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Tony La Russa pregame interview

Tony La Russa pregame interview

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What went into your second base decision today?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think been looking to get Aaron in the game. He's got a chance to be very important to us in this series and nothing better than giving some at-bats. And then the struggles that Ronnie's had against Rogers, that's hard to ignore.

When you consider what Jeff went through in LA, through the regular season, what did you expect of him and were you at all surprised how he was able to pitch effectively for you down the stretch?

TONY LA RUSSA: We watched him on tape and looked like he was healthy. That's a big step in the right direction. A guy struggles and he's not right, a month or so after surgery or something, so he was healthy and we had a need. And the other thing I said, every time that we faced him or I see him on TV he's very competitive. In the end being competitive counts for a lot in this League.

Do you think the cold weather favors the pitchers?

TONY LA RUSSA: That's an interesting question, because I think most times we all assume that it does, because they're working and they're warmer. But just from my experience, past history, there are a lot of games in conditions like this where the balls are so slippery you just can't get the right grip on them and pitchers lose that fine command and sometimes a game like this, even if you've got outstanding pitching, you end up scoring more runs than you think, because the pitchers can't get the ball where they want to.

How much better has Scott Rolen swung the bat the last three games than maybe the previous five games?

TONY LA RUSSA: He looks more like himself when he's right. And a big part of it, even when he was struggling, he was working very hard. He and Hal McRae spent hours, trying to get it fixed and as it happens a lot, hard work pays off.

Could you give us your lineup, please?

TONY LA RUSSA: David, Spiezio second DHing, Albert, Scott Rolen and Encarnacion five, Jimmy six, Preston Wilson, Yadier and Miles on second.

Tony, you worked together with Dave Duncan for so many years, what is it about him that's made him an effective pitching coach? And also the second part, how much influence did he have in getting Chris to the Cards and up to the majors and being a productive player?

TONY LA RUSSA: He had nothing to do with Chris, other than he fathered him. He made it a point to stay out of -- in fact, when we had our evaluation meeting in Spring Training, a lot of times when it got to the nitty-gritty, Dave wasn't there, that way nobody would be uncomfortable being real candid about it. What Chris has done, he's earned his way through our Minor League system and he opened everybody's eyes in Spring Training, and we knew he was an option to bring up if we had a problem. We wouldn't be here without that second-half surge of his. As far as Dunc, I think I've learned over the years he's the absolute complete pitching coach because we've had all kind of starters, relievers, right, left, young guys, old guys, and they come in with different issues and there isn't anything that Dunc is not qualified to talk about. You can go right down the list, I can give you an example with everybody. He's absolutely complete. The other thing that he does, I marvel at because I can't do it, he likes to try to stay with or ahead of what's happening in the game. Back when it was computer, back when it was video, I mean he's always been hungry to stay ahead of it. I say that because I still do stuff longhand. I'm just old-fashioned that way. But I've always been impressed, but I think that's another reason because he stays ahead of it, because he's always searching.

Teams have attributes that develop over the course of a season. Do you think that there are any attributes that your team has developed just during the postseason and if so, what?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's been quite a ride, because we started out well. I can remember people talking about another hundred-win season, and all of a sudden people talk about blowing your chance to get to the postseason, so we went through both of those things. When we got in we had a couple of key guys, so it looked like our lineup, and then we had Jeff Weaver, who had really been clutch there at the end, Suppan had a big second half. So our pitching, we felt better about the bullpen, even without Izzy. We had some weapons. We got in there and we thought we would be competitive. And if you compete, who knows. So I think it was more of a fair challenge for our team rather than sometimes it was on the unfair side. Which it is for a lot of clubs during the season, it's a reality.

They're going to have Sparky here in a while, and he's going to be part of the ceremonies tonight, can you tell us a little more about what he meant to you and has meant to you in your career and how much you enjoy seeing him in the spotlight here and things like that.

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's just not me, it's every young baseball person, whatever, if you're a manager, coach, some guys had his expertise and were kind of were reluctant to share it to everybody. I was just one of the guys that you went up to him and asked him, he would give you everything that he had. So he was a wealth of information. And then as I gained experience you realized how valuable it was. But his willingness to help young people who were trying to understand the game, very, very, very exceptional. And then you watch as far as like an ambassador for baseball or something, he's does a great job with media, fans. And I've had a lot of games managed against him and he's on top of everything. Whether it was pitching, he'd do a great job with pinch-hitters, team attitude, professionalism. We had a guy named Tony Phillips that was with us in Oakland and went over there, and Sparky insisted that he was a Big Leaguer. I've always felt like he's the most complete manager that I've ever been around. Anything the organization needed, Sparky was the man.

Could I ask why you dropped Taguchi from the lineup tonight? Was his performance last night poor?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, he's very good. So we have a good club, we have too many good players. One of the things that So does very well, he helps us with our manufacturing game by bunting and hitting-and-running and stealing, and Kenny Rogers takes that away from you. So we went with a couple of other guys that could do different things. No, So had an outstanding game and he'll play again.

There's a new labor agreement in baseball, just want to get your reaction to that.

TONY LA RUSSA: Is there?

It just happened.

TONY LA RUSSA: Good. Well, I'm all for -- I think we're all for certainty and not going through a winter of wondering what's going to be going on. So I applaud the powers with the union and the MLB. Helps us go about our business.

You talked about a couple of your coaches yesterday, what has Hal McRae brought and what kind of job has he done for you?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, Hal, in the days that I started managing, which was '79, the mark in the Western Division was the Kansas City Royals as far as what winning was about, and George Brett and Hal McRae were the winners who set the example. So we were on the other side, it was painful to compete against them. So when we had a chance to bring him on to our staff, he's a very smart man, he understands what's hitting is about, he knows when to say something, when not to say anything, and he understands winning.

We look at Molina and the way he can throw and all the things he does as a catcher, but what about how fiery is he personality-wise in terms of taking charge and working with the pitchers?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think it's amazing and he showed it -- well, he showed it two years ago when he was backing up Mike (Matheny) and we were having a good year. Last year when he was so young, no hesitancy at all, to take charge of a pitcher who was having a problem. Our pitchers respect him for that. He has real feel for it. He doesn't go out and insult you, he does it in a way that's constructive and positive. This guy, he's so far ahead of the game. Ten years from now, he'll have a little better idea, but he already knows stuff that you would expect from a ten-year veteran.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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