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October 25, 2006

Tony La Russa

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI: Game Four (Postponed)

Q. Can you speak about the impact that Dave Duncan has had in particular on Suppan and Carpenter after last night's win. Both of them have talked at length about the impact he's had on a one-on-one situation working with them, if you would comment on that.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it would be up to me to comment, because Dave wouldn't. He's got the right coaching philosophy and that it's about the pitchers, and coaches just try to put them in a good position.
I think, what I say is that Dave is a complete coach and whatever pitcher shows up, it could be a young pitcher like Reyes or a veteran, starter or reliever, he looks at the pitcher and if the guy needs mechanics, confidence, improve his assortment, and he's done a little bit of all that with each of the guys that comes in here. But with Carp he's got different weapons than Supp, so he coaches them different ways.

Q. You've got both Reyes and Weaver coming to the podium next, what's your thought process on Game 5?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, what Dave and I talked about was keeping our options open and that includes getting through Game 4 and that's just consistent with we don't want to decide, we don't know what the outcome of Game 4 will be, don't know when Game 4 is going to be played. And just the reality is, one of those two guys are going to start the fifth game. I don't know which it's going to be so they're both getting ready.

Q. Jeff Suppan has taped a political advertisement here for Missouri, I'm wondering if you have any policy or preference regarding your players when it comes to this kind of area?
TONY LA RUSSA: Our policy is you recognize each person as -- the professional side and personal side, and you respect both sides of them. Actually our organization encourages guys to get involved in something beyond just baseball. Whether you agree with the choice or whatever, I just like the fact that guys make a commitment and they get involved.

Q. In the LCS you seemed very hesitant to wait until the last minute to decide on the starter for the next day and you didn't want to put the guys through that. What's different about this situation from that time around?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, that's spelling out how the LCS differs. We're in this series now. Anthony did a great job. Our three best starters are lined up to pitch the last three games and they all come back with short rests, so that's something you consider. And maybe you wouldn't have a chance to consider it, that's why we want to keep the options open. Jeff and Carp have had two games. If you're going to pitch a guy with a day short, you'd pitch the guy that had 80 pitches and had good games.
I just think our experience, there's no formula, there's no series the same. You play the one you're playing and you see how things were. Just like the Mets series, we had two rainouts so you don't get locked in.

Q. What kind of evolution did you see in Anthony Reyes through the season that led to his Game 1 performance?
TONY LA RUSSA: Last year we had an emergency start in Milwaukee and we pulled him out and he pitched an outstanding game, low-hit game, winning game in Milwaukee, and we were all impressed. We always knew his stuff. We were really impressed with how he kept his composure and concentrated. I remember in the first inning, somebody hit a fastball out of the park, that scares young pitchers and veteran pitchers, too, but he kept charging. He had more starts this year.
He had a real difficult assignment in the American League park in Chicago and he responded. So he's got talent and when he gets it rolling, he keeps it rolling and other times you can tell he's still learning. So that's part of this decision about does he pitch again or does someone else pitch.

Q. Reyes, Rogers and Carpenter have all pitched great games in the World Series, and certainly not detracting from that, but how much tougher is it for hitters when it's 42 degrees?
TONY LA RUSSA: I'm not sure. I said to somebody before the Tiger game, I think normally we all think that the pitcher has the benefit because he's working hard and other guys are standing around. But sometimes in a lot of cold games you see the hitters' advantage because the balls are slick, and command is the problem for pitchers, it has to do with the grip.
I don't know, I saw each of those guys pitch games like that right in the middle of the summer, I just think they're really talented guys. You mentioned Carpenter, Rogers, who else?

Q. Reyes.
TONY LA RUSSA: I included Weaver, I thought he pitched a game to win. So it's not easy to hit in conditions like that, either, and you're facing good pitching, so I'm not sure where the balance is.

Q. If you're bringing Reyes and Weaver in here, when you make that decision can we assume that the other guy will be available in relief or would you be elected to use either of those guys in relief depending on how the series goes?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think there's a difference with it with a different guy. If you go Reyes, I think you can expect Weaver to pitch Game 6, and you'd hold Carpenter back for 7. That's part of it. If you pitch Weaver, it could be that Reyes pitches Game 6 or he could pitch in the bullpen. So Dave and I have talked a lot about this, talked a lot about it today, have talked about it in years past, it doesn't seem to make sense to get locked in. Unless like if I'm the Tigers, and that's one of the challenges we face to get two more wins, they know their four starting pitches. And if that was set up like that we'd do it, but we're in a different situation.

Q. Your lineup, please, and any significant changes?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, Duncan will hit second and play right field, Albert, Jimmy hits fourth, Scott fifth, Wilson is going to play leftfield and hit sixth, Molina and Miles will play second base and bat eighth.

Q. Tony, Derek Jeter has often mentioned, he feels the presence of the ghosts of past Yankee greatness and draws inspiration from that. Do you feel anything like that given the history of this franchise?
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I mean I don't think of it as ghosts, to me it's something that is more tangible. Maybe ghosts are tangible to Derek, because great things happened to the Yankees in games they played in the postseason. But I think you definitely feel the weight, the positive weight, of the history of this organization.
I think they do a terrific job of making sure that all the guys are a part of it, continue to be welcome and they go out of their way to bring them around Spring Training during the season. Neatest thing about that is the guys they bring around, Red is 83 years young, Stan, Gibby, Brock, all those guys. They come in, and the guys enjoy seeing them. They don't sit around and just talk about, this is how I did it and we were great and you're not. They pull so hard for you that it is really a very special kind of connection that we all feel, which I think is good for us. It adds to the responsibility every year. You know you're trying to fit into that kind of history, so I think it gets your attention and gets our guys paying attention, trying harder, whether it works out or not.

Q. There hasn't been a stolen base in the series, not a lot of what you'd call little ball. Is that the circumstances, is it something you'd like to get more in your game in the rest of the series?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, stolen bases is only one part of it. When you've got two catchers like Rodriguez and Molina, I think we're all very careful about trying to run into a suicidal out. But I think the neat thing that's happened -- the other point, before I mention a couple of them, when offenses are having trouble producing runners, nobody is on, you're behind, you've got two outs, what are you going to do? You don't want to steal. But yesterday Scott Rolen did a terrific job of getting up to second and third. Game 1, we had Jimmy at third base, a ball was hit to third base, he got a great jump, and forced Inge to hurry a little bit, the ball hopped up and got a throw-away for two runs. There haven't been a lot of chances, but I know how Jim teaches, they are execution-type clubs. You have to watch more carefully, because some of the dramatic stuff is not happening.

Q. What do you see differently in Molina's approach to the postseason compared to what he did most of the regular season?
TONY LA RUSSA: I do think the most important thing is that he's a hitter. He's always hit. Last year he got off to a bad start and came off and hit .250.
This year he struggled and as he got into the second half of the year, he's a proud guy and he got into human nature, every game he wanted to get three hits, sometimes in two at-bats. You can't force results, I don't care who you are. I think when he got to the postseason it was 0-0, he started fresh. As I heard him explain one time, he had good conversations with -- Oquendo is very, very sharp, helps everybody. Albert gives some good -- and Hal McRae. So I think starting fresh, and he had the season where he tried and overtried and it didn't work, he just relaxed and got off to a good start and he's a tough out.

Q. With the conditions you're going to be playing in tonight, will that affect the way you approach or handle the game?
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, most of the time the game dictates how you try to approach or what you do. One of the realities is that the guys are out there playing and pitching, and just like you'd like to run, and nobody gets on base, stuff like that. I think the one thing, we had a question about who plays the outfield today, and it's a little treacherous out there, we were thinking about getting an extra left-hand hitter in there against Bonderman, and we went with an extra right-hander, just to make sure we had a better outfield defense.
Other than that, you don't try to pick ground balls and throw ground balls away. You don't try to get cute. You just are aware of it and you deal with it.

Q. Last night the situation with Carpenter, obviously the win is the most important thing, going about the business of picking up the win, finishing the game the way you did, the decision you made becomes another part of it. Have you or can you even allow yourself as a manager to get emotional even for a second about a guy, complete game, World Series shutout, have you done that in the past and do you almost have to eliminate that thought process pretty quickly if it does pop into your mind?
TONY LA RUSSA: You're more likely to allow yourself if it's a seventh game, the fourth win. We're only halfway there. But he was going out for the ninth. I'd pinch-hit, I wouldn't have bunted him. He was pitching effectively, he was still strong. But two things happened: We got an extra run, and secondly, and more importantly, because we were never comfortable. You just can't take anything for granted. The Tigers have come back too many times. The longer he sat there and as cold as it is, the more likely sending him out there was going to create problems for him. Even if he gets through it, all of a sudden what became a really good game, he made a bunch of good throws, he gets out a little of whack, he is more sore today, he's going to pitch again in this series. So it really wasn't a tough call. When it's over, then you start realizing that however many, 10, 15, 20 pitches might have saved him in the ninth has something to do with when he goes out again.

Q. Given the importance of starting pitching related to the weather, is there concern on your part tonight Suppan going, say, four or five innings and then the game is delayed? Have you had any conversations yet with baseball officials or will you regarding that subject?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the decision makers are baseball people. They know what's involved. It's not Suppan, it's Suppan and Bonderman. We're both in the same boat. You can try and play it.
I mean, I just had a friend of mine who is a pilot and called with the forecast, and he said it's uglier than we thought. They get all that information. And whatever happens, if we play and it gets stopped, Tigers get stopped, too, we both have bullpens. We'll just deal with it. You're glad you're here, and whatever happens, happens.

Q. This is a couple in a off for Encarnacion, is he doing anything off the field or is he out of the games to get straightened out? Is there a conversation you have to have with him when a guy who's been a regular sits out two games in a row? What are the sort of aspects and complications of sitting a starter two games in a row?
TONY LA RUSSA: One of the nice things going through the year, you have a feeling when a guy is just not having success and when he's struggling. And looks to me like he's struggling. And I read and heard some of his comments and he admits he's struggling. So you play him, if you don't have a good option. We have other options.
I think Juan will play again before the series is over, and what he is doing, I watched him yesterday in the practice, he's in a cage trying to get it right, I thought he had a good BP yesterday. But you've got 25 guys in there trying to get that ring and I think he understands. He walked by me yesterday and he wasn't cursing and he said hello and I said hello, let's go get them.

Q. A lot of people seem puzzled, obviously, that a team that only won 83 games in the regular season can have the success you've had in October. Is it possible that, especially given the way Suppan has become almost a second No. 1 for you, that you're a team that's perhaps built for the postseason, so to speak, or at least more built for the postseason perhaps than for the regular season?
TONY LA RUSSA: It didn't start out that way. Losing Mark was a big hit for us. Jason Marquis had a bunch of wins, where he got in position. We picked up a real edge because Suppan got hot in the second half, and he's carried it over.
We were really good and we were not good in the first part of the season. But the unit we're putting out there is a well-rounded position player, and when that team plays, the regular season and postseason, it can do a lot of things. Jeff Weaver has been very tough towards the end of the season and in the postseason. So we were a club that had potential to play better during the regular season.
I just know that we felt coming in that in a short series we could be tough to play against. That's where we are today as we start. We've been going out there ready to play and playing, and that's what we have to continue doing. When you look at the stars they have lined up against us, I don't think we're an overwhelming underdog anymore, but I don't think we're the favorite to win the series. I think we fought ourselves into a heck of a chance. We've had years where our guys have stayed healthier and we've been more like that during the season. And we've just -- we're fortunate with guys like Jimmy, what Jimmy has done in the regular season is what he's done in the postseason. This year he was hampered.

End of FastScripts...

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