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October 24, 2006

Tony La Russa


Q. Can you give us your lineup and your thinking tonight?
TONY LA RUSSA: Eckstein, Wilson leftfield, Pujols, Rolen, Belliard five, Edmonds, Molina and Taguchi in right.

Q. I know you don't like the DH, but it has allowed you to use Spiezio and Duncan without sacrificing defense. How much of a loss is it not to be able to do that? And does it seem like the Tigers don't get affected as much because all they have to do is move Casey to first base?
TONY LA RUSSA: The reason I like the National League game is just because you see more things that are part of the game. But the only reason it's a tougher adjustment normally is because the pitcher has to participate in the American League, -- an American League pitcher usually doesn't.
But I think it's an easy adjustment for them, because they get the shortstop back at short and the first baseman back at first. Jim been managing it longer than I have, so it's not going to be a problem for him.

Q. There's a story today that Hal McRae said that Kenny Rogers was also scuffing balls, and that you guys have six or seven of those, can you comment on that?
TONY LA RUSSA: Enough conversation about that yesterday, so I'm not -- my conversation on that is going to be zero. I think it's Game 3 and we've all got work to do, so I'm not involved with it anymore, and I don't want our club to be.

Q. I understand that that is, I guess, Sunday's news, Monday's news, but what if the opposing pitcher tonight had pine tar on his hand or some substance on his hand, would you play it the same way or would you maybe try to get him thrown out? A lot of people think maybe Rogers should have been thrown out of the game.
TONY LA RUSSA: I took longer than I should have yesterday to try to explain where I was coming from, and that explanation still holds, and it's a brand new day. If it's a second occurrence with the club, you're not going from zero, you're going from plus one, so you look at it differently.
I don't anticipate it happening. I think what we need to do as the Cardinals, we need to concentrate on playing the game of baseball and not get distracted with stuff like that that's going to make it tougher to win.

Q. Just talk about Jeff Suppan and the opportunity he gives you tomorrow night on the mound.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, this guy's been such nails for us. His two 16-win years for us, and the second half this year we were really struggling for wins. He's come through so big. But I've got people that I know in the Cardinal organization that have been around 30, 40 years, that compare that performance in Game 7 with what any Cardinal pitcher has ever done. I don't think you can give him enough credit.
But the reality of sports, our game, other games, that's already done. You're only as good as the next time you go out there, whether it's our team tonight or Jeff's -- that's history. He's got a special place. But this is a brand new series. The way he's throwing we feel like we have a solid chance, just like we do today.

Q. Why the decision to play in right field, So?
TONY LA RUSSA: So, there's been a couple of times he's been right on the mark and gotten nosed out. You've got to get what you earn. He's been clutch off the bench. He played Game 1 and showed good life, got the bat out. So part of it is Juan is struggling. It's not like he's the only guy that's struggling, I don't like to point fingers, but he's talking about not feeling right. And that's a good indication, if I've got an alternative, I ought to go the other way.

Q. How do you analyze David's 8-for-50 postseason so far?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think he's had some at-bats where he's been beat up. I think he's been feeling better, I thought, and that included the last couple of times against the Mets he got the hit out better. I don't care how you're feeling. It's really a tough call sometimes because you can be feeling good at the plate, you're facing postseason pitching, and you can be retired even though you've got a good feel at the plate. And then other times maybe you find out that you're not yourself. But I've checked with him, because we have a guy like Aaron ready to go. And he says he's got no restrictions. So I think part of it is the quality of pitching you're facing. And I also think with a guy that competes like Eck does, he could break through tonight and none of us should be surprised.

Q. I hope I heard this right, but could you discuss what went into your thoughts on where you put Preston, Ronnie and So in the lineup, specifically the decision between Wilson at second and Ronnie at third?
TONY LA RUSSA: Right. The first lineup I had penciled in had Preston in fifth. But you're going with a lot of short information, short history, and Preston has been tough on Robertson. And I think if you're going to try to get the bat in his hands with Albert behind him as opposed to a left-hander, and I don't care, even though it's Jim, Robertson has been wearing out left-handed hitters. We have a better chance with him second.
Then you figure out Belliard has some at-bats against Robertson, so I really like his guts. He can hit anywhere. Fifth is not going to bother him, fourth, third. And when you get to Taguchi at eight, it creates a lot of problems; a lot of pluses for us. It's kind of how the lineup was changed.

Q. With guys like Rolen and Pujols and Belliard, why has your club struggled so much against left-handers this season?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I tell you, through the first almost two-thirds of the season it was such a freak thing, nobody really paid attention to it. If you took the individuals and looked at our numbers against left-hand pitching, they get hits, but in the games we haven't put together and we've got a losing record, and it was in that last third you start to get serious and you know what the heck is going on. It's really tough to figure.
I thought at times in a game or here or there our approach was something that we could work on. I always feel like we've got a shot, look at the quality of the guys we're putting up there. I tried to paint the half-full picture by looking at, we won games where Glavine started and Oliver Perez, but if you look at it a little closer, we didn't win by pummeling the ball.
I don't think there's an explanation, except some guys have pitched well. We need to make it as tough as possible, and I think our approach at times could be improved. We'll see tonight.

Q. This is an old issue, but what do you think about the DH rule and how baseball uses it in the World Series?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, if you're going to have it, and I certainly wouldn't mind, somebody suggested here years ago, just like in interleague play, you're probably better off switching around, so the fans got the chance to see the DH in the National League. If you're going to have it, I don't think it makes any difference once you get to the World Series. If you're going to have it, it makes as much sense as anybody. It doesn't make sense to have two leagues in Major League Baseball, have such a distinctive difference in styles of play and how you construct your teams. It doesn't seem to make sense, but that's what it is.

Q. Does the way they play now, AL rules, NL rules, does this add a sense of intrigue given that some teams have to put their best hitter in a defensive position? Is there a little drama in all that?
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I think there's a little drama and intrigue. I think if we play with the pitcher out of the game there would be a lot of drama and intrigue. I'd sacrifice the little for the lot.
The game has a lot of ways that it can produce where it's going to go and what is going to happen. More of that happens in a National League game. American League game you rarely pinch-hit. You don't have to worry where the pitcher is. The bunt defenses are almost nonexistent. The game has a lot of ways to be exciting and you see more of it -- I'm not saying -- I say this very carefully, I think it's real tough to win in the American League because you're getting nine guys out and it's a slugfest every night potentially. It's really tough. I think it's harder to handle pitching in the American League than it is the National League, but I don't think it makes enough sense to have two sets of rules. And I think you guys think we'd have more fun if all the American League fans saw what the National League fans see with the game.

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