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October 10, 2006

Tony La Russa


Q. Can you tell us how you arrived at Wainwright as your closer if, in fact, that's your plan for your series and kind of a state of your bullpen?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's been stepping up since the first day of Spring Training and every time you give him a new responsibility, he handles it really well.
And we had a real good situation with Braden pitching in front of Izzy, and doesn't mean that Braden can't get the ninth inning for us if we're in these games, but we kind of felt like we needed to -- disrupting one real good thing for us, if there was a way to make it work, and added a guy with a lot of weapons. He's been out there, and some of it has to do with the lineups you face. I mean, he looks really comfortable in that role.

Q. This time of year a lot of guys are hurting, Cliff Floyd is being tested today, and you've been through this. Is there a fine line between being a gamer, just going out there and playing, and fessing up that there's pain?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's a real fine line. We have the perfect example in Scott. You admire, especially nowadays when guys have guaranteed money, and for years, a lot of us, whether it's front office, ownership, coaches, managers, a lot of us have problems that you can't get those guys on the field. Every little ouch, they are out.
So when you have a guy that's got all that security and he's doing everything he can to stay in the lineup, I mean, you respect that. That's the better kind of problem.
But in the end, I stressed with Scott, you know, you just want the players to be straightforward. That way, you have an idea about, you know, how close to themselves they are. Otherwise, if a guy is not swinging right, you don't know, sometimes your swing gets a little funky, or maybe there is something physically wrong. So there's a real fine line.
I think what we usually go by is the doctor or trainer, they evaluate and if it's a sore spot that doesn't get worse with play, then all you're doing is battling the effectiveness. If he has something like a hamstring or Achilles' like Cliff has, if you tweak that, it will get worse or it might blow it out, and that's a different kind of thing. If you put all that together, I make the point with Scott, I was never, and not now, upset with him, because I really admire the fact that he wanted to go out there. It's just you need the information so that you can make a better call.

Q. Do you think modern medicine has made a difference in a club being able to evaluate and check out a guy before a series like this?
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, it's been like -- well, we talk a lot about that among ourselves, and even in the industry. There's some wonderful advances and all of a sudden you have things that get scoped and the recovery is so much quicker. But they uncover stuff that was -- older players years ago that we're not aware of and played through.
And clubs are in such a precarious position because there's so much money involved and if you find something, and if you don't err on the side of caution, you're laying yourself wide open, and a player's career. It's really, in some cases, it's been really good. In other cases, it creates a lot of complications.

Q. Has Jeff pitched better over the last couple of weeks, and if he has, what do you think the biggest change has been in the way he's been pitching?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think you've got to start with the fact that he's been an effective starting pitcher in the Major Leagues for a long time. So he got out of whack. And these guys are men, not machines, so when they get out of whack, whether a pitcher or a hitter, it gets into their coconut and they start pressing and they try stuff and it just drives you nuts. Sometimes a change of scenery, he came over, we looked at him, he's healthy and he's a competitor and every time he's out there, he's had success, he's got more confident and he's more himself.

Q. Can you just talk about, it's been kind of a lot of swings, stretch run and then the great series, can you talk about how this club has bounced back.
TONY LA RUSSA: Three different streaks, and a lot of losses to have a winning record. Tells us overall, when we've been good, we've been real good and we've had some periods where we have not been a good club. I think when we struggled, we did the right things. We never quit playing, nobody pointed any fingers, we just kept trying to fix it. I think we're coming into the post-season, and we've gotten by one series with a lot of character and we know we've been tested in ways that have not been fun to go through.
But we've gone through it.

Q. What are the updates on Edmonds and Rolen as best you know for their chances for tomorrow?
TONY LA RUSSA: I watched Scott work out. He's been surrounded most of the morning and the afternoon. But I know the report is that he came through the workout well. Looked like he was moving well, so I'd be optimistic that he would be in there.
I think Jim has got through that first series, and probably got a little discomfort from time to time but he's playable and I expect to start him as well.

Q. What about Adam Wainwright has impressed you and how far has he come since not this Spring Training but the year before, talking about the progress he's made mentally and physically?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well I think you have to separate the two. He's tall and kind of a gangly young guy and with that frame, you knew he was going to grow into it. Outstanding character. Smart individual. First year he came over, you could tell, he wanted to learn; not one of those guys that has all the answers. Last year in AAA made a great start and made a good impression with us.
Came to Spring Training. He was a dark horse to make the club. But he's got talent, so if he shows something, one of Duncan's favorite things is to take that young, potential starter and just like the old days, just give him a year in the bullpen and protect him and just get his feet wet and just seems to really work.
What happened, we were not out of April, and we had changed from just spotting him here and there to giving him important assignments, and he's gone from there to what it is now.

Q. Could you talk about Jeff and the kind of changes he had to make in his game. And can you talk about Glavine and what you've seen in the last year, year and a half. He's talked a lot about having to reinvent himself a little bit.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's had a phenomenal career, but he's had a really wonderful year. He's doing all of the things that he used to do all of the time to get you out, and now he's added enough variety where he's tougher to read, and he still executes pitches. He pitches to all parts of the zone and a very cool customer, just got an outstanding career, and great deception. You can never tell when he delivers the ball whether it's one speed or the other.
So I mean, he's a real challenge for tomorrow, but I do believe that he's added some weapons that a hitter has to contend with.

Q. I haven't seen scouting reports on your team but I have to believe up at the top is "Don't let Pujols beat you," yet he continues to beat you and beat you and beat you. How does that happen, and are you amazed at times yourself how often he beats the other team?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I'm amazed that he's so good, but if you watch our games day-in and day-out, just like the clincher against the Padres, he walked. So if you want to walk him, walk him. The guys that hit behind him have made that strategy not pay off enough to where managers say, this is not good.
I keep repeating Felipe's -- my favorite quote, when you deal with really dangerous hitters, it's about competition, not cowards. You raise competitors, not cowards. I really like that. In the end, the other side is not comfortable going like that all the time. I don't think it's the right way to compete. We don't do it to Barry.
So the reality of our games, if you've got guys on base ahead of him, and you just put Albert on, that's another run that's likely to score. If you start out saying you're not going to pitch to him, we end up scoring more runs.
He's just a terrific weapon, with his on base percentage. Once he gets on base, he's a good baserunner.

Q. While you're talking, the Yankees they are having a press conference and Joe Torre just announced he's staying as manager. Just your thoughts being a veteran manager yourself.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you're talking about a no brainer. I am no veteran manager, but he's a veteran manager with incredible credentials. This time of the month, the success they have had -- they have had a couple tough series here recently. I think however he's involved with it or whatever the Yankee brain trust, that's a no brainer. Those results don't just happen because they have got talent and he shows up and talks to the press. He's an outstanding manager, and person.

Q. For all of your experience and all of your success, are you a believer in the way teams get along and are you a believer in chemistry, does that have any impact on how teams play?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you're asking my opinion, and I don't listen to talk radio anymore, and I used to, I do in the winter. I always mark the expert that says team chemistry is something that doesn't exist and it's not important. I mean, you spend more time together than you do with your family, especially in baseball, basketball. You're there seven to eight months. You tell me that the relationships between your teammates, the respect, the trust, that that's not a key factor.
So it was explained to me one time, if you have that, just like a general manager trading for a superstar and if you don't have it, you're missing it. We're working very hard creating an atmosphere where guys respect each other, trust each other and pull for each other and they enjoy being together. I think it's very important.

Q. How do you do that? How do you help build chemistry?
TONY LA RUSSA: It starts with the right people. You've got to have the right people. And they have to think that those things are important. If you have a bunch of jerks that ignore that message, get rid of the jerks.
You know, I'll give you one example that happens every year. The club decides that they are not going to point fingers. So you lose three or four games 1-0, 2-1, and you don't have pitchers walk in here and say, hey, we can't get any runs; or you have games, 10-9, the hitters walk in, hey, you can't make any outs. Our club does not allow finger pointing publicly. If you have a problem, you take care of it within the family. You'd be surprised when you're not pointing fingers and not trying to cover your butt by pointing at the other guy. You've got to start trusting each other and you stay together. It's just human nature and common sense. Really, you've just got to be careful. Just treat your teammate like you would your family. Just be careful with them. It ain't all that tough.

Q. Along those lines, the job that Willy Randolph has done over here, I know they have a lot of money to spend and they have a lot of talent, but can you appreciate how he's melded that together and they seem to have a good clubhouse chemistry over there?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I was always kind of amazed that it wasn't until last year that he got a shot. I mean, talk about his credentials as a player and winning situations as a coach, a quality man. But I remember watching him last year in his first Spring Training. You know, the kind of staff we've got, we think that the big leagues are special so we look around and we were all really impressed with the way that Willie from the first day, the way he was dealing with his players and coaches.
And this year, it was a continuation of it. I think he's a real good man, outstanding baseball man, and does a terrific job of -- probably because of his background and what he's been through. He knows what's not right and he works to make sure that's not part of their situation. That's an important part of how they play. They are a very tight club.

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