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October 2, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. You talked last night after the game about Albert's heel. I know he's in the lineup. Could you update us on that and also about Matt Holliday?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's got a stinger there in his heel, and if it happens during the game that he hits it wrong, it'll cause him discomfort. But it's feeling better now. He treated it after the game. He may go several days without feeling it again where it's really painful. But he plays with is it.
As far as Matt, one of the thoughts we had was at least he could pinch-hit every game. And then didn't really make up the lineup today until he came to the park. And he did feel some pain when he swung yesterday, so that's not the best news. But he's available today.

Q. One of the things that was something of an issue for you guys the last couple years was hitting left-handers, and this year the numbers were almost identical against left and right. How much of that is just the personnel, and how much of that is whatever else it might be?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think a lot of it is the personnel. Even some of our struggles the last couple years, if you look at our lineup, it didn't figure. But you know, Freese is tough against left-handers. But we've had a nice thing here recently, we could play Theriot, some of the other left-handers like Schu (Schumaker) hangs in there fine, but Theriot is an extra tough out. You've got guys in the middle.
And I think one of the neat things of the year is that Lance has been tough from the right-hand side. He's got a lot of big hits from that side.

Q. Obviously a lot of your veterans get a lot of the attention on the team, but a lot of your young guys really contributed this year. What was it about the young guys? And how important were David (Freese) and Allen (Craig) and Jay and some of those guys to where you are right now?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, if you're going to win a lot of games over six months, it's got to be somebody besides a couple three pitchers or a closer and some stars. I just think a lot of credit should be sent in the direction of our Minor League development. A lot of the guys down there do a real good job not just developing their skills, but they've been in winning situations. Descalso, all those guys, they have not been intimidated at all by the big league clutch situations. I think a lot of it is just their talent and they've been taught really well in our system.

Q. Can you talk about what Lance has meant to this ballclub, and his professionalism and everything he's brought to the table, and has it exceeded your expectation when you brought him over?
TONY LA RUSSA: I always say exceed expectation because -- I think we've just been really impressed at his conditioning and how his legs have stood up. That was the only thing we worried about because you have a sore leg like he did last year and he's basically hitting on one leg. That explained those stats.
As far as when he's healthy, he's done it against us for years, when he's on your team you hear a lot about him as a teammate. When you see it yourself, he's an excellent teammate. And in games, with his presence and comments that he makes before the game, after the game, I mean, he's just a really good teammate to have.
But I think the number one thing, we saw in Spring Training, he was getting infield hits, and his legs have been a big plus for the spring season and now playoff baseball.

Q. I know that you've touched on this, but could you just take us through again what it is about Chris Carpenter, whether it be his mental makeup or his stuff or some combination thereof that gave you confidence that he could go out there tonight on short rest and get it done?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, since he's been -- is it 2004, since he's been in our club? He has just been a great pitcher, as good a pitcher as any starting pitcher in either league, especially good in the clutch when you need him. That was part of selecting him for this game.
I mean, leaving here 0 and 2 is not going to be a big plus for us trying to win this series. So when you -- if there was a way to pitch him, and the way it fell, there is a way. He loves to compete. He's got a lot of weapons, so you've got this competitive heart and you've got his talent, and we feel good when he pitches. He's got a tough lineup to face, but he's the whole ball of wax.
In fact, I was telling somebody, I'd love to be in this park next Friday if Halladay and Carpenter are going against each other on the two teams. That would be more than worth the price of admission.

Q. Obviously you've been in this position before, lost the first game of the series. Is there anything that you say to a ballclub heading into tonight's game or just let it go? And also, how much influence do you think you can have on its outcome?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I look at the coaching staff and the managing part of it. The players rely on the coaches and the managers to put them in a position to win, whether it's defensive placement or a tweak by the hitting coaches or a decision by the manager about strategy. But it's a game for the players. I mean, all coaches, I think, have the same idea about how to put guys in their spots.
I think the difference is whether you start on the road or at home. If you lose the first game, and if you can get a win here, then you feel good about the series. If you're the home team and you lose the first game, then you're really behind the 8-ball. Either way, if you try to win every game, you go to play 100 percent, you really don't change anything for this one. That's one of the realities. Winning today would be a good outcome for us in a lot of ways.

Q. We've seen you find different ways to get Allen in the lineup, second base, center field, all that stuff. I wonder from your view what kind of asset he's been when Holliday has been hampered here recently, and also what you think the change has been for him to be successful in sporadic appearances this season, whereas he struggled so much with it last year?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's gotten -- if you look at the at-bats, he's gotten much more at-bats this year. I think the number one thing is even though he hasn't been a regular when everybody is healthy, he's played a lot of days in a row, and sometimes -- we got him back in there some way just because he's a producer. He's into his almost first full year, and he's hit everywhere, and he's hitting here.

Q. Based on what you know about Holliday after yesterday's game, would that change your view of the probability that he could start in this series, or it's still a jump ball as far as you're concerned after today?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think the best answer is that tomorrow and the off-day, he gets a real good check in St. Louis. Like I say, when I came, I left that spot open until it was confirmed yes or no, and quickly the answer was no. So I don't know about Tuesday. I know right now I'm more concerned than I was before yesterday's game because he took an at-bat and he did have soreness when he swung.

Q. Do you approach Greg (Hauck) or Barry (Weinberg) or Matt himself about the situation?

Q. Yeah.
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I checked because I had the spot open.

Q. Did you talk to Matt directly or the trainer?
TONY LA RUSSA: I talked to Matt after I talked to Greg, because Greg was there first. He said after the game he had discomfort. And I talked to Matt, and he admitted he had discomfort.

Q. Sixteen years in the same clubhouse after ten in another. Do you ever have to protect against things getting stale for yourself? And how do you make sure that your message resonates freshly with the players?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's easy to figure out whether you're getting stale. All you've got to do is just look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. I've never had that problem just because the competition in the game is a big turn-on. When you get nervous in Spring Training, which happened again in 2011, and you get nervous during the season, you know you're still into it. Now, a real good point is at some point is your message -- they heard it enough in a different voice, you wait until the end of the year and see how they responded. We've had a decent response, made a good run here. We have a tight club. But those are the issues. I have no problem with being excited about the competition. But I think by some point they get tired of you. The media gets tired of you first; you can just ask those guys. I don't blame them.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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