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Tony La Russa pregame interview

Tony La Russa pregame interview

Can you talk about Spiezio instead of Rolen tonight.

TONY LA RUSSA: I start by saying it's not an enjoyable decision. For one thing, he's one of our core guys, Scott Rolen is. We definitely want to play key games with your core horses in the lineup. And he's covered, because he wants to play, he said he's okay to go. But yeah, I watched him yesterday. Just to me, something is prohibiting his stroke from being right, and I don't think -- this is something that would be good for him or good for us.

You started to touch on this, but is this primarily a baseball decision or a medical decision, where does that fall?

TONY LA RUSSA: My dad said, the more confused you get, the simpler you keep it. He says he feels fine to play. He's been cleared by the medical staff, so I just watch the baseball side. I just believe that if you know Scott's stroke and you see some of the swings he took yesterday, you know, there's something preventing him from being right. And that doesn't mean anything for tomorrow. You know, Trachsel, Perez. That's just it for today and one game at a time.

How concerned are you as a manager that the other team is going to bust him inside constantly because of the shoulder, and how sensitive is it because in addition to whatever physical thing he's going through, there's got to be a confidence factor at this point, too, with the slump he's in.

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's had an outstanding career, and to have an outstanding career, you can't have one area that clubs go at any time they want to and get an out, including the ball in. So I think there's a couple, three pitches that are giving him problems that he's had trouble making an adjustment and you know, there's a couple possibilities. All I know is that, you know, his stroke is not normal for him, and, you know, confidence-wise, I mean, I've been around him enough and I've talked to him enough, he always believes if he competes and fights during the game, some way, somehow, he'll do something to help us win. And I think that's an important part of why he keeps clearing himself to play because he feels he can win the game with his glove, he knows he's one of our key guys and he should be in there.

Can you talk about the contributions that Scott Spiezio gave to you this year and what you saw in him your first year with him.

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, that's an important part, in the end, of saying, Scott Rolen sit and Scott Spiezio play. If he gets an opportunity to go out there, he's going to compete, and besides making plays, he'll fight his way into something productive. That's always possible. But you've got a guy like Scott and if you check back when he's started games, when Albert was out, when he's played at third base, when he's played left field, I mean, he's given us consistent -- consistently given us an offensive lift and he's held his own defensively. This guy has really had a good year for us. That's why I think he's the guy for tonight.

We all know the circumstances that you're able to pitch Carpenter tonight. Theoretically, in a perfect world, you're able to have everybody on perfect rest and you're starting the series fresh, would you rather have your ace pitching 1 and 5, assuming he can't pitch three games in a series, pitch 1 and 5 or pitch 2 and 6?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think, it's like I said yesterday, it's a very important consideration that when your best guy is ready to pitch, he should pitch. When you start getting cute with that, putting him back to 2 because he's ready to pitch Game 1, I don't think you can get too cute when you're competing. So, you know, 1 and 5 would be the way I would choose to go. You know, I would look forward some day to getting into a seven game series and having him ready for 1, and I think it would be worth speculating whether he could go 1, 4 and 7, just like the old days.

When you talk about not starting Scott Rolen, I'm assuming that pinch hitting is not necessarily something you're going to put him in a situation with a couple of guys on, so you do shorten it up a little bit on top of everything else. And four years ago, what Spiezio did in the postseason, does that come into play when you talk about this, what's going on around you?

TONY LA RUSSA: I'll answer the second one first. I was getting excited about bringing him into camp, was part of what we saw him doing for the Angels. What he did for us this year was clutch, deciding game, got a big hit. But that's a real good question. And I think what we're all counting on, I mean, you take a guy without great character, who has got a big ego and you tell him he's not playing, he could sit there and pout. And then you have him go out there and play defense in the ninth inning, like I might ask Scott to do tonight or take an important pinch hit, look at him not to start, it happens in sports. You talk about Scott Rolen, that's one of the most admired guys by other professionals, so I believe no matter how disappointed he is, he's going to watch the game and if the team needs him to take at-bats, he's going to take it. It's inconceivable to me that Scott says, I'm not available.

Is there a situation in your mind matchup-wise actually where a guy that becomes more viable in that spot, as opposed to getting three at bats earlier in the game?

TONY LA RUSSA: Like I said, if we didn't have a guy that's been as clutch as Scott Spiezio, I would play Scott Rolen today. I agree with how he goes about it. He plays, he'll fight, something will happen. There ain't anybody in their bullpen or even mine if he's in there late that I would hesitate to send Scott up there again. But if you think about him not playing and starting the game, you think of John Rodriguez or So Taguchi, I would probably be real careful with him. But the big point, it's inconceivable to our team, it's not even worth mentioning or answering. Scott is going to do whatever we ask him to do, happy or not.

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I hope I get this right, you said Rolen is a guy who competes and fights and believes that he'll do something to find a way to help you win. Do you need to be delicated or have a conversation with him so that he doesn't misread what you've done tonight by taking him out of the lineup? And two, is this a Game 2 thing, or is this a day-to-day decision that you're going to have to make through this series with Scott?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I answered that part already; this is definitely a Game 2 thing. I'm not saying anything about tomorrow. In fact, I think Scott's had success against Trachsel, so this is a Game 2 thing. You know, my normal -- I think not just my, I think the normal way that you would handle situations in today's sports is that you would communicate. I think I've talked to Scott recently about stuff over the last month or six weeks. I don't know that a conversation is needed today. He'll know why he's not playing and I don't know what I can say that -- he'll say he should be playing because he knows he can do something good and he feels good to go. If he wants to talk, we'll talk but I'm not going to seek him out. We've already talked.

A couple of your other guys in the middle of the lineup are on kind of dry spots, Albert 0 for 10, Juan is 1 for 11, is that Woody Williams and Glavine or are there things your guys could be doing in the middle of the lineup to have better numbers than that?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, Albert hit two line drives yesterday and he continues to have good at-bats. I just think he's just got to grind out his best at bat and if they want to walk him, walk him. If they throw the ball in the strike zone, he'll hit the ball on the barrel. Juan, I don't want to single him out, somebody asked me this yesterday after the game, why would you single Scott out? So I don't really want to single out Juan, except that somehow or another, the eight guys that are our position players tonight whether one guy has a heroic day or two or three get together or all eight of them, we have to be offensive enough to win. So, Juan has part of that responsibility.

To be down 0-1 in this series and to put a lineup out there without Rolen is basically saying you feel like you have a better chance to win with somebody else in there. Is that a determination you're making based on his performance, his health and what kind of mix are you kind of coming up with here?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you get seven chances to win four games. So there isn't any game that you don't think is critical. You don't mess around with lineups and experiment and stuff. So this is a lineup that I think is our best chance to win. And what I said before, I watched Scott Rolen yesterday, and to me, his stroke is not right. And I can think of a couple -- there's a couple things going on. There's something going on that prevents his stroke from being right and I don't think tonight is the right time to send him out there when you've got an alternative like Scott Spiezio.

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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