10/18/11 8:58 PM ET
Workout day interview with Tony La Russa
By / MLB.com
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the acquisitions Texas made, especially in their bullpen, late in the season. You guys added four big pieces to your pitching staff. How has that changed your team?
TONY LA RUSSA: Will, I give our front office and ownership a lot of credit because they had to make the decision to pull the trigger, and believe we had a shot. But getting Edwin Jackson and McClellan to go to the bullpen, which he becomes a real weapon. Getting Dotel in the trade, just to help us get deeper, and then we I think we saw R Zep. Pitched against a little bit, but I read the reports, and we were excited to get him, and after watching him he's a real weapon. We got Arthur, a veteran who's been through everything.
Even when a couple of guys who were out, Lance Lynn was out, just didn't join us this past series, and Sanchez, our bullpen got a lot deeper, and then the improvement and development of Jason Motte being able to pitch against anybody late. I was just telling somebody there's an irony to the season. Early in the year our bullpen struggled sometimes they struggled by the way because our defense did not support them. But now they're one of the major reasons we're here.
Q. Obviously everybody has talked about the great run you made to get here. How do you not allow your guys to be satisfied just to reach the World Series? And how has Arthur Rhodes helped you? And do you think he'll be amped up to face his old mates?
TONY LA RUSSA: Arthur, you don't have the longevity he's had and the success if you're not something special, and Arthur Rhodes is special. Texas knows what they were doing or whatever, but we are just glad he's with us, not only to come in and give us a legitimate weapon the left side but he is a major presence, fun, serious. And I told him, all those years against him, I told Walt Jocketty and John Mozeliak, we talked about Arthur Rhodes being on our team before, and now we've got him.
But if there's one guarantee I can make, I can guarantee you that our club is not going to change its attitude about competing in the World Series. I mean, the Rangers are going to get the best we've got. We're going to have exactly the same approach, do the best we can and treat it like it's the last game you're going to play. We're not going to change anything.
Q. Watching you on Sunday night during the trophy presentation you appeared to be really sort of taking it all in. I wonder, does this seem real?
TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, I'm sure it is, because I've pinched myself enough. But you're right, I found myself that's one of the things you get when you get a little experience, there are certain things when it's over that you didn't really notice. So you say, man, if you ever get a chance again, the last few times that and what you want to experience, you want to experience the guys, look around and see the guys who have gotten you there, the players. And I pay a lot of attention to the guys who are doing it for the first time. That's a particular joy of mine. So I pick out the first timers, and half the time I was up there I was looking around. I wouldn't disrespect anybody, but that's part of what I like to do.
Q. To follow on a couple questions ago, especially over the last year, the front office has been really aggressive in addressing a variety of things that needed to be addressed. Two parts: One, do you think it's fair to say that Mo's imprint is even more on this team than even the '09 playoff team? And two, how has your working relationship over four years with him developed?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think you give credit to his experience here with Walt. I mean, Walt, with the okay from ownership, really helped us as we got down to the 31st. But adding Matt Holliday, that was a big piece.
I don't believe in fact, I'll tell you what I do believe: I'll tell you if that trade had not been made, I believe we probably would have been an under .500 club. That's how important it was to us. And yeah, had the good fortune, Mo did not come from the outside. He was part of what was here all the years, and it was seamless because he came in. What he has at stake is exactly what we all have at stake. If we don't play well, you're going to get slammed. Comrades at arms.
Q. Somewhat of an off beat question if you'll bear with me: Every now and then you hear about coaches and managers kind of having problems with the actual phones that you guys use in the dugouts to call to the bullpen. You've kind of been known as a person to make those calls. I was wondering your thoughts on if you were satisfied with the phone as a piece of communication technology, and if you've had problems with them in the past, and if you thought there could be something better to use than the phones that they are now.
TONY LA RUSSA: What, do you work for AT & T? (Laughter). I haven't thought of that. I'm not prepared for that one.
Well, we had the one issue in Philadelphia, and right away the umpire took care of it and Charlie came out and asked what it was, and they said, yeah. I mean, you have technical foul ups. That's why I limit my technical exploits to paper and pencil.
No, I never thought about how to make it better. It works most of the time, and if it doesn't, you just tell one of the rookies, it's part of your Big League dues to run to the bullpen and tell them to get up.
Q. Do you think these two teams are a bit similar because you guys have both gotten extremely hot down the stretch to get to where you are? You both lost aces in Wainwright and Lee to the Phillies. How do you see these two teams? And who has the edge?
TONY LA RUSSA: Good question, and just I mean, I follow baseball all year long and obviously they've been a really good team. I'm interested in the American League West because of Oakland, so I've watched the Rangers probably a little more than some of the other American League clubs. So I know them from watching them on TV. And it sure seems like there are quite a few similarities with the danger in the lineups. Their starting pitching is like ours.
If this becomes a starting pitching series, don't be surprised. The talent is there. There's really good offenses. What's happening is, I've said it before, if a guy is not sharp, the offenses are creating damage, so you go to a reliever, for both of us.
But I don't think you really have a feel for the type of competition until you actually play. You can watch video, you can watch TV, you can read reports. It sure seems like there's a lot of similarities, but when we play, there may be differences that will come up. Probably will be some.
Q. From a manager's perspective, is Albert Pujols a once in a lifetime player?
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, the problem with answering that is the disrespect to just the clubs that I've been around, Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines, Greg Luzinski, Rickey Henderson, and Mark. But I said after his rookie year, he's the best player I've ever seen, and that was ten years ago.
I've said this before: The problem is I've been around long enough, some of you have heard these answers, and you get tired of them, but I think it's the best way to describe it. I heard Reggie Jackson say this one time years ago when somebody was asking about Aaron or Mays or Musial, and he said, "If you're in the conversation, that's enough." Well, Albert is in the conversation of a lifetime type player, and whoever else is in that conversation, have at it. But I can't tell you what a privilege it is to watch this guy for 11 years the way he plays the game, and the way he is off the field.
I do believe he called time on purpose because he had a sense of history about Prince, whether or not it is his last moment in Milwaukee. That's a special man.
Q. What decisions have you made with your starting pitching as far as however games you've made those decisions? The other thing related is, is Carpenter a 100% physically? Is he as sound as you would like him to be?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the last one first. If he wasn't sound, he wouldn't pitch tomorrow. I think what I understand is that way back in August every once in a while he would find his elbow was a little stiff, so he would monitor his bullpens, but he also finished really strong. He's been getting treatment, and I know put his hand on the Bible the other day a couple days ago with the trainers and the doctor, and they all feel he's good to go.
As far as the rest of our staff, we are going to announce that Jaime is pitching Game 2, and right now Dave is home, will be back tomorrow, and I know that we're going to look at it closely. But I think we'll penciling in Kyle Lohse for 3 and Edwin for 4, but that might change when we talk a little more.
Q. Garcia is going to open Game 2, and my understanding he'll be the first Mexican to do so in a World Series since Fernando Valenzuela. I want to ask you on what you base your decision to give this huge responsibility to this Mexican.
TONY LA RUSSA: In the two years he's been with us, not only is he a very talented pitcher, but he's pitched very well, and what he is yet you have to remember that he is young, and there are times when he has an issue that he's learning how to make the adjustments, and two or three years from now, he's going to get better and better. But right now he's plenty good enough and he's pitched very well, especially in our park. He would pitch here, and if there's a Game 6, I'd expect to give it to him again.
Q. I was just wondering, as far as Dotel goes and what he's added to the team, how would you describe his addition to the team and what he's contributed here?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, on the field, we've seen him a lot. We didn't see him much this year, on tape, and he's been very impressive with the life in his arm. He's had good stuff, plus stuff, and a plus breaking ball and plus location.
And the other thing that's happened, what's been really good for us, is one of Jason Motte's biggest assets has been coming in during an inning with inherited runners. He was our go to guy for that a lot, and as he started pitching more and holding them for the ninth, we needed him for that, and we use Octavio now, and he's done really, really well. When he's had a couple extra days' rest, he's had really nice life, and what I've been impressed with is that if you pitch him two days in a row, he's got life the second day, too.
The other thing that you know, he's a fun loving guy, been around a long time, was embraced right away. He embraced us, we embraced him. And I'm so disappointed in myself, I knew Arthur had not been to a World Series, but I did not realize until we celebrated that this is Octavio's first World Series. It's a kick to see Furcal. These guys are quality veterans, and they're finally getting a taste of this experience. So in a way the club is rewarding him for helping us get here.
Q. Your team hasn't played the Rangers in seven years with the quirk of the Interleague schedule. Does that create any extra challenges to prepare for a series like this when you haven't even seen a team for that length of time?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's a real issue for us, but I think it's the same issue knowing Ron some and Mike Maddux and Jackie Moore, the people I know best over there. I think they're preparation fanatics, as well. They have the same problem as we do. You can take reports, you can take video, you can take comments from players who have seen us play or whatever, but the best preparation you have is to actually be in competition and watch the way guys respond, and neither one of us have that. So we're at the same place. It's a little uncomfortable, but it's uncomfortable for both, I think.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about your bullpen situation, how it's been just about totally overhauled since the beginning of the year and how it was kind of a work in progress all year, and I guess lastly, the impact that trade had on where it is now?
TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, that's the thing that I'll probably remember the most about this season, besides coming back like we did. Last year we had a good bullpen, and Franklin, Trever Miller were an important part of it. This year we got off to a slow start, as I said. Sometimes maybe the pitcher struggles some, but our defense did not get the outs that could have changed a lot of that early. So it wasn't like we were pointing fingers just at ourselves totally.
But as we got along, we suffered a couple injuries, Sanchez that came along so well was hurt. He's okay now, but we haven't put him on the roster. We had Fernando Salas come up, who did an outstanding job. We had Motte develop. We had a young starter named Lance Lynn take two starts, come back in the bullpen and he was lights out, and he had a rib cage so he was gone. Now he's back.
Through it all, I just really believe it's another example of the greatness of Dave Duncan. I mean, he takes what we have, and he's had he had Marty Mason there for years, very good, and Derek Lilliquist, his first year jumps right in. I mean, they do a really good job. They recognize what guys can do and not do and then they pass them along to me and you make a decision during a game. It's the most interesting story on our team, except for the heart we showed coming back as to how much of a weapon the bullpen has become.
The trade and everything, it took McClellan and Dotel, it beefed up the right hand side. We lost Sanchez and Lynn, and R Zep is this young man has got a terrific future whether starting or leading, as part of that trade, and we signed Arthur. I think I said earlier, without this trade, we had a legitimate risk to finish under .500, because we were just getting so thin and it would have been hard to finish.
Q. Lance Berkman talked about when he was on other teams before he came here, he would watch you in the dugout and there was something about you that would rub him the wrong way. Is that something that you find for guys that come to play for you that experience that before?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I can say, every time Lance got a game winning hit, I was over there, yeah, yeah. I wasn't cheering for him. He did that a lot against us.
Mo and I have heard that enough. You know, the way I was raised, and that's why I don't have any problem with any manager that you people think I have problems with, the manager's responsibility is to your team. That's your family, baseball family. And the benefit of the doubt goes to your team. Although you can appreciate the beauty of Major League competition and you respect I respected Lance off the charts all the time, I was never pulling for him to have a big day. I was pulling for him to have a bad day. I've read a couple things he's said since he's over here, and that's pretty much you get close to your players, you care for them and you've got their back and have some fun with them, but that's your players, not the other players. Even Edgar Renteria, who I loved like a son, when Edgar was at Cincinnati or San Francisco, I just kind of went (waving goodbyes).
Q. Could Holliday clean up in the end of this series versus the end of last series, do you see that happening again? And Craig versus Berkman against any of their left, do you see that as a question or do you pull Craig for the middle three games?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I'll tell you right now, Lance is playing right field tomorrow against Wilson. They announced their right hander is pitching. I do believe I answered earlier that one of the things about our ballclub, if you're a National League team, sometimes you're not built with a DH. If you're an American League team, sometimes you have a DH who can hit but can't play defense, so I don't think the Rangers have that problem. But we don't have the problem going the other way. We have hitters on the bench like an Allen Craig, that'll find it whether he goes out there and Lance comes in. We've got hitters ready for those games over there.
And who hits fourth and fifth, we've actually been talking about it, and the only reason it's an issue is that this year Lance has hit around .270, 280 against left hand pitching. If Matt hits fourth and Lance hits fifth or vice versa, I guess we've got the night to think about it.
Q. Skip sounded like he's okay. Is that your understanding, he's okay, and if so, are you going to add him to the roster?
TONY LA RUSSA: I'm not sure I know the etiquette. After all these years I don't know the etiquette about announcing the roster until it gets announced. All I can tell you is I've heard what you've heard, which is he's okay, and he's going to be considered and has already been considered by the roster. I don't know about revealing I don't think I'm supposed to.
Q. My question is about the roster, also. It appears that Westbrook is I think he thinks he's out. Without violating etiquette, how will you retool your roster for the World Series?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's one of those good things that's not going to get an answer until tomorrow. All I can tell you is when we discuss the roster today, some of the same reasons that went against some people in the first go around and the second go around, it's the same kind of what if'ing and what if'ing and what's your best and Jake is getting a lot of strong consideration just because of his talent and playing three games in their ballpark. Here again, I'm not giving you any answers, but he's getting strong consideration.
Q. I notice you've got the World Series ring on. Is that the 2006 ring. Do you wear that all the time, or is this special now that you're in the series?
TONY LA RUSSA: Actually I didn't realize I had it on. I had my Foggers on, whatever it is, I wore it to the ballpark and I usually take them off, and when I wear them, I wear them both. They're hard to get, so I enjoy them. I didn't even realize I had them on because I don't usually keep them off at the ballpark, but it's been kind of busy. The truth is as soon as I walk out that door, they'll come off.
A Workout Day Interview with Chris Carpenter
Q. When you left Toronto and were looking for another club, some people at the Rangers really wanted you. How seriously did you consider them? And at any point did you actually consider going there?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Well, the Rangers and St. Louis were the only two places I visited. I actually went to Texas and met with their staff and doctors and all that stuff and also came here and met with St. Louis. Fortunately it worked out here, and I've been able to reestablish my career here.
Q. Just wondering what you can recall from that meeting that you guys, I guess, had hereafter that Dodgers series, just wondering why you felt it was important to have a team meeting then, what the general message was and how you think it helped you guys, if at all.
CHRIS CARPENTER: I definitely think it was important. I think it was more than just me thinking that we needed to at least say something, and I'll keep it very short because what happens in there and some of the things that are said in there is between us and our family, and it was basically just that we needed to play a little better. We needed to everybody understood where we were at and what was going on, what the expectation level was of our ballclub, and we weren't meeting it.
Even if we don't win or go to the playoffs or don't win another game the rest of the year, which obviously probably wouldn't happen, that we were going to go out and make an effort and at least show people that we're going to make that effort and not embarrass ourselves because we worked really hard all year to put ourselves in that position, and I don't think anybody liked the way that we looked or the way we were playing the last week or so before we had that meeting. That was it. Did it help? I don't know. You can ask all the other guys, too.
I know that we started playing better after that.
Q. How you're feeling has been discussed a lot here as of late. Tony, I guess, kind of jokingly said you had your hand on a stack of bibles the other day and said you're good to go. Can you share how your arm is feeling?
CHRIS CARPENTER: It's interesting how everything came out, but I'll speak about it one time, and that's it. Coming out of that start in Milwaukee, I had 200 something innings, 4,000 pitches or whatever and it's the middle of October. Everybody has got soreness and everybody has got aches. I got some treatment on my elbow. My elbow is fine. Tony and Dunc would not throw me out there if it wasn't, and neither would the trainers or doctors. I would have been fine to pitch two days ago or yesterday, whatever day Game 7 would have been, and I'm fine to go Wednesday. I wouldn't go out there if I wasn't. That wouldn't help my team anyway.
Q. How did you think Albert Pujols dealt this season with his impending free agency? And I'm wondering if you can picture him in another uniform with his free agency coming up.
CHRIS CARPENTER: I don't want to picture him in another uniform. Can you? Of course, because that's the name of the game nowadays. You never know what could happen. How he dealt with it was like he deals with everything else, and that's with amazing professionalism. He knows what his tasks are, he knows what he wants to do, and that's come and play baseball and help our team win. He dealt with that all year and did a phenomenal job, had a great year again.
Q. How much does it stand out for you guys in the clubhouse what the front office and what Mo have done over the past really 12 months? They had some issues with the offense last year, so they go and add some bats, issues within the bullpen so they go and make the trade. Within the clubhouse what do you notice when they do things like that?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Well, I think any ballclub takes notice of that, takes notice that they're doing whatever they can to give you a chance to win, no matter if it's off season or mid season, they try to do everything they can to give us a shot, and they did that.
I said this after the game in Milwaukee when we won, that this has just got everybody has got to give a lot of credit to this organization top to bottom, with moves that were made, free agent signings that were made, and don't forget some of the young players that are playing key roles that have come up through the organization. It shows what the Minor League people are doing down there, and it shows what the top guys up here making moves and bringing in some key veterans. It just shows that this organization is doing things the right way.
Q. What's your take on this Texas lineup, and what's the best way to go about shutting them down?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Well, obviously they've got talent from top to bottom. They're dangerous. I watched a little bit of their games against Detroit here and there, caught some highlights. Obviously there's a lot of homers going up in Texas and in Detroit. They've got a powerful lineup. Just like any other lineup, the key is to get them out, getting ahead in counts, controlling counts, keeping the ball down in the strike zone and keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate. I'll deal with all the other things after that, but I mean, that's how you get good lineups out. They're going to do the same thing to us. If you keep the ball down and keep them off balance and move the ball in and out, you're going to get outs, and if you don't, you're going to get beat.
I'll do all my scouting and my video stuff tonight and tomorrow and go ahead and put a game plan together. But ultimately you've got to keep the ball out of the strike zone and keep it down.
Q. Mark McGwire told me earlier this afternoon that this might be the best managing job that Tony has ever done. Would you agree with that assessment?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Well, I'm not a manager, and I try not to do that. I don't second guess or question anything that any of my managers have ever done, because it's just not my place. If it was, I'd be a manager, not a player.
But that being said, with the things that have gone on this year, starting from Spring Training with the loss of Wain O, to the way we played through mid year to the way we played through the end of the year, to watching what he just did in that series against Milwaukee, using the bullpen the way he did, if I was going to give you my honest opinion, I'd say yeah, but again, I'm not a manager, so I'm not questioning him.
Q. You've been known to sweat through three or four jerseys in a hot summer game in Busch. Cold weather, hot weather, does it matter to you?
CHRIS CARPENTER: No, not really. You deal with weather like this in the beginning of the season. It's no different. Go out and pitch. I'm going to be nice and warm anyways because I'll be all warmed up doing my thing, and I'm not concerned about what the weather is doing, unless it's raining and we don't get to play. That's no fun. Hopefully it doesn't do that.
Q. You've played here a while. You've played with Albert for a while. His numbers are so steady year after year after year. Have you seen any change in him over the years? And if so, how has he changed, or is he just as steady as the numbers would seem?
CHRIS CARPENTER: I would say he's just as steady as the numbers seem. I think that's what makes him consistent. He prepares the same way, knows what's important to him, doesn't take anything for granted, and he's very professional. He knows what's expected of him. I've said this before, and I've said it in these interviews earlier in the post season when they've asked me these questions about him: Unfortunately for him, the expectation level, not only in baseball, the fans of St. Louis, a lot of times the guys in the clubhouse take advantage of how great he's been and how consistent he's been. At times you feel like he can't do anything wrong, because if he does, what's wrong with Albert? It started this year at the beginning when he started with a slow start. He continued to play, continued to do what he needed to do, and all of a sudden at the end of the season his numbers are what they are, and he's a great professional.
Q. The LCS for both of these teams was a little unusual in that both starting staffs didn't click the way they had up until then. Do you think we'll see a return to normalcy and that the starters will do better in the series for both sides?
CHRIS CARPENTER: I mean, you hope so. I think we need to. I don't know much about the Rangers' pitching staff, but I did see some of the things that they didn't go deep in the games, a lot like we did. But for us, I think we can be more consistent pitching count wise, getting quick outs, and I think against the Brewers' team, as many times as we faced them, as much as we know about them and they know about us, I think the deeper you got into a game, you could see that it was kind of running out of ideas. And that's what makes Tony so great. He can recognize that and make the moves that he did.
Q. How much better is Jon Jay now than he was maybe towards the end of last season or in April? And also, did that catch the other night remind you of anyone?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah, actually it did. It was a great catch. He's been playing great all year. I'm happy for him to get the opportunity where he's at, what he's doing to show how talented he is, another guy that works his butt off every day, has his program, has his routine, sticks to it, listens, pays attention and works hard. I saw him playing years ago, I won't be able to recall which year it was, I don't know if it was '07 or '08 when I was rehabbing my elbow down in Florida, and he was with the Florida State League team, and he was the same there. He did the same things. He was prepared. I remember him asking me questions about how I pitched certain guys and why I would do that, and he's always wanting to learn, and he was just like that little just the quiet guy sitting in the back corner listening and paying attention and just waiting for his chance to shine. I really believe that he's going to be a really star player, really good player for a long time to come, just because of his passion for baseball.
Q. You talked about the familiarity you had with the Brewers team. You go from that to not having seen Texas in seven years. Does that favor the pitching in this series?
CHRIS CARPENTER: I don't know. I really don't. I don't know if when you're dealing with two powerful lineups like we have if there's in favor of anything. You've got to go out again, and we'll come up with a game plan, and you've got to make pitches. It's who's going to be able to execute the most, and not only that, but hopefully when you make good quality executed pitches, these guys, that are obviously really good hitters, don't do damage with them. They're supposed to do damage with the ones that aren't good. You've got to keep them off the ones that are good and do the best you can and see what happens.
Q. I was wondering, given what you've gone through in your career both performance wise and health wise, when you get to a point in the season where there's so much on the line and you're faced with an ouch or something more than that, to what extent do you allow yourself to protect yourself? I'm not saying anything serious is wrong, but to what degree do you think of your own self interest in a situation like this, or is it totally off the table?
CHRIS CARPENTER: I've worked too hard to put myself in any situation or any risk where I'm going to do any damage to myself. I've gotten to the point where if I shouldn't go out there, I'm not going to go out there. It's too important to me, it's too important to my team. I'm fine, okay? I promise. I'm fine.
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