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October 20, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. How much difference does Yadier Molina's ability to throw have an impact on the other team do you think? I know it's different from team to team depending on what kind of speed they have, but in general what kind of impact does it have?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think in general the two things you look at, who the pitcher is and how quickly he's unloading and what kind of moves he has. But there is an equalizer. It's like playing against Pudge Rodriguez. You had to be really careful to push the running game, and Yadi is just like that. So I'm sure whenever the other side, whoever you're playing, and they want to run or hit and run, they give it a lot of thought because of him. He's a weapon.

Q. You talked some about second base yesterday, but with another start for Punto here, where is he kind of at for you? Has he played himself into being, for lack of a better term, the primary guy? Is that largely a defensive thing? Just kind of say where you're at with that.
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, the next game we play, we feel like we have three options. Nick is playing well, and it's just not defense. He's having some very good at-bats. You know, Skip hasn't played second in a couple weeks, so I'm not sure this is a good time to give him that first game. But I would, without hesitating.

Q. You talked the other day about how your preference is the unintentional-intentional walk, that that's the kind of school of thought. Could you describe maybe the benefits of that and how much of that is hitter related, maybe seeing if he'll get himself out in a pressure situation and how much of that is pitching related and what kind of onus that puts on the pitcher to either execute the pitches but also face the next guy coming up?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think in most cases just human nature, it makes it easier for him to face the next guy if you're not slapping the guy in the face, or "we want you". You teach it where the guy just -- he's off the plate and the catcher sits off. You're just throwing to that target. If you do it with a man on second, on third, and you're going to throw a breaker -- you're in position to throw four fastballs away, that doesn't accomplish much. There's some things that you figure into it, and they practice it and you've got the right guy in Yadi that will put two and two together.

Q. Are you amused at all, a lot of writing, a lot of talking about you're hitting all the right buttons, everything you're doing right now is going your way, are you amused by that? And are you aware that media praise has a short shelf life?
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, I've seen enough in sports, I'm not amused by it. I'm just not affected by it because the same compliment can be a criticism the next day. And mostly it comes down to you make a move; if it works, hey, what a good move. If it doesn't work, what was he thinking? He should have done something else. That's just the name of the game.
I had to listen to Ron being asked about his pinch-hitter. Well, we've got a vital interest in that game and when German walks out of that dugout we're like, oh crap. When he was in Kansas City he had a really nice stroke and gets base hits all over the ballpark. He chased a bad pitch, so I thought it was a really good choice. If he would have got a hit, then it would have been a good choice, and I would have would have been asked, why did I bring Dotel?
I think you take -- I've been told this a long time ago, the compliments and the criticism, basically you just ignore them, do the best you can.

Q. You've given Adam Wainwright a lot to do during pregame ceremonies. How important has that been for the club? And how needed do you suppose Adam feels?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I haven't given him that, our organization has, and it's appropriate for what he means to this organization and what he's earned. The only thing that I and the coaches have said is that he's got to be part of the cheerleading because he's a part of one of the guys that we said at the beginning, we're not going to toss away the season. In respect to Wain-O, we're going to compete like he did. The only thing the staff asks is that he just cheer and he does. The rest of the stuff is organization driven and rightly so.

Q. In discussing your second basemen, you have a fourth player who started at second this year but is unlikely to start in this series. Is Allen Craig going to appear there at any point in the future?
TONY LA RUSSA: I thought you were talking about Dan Descalso. I think you learn, maybe he'll be one of the guys you consider. Not likely, because I think the three games that we play in Texas, I think there are other ways, DH him and play him in the outfield and give one of the other guys a rest.

Q. How about in the future?
TONY LA RUSSA: Oh, the future. Yeah, right. How about the World Series?

Q. How did the organization come upon the concept of an assistant hitting coach to go with the hitting coach? And how do you divide the responsibilities between the two men?
TONY LA RUSSA: We haven't been asked that because is this three or four years that Mike has been doing this? But it's just a recognition that in the Major League facilities now, almost without exception, you have an indoor cage and you have the outdoor cage, and sometimes you have two cages like we do. And every day you have 13 to 14 players that hit, every day, and their routine now is they can do tee, soft toss, underhand, overhand. And if they're doing that, there's work for two. But very often they're hitting on the field and other guys are prepping in the cage. Well, if you don't have that second coach, then one of the other coaches -- a guy like José Oquendo is very good and did it for years for us, and he knows hitting, but he's got other responsibilities.
Just to get the work done, and then I think it's always good that like Mike will try to stay ahead of the series. Working so hard in that series, your hitting coach, the series is over, he gets to the ballpark, gets a brand new series, which happens every three days, and you have to look at tape all over again. Well, Mike is working along with it, probably getting ahead of it, and it's a lot of effectiveness.
But Mark is the hitting coach. We kid the guys, say, Aldrete is the offensive enhancer because he went to Stanford. But there has to be a relationship there that the players see, the cooperation. Mike worked with Hal McRae, and it works really well as long as there's mutual respect, preaching the same message. Nobody takes their personal hitting coach and ignores the other guy. We don't allow it, it just doesn't happen. These guys are tied together. I think you almost can't get along without it.

Q. Back to Craig for a moment, I think he proved certainly the last two weeks that he could bat in the middle of your lineup and be very successful. With that being said, is it a luxury having a bat of his caliber coming off the bench for you?
TONY LA RUSSA: Absolutely. I mean, I think we have, like today, Schumacher has done a really good got off the bench, Theriot has done a really good job off the bench, Craig, even Descalso. Yeah, I think we've got a real good bench with a lot of uses. In Craig's case he's an everyday player been waiting to play every day. He's a good weapon. Very good.

Q. What has Rhodes brought to you guys since you added him to the club? And what do you think it meant to him at his age to make his World Series debut especially against the team he was with this year?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I can't speak to -- I know he feels good about the Texas Rangers, but when you haven't been in one, it could've been against anybody. He could have been 100 percent happy, so he's 100 percent happy.
It's a real feel-good story for a lot of us because we competed against him so many years, and several times our organization talked about adding him in, it just never worked, and you'd see him go someplace else and you know his reputation, so you finally got him on your team. What a pro.
I didn't know when we got him that he hadn't been to the World Series. Only found that out late because we were trying to survive, weren't really thinking World Series. But that really has added to the enjoyment of this post-season push that there were a number of veterans, Furcal, Dotel, Rhodes, guys like that, Theriot, Laird, that hadn't been there. Rhodes, 19 years, that's a lot of dues, so very special. Special as it gets.

Q. The managerial style between the two leagues, is it that great of a difference? And did you enjoy managing this league more than the American League, or about the same?
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, good question. I think the great majority of stuff you do is the same. If you're on -- if your team is on the field, you're trying to defend against runs being scored. There's a difference because the pitcher comes to bat, and that changes some. If you're hitting, you're trying to score runs and there's a difference when the pitcher comes up. The only thing I've said is I like the National League style because it shows you more of the whole game. But I never want anybody to misunderstand; surviving an American League season is a real gut test, and you get so tough because you play those games with those stacked lineups and they go on forever. It is a really tough league to compete in.
But there's parts of the game you hardly ever see, and I like those other games, other pieces.

Q. There's so much pregame scuttlebutt about Carpenter's elbow. I was wondering, the move you made last night, was that purely tactical? And how is he today?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I haven't had a chance to -- the only thing I kidded him about was if he should have put his face in front of that spike and then he could have been bleeding the rest of the game and could have been another Curt Schilling. That would have been a hell of a sight, because he's always talked about how hockey players, they get gashed and they're still out there playing, and baseball players get taken out. So I haven't asked him.
I just know that it is that part of the season where it's not smart. He already had 80-some. If he goes out there and pitches, you're getting to that point now where you think, ooh, not just will his stuff drop off, but something might get sore. He was right; he had done enough for us.

Q. When you guys, you and your coaches, look at Hamilton on tape with the groin, what do you see differently about his inabilities right now at the plate?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I know he's got a groin problem, and I'm sure it has its effect, but he's still a very scary individual when he stands up there. But who was it we -- oh, Ryan Howard, we played against him in the Division Series. There was no doubt that his ankle was affecting some of his normal swinging. Still very dangerous. I don't know enough about Hamilton, I just know that he still scares us.

Q. What did you learn about Derek Lilliquist while Dunc was away from the team? And then looking ahead to Derek's future in the Big Leagues, what do you think his best role will be down the road?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think like every real good bullpen coach, you can be a pitching coach. Marty Mason can be a pitching coach, Derek can be a pitching coach. But we had the ability over the years that we were in the same organization, and because he did a lot of rehab work in Florida, Dave mostly, but I still communicated with him about whatever pitcher was down there. So he's really sharp, and he's built a really good relationship with young pitchers that come into pro ball and veterans, so he's done all that for us.
He did a really good job while Dave was gone. I said he was working Dave's process, but still in all, he was the guy there that made the trips, and very sharp.

Q. This will be the second post-season that you've had Matt there sort of as a bodyguard for Albert and also now with Lance. I wonder if you do see the tangible benefits, if you can think back to times maybe when opponents would have walked Albert and now they don't, and how much of that is to keep Albert's bat in his hands versus having them pay for eventually walking him? Which one works better that way?
TONY LA RUSSA: You've got a great hitter, you want him to compete, put guys on base ahead of him, have somebody behind that they respect. And getting Matt was crucial in '09, and adding Lance now, to have those three guys in the middle whenever we've been able to play them, they're as good as anybody's three. It helps our club, it helps each guy. Matt has helped in front, behind; Lance has helped. And then like today where Matt's hitting fifth, you've got David Freese, I don't know if anybody really wants to pitch to him more.
The deeper the lineup, the better shot you are, but especially in the middle when you've got somebody like Albert and now we've got Matt and Lance, it's a strength. But I'll just tell you yesterday in the ninth inning, when we sent Motte in there, you've got Young, Beltre and Cruz, they counter our three. That was a real legitimate save, and it was a very scary one, some of those swings that those guys were taking.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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