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October 16, 2000

Tony La Russa


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Tony LaRussa.

Q. Your line-up, please.

TONY LaRUSSA: Similar to Game 1 against (Mike) Hampton with a couple switches, the only different player is that (Ray) Lankford is playing left instead of JD (Drew) in the seven spot. (Placido) Polanco, instead of hitting eighth, will hit second. (Edgar) Renteria, instead of hitting second will hit sixth. (Carlos) Hernandez moves from six to eight.

Q. Why did you do what you did?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, starting Hernandez, he has a big responsibility to -- working with (Pat) Hentgen, and I think adding a big RBI responsibility is not necessary. You get Polanco, who has some hits against Hampton, one of our best hitters against left-handed pitchers, get him in that two spot, get an early at-bat against him. Edgar's been equally tough, whether he's hit second or sixth or seventh all year. So that's why I moved those three guys around. Ray is -- JD has stuff, but I like the way Ray swings the bat. I think he should get the shot today instead of JD.

Q. Eric's (Davis) hitting fourth?

TONY LaRUSSA: Eric's hitting fourth.

Q. A lot of fans have fun, and we do, too, figuring out how do you use (Mark) McGwire? Have you -- I assume you've been using him as your ultimate pinch-hitter. Is there an ultimate theory where you send him up the first time you get a shot, a couple guys on base and they can't walk him?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, that's kind of -- I mean, he commented the other day that when we first started doing the pinch hitting thing after that first road trip in September, he was kind of aiming to get ready around the sixth or the seventh. Then there was a couple games where like I gave him an alert on the fifth and then towards the end of the season, first the post-season, we started saying, "Hey, I can come anytime." I think you look, he can come early. Just like yesterday's game. Probably there was a lot of stuff in that game that we did that I was proud of, and there was some stuff that we did that I was not proud of. But the toughest thing for me was the two runs in the sixth, made it a four-run game. Because at 8-6, we had a nice situation. Anybody gets on base, by definition, it's a tying run. So that was irritating.

Q. Do you have to temper a quick hook with Hentgen because of the long layoff? Maybe give him an inning to get back in the groove?

TONY LaRUSSA: We're in one of those situations where we want to go back to St. Louis, we have to win the game. The biggest thing you got to balance is not so much the long layoff but you try to count up the amount of inning you've got in your bullpen today. Push comes to shove, we think we have about six. And that's pushing guys, that does not factor in (Rick) Ankiel, so he could be the secret weapon. One thing we've talked about, this is a long layoff, but if you look at post-season play, starters having disruptions in their regular routine, happens all the time. The first game a guy goes, first guy, sometimes if you have a quick series, then you wait -- you win four games, don't start the next series until Saturday, you can start 10, 12 days between starts. So this is not -- that being disrupted is not unusual. He's going with a lot of extra rest. But he's a veteran, and I think the big thing in the game today is watch close and if he -- if we have to relieve him in the first inning, not only does it make it hard to win a game against a guy like Hampton, but it would be hard to get -- not impossible -- but it would be hard to get nine innings out of our bullpen.

Q. Does your Game 6 starter affect how your bullpen can be used tonight?

TONY LaRUSSA: Can't be. I mean, it's one of those no-brainers, there's no Game 6 unless you win today. So hopefully we'll get there and we'll see who's available. Love to get eight innings from Pat and have David (Veres) pitch the ninth and have all the options. That would be sweet.

Q. You mentioned decisions you're proud of, decisions you're not too proud of. Is there one thing you'd like to have back in this series?

TONY LaRUSSA: No, I didn't say decisions, I said play. No, I've been paying attention. I learned a long time ago, there's no guaranteed shot. I mean, you bring in whoever's the -- Mariano Rivera, end of the ninth, he might give up two runs and you lose. You're responsible to put the best shot -- I tell you, yesterday, we were playing the game, probably the one that I thought the longest and hardest about then and later was not even about McGwire -- (Shawon) Dunston, in the sixth, hitting Dunston for Drew. That gave us a little different shot that inning, might help get McGwire up that inning, all we need is one more baserunner. I didn't do it for the reasons that I knew I didn't do it. But I've been paying attention. Whatever somebody didn't like, then they disagree.

Q. Do you know how Andy (Benes) feels yet, if there's a sixth game; do you know about his health and could he do it? Would you use Ankiel tonight in long relief tonight?

TONY LaRUSSA: First of all, with Andy, I think he came out of that game as well or better than we could expect. I think I had a call the other day from Dave Stewart, he's yapping about this pitching on three days' rest and how ineffective it is 'cause that's some of the experience that we've had. But there is a problem, if you think about Andy, it would be his knee and ask Andy to pitch short. That's why to win this game today, however we have to win it, take the off day tomorrow then you look and see, and just do your best to come up with your answer. We're going to have to win three games, but you've got to win one at a time. So we're just going to try to win today. And then with Andy, he's alive and kicking and he survived the slide and the pitching. With Ankiel, I wish there was a way he could get in the game today and have a good experience. And what's going to happen is that there's no script for this thing, so if he has to be used, he would not be the first option out of the bullpen.

Q. That good experience thing, I suspect before this series is over, you'd like to have him have a good experience?

TONY LaRUSSA: Absolutely, if I had three wishes left, that would be one of the three, that he pitch like he has a great majority of the season this year. That's neither No. 1 or No. 2, because he's -- he'll be fine when 2001 rolls around. I would like that to happen for him.

Q. You mentioned Dave Stewart, Jack Morris, those guys from that era, which wasn't too long ago, pitching on three days' rest didn't seem to affect them too much. The stats over the last two post-seasons have not been very good. Is it mental? Can you explain that?

TONY LaRUSSA: That, to me, is one of those great issues in baseball. I don't know what other sport -- you can get some people that love the game like I'm sure in this room, you can discuss that for hours. Maybe arrive at some ideas and maybe the truth comes out, or maybe -- you'd be guessing. It would be a educated guess. I think there are several factors. This is something that we discussed before we started the Braves series. A lot of decisions, you take away from. This wasn't that difficult to set up our rotation because of the situation we face, but talking about that issue, we, as a staff, mostly Duncan and I and Marty Mason, we talked about it. One of the things, I think is that more and more pitchers grow up and they grow up four days' rest. This is not something you do often. I mean, there's enough breakdowns now with pitchers when they pitch on their fifth day and hardly anybody wants to pitch from short. I really think that -- Andy is a great example the other day. Most of the time -- all the time when you go out there it's more important to pitch than throw. One of the things about pitching on short rest, as I mentioned yesterday, before and after the game, you're worried more about stuff than command. You're supposed to pick that up. I think a lot of guys still, they get to the Big Leagues and they haven't learned yet that it's pitching, not stuff, and I believe, because Darryl's (Kile) such a bright guy, that he realized that he was fired up and was going to throw the ball through the wall. If that didn't work, the next time he goes out there, whether he goes out there on three, four, ten days' rest, he'll take a deep breath and try to make pitches. Much like he did this year in a lot of the clutch games. I think you put all that together, and in my two cents, it's much more just learning the art of pitching than it is some kind of black mark down that you just don't pitch guys short. You pitch the right guy that knows what he's doing out there, he can do it.

Q. What are your first two wishes?

TONY LaRUSSA: First is to go to St. Louis to play a baseball game. I don't want this to be the last game of the season. Second one is to play Game 7. They're more specific. You always say on your birthday cake, if you tell someone your wish, they say your wish doesn't come true, right? (Laughter.)

Q. Has this been an unusually challenging series for you to manage with McGwire and your starting rotation?

TONY LaRUSSA: That's a good question. I don't think so. I mean, I think it's -- I think it's -- I mean Spring Training, people may laugh at this and think I'm BSing, but Spring Training, you have a big roster, trying to get guys ready, that's a challenge, early in the season, middle of the season, end of the season, post-season. You look at the factors. To get to October, all eight clubs played a lot of games where people were not available. This is really kind of a normal thing. It wasn't anything special for us. We were talking earlier, and it's what keeps you going, thinking that if you pay attention to what you're doing, I think a move that the Mets did, that Bobby (Valentine) made in Game 2 against the Giants, when he's facing Shawn Estes, I know we saw that line-up and saw (Timo) Perez leading off. Now we had seen him that last series of our place, we were kind of impressed with his abilities. I think that was a hell of a move that really did a lot for their club and has helped them be up 3-1. So that's -- Derek Bell's not playing, is he? He's hurt. But they found a way around it. I think everybody faces it. What we faced is no different than what any other club faces.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the team's play, you swept Atlanta in three games and now you're down three games to one. Is that just baseball?

TONY LaRUSSA: That's one of those questions that I don't answer it the way some people would like me to answer it. I'm going to answer it in a way that I can walk in that clubhouse and have a team tomorrow. We did some things in Atlanta that were -- we had the same factors playing the Braves that we had here. Why did we win three and now we're down 3-1? Because at the key time, we had the at-bat, we made the pitch. In this series, they have played better baseball just enough. But I like the way our club -- even Game 1, we had a lot of chances against Hampton. We couldn't get a big hit. The next day we battled back, showed up here at Shea Stadium, yesterday, battled back. So I think in the end, and that's why it's not over yet, because we can reverse it tonight, the Mets have played better at those crucial times where you're talking about making a play, making a pitch, having an at-bat. More making a play and having -- making a pitch. Because we've had our at-bats have been -- our line-up, not as good as the teams we've been playing.

End of FastScripts....

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