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October 18, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. There's been a lot of talk about the acquisitions Texas made, especially in their bullpen, late in the season. You guys added four big pieces to your pitching staff. How has that changed your team?
TONY LA RUSSA: Will, I give our front office and ownership a lot of credit because they had to make the decision to pull the trigger, and believe we had a shot. But getting Edwin Jackson and McClellan to go to the bullpen, which he becomes a real weapon. Getting Dotel in the trade, just to help us get deeper, and then we -- I think we saw R-Zep. Pitched against a little bit, but I read the reports, and we were excited to get him, and after watching him he's a real weapon. We got Arthur, a veteran who's been through everything.
Even when a couple of guys who were out, Lance Lynn was out, just didn't join us this past series, and Sanchez, our bullpen got a lot deeper, and then the improvement and development of Jason Motte being able to pitch against anybody late. I was just telling somebody there's an irony to the season. Early in the year our bullpen struggled -- sometimes they struggled by the way because our defense did not support them. But now they're one of the major reasons we're here.

Q. Obviously everybody has talked about the great run you made to get here. How do you not allow your guys to be satisfied just to reach the World Series? And how has Arthur Rhodes helped you? And do you think he'll be amped up to face his old mates?
TONY LA RUSSA: Arthur, you don't have the longevity he's had and the success if you're not something special, and Arthur Rhodes is special. Texas knows what they were doing or whatever, but we are just glad he's with us, not only to come in and give us a legitimate weapon the left side but he is a major presence, fun, serious. And I told him, all those years against him, I told Walt Jocketty and John Mozeliak, we talked about Arthur Rhodes being on our team before, and now we've got him.
But if there's one guarantee I can make, I can guarantee you that our club is not going to change its attitude about competing in the World Series. I mean, the Rangers are going to get the best we've got. We're going to have exactly the same approach, do the best we can and treat it like it's the last game you're going to play. We're not going to change anything.

Q. Watching you on Sunday night during the trophy presentation you appeared to be really sort of taking it all in. I wonder, does this seem real?
TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, I'm sure it is, because I've pinched myself enough. But you're right, I found myself -- that's one of the things you get when you get a little experience, there are certain things when it's over that you didn't really notice. So you say, man, if you ever get a chance again, the last few times that -- and what you want to experience, you want to experience the guys, look around and see the guys who have gotten you there, the players. And I pay a lot of attention to the guys who are doing it for the first time. That's a particular joy of mine. So I pick out the first timers, and half the time I was up there I was looking around. I wouldn't disrespect anybody, but that's part of what I like to do.

Q. To follow on a couple questions ago, especially over the last year, the front office has been really aggressive in addressing a variety of things that needed to be addressed. Two parts: One, do you think it's fair to say that Mo's imprint is even more on this team than even the '09 playoff team? And two, how has your working relationship over four years with him developed?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think you give credit to his experience here with Walt. I mean, Walt, with the okay from ownership, really helped us as we got down to the 31st. But adding Matt Holliday, that was a big piece.
I don't believe -- in fact, I'll tell you what I do believe: I'll tell you if that trade had not been made, I believe we probably would have been an under .500 club. That's how important it was to us. And yeah, had the good fortune, Mo did not come from the outside. He was part of what was here all the years, and it was seamless because he came in. What he has at stake is exactly what we all have at stake. If we don't play well, you're going to get slammed. Comrades at arms.

Q. Somewhat of an off-beat question if you'll bear with me: Every now and then you hear about coaches and managers kind of having problems with the actual phones that you guys use in the dugouts to call to the bullpen. You've kind of been known as a person to make those calls. I was wondering your thoughts on if you were satisfied with the phone as a piece of communication technology, and if you've had problems with them in the past, and if you thought there could be something better to use than the phones that they are now.
TONY LA RUSSA: What, do you work for AT & T? (Laughter). I haven't thought of that. I'm not prepared for that one.
Well, we had the one issue in Philadelphia, and right away the umpire took care of it and Charlie came out and asked what it was, and they said, yeah. I mean, you have technical foul-ups. That's why I limit my technical exploits to paper and pencil.
No, I never thought about how to make it better. It works most of the time, and if it doesn't, you just tell one of the rookies, it's part of your Big League dues to run to the bullpen and tell them to get up.

Q. Do you think these two teams are a bit similar because you guys have both gotten extremely hot down the stretch to get to where you are? You both lost aces in Wainwright and Lee to the Phillies. How do you see these two teams? And who has the edge?
TONY LA RUSSA: Good question, and just -- I mean, I follow baseball all year long and obviously they've been a really good team. I'm interested in the American League West because of Oakland, so I've watched the Rangers probably a little more than some of the other American League clubs. So I know them from watching them on TV. And it sure seems like there are quite a few similarities with the danger in the lineups. Their starting pitching is like ours.
If this becomes a starting pitching series, don't be surprised. The talent is there. There's really good offenses. What's happening is, I've said it before, if a guy is not sharp, the offenses are creating damage, so you go to a reliever, for both of us.
But I don't think you really have a feel for the type of competition until you actually play. You can watch video, you can watch TV, you can read reports. It sure seems like there's a lot of similarities, but when we play, there may be differences that will come up. Probably will be some.

Q. From a manager's perspective, is Albert Pujols a once-in-a-lifetime player?
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, the problem with answering that is the disrespect to just the clubs that I've been around, Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines, Greg Luzinski, Rickey Henderson, and Mark. But I said after his rookie year, he's the best player I've ever seen, and that was ten years ago.
I've said this before: The problem is I've been around long enough, some of you have heard these answers, and you get tired of them, but I think it's the best way to describe it. I heard Reggie Jackson say this one time years ago when somebody was asking about Aaron or Mays or Musial, and he said, "If you're in the conversation, that's enough." Well, Albert is in the conversation of a lifetime-type player, and whoever else is in that conversation, have at it. But I can't tell you what a privilege it is to watch this guy for 11 years the way he plays the game, and the way he is off the field.
I do believe he called time on purpose because he had a sense of history about Prince, whether or not it is his last moment in Milwaukee. That's a special man.

Q. What decisions have you made with your starting pitching as far as however games you've made those decisions? The other thing related is, is Carpenter a 100% physically? Is he as sound as you would like him to be?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the last one first. If he wasn't sound, he wouldn't pitch tomorrow. I think what I understand is that way back in August every once in a while he would find -- his elbow was a little stiff, so he would monitor his bullpens, but he also finished really strong. He's been getting treatment, and I know put his hand on the Bible the other day a couple days ago with the trainers and the doctor, and they all feel he's good to go.
As far as the rest of our staff, we are going to announce that Jaime is pitching Game 2, and right now Dave is home, will be back tomorrow, and I know that we're going to look at it closely. But I think we'll penciling in Kyle Lohse for 3 and Edwin for 4, but that might change when we talk a little more.

Q. Garcia is going to open Game 2, and my understanding he'll be the first Mexican to do so in a World Series since Fernando Valenzuela. I want to ask you on what you base your decision to give this huge responsibility to this Mexican.
TONY LA RUSSA: In the two years he's been with us, not only is he a very talented pitcher, but he's pitched very well, and what he is yet -- you have to remember that he is young, and there are times when he has an issue that he's learning how to make the adjustments, and two or three years from now, he's going to get better and better. But right now he's plenty good enough and he's pitched very well, especially in our park. He would pitch here, and if there's a Game 6, I'd expect to give it to him again.

Q. I was just wondering, as far as Dotel goes and what he's added to the team, how would you describe his addition to the team and what he's contributed here?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, on the field, we've seen him a lot. We didn't see him much this year, on tape, and he's been very impressive with the life in his arm. He's had good stuff, plus stuff, and a plus breaking ball and plus location.
And the other thing that's happened, what's been really good for us, is one of Jason Motte's biggest assets has been coming in during an inning with inherited runners. He was our go-to guy for that a lot, and as he started pitching more and holding them for the ninth, we needed him for that, and we use Octavio now, and he's done really, really well. When he's had a couple extra days' rest, he's had really nice life, and what I've been impressed with is that if you pitch him two days in a row, he's got life the second day, too.
The other thing that -- you know, he's a fun-loving guy, been around a long time, was embraced right away. He embraced us, we embraced him. And I'm so disappointed in myself, I knew Arthur had not been to a World Series, but I did not realize until we celebrated that this is Octavio's first World Series. It's a kick to see Furcal. These guys are quality veterans, and they're finally getting a taste of this experience. So in a way the club is rewarding him for helping us get here.

Q. Your team hasn't played the Rangers in seven years with the quirk of the Interleague schedule. Does that create any extra challenges to prepare for a series like this when you haven't even seen a team for that length of time?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's a real issue for us, but I think it's the same issue knowing Ron some and Mike Maddux and Jackie Moore, the people I know best over there. I think they're preparation fanatics, as well. They have the same problem as we do. You can take reports, you can take video, you can take comments from players who have seen us play or whatever, but the best preparation you have is to actually be in competition and watch the way guys respond, and neither one of us have that. So we're at the same place. It's a little uncomfortable, but it's uncomfortable for both, I think.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about your bullpen situation, how it's been just about totally overhauled since the beginning of the year and how it was kind of a work in progress all year, and I guess lastly, the impact that trade had on where it is now?
TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, that's the thing that I'll probably remember the most about this season, besides coming back like we did. Last year we had a good bullpen, and Franklin, Trever Miller were an important part of it. This year we got off to a slow start, as I said. Sometimes maybe the pitcher struggles some, but our defense did not get the outs that could have changed a lot of that early. So it wasn't like we were pointing fingers just at ourselves totally.
But as we got along, we suffered a couple injuries, Sanchez that came along so well was hurt. He's okay now, but we haven't put him on the roster. We had Fernando Salas come up, who did an outstanding job. We had Motte develop. We had a young starter named Lance Lynn take two starts, come back in the bullpen and he was lights out, and he had a rib cage so he was gone. Now he's back.
Through it all, I just really believe it's another example of the greatness of Dave Duncan. I mean, he takes what we have, and he's had -- he had Marty Mason there for years, very good, and Derek Lilliquist, his first year jumps right in. I mean, they do a really good job. They recognize what guys can do and not do and then they pass them along to me and you make a decision during a game. It's the most interesting story on our team, except for the heart we showed coming back as to how much of a weapon the bullpen has become.
The trade and everything, it took McClellan and Dotel, it beefed up the right-hand side. We lost Sanchez and Lynn, and R-Zep is -- this young man has got a terrific future whether starting or leading, as part of that trade, and we signed Arthur. I think I said earlier, without this trade, we had a legitimate risk to finish under .500, because we were just getting so thin and it would have been hard to finish.

Q. Lance Berkman talked about when he was on other teams before he came here, he would watch you in the dugout and there was something about you that would rub him the wrong way. Is that something that you find for guys that come to play for you that experience that before?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I can say, every time Lance got a game-winning hit, I was over there, yeah, yeah. I wasn't cheering for him. He did that a lot against us.
Mo and I have heard that enough. You know, the way I was raised, and that's why I don't have any problem with any manager that you people think I have problems with, the manager's responsibility is to your team. That's your family, baseball family. And the benefit of the doubt goes to your team. Although you can appreciate the beauty of Major League competition and you respect -- I respected Lance off the charts all the time, I was never pulling for him to have a big day. I was pulling for him to have a bad day. I've read a couple things he's said since he's over here, and that's pretty much -- you get close to your players, you care for them and you've got their back and have some fun with them, but that's your players, not the other players. Even Edgar Renteria, who I loved like a son, when Edgar was at Cincinnati or San Francisco, I just kind of went (waving goodbyes).

Q. Could Holliday clean up in the end of this series versus the end of last series, do you see that happening again? And Craig versus Berkman against any of their left, do you see that as a question or do you pull Craig for the middle three games?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I'll tell you right now, Lance is playing right field tomorrow against Wilson. They announced their right-hander is pitching. I do believe I answered earlier that one of the things about our ballclub, if you're a National League team, sometimes you're not built with a DH. If you're an American League team, sometimes you have a DH who can hit but can't play defense, so I don't think the Rangers have that problem. But we don't have the problem going the other way. We have hitters on the bench like an Allen Craig, that'll find it whether he goes out there and Lance comes in. We've got hitters ready for those games over there.
And who hits fourth and fifth, we've actually been talking about it, and the only reason it's an issue is that this year Lance has hit around .270, 280 against left-hand pitching. If Matt hits fourth and Lance hits fifth or vice versa, I guess we've got the night to think about it.

Q. Skip sounded like he's okay. Is that your understanding, he's okay, and if so, are you going to add him to the roster?
TONY LA RUSSA: I'm not sure I know the etiquette. After all these years I don't know the etiquette about announcing the roster until it gets announced. All I can tell you is I've heard what you've heard, which is he's okay, and he's going to be considered and has already been considered by the roster. I don't know about revealing -- I don't think I'm supposed to.

Q. My question is about the roster, also. It appears that Westbrook is -- I think he thinks he's out. Without violating etiquette, how will you retool your roster for the World Series?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's one of those good things that's not going to get an answer until tomorrow. All I can tell you is when we discuss the roster today, some of the same reasons that went against some people in the first go-around and the second go-around, it's the same kind of what if'ing and what if'ing and what's your best and Jake is getting a lot of strong consideration just because of his talent and playing three games in their ballpark. Here again, I'm not giving you any answers, but he's getting strong consideration.

Q. I notice you've got the World Series ring on. Is that the 2006 ring. Do you wear that all the time, or is this special now that you're in the series?
TONY LA RUSSA: Actually I didn't realize I had it on. I had my Foggers on, whatever it is, I wore it to the ballpark and I usually take them off, and when I wear them, I wear them both. They're hard to get, so I enjoy them. I didn't even realize I had them on because I don't usually keep them off at the ballpark, but it's been kind of busy. The truth is as soon as I walk out that door, they'll come off.

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