was throwing 94 or 97, he was a guy that threw a lot of change-ups and sliders to us, and there's a big difference. You're asking Cliff Lee to do something that he has never did before. But we're also asking him to do it in a very big, important place, and that's in the World Series. I didn't have to think very long at all about that, and neither did Dubee.

Q. Back to that Cole thing for a second, considering what you just said, would you have any hesitations about using him in a Game 7?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Right now I'm focused on today. We're a long ways from there. I mean, really, I've got a lot of time to think about things, and I'm focused on today. We've got to win tonight's game. We came here today to win tonight's game.

Q. Jimmy said that Ryan Howard's struggles might be mental, he might be pressing a bit at the plate. What are you seeing? And have you talked to Ryan about his approach?
CHARLIE MANUEL: When you see -- I said something to Ryan during the game last night about his weight, like when he's setting up, he's got a lot of weight forward, and when he does that, usually he brings his weight back for balance on his back side, and I told him about that, and that kind of keeps him right where his hands don't drift forward.
But what I've seen of Ryan, they're pitching him tough, and they're slowing him sliders, especially left-handed pitchers, they're throwing him sliders and they're on the outside part of the plate, and they're making what you call some real -- they're making it tough on the umpire, too. They're throwing what I call, like, really tough pitches, and if they're not on the corner, they're real close, and the umpire is calling those balls. I'm not saying they're balls or strikes, I'm saying that the pitcher is doing a good job on him is what I'm saying. When they pound him inside, same thing. They were flirting with the area that's either right on the plate or just a little bit off, and if you go back and look, they've been pitching him real good, and when you do that and he falls behind in the count, it's hard to hit.

Q. You said you're focused on today. There's a big difference between being down 3-1 and the series being 2-2. Is there anything you try to do to make that more of an incentive than a burden for the players?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Not really, I'll just go around and I'll probably talk to them just like always, and we'll come out with the idea that we want to -- we're determined and we're focused on what we're doing and we're going to go out there and focus all of our energy on tonight's game. Tonight we've got the right guy throwing for us, I think, especially from a makeup standpoint. We've got a guy that's a bulldog, he's tough, he likes to pitch, and really, I think that we're in for a good game.

Q. Do you find that when Cliff pitches that it fills the rest of the team with some sort of a positive vibe or anything like that?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think when you -- when Cliff pitches, what I said about him, that he controls the flow of the game, and I think that right there is what sets your team. That's what keeps him -- Cliff Lee gets the ball and throws it. He's definitely a tempo-rhythm guy if there ever was one. He gets the ball, he throws it. What happens is the defense has to be alert because he keeps them on their toes, he keeps them always thinking. They've got to be ready, it keeps them focused on the game and the game keeps going at his pace, at his flow. And I think when he's throwing strikes and stuff and his command is like it is, I think that's one of the biggest things about the game, and I think it creates an atmosphere or energy in the game where your team is definitely behind you and they don't have time to lose focus on what they're doing, if that makes sense. He doesn't give an outfielder time where he crosses his legs and he starts whistling and looking up in the stands and taking his time. I was a player, and you know something, you're always in the game under him, and you'd better be because he gets the ball and throws it.
How he goes about it kind of dictates the flow of the game. When he's good and he's not giving up many hits or he's pitching real good, he definitely keeps his team interested.

Q. Going back to Ryan Howard, Ryan said maybe he was a little anxious and that he felt himself calming down the last couple at-bats last night. Did you also see that maybe him coming out of it a little bit more?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Yeah, but you guys got to remember, it's a seven-game series, that's a short series, and when you've got good pitching, a lot of times, yeah, there's things he can do, but I'd say the best thing he can do is make sure that he keeps his balance, stays back and he's following the ball good and he tries to get a good ball to hit.
The first rule of thumb is get a good ball to hit. How does a pitcher do that? I sat there the other night, and when I watched Burnett, I saw all those things, I watched him -- when they played all these replays, and I see how his first pitch, where it was going, and the strikes he was throwing. When he's getting ahead of you there, I'll tell you something, I'm not going to go up there, and if he paints me on the outside corner with a knee-high fastball, which is a strike, I'm not going to swing at that. I'm looking for something I can hit. I'm looking for something I can swing freely at. I'm trying to get a good ball to hit, because if I hit that, he's forcing me to hit the ball that he wants me to hit, and more than likely, the ball that he throws, I'm going to hit it to the shortstop or left field, because he's forcing me to do that.
And therefore, his command, that's where the command comes into play, and you've got to get good balls to hit, get a good ball to hit. What do you work a pitcher for? You try to get a hit in the count, like 2-0, 3-0, those are outstanding hitting counts. You look for good balls to hit, and, therefore, my zone becomes smaller. Like I box the ball, and I'm looking to hit the ball, and I'm looking to get good balls I can hit, and so on. And if a guy throws me a breaking ball or something, I want to make sure it's a strike. I don't want to be chasing breaking balls in the dirt and things of that sort. I want to stay focused on what I'm doing. I'm looking for a good ball to hit, and I've got an idea of what I'm going to hit. I know the pitcher and everything about the game and as far as how they're going to work me, and I stay within my ideals and things, or my plan. That's what it's all about.
And like 2-0 or 3-0, that gives me a smaller area I can hit in and I'm going to pick a fastball middle in on most guys. I'd say 75 percent of the time I'm going to pick a fastball to hit, like middle in. If it's not there, I'm going to take it. If a guy throws a strike, it's 3-1. I've still got two strikes left. I'm still looking for a good ball I can hit. If it goes 3-2, then it's not like I give up, but I get a little -- that's what 3-2 is like inside the ball swing. What they call inside the ball. The ball travels a little bit on you, and if you hit it, you'll be inside the ball. There's phrases that they use in baseball, and a lot of times they don't explain what they are. But inside the ball is nothing but letting the ball get a little close to you, that's all. Like letting it travel and make sure that you put it in play. That's inside the ball.
My ideal of hitting, I want to hit the whole ball and go through it. If you see somebody smoke a ball and hit the ball to right-center or something like that and get back spin, that means a guy hit the whole ball. The other night a guy hit a single to center field in New York and I told Jamie Moyer standing over beside him, and I said, "If you're going to teach your kid how to hit, that's how you do it." He wants to hit the whole ball and drive through it. That's what hitting is all about.

Q. Home runs are one thing, but do you feel like you guys -- are you satisfied with the number of scoring opportunities that you're getting?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Not at all. From a good offense standpoint, I look at our team, and we should be -- if we score on average, we should score, what, five runs. But on a good night we should be scoring five to six, seven to eight runs even with the kind of offense we've got. If we're scoring two and three runs, sometimes it's hard to win games. It's hard for anybody to win games like that.

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