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October 14, 2004

Tony La Russa


THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Tony LaRussa.

Q. Same lineup?

TONY LaRUSSA: Same one.

Q. How does the weather affect the way you are with Matt (Morris) tonight? Is there a point where you won't start him?

TONY LaRUSSA: No, whatever time the game starts today or it gets postponed tomorrow, he's the pitcher.

Q. Do you think a rainout would help the Astros with their pitching rotation more than the Cardinals?

TONY LaRUSSA: I'm not sure. I'm not sure what they would do if it was rained out. I've heard all kind of speculation. I don't know the answer to that. If they use Roger (Clemens) tomorrow, they can't use him in Houston. So we take care of our own club and they're going to take care of theirs.

Q. Your bullpen was so consistent. Last night they gave up three runs. Is that just because of the big lead or no focus?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, they definitely were focused but they're focused on the -- the worst thing you can do when you have a lead is walk guys. We were going to throw strikes and it's hard to hit the ball out of the park, but they did it - a couple times. But I think one of the most impressive things, if you have a real low-scoring game and you have no room to maneuver and a guy pitches well, that's impressive. You pitch with a big lead and you get outs, that's equally impressive, maybe tougher. Every time you walk a guy, somebody's yelling at you, the manager, the pitching coach. Our guys, they were going to challenge them, and they centered a couple.

Q. What are the challenges you think Phil Garner faced taking over this team mid-season with them slumping at the time? Or what would be the challenges a manager would face in that situation?

TONY LaRUSSA: Most of the things that we all think about, a club struggling, that's why you're there. Jimy Williams is a very good baseball man. So sometimes you need a change of face. I think one of the other things that is hard, but it was probably a little less hard for Phil, it's hard when you're not with the organization. So you really don't know the players. Sometimes you get somebody that's a special assignment scout, or was with the club in spring training, knows the personnel, then it's really tougher. In Phil's case, he lives there so he watched the club. Any way you take it, what he did is very impressive. It's hard to do that. But he had talent, and I've seen him in the red where he relied on that, which is what we all do.

Q. You referred a little bit to the environment in St. Louis. You've worked in other places. How does St. Louis differ as a baseball town? How does it work for you?

TONY LaRUSSA: I used to ask Jack Buck about that all the time. He would explain the Midwestern mentality; Midwestern folks are very fair-minded, compassionate, understanding. They want the home club to try their very best, they want them to win, they want them to compete. They get excited when you do it. Sometimes they recognize that the game is not that easy, and they don't -- you're just not their team win or tie; they're with you if you have a tough time. The other thing, and Jim Leyland mentioned it, they're very fair to the other side if the other side is doing things they want their club to do, which is play hard. Jim celebrated his first division champion here in 1990. He just reminded me of this today. When they got that last out, they got a standing ovation from the Cardinals fans. I'm not sure that happens a lot of places.

Q. Just on your thinking last night, when you brought in Ray King, you switched Berkman around, was it the disparity in his numbers from the right side of the plate to the left side of the plate that went into your thinking?

TONY LaRUSSA: A little bit of that. The other thing is a guy hits from one side a lot, turn him around, you think you pick up an edge because he's got to go to the other side and he's different. Ray had been tough on Lance. Ray has pitched good against right and left. If you see him hit the home run, he still pitched to Kent. Just turn him around. If he hits right-handed all game, because we have a left-hander starter, maybe sometimes switch-hitter, you just want to give him a different look.

Q. You had Gary Gaetti as a player. What do you see, what kind of aspects to his career as a player do you think lends to his job as a coach now?

TONY LaRUSSA: See, I always really, really like it for our game when people like Gary decide to come back and coach. When he was in Minnesota, in that game they had with Puckett, Hrbek, Brunansky, all those guys, they were famous in the American League for guys that really loved the game. They'd stay in the clubhouse and talk the game. They showed on the field they're really tough to beat. Had some wonderful competitions against them. He plays for a long time, so he gets a lot of experience, when he was here in St. Louis, first time we were ever together, you could see he's a smart player, he really studied his at-bats, the pitching, played third base. A guy that's a good competitor, has great experience. Comes back into the game, he's got a wealth of stuff that he can offer. He can be an hitting instructor, I know he's done well there. He can manage. So this guy has a lot to offer. The game is really fortunate when guys like that come back in.

Q. Roger Clemens has been pitching for just about as long as you've been managing. Are you dazzled like the rest of us that he's still this good at this age?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, since '96 I've been more dazzled when he was in the other league. Wasn't as dazzling this year when he beat us (laughter). We see it now, guys that are pitching late into their 30s or 40s, Chuck Finley here a couple years ago, these guys, Carlton Fisk in his career, guys work so hard and Roger's workouts are legendary. It has to be respected, he's got talent. He told Pat Hentgen one time he always had good control. That's what he does now. He really pitches. Here is a guy that's been out there a lot and he still gets into the competition. He is amazing. As I say, I enjoyed it more when he wasn't in our league.

Q. Mike Martz said he got a kick out of the e-mail you sent him on Sunday. Would you talk a little bit about that.

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, one of the neat things, ever since I've been here is the relationship that the professional teams have, Blues, Rams, and the Cardinals. There's a lot of interaction, lot of guys know each other, lot of guys visit, see each other's games. Got to know Joel Quenneville very well, knew Dick Vermeil, Mike Martz and I got to be friends. Some time I think, it was in their camp, so it was late August, we got a nice tape where a bunch of their guys spoke to our guys. We did likewise to them. So we got a lot of fans. So we were watching the Sunday game, we were getting ready to play - what was it? Game 4, I guess - and we're not really happy because the Seahawks are just beating them up. Towards the end of batting practice, some guy came running out, one of the guys in the clubhouse, said the Rams were coming back. We thought about cutting short batting practice. We got back to see the last touchdown and tying field goal. You're watching, I mean, it worked out perfectly timing-wise. We saw them go right down and win. So I had the idea, you know, come to our guys, when they scored on that long pass, our guys were whooping it up. I dialed his number and put it on his voicemail right a way, I said, "listen to this, congratulations." It was a big win for them. They pull for us, we pull for them. Pull for the Blues if they ever get out there. It's coincidental that we were able to be in the clubhouse and watch that comeback. The guys were excited and Mike could hear that, so I called him.

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