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October 8, 2001

Tony La Russa


Q. Could you talk about facing Curt Schilling in the first game?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, a lot of us baseball fans have been Curt Schilling fans for years. He's what you want at the top of the rotation and they've got two tops. It makes them a special ball club, he's everything. He's a complete pitcher, right, left, he's ready early in the game, he keeps his stuff late. I know what he does after losses. He's a true number one. The only thing with total respect for Curt, the Diamondbacks are going to face somebody like Curt who is younger.

Q. Give us your line up and the rotation and the bench?

TONY LaRUSSA: The rotation would be Matt tomorrow and Woody Williams, and Darryl Kyle will pitch Friday and then the game four pitcher will be either Dustin or Bud Smith. Those guys will be available out at the pen in the meantime. Line up, Vina, Polancio, Drew, Pujols, Edmonds, question mark, Renteria, Matheny and Morris. And the question mark is a tough call. It's part of why we're here. We've got -- I mean everybody knows what Mark is capable of doing and what Paquette has come in and given us. I keep telling Mark he's had a tough year according to his standards, he has got 29 home runs and 60 plus RBIs. That's a tough year. It gets your attention. He and Paquette, got a few less at bats. So I think it's a can't-lose situation for manager, whichever way we go, we're going to have a good line up. To be honest, if I had the line up, I would let them know first and I haven't told them, but I would rather let them know so they can get ready, whether you're playing and get exited or sitting and get disappointed and get over it tomorrow, but it's a good tough call. The roster. I was reminded. I think the only issue we have left is whether we're going to go 14 and 11 and we may go 13 and 12. We've been playing at 13 all year long. We've gone with 12 pitchers all year long, 13 bench players all year long. Our bullpen has been best when we've been able to have some depth there and specifically a club like Arizona, it has got good quality from both sides and a good bench. So we may go with 12 pitchers and subtract one position player and that will be something we'll talk about tonight.

Q. With Mark's situation, do you take into account the history that he has had at Bank One Ballpark into consideration?

TONY LaRUSSA: Yes, I take that into consideration. I also know I played Paquette at first and he got three or four hits to win a game, like I say, it's a good situation for us, whoever hits sixth is going to be a really good player. He's one of the greatest sluggers of all time, and the other guy is a real good personal player. But yeah, I know what Mark has done here, but I also know Paquette is good too.

Q. Much has been made about the fact you haven't met since April. Talk about that and the difference in Matt Morris since then?

TONY LaRUSSA: I'm not sure it's a much different Matt. My memory is they faced him in the first game in St. Louis and they beat him two to one. We couldn't do anything with Ellis. That's the kind of game Matt has pitched all year long and he's been -- he's consistently pitched with real good stuff and carried it right through the last 30 days. I'm sure -- because I've talked to enough managers and coaches and scouts, you know Matt Morris is a guy that hitters know he's going to have real good stuff. He's been locating great. He competes. It reminds you a lot of Curt Schilling and the other left-hander, Mr. Johnson, the complete package.

Q. You're coming in as a wild card team while Arizona won their division. Do you feel like an underdog?

TONY LaRUSSA: I just feel like we earned a spot in the competition. Those are just labels. We actually won one more game than they did for 162. Does that make us a favorite. I don't think it means anything other than we're playing each other best of five. I think if you look at both clubs, I think there are a lot of similarities. I think over the course of the year offense and defensive numbers. I think we really have a lot of similarities and it should make for a really tremendous series. They have a couple of well deserved horses that start their games, but I'll tell you our club feels good about Matt Morris. Darryl Kile has had a winning season. We haven't scored for him. It's a great competition.

Q. At this point in the season are Mark's struggles more mental or more physical in your opinion?

TONY LaRUSSA: That's a good question. I think they're tied together. He's not himself. I think if there is one way to describe Mark, I would describe him as kind of -- and I'm saying almost, exhausted, because here is a high-profile guy that has big responsibilities with our club and he hasn't been right for six months and he has grinded through it. It hasn't been easy, when you're struggling, it's tough. And you have to reach deeper and deeper. So I think that's when you get the quote he had over the weekend, "fried." He's really been testing himself and pushing because he knows we need him and I keep pointing out, even though he's not his normal self, somebody take a look at his 29 and 60 RBIs and I'll bet you that the great majority of those came in clutch moments, I can't think of RBIs that he had where we were way behind or way ahead. He's shot just enough in his tank to help us.

Q. We know the Arizona rotation is dangerous with Schilling and Johnson. Would you talk about your rotation and about facing the Arizona Diamondbacks on the road and the importance of taking some games here?

TONY LaRUSSA: My thoughts are if we had the home court and we were playing Arizona, we would think they were a dangerous club to play. I can't speak for Bob, but I would guess playing the Cardinals here with the extra home game I would think they would think we are a dangerous club to play. That's the playoffs. Good teams meet each other and it comes down to who has the best at bat, key pitch at the key time. Schilling and Johnson are outstanding and they've been outstanding for years and they're special, but in 2001, Matt Morris has earned every bit of those wins. We've needed every one of them. Woody Williams has pitched as well as anybody here since he's joined us and Darryl Kile is here and we'll have a real good fourth guy if we play Game 4. So I don't concede -- with all due respect to Arizona, the two starters, or even Lopez or Batista. I don't concede anything in the edge of starting rotation. We like our guys.

Q. Why do you think Morris has been especially successful at home this year and did you give any thought for saving him for Game 3 because of that?

TONY LaRUSSA: One of my favorite books was Use and Abuse of Stats. And you can use and abuse them. The reason he was so successful at home is he pitched so many more times at home. He ended up winning I think seven games on the road, and I tell you if you take out his first start in Colorado, he had another game -- Rick will remember -- in Cleveland, he had one not so great in Chicago, if you take out the runs in Cleveland and Colorado, you would look at a pitcher, you would say wait a minute, I remember him with a no hitter in Wrigley Field. As he proved himself in Milwaukee, Matt Morris can pitch anywhere. He'll come out tomorrow and pitch a good game. What we're trying to do, we were trying to get in the playoffs, trying to win the division. He pitched Thursday, which means tomorrow is his perfect day and he's set for it. Before his career is over he'll win as many games as a really good pitcher.

Q. When you only had McGwire at one time and your decision when to use him and when to not, how will that go into your decision of starting him or using him as a pinch hitter?

TONY LaRUSSA: You had no choice. He was a special kind of pinch hitter because you could hit him and you couldn't run him or defend with him, so there were a lot of issues of using him. You would lose him and then there's three players. This is different. It's clear to me that your first priority is to play guys in the starting lineup that give you the best chance to win, because you don't know, you don't have a crystal ball, you don't know how the game is going to go. It may be a game you don't need pinch hitters or McGwire on the bench, you may not need him. It's a big difference between our club this year and last year. First of all, our rotation is a lot healthier so we feel better about it, and second, in Mark's case, he can play defense and the first priority is what's our best eight to go out there and -- I'm telling you -- actually I'm having fun with -- I've been through it before -- what's not fun is when you don't have choices and you're really stretching and you're taking one guy out of position. That's not fun. When you have guys no matter where you go you have a chance to win, it's a good call for us.

Q. With all the attention given to Curt and Randy, do you think Matt's being overlooked and do you think this game on a national forum will give him that respect?

TONY LaRUSSA: I haven't thought about it. I think you get what you deserve. I think what Curt and Randy have earned is what they deserve to get as far as attention. And Matt, it's his first 20-win season. He's on his way, and five, eight, 10 years from now, he'll be the guy who gets all the attention, and some young pitcher just won 20. I don't think it makes any difference. I think Arizona is getting ready to hit against them, and we're getting to hit against Schilling and you play the game.

Q. Talk about playing in this ballpark. You've had good success here. A no hitter. Did well this year in the ballpark. Can you talk about playing here?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I like the ballpark a lot, for a new park, because I think it's a very fair park. It rewards just good baseball. You know, if you pull the ball from left center or left in line you can hit a home run, left center, right center, the gaps, it means you hit the ball in a big part of the park, you don't get that cheap as you get in some of the new parks. It plays honest and fair. And we've played good ball. We've had a chance to win. And when they have, you don't get beat by artificial surface or a blooper to the right.

Q. The way Pujols has played this year do you have any expectations for Pujols, what he'll do in the post season?

TONY LaRUSSA: No. I think the Pujols that we saw in spring training, the first third of the season, middle third and last third, it was the same player. He's been so consistent, it's been incredible, and I think that he'll be the same player in this playoff series. I think he'll get a lot of attention that he might not have gotten the first time he played them, but the beauty with a club like ours, you start concentrating on Pujols or J.D. and Jim or Paquette, you get enough attention, it's hard to take any one guy out of our game. I know Albert will be the same guy he's been all year long.

End of FastScripts....

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