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October 16, 2004

Tony La Russa


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Tony LaRussa.

Q. What's the latest on Kline? Is he available to pitch?

TONY LaRUSSA: Not available today. Improved from two days ago. Optimistic that he would be available in this series sometime.

Q. How do you readjust your bullpen without him today?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, fortunately we've got several right-handers that are good against left-hand hitters. The Astros are not a real predominant left-hand club. They don't have any. Couple switch-hitters, two pinch-hitters. So it's not the kind of club or series where having two left-handers in the bullpen is a big plus for us. We'll just be careful how we use Ray (King).

Q. What went into going ahead and sticking with Sanders rather than putting Cedeno in the lineup?

TONY LaRUSSA: Several things. One, I like the way Sanders is competing. I like the threat that he could run into today the way he's playing leftfield. Especially in a National League game, there's nothing wrong with - there's a lot good about having - a real threat on the bench for the right pinch-hitting situation. Because other than Roger, we've got a bunch of other guys that have struggled against Clemens. I like how Sanders plays. Roger is available if the situation comes up.

Q. Jason (Marquis) is such a competitor. How do you think he'll rebound from the last start?

TONY LaRUSSA: Tomorrow? Well, I think he had a heck of a year for us. There were two or three times where he did not have a good start. Very competitive. He's smart. He's talented. He's had good work, good preparation for it. So we're excited about sending him out there.

Q. When people talk about the pitcher versus hitter matchups, how many at-bats make it legitimate?

TONY LaRUSSA: That's a good question because you've got to be careful with that. I actually hit .300 in the American League one year, just leave it at that. I was one-for-three, you know what I mean (laughter). So there are a certain number at-bats that you feel comfortable that there's something there. The guy's got a big problem or the guy's got a big plus. Because we play the Astros so much, we've got quite a few at-bats between our hitters, their pitchers, vice versa. The only thing I think that you run into is sometimes you're splitting some real fine hairs and you look for anything. So 2-for-6 versus an 0-for-6 or 1-for-6, especially during the season when you're trying to pace guys a little bit, doesn't really count for much, but when you're looking for anything, it's something.

Q. Could you explain why maybe during the regular season you would have Cedeno in there against a guy like Clemens, in the postseason maybe the emphasis changes a little bit or your thinking changes on using a matchup like that?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, during the season with a guy like Reggie, for example, Reggie is in great shape, but we really felt, in talking with him, that keeping him fresh with something like 2 out of 3, 3 out of 4, at least one day a game, one game a week, two games a week, so you're looking for when you spot him, numbers that Roger would have or Mabry or Marlon (Anderson), somebody, that would be in the game. But Reggie is 1-for-5 against Roger. I mean, if he had shown a real big problem with him, then I would have paid more attention to it. Like I said, I like the way he's competing. Everybody knows the numbers. Righties and lefties, they hit nothing against him this year. It's not like you pick up a big advantage throwing in an extra left-hand bat. But I mentioned earlier, sometimes during the six months you pace guys and you look for stuff like that.

Q. Do you get a sense that Jason learned a lot from his first postseason start, whether it's how he approaches things in preparing himself for the game or how he approaches the game as it's going on?

TONY LaRUSSA: Based on what I saw all year long, absolutely. Because I can remember his very first start against Milwaukee, the first homestand. Next time he pitches, different pitcher. He's a smart guy, outstanding pitching coach. He's willing to learn and he's got talent. So I'm sure there was something he pulled out of it. What's going against him is he's got a nice lineup to go against, so he's going to have to be sharp. But I'm sure he'll have a better chance.

Q. Having been through this as much as you have, for you personally, what's the best part about the postseason and what's the hardest part about the postseason?

TONY LaRUSSA: The best part is the importance of everything in each game, every inning, every pitch. I mean, it's the kind of attitude that you try to create with a ballclub in a series during the year, or for a month or the whole season. A lot of times guys are trying to psyche themselves out to do it. Here, it's right there. I like the importance and the attention, the excitement. The toughest thing, not to get distracted by the outcome. I mean, you can get really distracted by if this happens, that happens, if we win, if we lose. You just play the game.

Q. How different do you think Clemens is now than the pitcher you saw in the postseason 14 years ago?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, there was an interesting comment that I heard from one of his teammates, but I've also read - I think I read that he said it someplace publicly - was he's always had good control. So back then, he was more than just a power pitcher. Now, I mean, he's a real pitcher. I think the biggest difference between then and now is he throws the splitter at the bottom of the zone. He didn't throw that in '88. He used to have a good fastball that he could locate well and breaking ball and occasional changeup. I think probably the splitter and ton of experience, which he's a smart guy and he's used to his benefit.

Q. Do you like having Jason in this ballpark? What went into moving him back, maybe getting him away from home? Did any of that thought cross your mind?

TONY LaRUSSA: If Jason pitches a good game, he's going to get a lot of balls hit on the ground. In a ballpark here that is reachable, left-to-right field, more groundballs, better chance you have to win. So that was a real big factor.

End of FastScripts...

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