Tony La Russa pregame interview

Tony La Russa pregame interview

What is your lineup for tonight?

TONY LA RUSSA: Eckstein, Duncan DHing, Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Encarnacion, Belliard, Molina and Taguchi in leftfield.

Kenny Rogers seems to be getting better as he gets older. From what you've seen, how is that possible and performance-wise, and also in the postseason almost personality-wise he seems different, not the kind of calm guy he normally looks like, he's really fired up out there.

TONY LA RUSSA: I think nowadays veterans, if they're very smart about their nutrition and how they work out, they maintain their skills and they've got all that experience that gives them potentially the chance to be better than ever, and when I see him, it looks like his fire is burning pretty well, but he's turned up even more. Sometimes that works against the guys. It's worked for him. I'm sure he's going to be fired up tomorrow and he'll be tough.

You and Dunc have been together a long time, but now you're managing his son. He's in there as DH. Does he ever give you a nudge and say, Chris is hot, he ought to be in the lineup or how does that dynamic work?

TONY LA RUSSA: You know with Dunc, it's like E.F. Hutton, if he says something I listen. And against the Mets, he said pinch-hit Chris, and I pinch-hit him and there it goes. I think if somebody from USA Today, I would suggest them staying away from Dunc, because they called Chris brutal, and I would fear for their safety, whoever is associated with that scouting report, because he would hurt them. So the way it works is that Chris has given us a great lift. It's been a real treat to watch him. But if Dunc is disappointed with the days he doesn't play, he only hurts me a little.

With the two choices you had in there today, is Taguchi, is that largely a defensive thing in this outfield or what goes into that and also what goes into the options with Duncan?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think the two hole in front of Albert, and that's the reason we got into the postseason. Early on I was thinking Spiezio, and I checked the lineup card from our game here in June and Verlander was really tough on Scott, so why push it. So had walked a couple of times and competed well in that series, and he's swinging well, and I think you get his potential offense plus great defense.

For those of us who have been covering the American League, discuss how Wainwright has evolved into your closer, and how he built on the big save the other night?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean it's been an evolution that was so quick. Like I said there's a long version and short version. The very short version, he came to Spring Training with no spot on the club. He had to really open some eyes, but he was given legitimate assignments. But the thinking was he'd go back to Triple-A. But one of the things Dave Duncan likes to do is take the promising starter, put them in the bullpen a year. It gets his feet wet, especially around our starters who work so well. He can learn how you can condition yourself. So if he looked like in Spring Training that he could get big hitters out in a carefully set-up situation, he could make the club, and he did. So we started out to be really careful with him and you just had to see him in the first month or two, he just was taking charge. So we kept increasing his responsibilities and supposedly the pressure later in the game, and he kept responding. So soon he was in the seventh and eighth, when Izzy went down he was the logical choice. He's looked exactly the same since the assignment in Spring Training, he really has until the day the other day in New York.

Todd Jones has made some derogatory comments about Jeff Weaver, as a manager that has shown he's been protective of his players, what's your response to that, and how do you handle a situation like that?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I noticed those in -- I qualify it by saying, I'm only protective of the guys that deserve it. The thinking about being a player's manager, I never have liked -- if a guy is a teammate of ours and he doesn't care about the outcome of our game, he doesn't care about his teammates, he shows up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and forgets us the rest of the week, I'm not protective of him. I'm not a player's manager. But what Jeff Weaver has done for us, we're real supportive, protective, whatever it is, and those comments upset me. Now, I'm not sure what the history is. I know more than a lot of their guys have never been in our club. I know Todd had several conversations with him, I followed his career, and I think he's really a good pitcher. I respect what he's done for the Tigers. But I was disappointed because to me comments like those should be addressed privately among teammates or ex-teammates. To air them publicly I thought was a disappointment. And other than, I mean, there isn't anything else to say about it or do about it. But I was disappointed and the teammate that Jeff has been with us, we would rally around him against those comments.

Dave McKay is someone that's been on your staff for a number of years, talk about some of the assets that have made him so valuable.

TONY LA RUSSA: One of the neat things that happened is that -- sometimes there's a belief that managers and coaches are friends; never been allowed that luxury. People I work with you can't. It's better when some -- a fellow joins your coaching staff because of his expertise and the work he does, and then you become friends afterwards. That's the case with Dave. We went over to Oakland in '86, he was there as a coach and played for Billy and he was there coaching and after observing him for half a year, and we had the chance to make the '87 staff. It was a no-brainer. Since then he is probably the most reliable coach I have ever been around. If you have something that needs to be done, and you ask Dave to do it, you can bet your life that it will be done. He's a very talented guy in a lot of areas, he's a great worker. Also one of my favorite things that he does, we encourage all coaches to do, he takes no crap from any player because he's a very respected coach who does a good job. Sometimes players start playing the role like, I'm the star and you're the coach. I've seen Dave stop BP, walk up to the guy and tell them, "I'm not having anything like that again." "Yes, sir, Mr. McKay." I love the way he carries himself. And I love the way he supports the importance of coaches, Major League coaches to a ballclub.

We sometimes hear players say for their career to be fully complete they have to win a championship. How would you view what Albert's done, and what would winning a championship do for his career?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I don't think it's smart to frame it that way, because Albert is one of many, many guys on our club that have not experienced a world championship. So what it means to Albert is what it would mean to any one of our guys that doesn't have the big ring. But I do believe that one of your dreams, one of the benchmarks of your career is did you ever get that -- we just talked about it the other day, you win a pennant, you get a ring, but you don't get the ring. You've got to win four more. In his case, one of the reasons I respect him so much is that he is dedicated to help get his club in this position and get the four more. It hadn't been about stats, it hadn't been about money. This guy is a winning player. He's going to be out there trying hard. But it's just like the rest of our team, it's just as important to the rest of them as it is to Albert.

You won the NLCS, even though the production of your 2 and 4 spots wasn't up to what its usual standards are. As a result Albert had one RBI in the series. How big is it during this series that you at least get closer to the norm with that part of your lineup or does that prove that it's not that necessary, you can win without that production?

TONY LA RUSSA: What it proves is that when you get into October, you're facing pitching that can shut you down and it's tough to string rallies together and put up crooked numbers. We got here, that's true, but we're here because the Mets, with their really potent attack are pitching good enough to get us out. And now we're facing the staff that had the best ERA in Major League Baseball. I just know that to us to get four wins, we need to pitch like we've been pitching, but we need to find a way to break through offensively enough. And it will be a real challenge, because of the quality of pitching.

You've got a quick turnaround to the World Series, just like you did in 2004. You thought that was maybe a factor in what happened to you guys that year. How have things been different this year? Is there anything you can do to help the team get over that and move on?

TONY LA RUSSA: That's a great question because it's something we actually addressed. We pointed out that in '04 we won at home. So we celebrated until four or five in the morning and then you had to kind of stumble around the house packing your family. We didn't get to Boston until early evening and it was just a mess. And then the first game was there and it was a rush. We won in New York, we got here at 5, we were packed. We think we've slowed everything down and we've really worked hard to put that one behind us and concentrate on this one. So there's a couple of differences, we'll see how it plays out.

For those of us who haven't seen Anthony Reyes much, what makes you confident in him and what is sort of his long-term ceiling as a pitcher in this game?

TONY LA RUSSA: He has the physical ability to be a solid, winning Major League pitcher. I think the impressive thing about him that he's demonstrated a couple of times last year and some of the spot starts this year, which make us think he's got a shot tonight, he's got good composure. You're going to see a guy that he's not fizzing all over the place, he's not breaking into a sweat, he's going to go out there and pitch the game. He deals with situations well. Guys get on base, he gets them out and throws a pitch. So that gives him a chance today and for his future if he stays healthy and keeps developing, he's a solid, Major League starter.

I realize your options were limited, but going into tomorrow with Weaver starting in the city that he called home in a while and the organization that he kind of grew up with, is that a situation you like or having your druthers would you prefer to avoid that?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, I love it because one thing is that's why he started in San Diego; he's been outstanding on the road. And he's a veteran that will take that whatever the adrenaline is and make it work on his behalf.

Anthony Reyes spoke a little bit yesterday about why he abandoned his wind-up about the third inning of his last start.

TONY LA RUSSA: What did he say?

He thought that -- well, I think Dunc came out and said to him, "I think you're tipping your pitches in your wind-up, so why don't we go from the stretch here on, and we'll deal with it in your next start, instead of going through the whole process out on the mound or between innings." How have you talked about that? Is that something where people in the dugout start talking about it? How often does that happen?

TONY LA RUSSA: It happens more often than you'd believe. There are a lot of guys that are trying to read pitchers and I don't know if it's 40 or 50 percent of the time; more than you would think. And I think it is true, it happens more with young pitchers because that's not one of the things they fine tune before they get to the Big Leagues. So he's been working on it between then and today. If he goes out and has a problem, you go in the stretch. One of the problems, it is a habit, and you may be thinking about it. If you get out on the mound he should be thinking about pitch, deliver it and then to be distracted with, you know, whatever you do, it makes it counterproductive. We're going to watch him close and if we see anything, put him in the stretch over time he'll fix it.

When you saw it, was it based on what he was doing or hitters' reaction?

TONY LA RUSSA: Dunc saw it and they were having some swings and taking some pitches, which are telltale. But if you can see it, I mean the Mets had some veterans that are -- they have well-earned reputations for it, you know they're seeing it. It was a no-brainer.

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