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October 11, 2000

Tony La Russa


Q. Would you comment on the roster moves you made?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yes, I think because of the uncertainty with Carlos Fernandez and his back, we decided to activate Rick Wilkins as the 15th position player. We just didn't want to run the risk that according to that rule you can't replace a catcher or any other player, and we thought that that was not smart to do.

Q. Is Carlos having trouble with his back?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he was stiff and sore. He didn't practice in three days, today is his first day he is on the field. So he can go tonight. It is enough of a concern that we didn't think it was too smart not to protect ourselves, so Rick is on the roster.

Q. What are the challenges going with a 10-man rather than an 11-man pitching staff?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think 10 is more normal. We went 11 the other day, mostly because Matt passed the test at the last minute. But having the ability to pitch a starting pitcher out of the bullpen -- I mean, we have seven pitchers that can pitch in this game today and tomorrow. (Knocks on wood.) I mean, that should be a lot of pitchers when you think about a day off on Friday and so forth. You know, ten pitchers, you get seven guys on the bench, you just have got to figure you will need that guy on the bench more than you will need the extra pitcher.

Q. They have a reputation for being most relentless and competent in close games, especially in playoffs. Do you think your three games against them earlier this year helped you combat that?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think it is a case where we are confident in close games based on six months of a lot of games that were played, they were decided late. We had a very strong record late in the game, had a good extra-inning record. So those three games were part of it, but it goes much beyond that.

Q. Could you talk about facing Leiter after facing Hampton, what kind of adjustments you have to make?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think it makes sense to -- this is what our club is trying to do is to think about Hampton today. And you start thinking about how you adjust to Leiter tomorrow. He is a very good pitcher, Mr. Hampton is, and we are going to concentrate on him. Tomorrow we can talk about adjustments. But Hampton is enough for us to concentrate on.

Q. You had Mike Bordick as a younger player. He has been with a couple of teams, now he is with the Mets. Can you talk about the contributions he still makes and his progress?

TONY LA RUSSA: He's developed into an outstanding Major League player. And if we are going to beat the Mets, we don't want to hit the ground with him in a key situation, because that is an out. He is clutch, sure-handed. You get him into a situation with the bat, he is very smart, handles the bat. I mean, this guy is a winning player, and so we will try to avoid him.

Q. Given the problems that Rick Ankiel's dad has had and his youth, do you think there is any concerns about his youth and problems?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, every player has a personal side, a personal life. And we had two babies that were born into the St. Louis family with our players during the Braves series. There was a personal side, and you need to separate the two as best you can. And Rick not only was on the personal side, but he got a lot of attention as a very talented young pitcher and he has dealt with all of it outstanding. I mean, this guy has got so much going for him that, I mean, I don't know how you could be better than him, putting it all in place and just going out and competing.

Q. A lot of teams have a reputation for being passionate about baseball. But can you talk about how the passion is different here in St. Louis?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think it is important to acknowledge that the passion is other places, as well as New York, you play in front of Fenway Park fans and Camden Yards, the passion is there. I have heard it described be people that have been around a lot longer than I have, there is a certain fairness to our fans that go with the passion. I mean the fairness means that they will acknowledge a visiting player who does something well. And if the home player is obviously trying his best, if he hiccoughs here or there, you know, they are not going to desert him. I think it is not just passion, but there is a certain caring about the team and the players that -- I don't think it is that way every place else.

Q. Because of the time of the year, have you and Duncan talked more to Rick Ankiel than other times of the year?

TONY LA RUSSA: One of the unique parts of this postseason time is that except that, you know, it is three wins and you win, or four and you win, most of the things you do are the same. I mean, if you play good baseball, that is how you get here, and you better keep playing good baseball if you want to have a chance. I guess what I am saying is that the way Rick has been confronted, the way Dunc' has -- I don't say a whole lot to him. I mean, the way he has helped him through -- the way Dunc' has helped him through a rough spot or continued to make sure that he has developed as a pitcher, all those games during the regular season, those are all key games to get here. And it doesn't really change. They got a good lineup; you are trying to beat them. Stakes are a little higher, but the way you go about it is really exactly the same.

End of FastScripts....

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