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October 15, 2004

Tony La Russa


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

Q. Could you tell us about Steve Kline and if he's out for the rest of the series or not.

TONY LaRUSSA: He was in tough shape last night when the game was over, so we left him back. My understanding is he went to a specialist in Indianapolis and we're awaiting the results of the exam. So it's one of those things you fear the worst, hope for the best.

Q. Do you have to try to send a message to your team that it's tempting to think that 2-0, it's getting close to being over if you go 3-0, to send a message to them or do you even have to do that, in a long series, it's almost over? Do you have to still make sure they know it's a long series?

TONY LaRUSSA: There could be an issue if our club during the season had shown that they would get careless or lose concentration, not be realistic about how tough the competition is, but they really have terrific heads about separating everything that's happened and look for the next good thing. So, I mean, there won't be any problem understanding that we've got a serious challenge here in Houston. So I don't think anything has to be said. I think we'll get ready and play.

Q. How did Kline get hurt?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, he's had an issue with that finger. He went on the disabled list with a groin, some time -- I guess it's flared up from time to time, but when he came back, the bigger problem was that joint in his finger, however you describe it, it's gotten sore at times, sometimes more than others. There was a couple pitches that are tough for him to throw. But we gave him some work towards the end. He was effective. He wasn't quite as good as he's been, but he was effective. Like I said even yesterday, he was down in the dumps. I told him, "You got two ground balls. If the manager played the shortstop in the hole, you got two outs. So blame me." I think he was more concerned about how sore it was, it was swelling yesterday. I don't know if it's wet, I just don't know. He ended up, he was hurting when the game was over.

Q. Carpenter threw a couple days ago, what were the results of that as far as the day after and how he felt? Is there still a possibility down the road he might throw later, if you go on to the next step?

TONY LaRUSSA: I think everything that's happened, even in the point throwing, then when he threw, has been encouraging, has been positive. I still find it a real stretch that he could get back in time to help us, if we were able to win two more games in this series. But I mean, he's an amazing guy, he's a tough guy, modern medicine and all that stuff, you never say never. I think realistic. I just don't want him to feel any pressure that our chances are on him, and to do something foolish, because he's got a terrific future ahead of him.

Q. What were your expectations for Suppan coming into this season? Has he exceeded them?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I mean, one thing I try not to do - I know Dave (Duncan) does sometimes - he'll try to assign kind of a range of wins that he thinks this starter, that starter can get. I never do. I think expectation was exactly what we've got. He's a known commodity. We've seen him in Kansas City, Pittsburgh mostly, very professional, very workmanlike. He's been that every day since the first day of spring training. Really goes about it right. You can see why he had established that record of 200 innings for four, five years. He's been out there, I mean, he just looks the same every time out there. It's a tribute to how hard he prepares. So then the number turns out 16 wins, that's a big number, and he pitched great against the Dodgers.

Q. The Astros won six of the last seven games against you. You come into the series, win the first two games like you have, is it a matter of being able to dial it up or is it a matter of there being something different on the line when you play now as opposed to the last six or seven times?

TONY LaRUSSA: We had 18 tough games. I mean, a couple of three, four of them that I can remember that were not that tough that were against us, that our pitching got beat up and we didn't do anything offensively. We really point fingers all over the place. That series we played here, that Monday we got beat up; Tuesday is a 2-1 game, could have gone either way; and the last day we got beat up a little bit. I just think if we play it 100 times, you got the same two lineups that are going to feast on pitching that's not sharp, and if pitching is sharp, that's the first key to winning the game for either side.

Q. Can Roger's (Clemens) presence have an impact on the opposing pitcher?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, probably in a positive way. I mean, you take back all that history, fans, and you look back at the great matchups between pitchers. But a lot of times it wasn't just Gibson-Koufax 1-0, Gibson pitched a lot of 1-0 games against guys that weren't Koufax. The pitcher on the other side, he's out there pitching for his life. He knows he can't give up anything. Sometimes your offense, maybe you get a little bit -- you don't push for every edge because you don't think you need as much to win. I think probably over his career, it's probably hurt him more than it's helped him.

Q. Do you remember what you were thinking last year when Roger walked off the mound at the World Series? Did you think he would actually retire? Also, what were your thoughts when you heard he was going to resurface?

TONY LaRUSSA: I mean, he's always been straight-up and sincere. He hasn't been one of those guys searching for headlines. When he retired, I thought he was done. I thought it was a great way to finish. But, you know, sometimes there's circumstances that change, especially the great ones. Circumstances changed. Here he is back home, Andy Pettitte signs, so forth, so on. It wasn't the best news of the off-season when he comes in our division for a club like the Astros. That was one unhappy day. Just like tomorrow is not our happiest day, with him pitching.

Q. Jeff Suppan was talking about how he felt the bullpen, even early on in spring training, was a very tight unit. Do you feel that way?

TONY LaRUSSA: Absolutely agree with it. But you asked a question about the bullpen. If you asked a question about the starting rotation, you know what they'd say? Very tight group. Formed a bond in spring training. If you asked the question about position players, very tight group. It was a terrific spring in the sense that they looked around, said "there's talent here," everybody's going about it the right way. The bullpen is a unit. They have a lot of characters. The starting rotation, I mean, they got together, did all the BS drills, covering first and bunting hours and hours. Usually kind of half-step throwing, the guys usually put a lot of work into it. I never walked over there and saw anything going on that -- if they were going to put an hour in, it was going to be a good hour. I think the relievers saw the starters, the starters saw the relievers, our ballclub saw the pitching, pitching saw the ballclub. We came out of spring training saying, "We have as good a chance as anyone." The question is about the bullpen, but it's the truth about Jeff (Suppan) and the other starters and the position players, very tight club.

End of FastScripts...

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