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October 2, 2000

Tony La Russa


MODERATOR: Questions for Tony.

Q. Rotation?

TONY LaRUSSA: Let's leave the rotation for last.

Q. Third base?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I think we are in a great position, because we have three guys that we feel could play there and we can win with. Each guy brings something different, you know, Tatis has been one of our best RBI guys when he is right. Lately he has not been right. Given him a lot of playing time, but he is dangerous. Paquette has been clutch for us this year. Polanco has probably been as good a hitter as we have had for all the different situations. So, I really felt I knew what I would do against Glavine but Maddux,. I was torn between Tatis and Polanco, I am going to spend time thinking which guy would be better. Tatis or Polanco. It's affected by how you make up the lineup, might want to do something in the eighth spot with speed. Polanco fits that. If you want an RBI guy, you go for Tatis.

Q. Catcher?

TONY LaRUSSA: Will be Hernandez.

Q. Can you talk about how it helps you to have guys on this club who have been here before, what their role will be, in maybe talking to someone like Edmonds who has not been in the postseason before?

TONY LaRUSSA: To me, the best situation is always a balance. If you have a bunch of guys that have been there before, then you miss some of that enthusiasm of the freshness of the first time. So we have a lot of guys real excited about it, the veterans tell them, okay, you have a bunch of media, answer some questions, not all, because they get in the way of your work, more media, more attention, this is what you need to do to get yourself ready, you have to concentrate. There is a value to experience. I like our blend, because we have enough savvy in there from guys who have been through it, but an awful lot of guys with a tremendous amount of energy because it is their first time.

Q. Winning three out of four in Atlanta, does that give you a bit of an edge the last time you went in there?

TONY LaRUSSA: I don't think it makes any difference to them, you know, they have been around a long time in this situation. Probably helps us some. Like beating the Mets the last time we played them. If you do poorly during the regular season, especially the last time you faced them, that sticks with you. But I am a fan of baseball, most of the time watching, been in postseason, I will challenge you to figure it out from the regular season. I mean, it is a brand-new series, each club will have their chance to rise to the occasion, make a pitch, get a hit. What happened during the regular season, gives you an idea, but it is -- winning three out of four in Atlanta, has not changed us from being the underdogs. I watched an interview of Barry Bonds, he said they have to go through Atlanta to get to the World Series. Underdog is just a label. But I know that series convinced a lot of people that we are the favorites.

Q. Do you think you are the underdog? (Inaudible.)

TONY LaRUSSA: The four clubs in it are very tough to play against; we are one of the four. I mean, I think we have our pluses, we are not perfect. Atlanta is the same way. The other two clubs, I think it will be very exciting.

Q. Because of their history, are they always sort of the team to beat going in?

TONY LaRUSSA: I think they deserve the respect they've earned. Year after year after year, they play to a high level, we definitely respect them. But, we respect ourselves, too. We are anxious to compete.

Q. To hear that from Bonds, does that make you angry? Did you talk to your team about it?

TONY LaRUSSA: No. Why get angry? It is realistic. I just listened this morning, Jeff Gordon says he'd pick the Braves if he had to. Right? Most of you here would give the Braves the edge, given them the credit they deserve. But, short series, five or seven, I think we got a great chance, with all due respect to the team we are playing.

Q. Obviously this goes back awhile: Having McGwire available to pinch hit, do you feel a little bit like you think Tommy Lasorda did in the '88 World Series with Kirk Gibson?

TONY LaRUSSA: Kind of. Except that I think he is available more than Gibson was, you know. I think he is just a dramatic example of your No. 1 pinch hitter. Other clubs have guys that they look to to set up certain situations that the other side is aware of, and you know you have to figure out when you think is the best time to use him. You have no crystal ball, use him in the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 12th. Mark, we have a couple of things that are going to make it easier to decide, you know, we will try to avoid using him when a ground ball hurts, unless you have no other way to go. Using him means two players, you know, so it is not as clean as, you know, your No.1 pinch hitter. Fortunately, we will have a bench with several choices, they will be good ones, most are veterans.

Q. Maybe this is not as much fun starting. Is there something fun for you as a manager having him as a weapon to use at your discretion?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I mean, we are just fans. Maybe with baseball's greatest home run hitter sitting on your bench, that is an exciting possibility for your team. The other side knows it. So, that's, a big advantage for us. The other advantage is, the guy that is playing in his place, is playing at a very high level; we are really covered.

Q. What are your pitching plans after Game 2?

TONY LaRUSSA: I know that when we

lay it out, as far as our pitching, it will involve some conversation. I think it will be a conversation stopper.

Q. When you and Walt sat down to build this team, looking back now, was creating the starting rotation you have the most important thing you did?

TONY LaRUSSA: We had a list of things because we were under .500. Rotation. The last three years our rotation kept getting beat up. You have to move relievers into the rotation and promote kids in the bullpen not ready yet. Not just us, whoever has to go through it. Clubs went through it this year. Almost impossible to play at a high level. We were hoping for one, one addition that would be solid every five days, Walt was able to acquire three. It gave us a real lift.

Q. What about the bullpen?

TONY LaRUSSA: Beg your pardon?

Q. (Inaudible.)

TONY LaRUSSA: I don't like to say exceeding expectation, because it sounds like you underestimate him. I can use impressive, he is so impressive with, just everything about him that, that, I mean, 20 is something that he earned, that is a legitimate number for him.

Q. I read somewhere where the home team in the Division Series wins about 63 percent. Does that give you -- (inaudible)?

TONY LaRUSSA: I won't answer that. It is a series against the Atlanta Braves. They are capable of winning. I think it is an edge but if we get beat five to four, maybe we would have got beat five to three. If we win seven to five, maybe we would have won six to five. I believe the fans give us an edge because of the adrenaline that it provides our ball club. Does not guarantee you anything, but gives you an edge.

Q. Is the roster set, as well?

TONY LaRUSSA: No. As soon as we get done, they are waiting in the office. We will finalize it. There is really only one question on the position players, Howard or Sutton. We do have one development with Matt Morris, that we will discuss. The last couple of times out, he has not felt right in his shoulder, not sore, just feels like, does not have the same pop. I am not sure we want to risk that. There may be an addition. It is different from what we all figured in the pitching staff. Might open up a spot for a guy' like Britt Reames, for example.

Q. It is not an actual injury?

TONY LaRUSSA: No. Been tested and tested. He tries to fire it, a few miles an hour off, that is kind of scary to try to push in postseason reaching back for extra. It may be a one series thing, maybe just needs a break.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TONY LaRUSSA: Garrett threw today. Had a plus outing: Can we get to the fun?

Q. Yes.

TONY LaRUSSA: Starting pitcher is Rick Ankiel. Darryl Kile will pitch Game 2 on Thursday. Probably wondering why, without belaboring it: The format of the Playoffs gives us an edge that we want to play, that is, this is a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, maybe Sunday, Monday series, we put together the fact that we are going into this thing less than perfect with Garrett and Andy, as far as their preparation, those two guys, Pat has pitched very well, two guys that have sparkled have been Rick and Darryl, so we just want to max our options if this series goes more than three games. If you count Tuesday to Sunday, Game 4, if it goes that far, it gives the opportunity to bring Rick back. And if it goes five games, it gives the opportunity to pitch Darryl with three days' rest. He is the only guy on our roster we feel comfortable pitching with short rest. Go the other way, we cannot do it. With Matt's situation, we think we probably want to beef up the bullpen with, you know, one or more of our starters, so you put it all together. I think a lot of people were speculating Kile and Ankiel. Is there not a lot of difference between what will be on Mr. Ankiel tomorrow versus Thursday? In fact, it may be tougher Thursday, because you may be trying to win the second game or split the two-game series. For a lot of reasons, we are excited about sending Rick out tomorrow and Darryl out Thursday. And then based on how those two games are played, we will decide who gets the Saturday game, Game 3.

Q. What was Ankiel's response when you told him that?

TONY LaRUSSA: Smart decision. We told him, we -- it has been progressive, initially we talked about him as a second reliever. He pitched so well that you had to keep that option open; then a couple of guys missed some pitching time, so on that last road trip, we told him, you will be one of the guys that pitches in postseason, he was very excited about it. I think we talked to him Sunday, probably, that we will sleep on it, but it was the possibility he would pitch tomorrow, first game. Whether he pitches tomorrow or Thursday, he will be excited. Last time that he pitched at home, we had a chance to win the pennant ourselves rather than sit around and wait for the Cincinnati Reds to lose. If we all remember how he handled that assignment, which is the way he has been pitching. We are excited to send him out there.

Q. Your three options are Stephenson, Hentgen and Benes for the Saturday game?

TONY LaRUSSA: Stephenson.

Q. Have you changed it all year long, have you been thinking about Rick's role, have you looked ahead, he is a bullpen guy, now a starter, has his role changed throughout the season?

TONY LaRUSSA: When we started the year, we thought at some point we will get Radinsky and Orosco, by the time we -- Walt made the trade for Christiansen, we knew that we were not going to get those two left-handers; then you are facing not just postseason, but September, or maybe close, we had to wrap it up, we were thinking about Rick as a reliever. In fact, I can show you a rotation we put together mid-August or September, that had a question mark as to when he would go out there. When you pitch like he has in the last ten or twelve times out there, first when we tried to win the division, he was one of the best starters, could not take the ball away. The way he finished up, I mean, he gives us one of our best chances to start the game and we have right-handers that get left-handers out. We have been able to use Christiansen there. Did it change at first? we did not think we needed him as a reliever, then we thought we did. Now he is a starter.

Q. (Inaudible.) Through the season, would he still be used?

TONY LaRUSSA: Yes. He is still 21 when he goes out there tomorrow. When he gets to a place that he is vulnerable, we will get somebody else to pitch. We have not pushed him. The proof of it is, he has gotten, if you saw him in San Diego the other day or against Houston, he

has thrown as well as he has all year. Tomorrow you won't see him throw 120, 130 pitches, no matter what the situation.

Q. (Inaudible.) Solution?

TONY LaRUSSA: I think, the thing we are looking at, this gives us the possibility of pitching two guys for the five, allows us to pull two of the other starters to protect our bullpen.

End of FastScripts....

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