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October 13, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. Lance just received the Comeback Player of the Year Award. How much of a comeback player has he been for the team?
TONY LA RUSSA: He's just been a great player for our team. The fact that last year he was hurt, couldn't really show himself, we aren't really the beneficiaries, but guys are kidding me, his reward for the award was a spot on the bench, so they were giving him a hard time.

Q. Was it all about his lack of success against Wolf or what was the thinking there with Craig and also moving Freese up to clean-up?
TONY LA RUSSA: He took a pop on the leg, and I think he's playable. But I think it's a good shot for Craig to get some at-bats. He has not been all that great against Wolf, either. I played Lance against Wolf and he's actually hitting .280 against left-handers, so he's done a good job this year. But I think Craig getting some at-bats and getting him off his leg makes sense.
I just think that, gave Matt a lot of thought and he's caught between a rock and a hard place. He's missed some key at-bats. I think his hand is all right, but here he is trying to get his stroke and his timing in the most pressure you feel all season, and it's a little bit unfair. So I'm going to keep him out of that four spot, hit Freese there today. He does well against lefties, and then the rest of the time against the right, I'll hit Berkman, keep Matt fifth.

Q. Do you think Matt will press less hitting farther down?
TONY LA RUSSA: No, I think he's going to press any place, because he's a proud guy, but normally, he's had a great career, because he knows how to handle when he's off a little bit and he'll get back on it.
But I think when you have the responsibility of hitting behind Albert, it adds something that's not fair right now.

Q. I know David has hit clean-up before, but what is it about him that you don't think will scare him to hit that spot in the lineup, and when a guy is doing so well in a lower spot in the lineup, is there any thought to let's not mess with it and let's just keep it where it's going good?
TONY LA RUSSA: Just got to have confidence in the player, and I think David takes his at-bats wherever he is. He's hit second in the post-season, and he's hit fifth, he's hit sixth, he's hit seventh. He's a tough hitter and he's our best guy against a left-handed pitcher and that's what we are facing, so he hits fourth.

Q. Tony, starting pitching has not dominated by any stretch of the imagination so far. Good pitching stops good hitting is the adage. Is there ever an exception to that, in post-season, in All-Star Game play, ever an exception?
TONY LA RUSSA: In which direction?

Q. Well, the exception would be good hitting beats good pitching.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I just think that in this series, and kind of like last series, but I think in this series the good pitchers have pitched really well in most of the innings, but then when they have a bad inning, the good hitters are taking advantage. I think Gallardo, he gave up four -- what else did he give up? Zip. He's a really good pitcher, and once he got locating and mixing, we didn't get anything. Carp held him down. Look at Garcia's game. I think everybody I think has pitched on both sides, when they have made their pitchers, hitters are on, but when they miss, there's a lot of talent on both offenses and they have gotten nailed a little bit.

Q. You've been doing it this way for so many years, but do you enjoy it when a game gets into the bullpen and you're juggling pitchers and making changes and playing with the match-ups?
TONY LA RUSSA: Not really. No. I mean, I like it when -- the better our chance to win, the more you can relax and not play the "What If" Game, which means, 10-run lead, two outs to go.
But no, I did say that the game -- Game 5 against Philadelphia is one of the calmest that I can ever remember in a situation of that significance, because the guy on the other side was so good, you're not going to have a lot of decisions to make about whether -- offensively what you do. And our guy was pitching so well that he was going to be the guy until he ran out of gas.
And the other games, when you're making decisions, I mean, the other guy is doing the same thing, and both clubs are putting people in positions to succeed, and whatever player does it that day, that's what you're supposed to do for a living. But it's more fun just to have a great feeling about the outcome. I mean, if you had told me going into the top of the sixth that we were not going to score any more, then -- that would've been hard to be more worried than I was, but I would have been more worried. That wasn't fun. Exciting; not fun.

Q. Do you have any concerns about the workload the bullpen has shouldered lately, and especially guys that went over one inning, four outs, five outs; are those guys available tonight?
TONY LA RUSSA: We ask them all to play catch. I did make sure to make it a point with Lynn because he's coming back from that thing.
We had two games, an off-day; they were all well rested. Going into this game we have Boggs, Dotel, McClellan, they didn't pitch. Rzepczynski faced one guy. Our bullpen is in really good shape. I've got to believe that Salas pitched one inning, I think he's going to be good to go. You know, when you talk about us, but also sometimes a guy pitches an inning and throws 25 pitches. Motte threw 15 or 16 or something. So I think he's ready.
If they all came in and said, I'm stiff, don't use me, we have got other guys, but I think Lynn is the guy I want to look at closely just to make sure.

Q. To follow on that one, just sort of generally, how much extra caution is there with Lynn, given where he's been and his age and experience, and two, has he kind of reestablished himself for you to where he was in August with the way he's pitched since coming back?
TONY LA RUSSA: Going to use him -- that's the proof. Guys that get the ball in those situations.
We have the benefit of he's in better shape because he's been working specifically on his core. He's been talking to the trainers; they have a history now. Talked to the doctors. He knows that -- and this isn't what Jimmie (Leyland) is facing today in Detroit; we are not going to push him. We are not going to push any of them. Don't have to.

Q. I know the intentional walk is used as a strategic weapon sometimes, but is there ever a point that which as a manager, you wonder what the prudence is of putting somebody on base for free just like that?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's an interesting strategic call. I think a lot of places, including ourselves, we use the unintentional walk. Of course, you can take advantage of a hitter who wants to drive in a run, so they will chase. Sometimes you'll get an out rather than just give up the base.
The other thing, it doesn't just yell at the guy on deck, hey, we think you're not any good compared to this guy, and I don't think you want to lose that edge. But sometimes, a guy can get on third and that pitcher on the mound is going to be bouncing breaking balls. It's an interesting call. Some guys like it a lot. Some guys don't. It's always interesting.

Q. You've had a lot of kids step up for you this post-season, first time playing on this stage. Can you talk to youngsters like Jaime or Lance or David or anybody about the difference that post-season play is, or just kind of let's try to get them to realize the game is still the game and the pitch is the pitch and so on?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, there's several answers. No. 1, our philosophy is based on recognizing pressure and making it your friend from the first day of spring training, you try to make the club earn playing time during the season, so you have to make something happen, you have to make a pitch. So putting pressure on these guys, pretty soon, they learn to deal with it, because everybody deals with it a different way.
The other thing which I think is really important, is that our young guys have come up, and this is not the first year; it's happened now for several years. I think they are doing a great job in the Minor Leagues. I think there's a lot of winning situations, and I've spent a long time in the Minor Leagues and once in a while play, and you feel just as much pressure to win Double-A, A-ball or Triple-A. So our guys are coming up, and I think it's a big reason why they are playing just like they did down there. I think they have really been taught well by handling the pressure and playing winning baseball.
The other thing is for about two minutes when you start playoffs and it's October and not the regular season, there's, ABCs that you mention to everybody, veterans and the young guys, nothing special.

Q. When you saw Carpenter last night, I don't know if it was asked at all, but how do you equate how he pitched last night, how he went about it compared to his first start in Philadelphia, and in that vein, to what extent does a shorter LCS give an advantage, or offer a help to the winner, than when you have to max it out and go seven games? You've had to go seven here before, but obviously you didn't in Oakland. I just didn't know how big of a difference you see there.
TONY LA RUSSA: I just look at history. We got in early in '88 and the Dodgers went to the end and they beat us. We got in early in '89 and beat the Giants.
I think it does impact if you have a classic No. 1 and he's not available, like Jimmie didn't have available the three -- that's an issue. Normally if you're not deep enough in your rotation, you are not going to win anyway, but as far as Carp, it's interesting. He had four days rest.
But he just -- I think he was a lot like Gallardo. They are both -- there's nothing automatic when you come out of that bullpen, and you've got it dialed in right away. It happens so often; in fact, more often than not, the starter is not as great right away as he will be later, and they both got better.

Q. I know you said that you don't really have fun making those moves late in the ballgame, but I wonder if it makes it easier for you to maybe take Carpenter out after five, knowing that your bullpen is going well, as opposed to maybe feeling like you need to go with him longer if the pen is struggling a little bit.
TONY LA RUSSA: And that was one of the realities yesterday. I mean, for our bullpen, it had been tapped because of whatever, we didn't have -- whatever, we would have pushed Carp, see how many outs he could buy every inning he could go.
It was real clear yesterday, because Dave and I agreed, we were watching him, and we were just hoping he could get Weeks out and he made a great pitch, but that was enough. But the reality is, do you have depth, and if you do, then you factor it in your decision and you make it. If you don't, then you push.

Q. You and Dunc have had a long-standing philosophy called pitch to contact. Can you talk about how that changes in late innings in a closing situation and as it applies to Jason Motte. Not trying to be a wise guy, but he's not exactly up there pitching to contact, is he?
TONY LA RUSSA: There isn't a whole lot of difference in the philosophy of those pitchers. It just depends on the stuff that you have.
The reason -- pitch to contact means that you don't treat everybody like they are Babe Ruth and fall behind in the count all the time, and you may get three outs in an inning and you've got 20-plus pitches, and you can't get in half the game. You have to go after the hitters and get the count in your favor, and to be successful, you have to be able to do that, stay out of the middle of the plate generally. And if there's one thing that Jason is doing really well, I watched the replay of his -- like I did all of our other relievers, he didn't throw anything down the middle.
So spotting the ball, getting into the count, trying to put guys away, that's what's taught here. It's been taught for years probably all over. It's the key. When guys get the ball in the middle, I don't care what kind of stuff you've got, you don't get away in this league.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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