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October 6, 2009

Tony La Russa


THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.

Q. To what extent does a manager in the post-season, and specifically in a short series, do you manage against the other manager, or do you manage against the other manager's players and the skills that they have? Is it sort of a tete-a-tete situation?
TONY LA RUSSA: You may be more aware that one manager has, will push different areas of the game more than another one. But you mostly are concerned with your club, but by definition it's your pitchers against their hitters and their hitters against your pitchers. So you're trying to put your players into position to succeed over the other one.
But it's a player's game. And Joe's so solid that you don't try to figure him out.

Q. Looking at the pitching match-up from both sides, what has made Chris Carpenter so successful against the Dodgers this year? And what concerns you the most about Randy Wolf, especially the way he's pitched the last half of the season?
TONY LA RUSSA: I would answer Wolf and Carpenter the way I would answer about the Dodgers and Cardinals. I think it's an even series. We're excited when we play behind Carp. But Randy has had a heck of a year for them all year, and I know what he's done in the last six weeks or so. It will be tough to score runs.
What Carp has done, we only lost four games so it wasn't the Dodgers. When he goes out there he has a bunch of weapons, so he can pitch to all areas of the play. He has several pitches. He competes like a maniac and for a club like the Dodgers that have some guys that can run. Between he and Molina, very difficult to run against. He's a complete guy. Great competitor with great stuff.

Q. Joe was in here and he made a reference to the fact that you two had dinner one night. Is there any part of that dinner conversation that you can share?
TONY LA RUSSA: It worked out terrific because when I came to St. Louis Joe had left, and I had known Joe some, but when you hear the comments that everybody with the Cardinals would make over and over again, to this day Joe's got friends there.
So including some guys that aren't with the Cardinals that there were two Italian restaurant owners we all got together at his place. It was nice. Because I think Honeycutt -- we were together in Oakland -- was there.
So really his memory is better than mine, I don't think he said we'll see you later, we were just sharing a bunch of experiences and we both we had a shot and who knew how it was going to work, but I think I left -- I rubbed my elbow off his shirt and all that, because he's got that success thing he carries. Try to take some of that from him.

Q. Could you go through your lineup and also have you decided who is starting in Games 3 and 4?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I don't think we have to give the lineup today, do we? The lineup is not ready yet. I've got a good idea. But you just want to -- night off, what else are you going to do? You know who is going to play first and catch, most of our team.
I think the biggest issue probably is who plays center field against a left-hand starter.
We've announced Pineiro will start Game 3. We're going to be in a good position, or we'll keep the two guys that may pitch 4, which is John Smoltz and Kyle Lohse.
We'll do our best to compete to the hilt here in Los Angeles, and you never know how the game's going to go, and so when you're off on Friday you look back and you figure out where you are and who pitched and what's available and we'll see.

Q. Is there any way you can go ahead and detail the rest of your bullpen?
TONY LA RUSSA: That would include announcing our roster, which I don't think we're prepared to do. The one thing that we did settle on yesterday is that instead of 14-11 we're going 13 players and 12 pitchers. So there are a couple of decisions there as to who is the 12th, 11th, 12th pitcher.
There are 13 position players are set. There's no issue there. I just don't think announcing the bullpen is the appropriate time, because players, haven't talked to them.

Q. In '06 you came in. I think you all were like the last team in the tournament in terms of giving a chance to win this year. You have I guess the fourth most wins in the league of the tournament teams. You're rated the favorite to come out of this. I know it doesn't mean a whole lot to you, but is there any way you can speak to the perception you all are the best team in the league by a lot of folks even though you hit a speed bump here the last two weeks?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's interesting, because maybe I'm reading the wrong stuff or hearing the wrong stuff. But the two things I saw most recently had the Dodgers beating us in this division series.
If there's one thing I've always been intrigued, I can't remember when was the first time, probably in the A's days when a lot of those guys played three straight World Series and had to come from there, ever since that's a lot of years ago.
I stood on the post-season and I've heard from so many different guys like Sparky that have been there forever. And I do believe it's true. It's the way to explain what happens. There's eight teams get in and there's four opening series and you cannot pick the winner.
Any team can win any of those series because you're good enough to play in October. And so it's a matter of making the right pitch or hit and getting hot and then getting hot is not enough. You've got to stay hot.
We're capable of being one of those teams that goes to the next round and gets to the last round. But we're really concerned with the Dodgers and we're going to be in the moment and all that stuff. It's about this series.
I just don't think that -- I mean, exactly how I was explaining it years ago. You can probably, because you've got a whole season to play, you can seed 1 through 8, but the 8th team can win a series, can win three series. Favorites, everybody's just guessing.
I think we're one of the eight teams that has a chance to advance. And that's the magic and mystery of it. That's the fun of it and we'll see.

Q. The last time we saw Adam Wainright in the post-season, of course he was a reliever and getting Inge and Beltran and whatnot. Can you talk about how he's matured as a pitcher over the past three years to the point where he's all but a co-ace of your staff?
TONY LA RUSSA: You can take that all but. He is a co-ace. You know the way that year started, it's one of Dave Duncan's favorite things to do, and he learned it as he was growing up as a catcher.
You take a real promising starter, put him in the bullpen in Major Leagues and before he gets a responsibility every five days he gets his feet wet.
In '06 it was -- I mean soon, like before the second month, we were giving him more and more important assignments and by the time he got hurt he was the guy.
But next year he's got all the equipment to be a starter. He's got a bunch of pitches, can help himself offensively. He's got the kind of mentality where he works every day.
He really does an excellent job of -- nobody's pressure-proof, but he can really get concentrating on what it takes to make pitches and handle situations.
I was telling a friend of mine this morning, there's the unique coincidences in '06 we had a very young bullpen, and this year, even though Ryan Franklin is a veteran, we have young bullpen. The two left-handers are veterans. So hopefully that's a good omen.

Q. Knowing that you're facing two lefties in Games 1 and 2, can you talk a little bit describe what may guide your hand when it comes to second base and center field this time of year?
TONY LA RUSSA: You need to pay attention to -- I mean, I think anybody would who are the left-handers in both Wolf and Kershaw. Right-handers are hitting under .200. It's not one you can routinely throw your left-hand hitters out. Whether it's Schumaker, Ankiel or Rasmus, Thurston, no matter what their number, they have no give and they can hit left-handers. But them guys beating up left-hand hitters, probably smart to play right-handers.
So here for a while we've been playing a combination of Lugo at second and Ryan at short. That's probably the way we're going to go. There's going to be a left-hander playing center field, we'll have three choices. We'll play around with it see which one goes.

Q. In '06 you guys scuffled the last bit of the season just like you did this year but seemed to turn it on when post-season came. What can you take from that to this and turn it on like that?
TONY LA RUSSA: '06 was -- I said it before, I think that world championship was not the overachievement people thought. We were really banged up the last two or three weeks, the last month or six weeks.
When we got to San Diego we had our team intact. There was Jim, Dave, Scott. So we had a good team. This year we didn't have those issues. We really didn't have to wrestle a lot of guys because we had days off.
If you look at our game, we really only had a couple of games where you said, What? You are acting like you got it wrapped up. Most of the games were well contested and kind of we won a lot, but it went against us.
I thought we kept competing and we don't have to turn anything really back on. I think a time or two we got a little sloppy. I think you get guys a little distracted because they're finishing off their years, pitchers and hitters. But this is different. This club is different than the '06 club. We're coming in healthier except for an issue or two and we'll be fine. Ready to go. No surprise.

Q. In a five-game series, 12 pitchers, what was the thinking that you would need that many and how much did you weigh the concern of maybe being caught short on the bench as far as pinch hitters, some of those late-inning situations?
TONY LA RUSSA: Our preference was 14-11 but in our pool, somebody would have had to been hurt that was hurt to allow us to add the player. As it turned out, integrity is a great big part of this game.
So the disabled thing wasn't an issue, we went with 13 and 12. I think we all had said love to have that extra player. But in the end, one thing we did reason through is that there was a lot of our season, I haven't bothered to look is it 30 percent, 40 percent, we went with 13 pitchers and 12 players. So we've gone with four bench players in one game.
So five seems to me like a good number. Six would be better. But that's the way it is.

Q. Can you talk about what you've been through this season as far as injuries go? It's really been a tough season. You start basically without Carpenter and Lohse has been on twice and Greene and Glaus and all the injuries and how you battled through it?
TONY LA RUSSA: It's a neat story. I think the other seven clubs have their own stories, and they're all good ones, but in our case sometimes what happens, what people remember, they remember us getting hot and looked like things were falling into place.
But the first three and a half months we have a very gritty bunch. And it's been proven the last two years. They kept us in contention. Never get discouraged, never get frustrated. It's really a club we enjoy being around.
And we took a lot of hits there early. We lost Ankiel and Ludwig, just like the other teams, but we kept surviving because they've got a great heart. And all of a sudden we get to that point in July and we were in contention with the other clubs, and then we got a lot better with the trades that John Mozeliak made and we were able to pick up Lugo. And that's the club we've become. We've gotten deeper. We've gotten better. But those to watch closely, it never would have happened without the guts of the first part. And the guts are still there.
I think we're going to be a dangerous club to play against. We're looking forward to it.

Q. Can you talk about the season that Brendan Ryan has had and someone who has a reputation as a cutup on the field can focus and be such a competitor between the lines?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think just to qualify, Brendan, a lot of guys come in this game and they play young. It's fun, fun, fun, and then they learn and Brendan has learned.
The practice is important. Getting your rest. Good eating. The actual playing of the game is not whatever happens happens, you have to make things happen. That's one of the neatest parts of our club.
If you look where Schumaker came as a quality second baseman what Brendan has become. The middle of the infield when those two guys are playing, solid. They're a plus. And Brendan I have no idea how the Gold Glove voting will go. If he's not the winner is because he didn't get enough exposure to enough clubs.
Because he's played outstanding. And it's one of those -- you say that and you get a little superstitious that next time he plays, okay, come on, it doesn't make a difference. This kid played great. Hit .290. Great wheels, competed like a maniac. It's been fun to watch him start to understand. Now he likes it. He likes what he's doing and I think he'll make the commitment to be that the rest of his career.

End of FastScripts

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