TONY La RUSSA: I think looking at their lineup going in, it looked like they had nine guys to play for eight spots. Burke is swinging well and Lamb, Taveras, one of those things, too many good players so either way they win. It's a competitive lineup. It's got a lot of problems for us. But if Matt pitches good, we can get them out, but he had a decision to make and the one he made makes sense.
How did the decision between Sanders and Walker go down?
La RUSSA: It went down separately. I talked to Larry first, and told him we had all kind of ways to go and could he play and it wasn't a question of if he had to take one for the team and he said he can go. So then I went in the training room and it became more of a doctor/trainer evaluation. Reggie's discomfort level, they put it seven or eight out of ten, and when you play baseball, you're going to have to swing, you're going to have to throw, you're going to have to defend, so that's punishment. So So plays and Larry said to he could go, so that's the lineup.
Was it improved at all?
La RUSSA: It's improved some. So maybe if it keeps getting better, he'll take some swings in BP so we'll watch him close.
Would he be available to pinch hit or is he not able to do that either?
La RUSSA: Well, I think it's probably, even if you've got your fingers crossed, probably smart to let the other side think he's going to pinch hit.
I think we'll watch him in BP. My guess is, take one swing, he probably could do it.
Two things, one, is it a lower back strain, is that what Reggie has?
La RUSSA: No. He didn't have a strain. He got pounded on his back so he had some trauma and some discomfort and that's been localized. The neck where he had the whiplash, that's what's sore, more sore.
When you watched Roger Clemens over the years and so many years, has he changed? Is he the same pitcher as when he was younger and if he's changed how has he changed?
La RUSSA: He hasn't changed all that much except I think his command has gotten better than ever. He still throws in the 90s and a lot of years, a lot of innings smarter because he has so much experience. It's taught him a lot about situations like this one.
I have to tell you, my biggest concern, not my biggest concern, but a concern is the home plate umpire, Wally Bell, he's got so much command, he's like Maddux, he's going to pitch on the edges. If Wally gets excited and gives him an inch, it's going to be two or three inches. He's tough enough to hit when it's over the plate and if he starts getting a big plate that's going to be tough for us. I know in our ballpark, both Tim and Greg, and I think Wally will, too, will call a good game and not get excited about the home crowd. But you always worry when a guy has good command that he can get somebody excited.
Yesterday when you were talking about Clemens and who is the greatest pitcher you said Reggie should be considered one of those, did you mean Jackson or Sanders?
La RUSSA: Somebody asked me later and I meant Jackson, yeah.
So he has had success against Clemens in limited at bats, how much does that factor into your lineup today?
La RUSSA: Well, if he had stunk against him and somebody else had been a lot better, may have gone the other way.
But So, he's the first guy you mention when one of the guys is out because he's such a complete player, and the fact that he's had a couple of hits just means that there's no reason not to play him. But there's a lot of reasons to play him when one of the outfielders is missing.
I know he has experience against the Astros from last year, but what do you make of Jeff kind of skipping them completely this year and also his performance in this park in particular?
La RUSSA: Who skipping?
La RUSSA: Well, two years, he's been a clutch guy and that's what tomorrow is, and I think he'll be a clutch guy again.
I was really encouraged to see Garland throw the ball so well. He got a lot of rest, so it shows you if you have good work between and your mind is strong, you can pull it off. In fact, I think one of the neatest things in the post season, I think there's been three times guys go three days' rest and they all pitch well. I think that's no reason why that shouldn't happen and it would be nice to do that without the guy getting psycho because his numbers are so bad. Jeff will have a plan and he's risen to the occasion before for us.
Even with Larry in the lineup, he's obviously banged up a little bit and he has not been real effective statistically yet. With Reggie out and maybe Larry not at 100 percent, how much less is your offense, those guys have so much pop in the corners for you, with one out and the other hobbled, what does that do for your offense?
La RUSSA: It's a situation that we worried about a lot for the whole second half of the season and the guys that played, many times it would be So Taguchi, his RBIs, he gets on base, he moves guys around, so it's a situation that we faced most of the second half. Guys have really been stars who have played in their place.
The point on Walker, you know, he's looked kind of ouchy and then all of a sudden in a game he'll go out there and get two or three hits and do a lot of damage. So I think if it's obvious that he's nowhere near himself, then somebody else is going to play for him. But he's done this a time or two, like I said. It could have been Oswalt that was a problem and not soreness. He's liable to show up today and have the hits that win the game.
Larry's physical situation, is that why Jim is hitting fourth or what went into that decision?
La RUSSA: You know, I just played around with it a little bit and I think a little uncertainty about how 100 percent Larry is. You know, one game or a couple of games this year, Roger was tough on him and one game where he wasn't. So you get Jim four and Walker in the five spot. I think that the other thing, too, if Reggie is not playing in the middle of the lineup, you leave Jim second, there isn't as much thump in the middle. So let's put some thump in the middle, and So gives you a lot of options, maybe a sacrifice in the first inning if Dave gets on.
With the memories of Jeff last year in the World Series and his baserunning, does that serve to motivate that that will be in his mind, going into tomorrow?
La RUSSA: Depends on your memory. My memory is not at all about the World Series and his baserunning. It's about how he pitched in Game 7 of the NLCS, how he pitched in Game 4 of the Division Series. If it comes down to the difference in this competition of Jeff's baserunning, then we're way out there somewhere. (Laughing.) It's going to be his pitching, but I think what we all think about is Jeff coming through for us.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.