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October 8, 2004

Tony La Russa


KATY FEENEY: Questions for Tony.

Q. Talk about the versatility of your lineup, one through eight.

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, it's something the players actually have to commit to because you play so many different types of games, different pitchers, different weather conditions, different ball parks, and somewhere along the line over the course of the year you're going to need to get something started, you're going to have to hit the ball, pull the ball, hit the opposite field, hit the ball in the ground once in a while, extra base hit, mostly commit to base running. Our guys embraced it all, even bunting.

Q. A little while ago in the clubhouse, Larry Walker was talking about how he and Steve Finley came to their respective clubs late. He was saying Steve Finley was more important to the Dodgers than he has been to the Cardinals because your lineup is so powerful. Was he being modest?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I think I really appreciate and respect him for speaking that way about somebody else rather than himself. I mean, I think Steve Finley is a quality producer in this league and he came in and gave LA a real lift. I mean, I like the fact that Larry would give him that kind of recognition. But the way we feel about it, Larry turned us from a good club to a very good club. So, you know, I think Larry's had a tremendous impact on our club. Steve's been outstanding for them. So we're both better because we made those deals.

Q. What was your reasoning behind putting Larry Walker in the No. 2 hole?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I think the first thing is with the guys that we have, you can just about spin them any way you want to and you're not going to have a bad lineup. These guys are really versatile and they can hit anywhere. But, you know, we had had a lot of success with Albert, Scott and Jim, three, four, five. You really don't want to disrupt that. We had really gotten going with Edgar going to the two hole. Edgar is one of the best winning players in the big leagues, leadoff, two, do whatever you want to. But he really likes hitting down where he's got more RBI chances and can run more. So you put all that together, now you got a guy like Larry, who you have to sit up and notice his on-base percentage, that's what you try to do with one and two, get on base, for those guys that have proven they can drive in runs. Then you get Womack, who can get on base. You got to worry about his speed, so the pitcher thinks, throw some breaking balls here, may steal, I throw fast balls, Larry, hooks it in the hole for first and third, he can hit for an extra base, good base runner. I mean, there are a lot of reasons to do it. I don't think you can write a bad lineup, but we really like him in the two. I think every time you turn that lineup around, which sometimes happens in the ninth, all of a sudden here comes Walker, Pujols, Rolen. We like that a lot.

Q. Would it be important to get a good memory out of this ballpark to try to even the balance with what happened here before?

TONY LaRUSSA: No, I think there's places in your brain for both of them (laughter). Nothing's going to happen here, if we get a win in the next two days, that's going to make the other one disappear. In fact, you know, I was talking to Red about it. First game I ever managed in the World Series was here. But, you know, they're separate. The challenge is separate, you know, we're up to. We need a win to advance. They're going to be tougher than ever. You know, I see what Lima does pitching at home. So this is just a different year, different challenge. I know we're going to take our best shot. If the Dodgers beat us, we'll tip our caps.

Q. At what point did you see things really gel on this club, spring, early in the season?

TONY LaRUSSA: I think just when you show up the first workout days in spring training, I remember talking to our beat writers, Joe and Rick, saying, "With guys in our position players like Scott and Edgar and Albert and Jim, Matheny, that's five of the eight, how bad can we be?" I thought the worst we'd be was pretty good, and we had a chance to be really good. Then during the spring, all of us, teammates, guys who work in the clubhouse, trainers, coaches, I mean, everybody looked at the work of our pitchers. You know, we had seen Carpenter for the first time, seen Jason Marquis. We knew Woody and Matt. Seeing Suppan for the first time, we thought, "Wow." Izzy's healthy. We got excited in spring training. I think guys looked around and we saw a lot of ways to compete in different types of games. I think it happened in spring training.

Q. What has Edgar Renteria meant to the franchise the years he's been there?

TONY LaRUSSA: It's safe to say that he would be tied for first as everybody's favorite player and person. I mean, this guy I think has got the ideal on-and-off-the-field approach to baseball. I mean, he's fun to be around. He's witty. He's great with his teammates, knows how to have fun. And when the game starts, I mean, he knows what it is to win a game. He's trying to win a game. He'll do it. He'll bunt, he'll steal, get a guy over, gets a guy in, plays defense. So, you know, when you got a guy who is really a good player and is a great teammate, really a great player and a great teammate, and that's what he's been and that's what it is.

You know, a year like last year, he got a lot of recognition because his numbers were great. He plays at that level all the time.

Q. Even though you seem to be holding all the cards with a 2-0 lead, a possible Game 5 at home, are you going into tomorrow with a Game 5 mentality?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I think you're allowed to play every game in the post-season like it's the seventh game of the World Series. That's why I say, if we lose tomorrow, we'll tip our caps. We will be ready to play. It's total respect for the game, it's respect for the Dodgers. So, you know, we separate the games. We're in a good position. But, like I say, I know Lima has been very tough in this ballpark. Dodgers are going to have a big crowd on their side. But we're going to play like it's the seventh game of the World Series.

Q. So Taguchi has not played in this series yet. What situation do you see him playing?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I can see him starting a game. If we advance, maybe win this series, there are a lot of games he's played where there's a left-handed starter. But in Game 1, we did start Larry and Jim. He can play for either guy. Yesterday, just to show you how close it is, if Roger doesn't come up to hit in the bottom of the seventh inning, I was going to double switch Reggie with So. So would have played the eighth and ninth. So he's done a great job as a starter, off the bench, pinch hitter. He's one of our key guys to use in a lot of different ways. He won't start tomorrow, though. I mean, he'll be on the bench tomorrow.

KATY FEENEY: Thank you, Tony.

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