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September 30, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. Can you tell us as much of your rotation as you will divulge and what went into the decisions?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's been kind of hurry up, so we decided Kyle Lohse will open; Saturday night we'll pitch Chris Carpenter; Jaime (Garcia) will pitch Game 3. And then we'll see where we are with everything. And Jake (Westbrook) will be in the bullpen for the weekend, and we'll decide -- one of those guys will get the ball for Game 4.
But right now, it's just play the weekend, let those three guys know they've got a specific date.

Q. So those guys will both be on the roster?
TONY LA RUSSA: Oh, absolutely.

Q. You've taken a lot of teams to the post-season, and some like this one have been on a roll, others you've been able to rest guys. In your mind is there an ideal way to enter the post-season?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, if you just check who ends up being successful in the post-season, there's -- the key is when you start playing these playoff games, are you ready to compete and do you make the key play and pitch. The ideal way is to clinch as soon as you can so that you're in, and then you can take whatever time to get the guys that are hurting healthy, and the guys that are tired rested. But the reality is that you get in as best you can. In our case it got down to the last day.
Sometimes a club that does that, they celebrate too much; they're not ready. Other guys take the momentum into the games, the clubs that finished early and ended up playing really great all three levels of the playoffs. The sooner you can get in, I think the better it is. But the big thing is to get in.

Q. With all the teams that you've taken to the post-season, I'm sure there's a different character or different element to each one. What is it about this one maybe and the way you got here that makes it unique or makes it special in its own way?
TONY LA RUSSA: I agree. I mean, there isn't any of those clubs -- even some of the near misses that don't have their own distinctive story that you remember about each one.
This one there was a lot of early adversity, adjustment, heartbreaks as far as the outcome of some games, and some of the stuff everybody goes through. I mean, we've played teams that had more guys hurt than we did. But I thought generally the first four months, we gained a lot of respect among our fans and our peers that we had hung in there, never made an excuse, just kept competing. And then we went through a rough period for a couple of weeks where we were stumbling, and it didn't really make sense because we were better. The trade deep into our club made us a better team, and we were also more healthy -- not healthy but more healthy.
The guys just got together and they said, hey, we're getting ready to mug all the respect we earned and let's just go out there and compete. And they just recommitted and made some good things happen. And to the end we had the same deal, couple of times we had our hearts broken and played like we did the first four months. Nothing bothered them. Just come out the next day.

Q. You mentioned being healthy and getting some players into your lineup. How high is the level of confidence of your team going into this series, particularly with the success you've had with the Phillies during the regular season, as well?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, how do you answer that one? We don't think the season series has a whole lot to do with how a playoff series go. First of all, when we played them the two-game series and we swept them early, you check their lineups, they didn't have their club out there. Not to take anything away from us, but the fact is the Phillies are really good when they have all their pieces, and they're good when they don't have some of them.
I remember in '09, when we had really good success against the Dodgers for the season, go back and check it, and they beat us.
I just think we're coming in -- the confidence we have is that the club is really enjoying competing. Just take a game out there and play as hard and as good as you can and the other team is going to do the same and you see who won that day. That's how we feel. Totally understand the Phillies' strengths and they'll be approaching it the same way, but we're looking forward -- we're going to have fun competing and seeing if we can win games.

Q. Carpenter on three days' rest Sunday. How important was wanting to have him be available twice in the series and making that decision?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, first thing, I think I told a couple people, we were so convinced that we were going to have to play Thursday that it wasn't until sometime in the afternoon on Wednesday when Dave (Duncan) was back and we started -- look, we've got an hour or so, everything is set and ready to go, that we asked C.J. (Cherre) and Brian (Bartow), what is the playoff schedule in case we get in, and that's the first time I ran it for sure. Okay, so we started, that's Friday, Saturday -- I mean, Saturday, Sunday off, baboom. And then we started playing around with this and that, and that was the first time that we even had a little clue that if we could get in, we would consider Carp for Sunday because having him maybe pitch twice is good for us. A lot depended on Wednesday, and he had a real good game. He felt strong at the end, so we didn't really announce anything because we wanted to wait to see how he felt yesterday, wanted to wait to see how he feels today. And if he would have come in with any kind of stiffness, we would have gone a different direction.

Q. Could you update us on the availability of Matt Holliday?
TONY LA RUSSA: The update is that we have not set our roster. We're going to leave here, the coaches are going to get together, and we're going to -- with Mo (John Mozeliak), and we're going to talk with the trainers and talk over different issues with our club. But one of them is Matt, and I think he's going to take the workout, and I don't know how long the workout will be, if he has a bad reaction to the first few swings or first few throws, it may not last long. So I really don't know until after the workout.
Rafael Furcal, the same thing. He is healing better, but he hasn't done anything to really stress it.

Q. The other day I was just curious I looked up if Carp had pitched on three days' rest, and the stat service said no, but I could be mistaken, maybe he has done it --
TONY LA RUSSA: Did you check it? Never done it for us, I don't think.

Q. No, I don't think he ever has, but I could be mistaken.
TONY LA RUSSA: I asked him, he said no.

Q. Was that a tough call for you in that regard? And along those lines, as great as he was the other night, do you wish maybe you had saved him, maybe gotten him out of the game a little sooner after the big lead to sort of have a little more going into a Game 2?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, there's a couple questions there. Number one, that's not something that you do lightly, but there's a couple of facts that you consider. Number one, as we've gotten into the season, he's gotten stronger and stronger. He actually feels better now than he did the first half of the year. That's one good fact.
Two is that he had to kind of gain -- there was not a stressful game. I don't mean because of the score; I mean because his delivery was in sync. He would have thrown another 50 pitches and not been tired, and that was the reason.
As we got some runs, we weren't going to take anything for granted, but we felt like we could close it out. If you watch his last couple innings, nobody got on base. It's like, yeah, you explain it later, it was like playing catch. He put up the target, there was the ball with movement. So if you're looking for a sign about -- and that's what we were looking for. If you're looking for a sign to even consider it, without talking to him yesterday or today, you want to look at the game he pitched, and it's just like -- this is one of those games that comes along where everything is working and you can consider it.

Q. When you moved Lohse around to get him extra rest, did you think that had kind of a slingshot effect for him and maybe was the best thing for him? And in that same vein, can you kind of describe what Lohse went through when he was being used maybe out of the bullpen once, start, not start, and to get to this point where he's your Game 1 starter?
TONY LA RUSSA: Two most important things with doing that were, number one, adjusting the rotation, believing that we had a shot, and then trying to create as many possible favorable matches with our starting rotation as we could. And a lot of it pivots around Chris. I mean, he's our horse. And to do that, it required that a couple guys make an adjustment, and Lohse is one of the guys.
I think the honest response, which I'm glad he wasn't happy about it, but sometimes you bet on character, too. I bet on it a lot. And I know the character he is, and he's not going to -- I don't want the ball and if I go out there, I'm not going to try. That's just not Kyle. So he handled it terrifically. And if he was ever wondering whether we lack confidence, he's in for Game 1, so how much more confident can we be in him? It was just a matter of checking the schedule out and trying to create our best shot to win. You do that, hope you don't have weather problems, so that's what we did.

Q. Do you think that rest was a big part of it?
TONY LA RUSSA: I don't know. I really don't know. He just got a little funk. Happens to all of them. It happened to Carp earlier. The timing of it, I don't know that you can ever figure out for sure. Otherwise you see it coming and you stop it. But evidently being upset didn't get in his way.

Q. When you talk about Furcal and Holliday, is the question their availability tomorrow? Is it a question whether they're on the roster at all? Are those separate questions? Do you think those guys will be available for 3 and still have them on? Could you walk us through those decisions there?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's a good question. I think the answer with -- well, I can't answer for Mo, I can't answer for every coach and our trainers. I think I can for most of them. There may be a little disagreement.
This series is going to go by so fast. It's not like we're losing a guy for 15 days, he was put on the disabled list, and we'll invest a week. This is going to be a fast series. You turn around and you're -- the five games are played and it's done.
So I think our attitude is if you're limited for Game 1 tomorrow, you've got to seriously consider whether it's smart to invest a roster spot.

Q. Do you see your club as the underdogs? And how do you approach this?
TONY LA RUSSA: I don't mean this disrespectfully: We don't pay attention to experts. How often are they right? They've been wrong when they've given us the favorites, and we've gotten beat. We haven't been the favorites and we -- I think the reality is that you have eight teams, and don't bet any of your money that you know how it's going to turn out. We approach it like we're one of the eight teams. We're going to compete real hard. We have our talent. We have our commitment to trying to compete. And as I made clear, I don't know if you'll cover it or not, but I made clear at the end of Wednesday, we can't have more respect than we have for the Phillies, not just for the way they compete, but that's how they'll compete tomorrow. So we'll take our shot and have fun doing it.

Q. You mentioned a little bit already about the path the team has taken so far to get to this point. One day that stands out to me that was pretty pivotal was about a week ago after the Mets game and you were pretty clear to treat it like that was one loss. How hard was it for you to tell yourself that and allow the team to not let that linger and send you into a spin where you couldn't recover?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I'm just debating whether I can tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It'll sound a little corny, but I'm going to tell you because I want him to know it.
I got a call yesterday from General (Hal) Moore, and believe me, I've known him, what, seven or eight years now, and there have been a number of times where you're searching for -- you're the leader, you're the manager, and I've used stuff that he's taught me, and I'm sure others have that he's been around. And that was a good example.
I mean, that was game that just kicked you every place it hurts, and the club was hurting, coaches were hurting, I was hurting. What do you do about it? I had a couple minutes there towards the end, when we go to bat and say, this sucks. It's like, wait a minute, this is going to be a tough rally here, we need a rally. And I really did invoke a couple of his principles, and one of them is that there's always something that you can say to them that gives them a better chance, leads to a positive.
So I went in there and said, it's more half full than half empty. Our goal was to win the series. We won it, we just lost this game. Play the next series against Chicago carrying this one over, then we're not worthy of making this run to the end. It's that simple. And I did say at the time, I said, I really believe if we win the next two series that we'll have a real shot, which I thought meant playoff game on Thursday. So I was wrong.

Q. I'm sure you never imagined coming out of Spring Training that you would have to turn over nearly your entire bullpen. How did the dynamic of the back end there change after the 31st of July? And what do you like best about these guys?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's not entirely accurate about never imagining because you ask any hitting coach, pitching coach, manager, you know you're going to have issues. Nobody escapes them. So you're always kind of -- that's why you never get really excited when things are really rolling because you know the gods are there waiting to slap you. We knew going in we were going to have some issues starting day one with Adam.
But we just did a realistic job of evaluating, whether it was the first two months, middle two, last two, who was available, the potential that each was showing. Did a good job, our coaches, Dunc and Derek Lilliquist did a good job identifying in the middle of the season how guys could improve. Good example is Motte. Motte became more effective because he started doing more things to get all kinds of hitters out, and he still is developing.
So we just -- the reality is that you've just got to be ready to adjust, and then we had some neat things happen. It's kind of the way our season went. Two of them were Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Lynn. They both came in and gave us a great lift, and they're both hurt, although Sanchez did pitch once and he was outstanding. But I do think that the trade that was made was an important trade for us. I think it was important to our fans because we got -- we draw 3 million people and we got to the end of July and we had a real shot, and we were not going to make it with the club we had. I'm just telling you. In fact, we probably would have finished under .500 very possibly. So we had the trade, and all of a sudden everything changed again because Rzepczynski was really good -- I call him Marc.
Then we added Dotel who has been really good for us; Arthur (Rhodes) has been really good. Because we've got Jackson, we could put Kyle in the bullpen. I mean, we just got so deep, it allowed us to make a run, and now it's just more of the same. You just take what you've got and evaluate it and try to max it out.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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