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Tony La Russa pregame interview

Tony La Russa pregame interview

For those of us who don't see you every day, didn't see you down the stretch, tell us a little about this bullpen and how it came together, especially the younger guys.

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, they have been a little bit different roles, because we had Izzy as a guy we were building from. But in those roles, each guy I think for the most part stayed healthy and was effective. A couple rough spots, but overall I thought they were effective. And then Izzy goes out and everybody moves up a stride and they have all responded.

Yadi was talking yesterday about, we know he's made a lot of adjustments to various things over the years, but he said he's really had some success with kind of staying back and trying to go the opposite way, and I'm just wondering how he's looked to you at the plate this last week or however long it's been.

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TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I start with the fact that he's always hit, and it's very frustrating sometimes this year when the hits weren't there. He experimented a lot. He's got something that's working and the thing is, he's also shown, as a lot of good hitters do, they can look out over there but if you pitch him inside, he can pull the ball. So it's a nice approach, and it's getting results.

With the way the pitching is set up, starting pitching is set up for both teams, what kind of games are you expecting here in the next couple of days, especially since both teams have injuries, key injuries in their starting rotations where you're going a little bit deeper to guys that you didn't probably expect to use in the postseason?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, first of all, I don't think you can ever predict. Baseball, that's just the way it is. That's the magic of it. I don't care what the numbers are. You go out there and it's a competition. We did expect Suppan to pitch and we put Anthony on the roster, we didn't think he was going to pitch. And they did the same thing with Trachsel and Oliver Perez. Suppan has pitched very well. Perez has had his moments and so has Reyes. Who knows how effective they are going to be. I just know both sides have lineups that will test a pitcher, but the first day, the score is 2-0.

Most of your moves that you made in the last game worked for you, I was just curious if there's a fine line between being very smart and good fortune at this time of the year managerial-wise?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think what you learn, you're responsible to take your best shot and you just have to figure what's your best shot is. You can't sit there and try to figure out which shot is the one that draws the most compliments or the least criticism. It doesn't work that way. In the end, I don't care how much success you've had or lack of it, every move you make is judged by whether it works or not. If you use somebody to pinch-hit, bunt, don't bunt, strategy doesn't work, there will be enough people to say, bad decision. So why drive yourself nuts? You just do what you think is right.

Is Scott Rolen in the lineup tonight? And how do you keep this thing from becoming a tryout in each game, which I think is a sentiment he had according to the St. Louis paper, that Thursday was a trial-type situation?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I read that and it quoted a couple of, I don't know if it was players or somebody that had an opinion. Encarnación is not in the lineup today. Was he trying out yesterday? You try to put the lineup out that has the best chance to win. Scott Rolen is in the lineup today. I saw him dive and make a play yesterday. That's a healthy indication about what his shoulder is like, that his shoulder was not restricted. To me it's just a heckuva play. He's just got to find his stroke. He's an outstanding player, and you always give an outstanding player benefit of the doubt. But I mean, you look around, Chris Duncan is not playing today; Preston Wilson is playing today. You're supposed to produce when you play.

I assume then that Spiezio is in the outfield today. Can you tell us how well he's done defensively as an outfielder this year?

TONY LA RUSSA: He does the outfield like he does -- he's most comfortable at first and third, and we've played him at second. He does it like he does everything else; he competes. And if you compete, it's amazing how well things work out, and he has played at least an average left field for us.

Are you a believer in momentum within a short series, and if so, what kind of a value apart from one win do you place on last night's game?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, that's a real involved question that's gotten a lot of attention over years and years, sports or whatever, man. What do I believe? I believe it was a real exciting win. I believe that if the one club that had the exciting win and comes around today and is patting itself on the back and feeling oh, just wonderful, you get just slapped. I believe the club that gets beat, if they get their dauber down, they have a better chance to get beat, just say, we just lost a tough game. When I have learned and what I believe is that you control your own momentum. And that is, you want to remain up, you want to remain positive no matter what, you control it. The other thing people talk about, which I think is a lot of truth, in our game, if one starting pitcher is better than the other one earlier in the game, that dictates a lot of how that game is going to be played. So if there is something to the starting pitcher, that dictates momentum.

Sounds like you laid out most of what you had in your lineup. What went into the various decisions you had to make in today's lineup?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, Preston is hitting second. You know, he's had success against them. You know, I think Chris is trying real hard, and this is a guy that can -- he really picks and has good command of several pitches. I thought the tough call was Juan. But as I mentioned before, you know, I don't think Juan is swinging the bat as well as he can, and when you have alternatives, you go with the alternatives. So Scott is going to play left and Preston is going to play right. A guy that had a lot of consideration was So. So I think we have a good team; too many good players.

You've said several times that you with a watched Ronnie Belliard from afar and had interest in him before, what did you make of how deep he played defensively and what do you make now that you're closer to kind of the action there, what he's able to do with that?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think he's got deeper over the last few years. He hadn't been playing that deep in Milwaukee and Colorado, that's something he did when he got to the American League. He's got more experience and he makes it work. I think he's real aware, only thing we tried to help him with is guys that have deceptive speed and he got burnt once this year with Prince Fielder. Prince Fielder is a big guy, but he runs well.

You mentioned Oliver Perez before, he had an unlikely journey here, he said the last place he expected to be was the NLCS. In your experience, who have been some unlikely starters and how have they done for you?

TONY LA RUSSA: Oh, for us?

Or against you.

TONY LA RUSSA: I can remember '88 when the Dodgers had to start Tim Belcher in Game 1 and that was one of the keys to them getting a jump in that series. I don't know, I'd have to -- it would take me some time to think about guys that we pitched that were -- like we haven't very often put an assignment on Anthony Reyes like we're doing to him tomorrow. But he and Oliver, they share, they have talent. They are young. They will go out there and don't be surprised if their talent dominates a lot of good hitters.

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I've read your quotes and stuff going back and forth the last couple of days about Albert. Do you think this has been overblown, and what's your thoughts on this as a couple of days have passed and you've settled down a little bit?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's very irritating to me because I know Albert is classy, professional, respects the game, respects people in it. It's an issue with how we go about it here in the last X number of years. You want quotes from players, right? So the guys that give the best quotes are usually the guys that are not the very best competitors. If a guy burns with the competition and you get him ten or 15 minutes later, he's liable to say something that's not really how he reflects. Albert doesn't disrespect Glavine, but they are making a lot out of his being upset that he didn't do better and we didn't do better. You walk into that game and say, Mets only get two runs, don't you think we have a hell of a chance to win? So we were all upset and disappointed. So you jump on a player and you get him right -- like I said before, and it's not a threat, to me it's just an answer. I don't want to see Albert Pujols misrepresented. If this happens a couple of times, I'll tell him, make yourself unavailable and that happened a couple of times and he got ripped because he wasn't around to answer questions. For me, let his actions speak better than his words. If people are going to start hammering him because in the heat of the moment he says something that wasn't, I don't think, anything to do with -- we should give Glavine credit for how great he is and how effective he pitched, it's not worth the embarrassment, I would say just make him unavailable. It's not good for the game. Everybody just use common sense. Is that what Albert says? Just think about it. We had that incident years ago in Oakland, Dave Stewart, fiercest competitor around. Yet you talk to him after a game and you ask him a question after he had gotten beat, man, the stuff that came out of his mouth that was just incendiary. Just have to use common sense. If somebody labels Albert Pujols as disrespectful and not a good pro, that's ridiculous and it bothers me tremendously.

To be fair, he was not spontaneous, he made us wait, so he had plenty of time to calm down and the questions were not inflammatory at all. They were very casual questions and his reaction -- and that's why there was such a huge cry. It was not immediately after the game by a long stretch. That's probably why.

TONY LA RUSSA: To me "not immediate" means the next day. That's one of the credos that you use as a manager when you get taught when you're a baby in the Minor Leagues. The Minor League manager says, if you're upset, wait until the next day until you talk to the player. In the heat of the competition, the guys take this stuff serious and losing is upsetting. And the guys that are not upset, I repeat, the guys that give you the best quotes, I would check their competitive fire; it needs to be burning a little. So I would ask him the next day. If it's the next day and he had time to reflect and be sensible, then that's a little different.

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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