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October 12, 2006

Tony La Russa


Q. I know the rainout was something you did not foresee, but had you known there were going to be five straight games, do you think both teams might have carried an extra starter so would you not have to use a starter on three days' rest potentially? And do you think you should have had an opportunity to revise it today?
TONY LaRUSSA: Should I have had an opportunity to what?

Q. Revise the roster today.
TONY LaRUSSA: That's an interesting question. I haven't really thought about whether you should have an opportunity to revise if you get a day of rain. I hadn't thought about it, so I don't know what the answer to that would be.
But if you're going to play five in a row, would you set up your roster different? I'd say probably not. Because as much as you're looking at a starting pitcher, if you play five in a row, you're going to need relievers, bullpen is going to be involved five straight days. So the alternative would be to come in there with 12 pitchers and 13 players, and that's something you do during the season, protect your pitching, that's a tough way to play. So my guess is we wouldn't change anything.

Q. Speaking of changes, Game 2 starter, are you staying with Jeff or what are you doing with that?
TONY LaRUSSA: We decided we're going to pitch Chris. And it's simple as he's our best pitcher and that's his fifth day. Seems to make sense that if there's a game on a day that he's used to pitching, whatever the reason is, you don't pitch him.

Q. The expectations of your team being so high the last several playoffs, coming in as an underdog from the first round maybe, does this have any different feel for you, less pressure or whatever?
TONY LaRUSSA: We were asked that when we started the playoffs against San Diego, and you know, it seems to me the difference is in the questions that you're get asked. If you're the favorite you get asked about dealing with it as the favorite and now we've been both last two or three years.
I think whether you're the favorite or the underdog is just a label. So the last couple of years, I didn't feel anything. Like we had a better chance to win against the team we're playing or have better respect for the team we're playing; I don't think the Mets have a better chance to win than they do. I think we have a good enough impression of ourselves that we're good enough to go forward. Other than the questions you get asked, I don't think it makes any difference to how we go into the competition.

Q. That's the way you feel, though. Do you think players might think differently?
TONY LaRUSSA: Depends on how persuasive I am when I explain it to them that way. (Laughter.)

Q. With Chris going tomorrow, how does that affect 3 and 4? Is it definitely Jeff for --
TONY LaRUSSA: We'll go with Jeff and Anthony and plan on coming back with Weaver for Game 5.

Q. Will you watch Weaver any more closely because you say he's coming back in Game 5? How does that affect how long you'll leave him in?
TONY LaRUSSA: Interestingly, that's exactly the same situation we had in the Division Series. I think the thought in Game 1 of the Division Series was just whatever it takes to have your best opportunity to win.
He was pulled after five with 80-some pitches. But a very, very small motivation there was thinking, well, you know, this will enable him to come back if we need him with three days' rest, and I think it's the same way tonight. I just said to somebody, if our best shot to win is him throwing 120, he's throwing 120 today and we'll worry about Monday later.

Q. Talking to you last night, just elaborate, why do you think Weaver is more suitable to pitch on short rest? What about him gives you confidence that he can do that if you need him?
TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I actually think that Supp would have similar arm response. But I think Jeff gets more movement down than Jeff Weaver does, more than Jeff Suppan. I think movement for him is good. He's also a veteran. I think he'll know how to go out there thinking he's had to pitch rather than, you know, just rely purely on stuff. And he's healthy. He's coming into this thing feeling strong and good, and I think it's an important match-up.

Q. Given the hypothetical with the rainout, what changed between now and then with Carpenter?
TONY LaRUSSA: I think part of it was when we got into this thing after the fourth game. The reality was that Chris was not going to be able to pitch until we get to Saturday. Unless we pitch him short, you know, I think it's important to make the best of it, 3 and 7, first at home, those are all legitimate. You never expect a rainout in the big leagues, even during the season. Post-season I was thinking all along, and I literally, when it still looked -- I took a walk out to the bullpen and it still looked like it was ugly, I got a piece of paper out and pencilled and started messing with it for the first time. I thought we were going to play.
When we first looked at it, I said, well, if that's what's going to happen, is he going to pitch three times? The answer is no. And then the game was called. Came in here, and that's why I said -- I didn't see anything that jumped out at me. I thought the reasons to have him pitch 3 was still pretty good.
We went back, the club was showering, we had a 15-minute meeting or so with the coaches and we've got a really good staff, no yes men and good opinions and it was kind of a consensus. The more we talked about it, like I said at the beginning, it's his fifth day. That's when he's geared to pitch all year long. He should pitch.

Q. I guess playoffs, there's such a special feeling, but is there anything different about a series here in New York, anything different at all?
TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I think you'd have to say yes. It's hard to say in our country. Mostly media. Everything is magnified in this town I think. Which if you take the attitude that we do, that getting into the post-season is the most fun that you can have, that makes it even more fun competing here, as long as you compete well. So, we'll see.

Q. Years ago, it used to be a one-round post-season, just a World Series, and then it was two, and now it's three. Do you like it at three, or would you like it to be four or two or anything different?
TONY LaRUSSA: You know first year I was part of one was in 1983. That was a real short series. Best three-out-of-five to get to the World Series. That's the way it was. And now, three out of five gets you to this; four-out-of-seven, you know what I mean. It gets tougher. But, I don't know, it is what it is. So, I mean, what difference does it make, well, I'd rather have just -- I'd rather you win the National League and go to the World Series without the playoffs. That's just not the way it is so I don't even bother to think about it.
But I laugh back now to myself and think, geez, all we had to do was beat Baltimore three times and we go to the World Series. Now it takes seven wins to get there and then you need four more.

Q. Feels like more like a tournament now, doesn't it?
TONY LaRUSSA: It does. Final eight, final four, it's two, best-of-seven. Actually it is kind of a tournament.

Q. Coach Belichick wore a Cardinal jersey to his conference in Foxborough this week. Can you expand on your relationship?
TONY LaRUSSA: I met him in person the first time this year in the spring. I was introduced to him by Buzz Bissinger, they were in high school together. Met him over the phone, had nice conversations. He was so down-to-earth, this is a Super Bowl champion. I was interested in what he was doing. He was very forthcoming and he would ask questions about our sport and he said, I'd like to visit. He came to Spring Training and was -- he really had -- he wanted to know, you know, how you guys do this, how you guys do that, just comparing. Went to dinner twice. It was just a great experience. And the other day, he called and he said, we've got a bye week and if you guys get in and it's the Mets, I think I'll be there. (Looking at watch) I think he'll be walking in any minute. When I see him today, it will be the third time I've seen him in my life.

Q. When you look at the American League this year, you've got the A's playing now, the Tigers playing now, does that signal to you at all that maybe there's more parity in both leagues or at least in the American League that maybe things are evening out a little bit or do you not see it that way?
TONY LaRUSSA: That's a tough question.
I still believe that if you've got a lot of extra money, and you spend it smart, you can pick up a heck of an advantage. And I think the advantage you pick up is that you can compete kind of year-in and year-out; where if you don't have a lot of money, you might be able to put it together with some smart grass and some real good young players and mix in the club with the players here or there. But it's pretty hard to sustain it. Because as soon as those young guys start making money, you can't afford to keep them.
In my opinion, I wish we all had the same money to spend. That way the premium would be on who scouted better, who developed better and who competed better at the big league level and you would not be given some of these obscene advantages. And I say that, we spend 90 million, so we spent a lot of money.

Q. Considering the substantial off-season losses you had, can you reflect on what your expectations were coming in and where you are now in relation to that?
TONY LaRUSSA: Well, if you go back after the 2004 season during the winter, we had a bunch of changes for 2005. And it turned out to be a solid year.
And I felt the same this winter, because our core; you know, we have a core of pitchers and a core of players, and we do -- there are maybe 12 or 15 guys, so 10 different is a lot, but our core is so strong, I felt going into the season that we were as good as anybody. I mean, I felt that way going into Spring Training that we were as good as anybody, because our core, our returning core, all you have to do is is complement that. I think Walt (Jocketty) does a great job, Aaron Miles coming in this year was specific. When you've got a strong core, you can mix and match and complement. When you've got to start finding core guys, that's when it's tougher.

Q. Five games in a row, I don't know if you've ever done that done that in the post-season. Somebody asked you about Jeff and how you play that game tonight what about the bullpen five days, not having the fifth starter as well, do you have to think out as many scenarios as possible?
TONY LaRUSSA: I think we're in good shape for it. Most of the season, we go 12 pitchers and 13 players. So five starters, we have seven relievers. And we've got seven relievers for these five days, everyone is feeling good, the weather is cooler. I think it's -- I'm actually liking five in a row, because you know, you all get excited and playing and there's a day off, get excited about playing and then that's a day off. It's more natural to us and hopefully it's reflected in the play.

End of FastScripts...

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