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October 16, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. I'm writing something about the Milwaukee's one-two punch in the bullpen of Rodriguez and Axford, and I wondered it comes to mind you had maybe a similar situation when you had Honeycutt, Eckersley in the bullpen. Could you give me a thought about how that impacts the game, from both sides, when you have somebody like that and when you're going against it.
TONY LA RUSSA: The answer is that it does, both sides. If you're behind you feel kind of an urgency to get even or go ahead before you get to the 8th. And if you're on the other side, you feel real confident that if you can get the lead and go into the last couple. In this case, their 7th inning guy has been good, too. We had a good 7th inning, Gene Nelson. It's definitely not just psychological, it's a real advantage.

Q. When you look at the Brewers, do you think they're built for sustained success for the future, if a couple of guys leave like Fielder, K-Rod after the year, will that make it tough for them to stay near the top?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, I'm kind of uncomfortable answering that because they know their organization better than anybody does. But just going against them, I think the way they've developed their young players and made them into champions, Fielder would be a huge hit to their club.
But I think they've done a good job of developing. And to this club, here, they picked up veterans that complemented them. I'm certain they're going to be a factor going down, the next few years.

Q. Are any of your starters live in the bullpen? You probably don't need any more right-handers, but will Jaime, for example, be available?
TONY LA RUSSA: No, we didn't even list him. I think we're good for today. Had an off day yesterday.

Q. When you look at your hitting lineup, very versatile, it seems like. You've been able to have Berkman in there. You had Freese clean up. How would you characterize that lineup? Obviously you were tops in the National League in a lot of categories. Is it one of your best hitting lineups you've had?
TONY LA RUSSA: I don't really spend a lot of time during the season to compare it. Maybe I will this winter. But I just know when we are at our best we have a chance every inning we play. Just like today, you get Yadi Molina is a .300 hitter hitting in the 7th. You get Punto, who a very, very talented professional hitter; and Jackson swings a pretty good bat. Our lineup has been deep and you have a guy like Craig who stepped in and hit .300. I feel like -- we have some good lineups in our League, but I don't think we take a backseat with anybody, tied with them.

Q. When you're making decisions at this time of year, how much, if at all, do you consider the impact you have on players' future, guys for next year, self-esteem, issues like that?
TONY LA RUSSA: You mean if I take a pitcher out with one out in the 5th inning?

Q. Yes.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you know, I think the answer is you demonstrate your confidence, or lack of or, you know, character you have over the six-month, now seven-month season. And in the starters' case I think it's real clear to them that the pitching coach, the manager, we have their back. And the only thing that changes is the immediacy, and there's no reason to save anything for later, because there may not be a later.
Today is a great example of what these guys all know. When they go back to the tape the next day, they will see it. And there's not one guy that comes out and says, you know, I disagree. The longer the starting pitcher pitches effectively the better chance we have to win. I don't care how good your bullpen is. So all these guys are basically deciding themselves. When something changes, then you have a decision about whether you want to bang them or not. And you have the ability to do it because you're in the post-season. You have two play two, you're off; you just have more ability to do it sometimes.
But there's no -- they know that we're not hoping for them to go three or four, and then we're going to turn it over, because we like our bullpen better than our starters. That's nonsense. They know it. It's in their hands. And the next day they can come back, and say, I want you to show me. It only happened like once that somebody, okay, let's look at this, oh, yeah, I see what you're saying. But there's no format for today's game. Hopefully the starter pitches very effectively, and when he changes you get him.

Q. Can you share a little bit about how you guys address changes you may or may not make in the hitting meetings, as far as the approach when you're facing a guy again in a short series? Is it too much of a chess game? Do you outthink or keep things the same? How do you handle the hitting meetings going against a guy like Marcum?
TONY LA RUSSA: He's a real pitcher and he pitched effectively against us at times. I've said before several times now, all these guys, they're all good pitchers when they're hitting their spots. And both of these lineups are real dangerous if you miss.
So today, he's the starting pitcher, means he has three or four ways to get somebody out. It depends on what he's got going, and we'll try to make in-game adjustments and see how sharp he is.
That is a plus that you get in a series for both sides. We've played each other 18 times. We know their pitchers, they know our pitchers. It really comes down to who is executing that day. You don't get any surprise outs.
Even if you play in your League and you play six games, you have a little feel, but not a lot of feel. There's a lot of surprises a guy can give you. You may have even missed him in one of the series. That's why I think it really comes down to execution and good hitting teams on both sides. And if you miss, you pay.

Q. You've been consistently getting four, even four-plus innings out of the bullpen. Is that an approach that's specific in the postseason that could be sustained over a long regular season?
TONY LA RUSSA: It could not be sustained. You've only got usually 7 relievers. It could be sustained if you don't win very often because you save them the days that you have a chance to win.
But this is more the urgency of -- usually a pivotal game or two in each of the best of five, best of seven. And you won't know for sure until you're playing if this is one of those games. You don't want to end the game thinking that you had weapons that you didn't use. You were hoping for the guy out there to get it back. You just don't have that kind of patience that you can have. But I think that there's two other factors, one, as a starting pitcher you establish a lot during the year.
And maybe you have established that if I lose it I'll get it back quickly. Maybe you establish that once I lose it it's a sign that that day I'm not going to get it. So that's -- we're putting all that together making these decisions.

Q. Were you able to watch any or all of the American League game last night? And if so, what did you think of what Texas did with a pretty good Detroit team?
TONY LA RUSSA: I thought obviously -- I mean Texas, they've won two years in a row now. We all know they're very good. I personalize everything. And I was more personal with the Detroit team.
I felt very, whatever the word is, not sad, but just disappointed for Jim and the Tigers, because that was a lot closer series. You don't want to get blown out in an elimination game. In the last four or five innings of that game you're trying to get to the end of it. It did not reflect that series. The Tigers were very competitive. The Rangers had to do a lot to beat them, had to beat them in extra innings. I was disappointed for my friends there. Better to get beaten in the 9th inning with a home run by Cruz than to go through what they went through. Other than that, the Rangers went out to repeat and they did it, that's hard to do in the Major Leagues.

Q. Are there things that you guys do or can do to keep your bench guys life at this time of year when there are basically no starts or almost no starts for them?
TONY LA RUSSA: The guys that are on the active roster?

Q. Yeah.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean I think everybody on ours has played. They're not getting the four at-bats that would help them be a better pinch-hitter. Craig and Descalso have started recently. Theriot has started. Here again, this is the stuff you do throughout the season to use the roster and there's stuff at the end where your best shot is your best shot and the other guys complement.

Q. Is there anything you can do to get them something closer to life, maybe one every other day?
TONY LA RUSSA: If we happen to advance, then we probably would do something on Tuesday to give those guys. But in Cal's case, I would rather pitch him against the other side because he screws you up. That's Cal Eldred, by the way. He goes out there for him, it's not the hitters (laughter.)
Q. How would you describe your feeling about Carpenter's stance right now relative to before Game 5 of the Phillies series, and based on what you saw the other night, is it fair to characterize him as sore to any degree right now?
TONY LA RUSSA: Sore? No, I thought there was a chance that that game in this series -- I said, human nature is human nature. That was an unbelievable high that he had to get to. And all of a sudden it's five days later and you're cranking up to be exactly the same place. Even as great as he is, that's a difficult thing to do.
If we play tomorrow he'll be ready tomorrow. We're going to place him like it's the last game of our lives. Carp is where he was the last two months, strong and we like playing behind him.

Q. You don't see him as a Red Line situation now?
TONY LA RUSSA: Absolutely the opposite of Red Line. I think he's in great shape. For this time of the year it's unbelievable how strong he is. Testament of his hard work.

Q. The subject of starting pitchers, elite ones, like Carpenter, is it more than stuff that makes them what they are?
TONY LA RUSSA: Oh, absolutely. There are a lot of guys that don't even approach -- it's toughness, it's a desire in you to live up to your potential and live up to your responsibility. There's a lot of guys that are potentially No. 1's, that don't want to be No. 1. They settle for two or three. One of the worst things you can do is try to force someone to be someone they're not. Those guys that are two No. 1's.
It's like a closer, they deserve all the credit. It's more of a responsibility. You have to set an example, on the field, off the field. And some guys, they don't want to dig that deep. And the ones that do inning should get special recognition.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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