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October 11, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. Carp is a tough-minded individual, how does it feel having him go to the hill tomorrow night?
TONY LA RUSSA: It's a great feeling for us, same exact feel Milwaukee has with Gallardo, top of the rotation guy. So we love playing behind him.
I really would like to express my sympathies, the passing of Gary (VandenBerg), a lot of us have known him for a long time, that's a real blow to the Milwaukee Brewers. Wish him and his family the best. He's a really good guy.

Q. Can you talk about Lance Lynn's injury, did you think he was going to be out for the season and how effective he's been for you?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he was feeling real good in September, and we were not going to push it. He's a big guy, and slower to heal, wanted to give him plenty of time. So his only chance would have been the second series, because once we put him on 60-day, coincided with exactly the first game of the LCS.
But I know, we all know he was making a lot of progress. We were encouraged. We didn't get in -- or didn't win the Division Series. No reason to expect nothing but a terrific preparation and coming into spring training, should be picking up where he left off but very fortunate that he's on our roster. He has a lot of weapons.

Q. Do you find it a little incongruous that you have a 7-1 record against a guy who almost no-hits you over the season?
TONY LA RUSSA: Incongruous? (Laughter.) Why, shouldn't he see Congress? Is that like Washington, D.C. Congress?

Q. How about weird?
TONY LA RUSSA: Oh, weird. Yeah, it's weird, whacky.
Yeah, obviously aware of some of those numbers. I know every time he's pitched against us, and there's been games where he's shut us down and I could -- I didn't -- I could beat him 1-0 or something. But this guy is top shelf, top of the rotation starter. Like anybody else, if it's a day where you're getting the ball in the middle of the play, I heard Ron talk about it, same thing we said the first day. There's good hitters on both clubs, real good hitters, and if you locate the ball off the middle, they don't connect, and if you have a bad command day, the other side centers it. Look at Gallardo, he has excellent command of several pitches. We like our chances because we like Carp and we are going to compete. But it's an even game as far as I'm concerned knowing the quality of their pitcher and their team.

Q. You had a pitcher in Oakland, Dave Stewart, well known as a big-game pitcher. Carpenter now has thrown two or three starts back-to-back, and in really must games, and pitched fantastic with the one exception, the short-rest game. But is there something, is there a similarity between pitchers like that? Is there something that you identify that sort of separates them in those moments?
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah. I mean, there's some qualities, and starting with the when we announced in spring training he's the No. 1 starter. That's a big responsibility. You're telling the rest of the rotation, you're telling the rest of the team, follow me. And that means not just the day you pitch; it means the day in between. And Carp embraces it just like Stew did. And the day they pitch, they compete; nobody has ever, ever seen these guys take a ball not ready to pitch. Doesn't always work out. In fact, that's one of the reasons -- I pitch him again on three days' rest any time, because we used to pitch Stew on three days' rest, because the competitive fire makes up for whatever you don't feel like, as long as there's no risk of injury, and that's a very good comparison. I think he and Stew have a tremendous amount in common.

Q. You guys obviously had confidence in Lilliquist or you would not have chosen him to be your pitching coach, but what has he shown you over the first year of doing this job and in particular, how tough of a time he had in September?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the first part is, Derek is an excellent example of what we have in our Minor League system, and for someone like yourself that's from St. Louis, you've heard myself and other people in our organization, our stability in some ways is good for an organization. But it bites, too, because we have guys in the Minor League system, just coaching spots don't open up and we have guys that have paid their dues and are Major Leaguers. Some are on the pitching side, some are on the managing side, coaching side.
His background is outstanding. He's worked with young guys. He's worked with the rehab guys, and her earned this promotion. I think his task is impossible, actually, because you're not going to replace Dave. But he didn't back off it, and he did the very best he could, which is very good.
We have got a really good winning record, and we all felt good about the way he was conducting. He made trips; we discussed things; he had an opinion. He deserves a lot of credit. Very good coach for our club in his first year.

Q. Related to the question about Stewart and Carpenter, Carpenter's Game 5 performance, I was going to ask you if that was the best post-season performance you've seen from a pitcher and if it reminded you of something in your experience that you'd seen in the past, whether in Oakland or your run here, and where that ranks for you.
TONY LA RUSSA: I generally hate to make comparisons, because whoever you give the top spot to, you disrespect the other ones.
I've been fortunate. This goes way back, 1983, we played the fourth game down 2-1 in Baltimore and Brett Burns at age 21 or 22 pitched against Storm Davis, nine shutout innings, the score was 0-0, go out to the top of the 10th and gave up a home run to a Cardinal, Tito Landrum, who I will not speak to for the last 30 years. (Laughter.)
Oakland, we had some big ones. They are all really special. The spotlight is on you. To step up and perform like that tells you a lot about what you got inside, your talent, your competitiveness, how you can concentrate. But guys get worn out around here. Ladies do, too. I keep saying tied for first, because I think that's the answer; Carp's performance tied for first with just a few others.

Q. How do you keep a guy like Westbrook alive going forward, and how tough is that to bang him, and what have you learned in the post-season? And what do you think of the concept of the rally score?
TONY LA RUSSA: First of all with Westbrook, very difficult on a personal basis for the team. I mean, he's an integral part of the great chemistry we had. After the Division Series, it was just apparent. If something happens to one of our rotation guys, he's the guy that steps in, and you can't -- you can't get him ready, because he's on the active roster. He's going to pitch when you need innings or if you get extra innings like they did yesterday in the ALCS.
So how do you keep them in shape? You can't. And that's the decision we made, more than anything else, just we had two relievers that we could put on, Lynn and McClellan, and he's throwing bullpens regularly, and they're extensive, and if we need somebody, Westy will be ready to go.
As far as the -- the score, the score is the score as far as I'm concerned. They had this relationship, so I think it first came bought, because Craig wasn't playing, boyfriend told him, girlfriend, whatever it was and this girl was looking for Craig, ran all over, finally found him. I think it's good. The fans are having fun. And I really believe that this is not old school, and I know I am in many ways, but I think there's so much attention and pressure on the players that sometimes they show their unhappiness. Sometimes I think it's release, hey, I did it, because if I didn't I was going to get nailed.
It's been fun, our fans are having fun, Milwaukee, it's fun for them. Let everybody enjoy it. Just don't cross the line. (Smiling).

Q. What do you enjoy the most about competing against Milwaukee?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think we are so similar, like twins. I equate it a lot to -- one of the things about the post-season is you're playing against the best teams, by definition. You don't wake up and say, let's try to win. Over six months, you get in, and the level of competition is very high. Guys have come through, pitchers, hitters. I felt that way, it was a privilege to play against Philadelphia. I love the way they go about it.
And the Brewers, they have grown up, every year, they are a year older, and now they are as good as anybody. They are very dangerous to play against, they have a lot of weapons. Last year, midseason, they improved their bullpen so now they can beat you in the beginning or the end of the game from the pitching side.
So I think they are a lot like us. I think it's a very even series. And it's fun to play in that kind of competition to see each day who has got the best score. It really is. You want to win, but there's something about competing at a high level that's the best you can get to.

Q. You had Rafael Furcal for a couple of months now. What has he shown you and how has he fit in with the rest of the guys?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, we've seen him a lot; Rays, LA. We knew all about him talent-wise. And our scouts said he was healthy.
What you don't know is how enthusiastic he is about the competition. I mean, he plays that way against you, but -- Harold Baines played that way, except he was very quiet. Rafael is one of those guys that's excited about a chance to win and he's expressive and he gets guys going. So he's been, really, been neat to have him because he's so obviously into the competition. It's not just one of those do my best and whatever happens, happens. So we didn't know that, or I didn't know that, until he was our teammate.

Q. You spent parts of the last three years telling us about how David Freese was going to drive in big runs for you at some point in time. Is there a sense you get in the regular season about how he might perform during the post-season, or do you have to see him in it to really know?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I'll give the first part of that answer, what I said about our Minor League system. All Chris Maloney, who I have tremendous respect for, just like Pop and the other guys, all he had to tell me after the first series is this guy is a winning player. He described how he would be in clutch situations. Last year, he made our club on one foot and one ankle, and I threw him in there early April, RBI situations, and I remember he made a sacrifice fly to right field on one of them, and it was no scare. Based on what Chris said, you watch him, and that's not even on a limp. You can go to the bank on that one. It just health. This man is a winning player. The healthier he is, the more he will help us win.

Q. If there's a possibility that weather could get involved tomorrow night, worst-case scenario, if something happened within the series, are you in a situation where you would still be comfortable, I think I heard you say, with Carpenter on short rest, or how do you look at that now after the Division Series?
TONY LA RUSSA: I didn't plant that question. Was the Commissioner (gesturing) -- who asked about Stewart? I said I would pitch him on three days' rest. I know that Milwaukee and St. Louis do not want to get rained out tomorrow and pitch any one of our guys on three days' rest. But, that being said, I wouldn't hesitate if he comes out of it, he's healthy. After watching him in Philadelphia, it was all about his delivery being off first -- he warmed up right, he had good command and he went out there and what happens, out of whack. We want to play this game tomorrow if we have to be here all night, and I'm sure Milwaukee does, too. If Mother Nature takes over, I have no hesitation pitching him on three days' rest.

Q. So a gimme unless something comes up.
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I just gave you my answer, but I think we are going to play tomorrow, so we're not going to worry about it.

Q. As important as starting pitching obviously is in the post-season, what do you feel the role of the bullpen and its importance in the short series, and do you use the bullpen differently in the playoffs?
TONY LA RUSSA: The game has totally changed. It's evolved. You take your time, do a really nice piece on how it's changed over the years, and part of it was just the importance of the relievers. And I can remember the 1972, '73 championships with Dick Williams, he used the bullpen, they had great starters but he would use them for Rollie (Fingers) and Gossage and guys that pitched more than an inning or two, and now it's gotten more like specialists.
So my answer is, the starters need to keep the other side down. They have it tough, what happened the first two games of the series, tough to come back if the other guys pitch them well. In the end, it always ends with a reliever or two or three getting the last outs. So you can't win without both of them, and we treat, and have treated -- I can remember the first conversation with Eckersley way back in '88 or '89 series, we treat relievers like stars, just like our rotation guys. He always thought relievers were guys that were not good enough to start; and that attitude has not been true for a long time.

Q. In the beginning of the season, Carpenter was used as the focal point, Chris was singled out. Do you as a manager like it when a guy is in their heads, and do you think he's mentally equipped and in a good spot to handle that type of stuff?
TONY LA RUSSA: I remember my comment, I was disappointed that that particular individual who a lot of us believe, it probably is true, he's a high-class guy. I don't know if he just was careless. I also heard or read a bunch of the other guys in their club compliment Chris.
I think it's just one of those deals where, you know, something was said.
I think very few people see Chris -- very, very few see him as a villain. I don't think the Brewers see him as a villain. We don't see Morgan as a villain. Carp is out there to beat you. That's why we like playing Milwaukee. I don't know anybody in the Milwaukee club that isn't out there to beat us, and that's why you have competition. So Carp, he's going about his business no matter what you say or what you're thinking, but I do believe it was unfortunate, because some people would think that that's kind of an opinion. He's very highly-rated and respected by his peers.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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