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Tony La Russa pregame interview

Tony La Russa pregame interview

Can you tell us what went into the decision you have on your roster, and also on the starting rotation.

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think an important factor was that the spot between Anthony and Jason came down to starting Game 4. Games in St. Louis, Jason's been struggling there lately, I don't think it's a fair challenge for him and what's not good for him is not good for us. Anthony has had some good games there, so that's probably the edge that decided it.

Could you give us your thoughts on the Cory Lidle situation, how it could affect your team and baseball tonight and the whole tragedy?

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TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, I just talked to him a few times. There are several guys in our clubhouse who are friends of his. They are upset about it. I don't know how that translates into the decision about this game and rain and so forth. I just think it's one of those tragedies that's difficult to explain. But we do have guys in our clubhouse with personal connections that are affected by it.

If this game is rained out, would you change your rotation, more specifically, moving Carpenter up?

TONY LA RUSSA: I'll give you a couple answers. First, I think we're going to play, so I'm not but I did mess around because there was sometime there and I pencilled something up. The first pass through that, it was me doing it by myself and I saw Dunc later on. I don't think there's a benefit to changing. So if we don't play, I think we just go ahead and go with the two guys here, and Chris would start Game 3 at home. That might change tonight if I think about it but I don't think so.

Can you just talk about how it changes the shape of a playoff when all of a sudden you have all the games in a row, just like the regular season, without the off day and maybe you need another starter and bullpen for both teams?

TONY LA RUSSA: That's really the importance of not playing today is that you play five in a row. And, whoever pitches today, if you wanted to keep him, and pitches tomorrow, if that guy pitches Game 5 instead of pitching on time and he pitched short. So you pitch somebody else, you know, Weaver, Glavine, we'd probably go short. I guess Tom would, too. But playing five in a row, actually, it's a better test because that's kind of what you do throughout the season. So Mother Nature controls, and if that's the way it goes, that's the way you play it, and it will be the same for both teams.

Your lineup, is Rolen good to go?

TONY LA RUSSA: Lineup is David, Preston is hitting second playing left field, Albert and Encarnación four, Scott is fifth, Jimmy is sixth, Belliard at seventh and Molina eighth.

Can you elaborate on Rolen, is everything good?

TONY LA RUSSA: Like I said yesterday, after watching him and listening to his comments, I think he feels like he's good and he's had some success against Glavine. Looking forward to playing him. You just watch and see how close he looks to himself. He has had the three days off, so hopefully that's something, and some treatment.

Would you say that because of the things that he does and your style of play, that David Eckstein is kind of a Tony La Russa type of player? He seems to think so.

TONY LA RUSSA: I'm trying to think of the other 29 managers, if there's anybody that wouldn't have David Eckstein as one of their favorite players. Unless they had somebody at shortstop they liked better, they would take David Eckstein and play him somewhere else. Same thing about me personally. This guy is a baseball player, his competitiveness, his toughness is off the chart. And, there are a lot of games that are won that you get on base and you move somebody around and a single scores a run; you don't have to hit home runs. So I just think David is a manager's/coach's/fan's/front office/ownership, somebody everybody falls in love with. The thing I like to mention, because we learned it last year, it's nice to be scrappy and gutty and all that stuff, but if you're just a mediocre person, you're just scrappy. But David is a really good player. He's much more than just gutty and scrappy.

The Tigers came to the wire really struggling, you guys did, too. Have you ever before in your career ever had anything like that where things were going not well and all of a sudden you had a chance to turn it completely around?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the only times that I can remember were a couple, three times where we, you know, clinched it with some room to spare, and then our record in the last week, ten days, two weeks, was a heckuva lot less than the winning percentage that got you to clinch it. I think that's human nature. Just as much as you try, it's tough to get that urgency going. But in our case, it wasn't because we were lacking urgency. We just couldn't get it done.

And what is that like now having to be able to completely turn it the other way?

TONY LA RUSSA: We felt like we had gone through a lot to finish first in our division, and that's what it takes to get in the playoffs. We also felt like if you look at our club, we had many more pluses than problems, so we were optimistic just like we are here. We think we can play with San Diego, we think we can play with the Mets, and it does help when the centerfielder is back and the shortstop is back. Like I said, we were really good at times and not at other times, and we had three horrendous losing streaks that take a big bite out of your .500 mark, but overall, we survived.

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When you talk about playing five games in a row on your rotation, to what extent does that affect how you manipulate your bullpen, also?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think it's part of the comment I made before. It's more of a true test what you go through during the season, so the deeper the pen, the better advantage you have. But, you know, the weather is cooler, and I think -- I'm sure it's true about the Mets, I just watched them; everybody has got a lot of life. The big problem would be if you had a game in there early where you had to pitch a lot of innings with the bullpen, then that would have an effect on the next couple of days. But if your starting pitcher competed, playing five in a row, it's not a big deal compared to the season and I think we would all be able to handle it.

One of the left handed guys might be kind of important in this series. To what extent could you run a matchup guy up there four or five days in a row?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, if you just ran him out there in bits and pieces, I think you could pitch him. The other thing I like about our club is we have several of our right handers get left handed hitters out. We've done it already this year. You bring in a right hander, here comes a left hander and he stays in there and maybe he gets the next right hander and may get the left hander. And we have to do it here because they have a lot of switch hitters.

You had an interesting trip over here, what was that like?

TONY LA RUSSA: I wasn't on the bus. I was here early. But I know there were a lot of guys that I don't think interesting was the word I heard them say.

What are the attributes that makes Molina such a force defensively, and does he and do all of you kind of relish the matchup between him and Reyes?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, I would relish Reyes going hitless and baseless. (Laughter.) But when he gets on, there is -- it's just like, you know, you're trying to win when you have a matchup with a pitcher and a hitter. It's special on either side, or if he's trying to steal. It's not just -- Yadier going to throw anybody out if the pitcher gives him the chance. He has very strong hands and a very strong accurate arm and just the way he fires to first -- if our pitcher does his part of the defense, then anybody, including a great runner like Reyes, will have a tough time scoring, or he'll have a tough time stealing second, maybe he should steal third.

Just to go back to the rotation question, you said if you were rained out that you would not see any benefit in changing the rotation. Does some of that have to do with Carpenter's exceptional record at home this year?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think that's one factor. He's been great on the road. He'd be great, too. But you know, he had two games on the road, you know, Game 3 at home is going to be -- I look at what Jimmy did with Rogers pitching the home game. There's an extra expectation/pressure/excitement, and I think that Chris is a better choice for that game. And if it goes seven, he would be a great choice for that one. Otherwise, it goes 2 and 6. On balance, the last hour, 45 minutes I've been thinking about it, I don't think we'd change it. I may think about it later on and we'd change it but I don't think we'd change it. Not just home, but excitement of Game 3, first championship game at the park, it would be different.

Making the decision on Reyes and Marquis, what element of that was the reluctance to change the bullpen as well? Did you see Marquis as going to the bullpen to keep him active?

TONY LA RUSSA: That's a very good point, because you know, there is a roster that you could have put together both Anthony and Jason on it -- but we just didn't feel that if we had a right handed reliever that we should keep off there. I mean, every one of those guys was throwing well. Just fairness to anybody, when you're committed to taking your best shot to win and our best shot to win was with those relievers and having to choose between Jason and Anthony, we chose Jason for the first round, we're choosing Anthony for this one.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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