A pregame interview with Joe Torre

A pregame interview with Joe Torre

You mentioned the other day that at some point in the season you felt like Russell Martin lost his focus and then regained it later. Can you elaborate on his -- you mentioned earlier in a press conference a couple of days ago that Russell Martin had lost his focus at some point in the season and that he regained it later. Can you elaborate on that and whether you see any of you in him?

JOE TORRE: I don't know if I meant his focus, I think he just started getting a little bit too big, tried to do too much. Tried to hit the ball too hard, too far.

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Home runs used to, I guess, grabbed everybody's attention and when you have that capability, you think it's because you swing harder it means it will go farther. But one, we put him in the lead off spot. He just seemed to reel in his game a little bit. And, again, not that we want him to take -- we didn't want him to be a different hitter just because he was lead off; we wanted him to be the hitter that we feel he's best equipped to be. And it just seemed to work for him. He drew walks all year. But I think he became much tougher to get out on a at bat basis.

And as far as any kind of comparisons, you know, talking about with me? None. This kid can run. And he's a real good hitter. He's got a great body, this kid. And the ability to throw. He's just got a lot of life in his body.

And, again, to me he's a catcher. He can play -- I've seen him on the left side of the infield, and looks like he can handle that without any problem, because he started as a third baseman.

Can you just confirm that Nomar [Garciaparra] will start at first and Casey [Blake] will be at third today?

JOE TORRE: Yes, Nomar will be at first. Again, when I'm making out a lineup or thinking about making out a lineup -- I told Nomar before Game 2 that he was going to play today, probably going to play today. Chances are he would play today.

Playing first base seemed to be the obvious position, but I just didn't want to say that and then if there's something that came up later that, you know, I didn't think about could change my mind. Knowing that he could play third, too.

But I pretty much thought first base all the time and I just didn't commit totally to it, just in the event that something else came to mind.

Could you please talk about the decision to start [Derek] Lowe in Game 4, specifically was it ever in the back of your mind that he might have started even if you were up in the series for Game 4?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, he was going to start. That was pretty much our plan. I was going to wait until after I watched the first two games, and if there was something there that I was uncomfortable with, then maybe do something else.

But the fact that you have this extra off-day, to me, tomorrow, for Game 4 is the only time a pitcher has to pitch on short rest, and then you can use three starters and have the other guys pitch on regular rest.

And to me, I think getting Chad Billingsley out there as soon as possible again is probably a good idea in my mind. So we were pretty much planning to do this. The only one I think I would have considered starting would have been [Clayton] Kershaw. But, again, with [Hong-Chih] Kuo not working every day out of the bullpen and knowing their left-handed side is pretty impressive, that Kershaw in the bullpen and Kuo in the bullpen and [Joe] Biemel, I think we need those people there.

Back to Russ Martin for a second. Do you see a difference in him in the postseason in the player he's been for you in the playoffs?

JOE TORRE: He's been huge. Chicago he got huge hits for us, big bases loaded double for us, sort of broke the game open for us. I think it was Game 2. He's not afraid of the pressure, and that's one thing that you think you see all year long, but, again, when you get to October that's a special time.

But I think he's played well. He really has. And everybody's ready to play. Again, this is new for a lot of these guys. And sometimes you overprepare. I thought Chad [Billingsley] overprepared the other day. But, again, it's all something that they're going to learn from.

But I still think that overall the personality of this group is that they're anxious to do this thing. They're not shying away from it. So that's really a positive for me.

Does Derek Lowe have a certain style or mind set that you think makes him more conducive to pitching on short rest than maybe other guys on your staff?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think that's a good point. I think the mind-set -- and we talked about it in the last series against the Cubs, that we were probably going to do the same thing. We never had a chance to make that decision based upon the fact that we swept.

That, plus if he maybe is a little tired, a sinkerball pitcher is probably the one guy that's not going to feel the effects of it. Am I going to say that we're not going to monitor him tomorrow and what you may be looking at in the seventh, you may be looking at in the sixth, stuff like that.

But I think he's got the mind-set and the experience that makes him raise his hand any time you think about doing something like this. And it certainly makes my job easier as opposed to trying to talk somebody into pitching on short rest.

I was wondering if I could ask you about the contribution you got from Angel Berroa to bridge the gap until [Rafael] Furcal came back?

JOE TORRE: He was great. We were trying to find a way after Berroa got here and once Nomar got healthy, we sent him out there and he did a heck of a job for us, but unfortunately the manager didn't know when to give him a rest and we sort of wore him down. But Berroa, all of a sudden working with Don Mattingly, he seemed to all of a sudden have a little better feel for the strike zone and started contributing offensively.

Again, he wasn't a .300 hitter, but he got some important hits for us and did some important things. But defensively he was terrific. He was terrific defensively. He did some things out there that I had not seen him do in the past from the American League days. And he seemed to thrive on it. He had a good time playing. And now we use him as a defensive replacement at second base and he seems to be comfortable doing that.

But he was important. We needed to find somebody to play shortstop on a regular basis that could go catch the ball. And he was that guy, because if you're going to waste good pitching, unless you can be strong up the middle. And he helped us in that regard.

Did you ever actually have to talk a pitcher into pitching on short rest in a postseason game?

JOE TORRE: No, but what I mean by that let's say we're making a plan and you lay it out and then you throw it out for the pitcher, what do you think. They're all going to say yes. But pretty much before it got to me I think he approached [Rick] Honeycutt and so I think he was the one pretty much that raised the subject.

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