Whitt/Leroux interview March 8

THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and get started this morning. Take questions, please.

Q. For Ernie, since we last spoke, Italy upset Mexico. How do you think that changes the Italians going into today's game?

ERNIE WHITT: Well, we know they're going to be strong. We knew they were going to be strong before we even played them. They have some quality players over there.

So, like I said, we don't take any team lightly. We're going to go out and do the best we can.

Q. Ernie, you had to adjust your lineup. Can you tell us a bit about some of your thinking into the way you set up the batting order for today?

ERNIE WHITT: Well, again, we just moved Sanders up to the fifth hole in place of Brett. I'm going to put Robby in after Sanders, just to try to throw a right hander in there.

But, again, when have you left handed hitters and you don't have a lot of right handed hitters, there's not a lot of options you can do. So I think we have got five straight lefties with a righty and then two more lefties and a righty. So it is what it is.

Q. Chris, how will the butterflies compare to when you made your Major League debut in September of 2010?

CHRIS LEROUX: I think it's a little different. Starting is always a different way of looking at things. But there's no butterflies, it's just more excitement than anything. I'm excited to get the opportunity to start.

Everybody knows this, but I never started in the Big Leagues before. I think that's pretty much common knowledge at this point. But I've done well in AAA as a starter, and I've done well in Dominican as a starter, and I think that come Monday hopefully I'll have done well here as a starter.

Q. Ernie, quick question for you. Can you assess the tournament overall and what it will take for your team to be successful?

ERNIE WHITT: Well, naturally you don't like playing a tournament this early in spring. I think that's the common thing for everyone. But it is we'll go out and we'll play the best that we possibly can without subjecting anyone to injuries. We will not ask them to do more than what they're capable of doing. If they're comfortable playing five or six innings, that's what they will do. Naturally we have pitch counts on our pitchers.

But overall I think the concept of the tournament is great. I love international play. I think the excitement that is brought to the tournament is tremendous. It's just finding the right time for it.

Q. Chris, I believe you had a pectoral issue last year. How did that affect your stuff, and is there a dramatic difference between the way you're throwing the ball now or able to throw the ball now compared to last year?

CHRIS LEROUX: Well, I tore my pec, yeah. And when I was coming back from it last year, my velocity wasn't the same. Coming from throwing 94, 97 to throwing 90, 93, it's a huge difference.

You got to change the way you pitch. I think last year I learned how to pitch a little bit more. I used my slider a lot more effectively. But I worked my butt off this offseason to get everything back, and I'm back to my 2011 form. My fastball's back to where it should be and everything's back to where it should be.

Q. Ernie, does the pitch count in the first round work to your advantage in a way because of the consistency and depth of your bullpen?

ERNIE WHITT: I like our bullpen, so we're going to try to keep all of our pitchers, our starting pitchers and our piggyback pitchers, at right around 45 pitches. Again, hopefully that will get us to about the fifth or sixth inning, and then I'm comfortable with our bullpen after that.

So if we can keep our guys at that limit, 45 to 49, not going over that mark. And then our bullpen guys, I really don't want to pitch them back to back days, so we'll try to separate that a little bit too. This game today is very important. We're going to do whatever we can to get a victory here today.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.