TONY LA RUSSA: Just a progression.
You have to go all the way back to Spring Training
when he was -- you had to bet, you'd bet he'd start
in AAA. He wasn't necessarily ahead of some of
the other guys that were competing for the starting
But the possibility was, and Duncan has
always liked the young star that's right on the edge
of the big leagues to spend a year in the bullpen.
And you work him in, give him some exposure and
see what it's all about. He looked so good in
Spring Training that we saw that he could be a
member of the bullpen and we're going to be
careful with him. And within a month, he's already
pitching the seventh inning and the eighth inning
and the end of the ninth. Everything he's handled,
there's been absolutely no change. He's been so
Just back to David, for a kid who
kind of looks like a choir boy and some people
say he looks like a bat boy, do you know of a
tougher player than you've ever had and a guy
that just gives his all?
TONY LA RUSSA: I would have to say
over the years, had a whole bunch of really tough
guys who competed very tough and got banged up
and never backed off. But when you consider his
stature, I don't know if I've ever been around a guy
tougher than David. He gets blasted with foul
balls, hit balls, hit by pitches, sliding into second
base, diving. He's fearless. Toughest guy I've
ever been around.
When you were struggling at the
end, you were missing him, was that related?
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, I've got to
be careful with that, because Aaron Miles,
struggling at the end, we were struggling as a
team. But before the end, you know, David missed
more than just the end. Aaron Miles did a terrific
job. We won a lot of games with Aaron playing
short. Really, part of the reason when you look at
how close that margin was, had Aaron not played
as well, we would have missed it.
But David's got a lot of intangibles for us.
He sets an unbelievable example, and guys
respond to him.
Where does Yadier Molina rank
among the catchers defensively? You've seen
a lot of them over the years.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, catchers
like Fisk and Steinbach, he's got the quickest
release and the strongest and most accurate arm
of a catcher. I think you could rank him right there
with Pudge Rodriguez as the two best I've ever
He's got an intelligence that goes way
beyond his couple three years in the big leagues.
Got to be the family he was raised in, the
environment in Puerto Rico. He understands, you
see him make trips the veteran catchers make, just
when you're sitting in the dugout thinking
something should be said, should we waste a trip,
and you look up and he's out there; he's got great
You've had season-to-season
turnover a lot over the past few years. I can't
remember a time when you had this kind of
in-season turnover at central positions. What
kind of challenge does that present for you, for
their teammates, how does that all sort of work
when you turn over so many places in your
rotation and your infield and your outfield
within a season?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think there's two
answers. One, the teammate part of it, because
normally, you build stuff -- actually, year to year.
And so a guy joins you in Spring Training and
we've been really good about guys, by the time the
six weeks are over, they are teammates. So that's
been a real hurry-up. I give a lot of credit to the
guys that have joined us. They came in ready to
become teammates, our teammates welcomed
them with open arms and it happened very fast.
It's a difficult way to get close.
The other one is just, you know, the
strategy part of it. You get to, how to use a pitcher,
how to use a hitter. Duncan likes to get a guy at
the beginning of camp and watch him in batting
practice in Spring Training before the games count.
So that's tough, finding a guy where he needs to
work out. Most coaches try to put guys in the right
spots and avoid bad ones and when you join
during the season, they have a hurry-up, kind of
cram thing and you can make mistakes while
Back to Wainwright for a moment, is
your plan still to think of him in terms of going
back as a starter next year, or with
Isringhausen's physical situation, is that sort of
up in the air?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's a great
question, it was asked earlier. You know, we
purposely have not been thinking about next year
just because this year is still alive and we're
You know, once in a while, the thought has
crept in there. I think the biggest compliment is
that we think he could be outstanding either way. I
bet the organization right now would probably vote
to put him in the rotation. And you can -- you've
got Looper, you've got Izzy coming back. Certainly
the bullpen would be deeper than our rotation.
Like I say, probably right now it would be a
shade towards that way, but what you do I think
during the winter is you just put together as many
good players, pitchers as you can and then you
have a guy like Adam that you think could be
outstanding either place.
First of all, were the diagnostics
done on Eckstein's shoulder and finger? And
second of all, we're not the brightest people in
the world in the press box, but even we called
the suicide squeeze.
TONY LA RUSSA: On that pitch?
Not necessarily on that pitch. But is
he that good at doing that, that even in obvious
situations, you don't hesitate to call him?
TONY LA RUSSA: He's real good,
because part of that, he's absolutely fearless. He
stands in, throw it right at him, he might bunt it just
like he did there.
Most of the times the squeeze, the other
side, it's never a surprise. They pitched out first
pitch; they were expecting it. It's just a guessing
game. He had a sinker down and in, but the other
part of it, the execution. And he's gifted at that
But I mean, tonight, they could guess right.
But it's stuff that, you know, you call a pitch on, it's
wrong. And how many are you going to call in a
row. You've got number two hitter coming up
But the answer is, he makes up plays that
haven't even been drawn up.
And the diagnostics?
TONY LA RUSSA: The diagnostics is it's
a sprained shoulder that's responded well
overnight and bruised fingers that have responded,
according to him, well overnight.
As many places as you've been in
the Major Leagues, what's it like to manage in
St. Louis with the tradition of the teams and the
expectation of the fans? What's it like to be
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I don't want to
get too corny, but it's been an experience of a
lifetime. I started in Chicago and really got into
that one. Chicago is a rabid sports town, White
Sox, Cubs, they don't like each other. That was a
real good introduction.
Then you get to Oakland and that was a
truly unique situation. And you get to St. Louis,
that's one of the keys, and you mentioned it, day-in
and day-out, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson and those
guys, they walk around. The thing I enjoy most
about that is that all of those great Hall of Famers
are pulling for the organizations to maintain that
tradition. So you feel like there's pressure and
expectation that, don't let us down.
You know, then you get the fans who I
think they are more in love with the players than
they are with the coaches and the managers. And
that's true in all our sports. For the players, it's a
great place to play. So I've never been -- every
place I was was a two-team town, Chicago, Bay
Area, whatever, and it's been overwhelming at
times in a positive way.
The neatest thing that I say every spring
and it's been a big advantage, and you see it
sometimes with other teams, they are searching.
The Cardinals, there's no searching. We play
Cardinal baseball just like it was in the '30s and
'40s. It's just playing in the 2000s. It's
straightforward and no tricks. That's very useful if
you're trying to teach players to play it right, just do
it the same old-fashioned way.
Having been through a lot of
postseasons in your career, a layoff like the
Tigers are having, five or six days, does that
help a team, hurt it, or make any difference?
TONY LA RUSSA: There's no doubt, just
like the analogies during the season, you clinch it
with two weeks to go, you clinch on the last day,
you want to get in as soon as you can. I think it's
just like I saw one chart there with the last two or
three teams that had six days' rest, they won.
But I think I remember the '88 team, we
might have had six days off and lost. So, you
know, whether it's us or the Mets, we've got a
You know, I think in the end, there will be a
real effort, knowing the people in Detroit. It will be
a real effort to give them two days, three days to
rest their brains and have another three or four
days to really start cooking again. I would love to
be in their situation. I think we all would.
Carpenter struggled in the
beginning of Game 4 against San Diego, and
last time in Game 2 he didn't quite do that well,
how good overall do you feel having your Cy
Young winner going in the closeout game?
TONY LA RUSSA: I read something, I
didn't think I had said that because it wasn't too
good of a quote. Something about, you know, he's
great, he's going to be great or something, I forgot
exactly how I said it but it didn't sound like
something I would say. What I said is he's as good
as anybody pitching, and one of the reasons that
he shows is that is when he struggles, he fights so
hard, he keeps you in the game and that's what he
did that day.
You watch him 33, 34 times a year, you
have a whole bunch of games where he's just
sharp as a tack, and it's wonderful and there's
other days where it's a real effort.
Our club feels like when Chris pitches, we
have a real chance to win. So he's pitching
tonight. The talk on the plane, there's been talk in
the clubhouse, we did not underestimate anything.
The Mets are playing at home, they are a very
good club, motivated to keep going and it's going
to be a tough game and you want Chris pitching.
We've got Jeff tomorrow if we lose. We've just got
to be good enough to win the game here. You
know, we're going to try to be good enough and if
they are good enough to beat us, we'll tip our caps.
What are you doing in left and right
field tonight, and the reason behind it?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think wherever
possible, you want to play your strongest defensive
club. Now fortunately for us, a lot of our defense
comes from guys that are also potentially
offensive. Encarnacion is playing right, Jimmy is in
center. The call came in left between Spiezio and
Duncan; I chose Spiezio, so he's hitting second,
playing left field.
You look at the series and you can
see a certain attrition rate for starting pitchers,
and neither team has its full complement. Is it
hard to get a pitcher all the way through a
season and to the end of the postseason?
TONY LA RUSSA: I don't know how to
answer that. I mean, we really don't have -- we
had Mark (Mulder), had problems, most of the
second half of the year. We ended up, you know,
without him. We've got our guys -- the Mets had a
couple very tough hits there, no doubt about it. I
don't know, just the Tigers had their guys. San
Diego had theirs. I don't know, I'm not sure. I think
you play a season, it's so demanding, and
sometimes you catch a little break and sometimes
you take a hard hit and maybe a key position
player, maybe it's a pitcher. I don't know how to
What the Mets have had to do, losing
those guys, is a serious hit.
If it does come down to a seventh
game, tell us what you like about Suppan
pitching in a big game like that.
TONY LA RUSSA: I hope not to answer
that question, and if I have to, I'll answer it
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.