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Tony La Russa workout day quotes
10/22/2004 5:51 PM ET
Q: Everybody focuses on Albert Pujols' offense -- justifiably -- but could you discuss his defensive contributions to the club?

A: Well, I think he demonstrated as a rookie, I mean, he played above-average defense at third, first, left and right, which is amazing, and concentrating on one position. I think he'll contend for a Gold Glove by next year.

Q: We're from Canada, and a lot of talk from Canada about Larry Walker being in the World Series, can you talk about, from your perspective, what it means to see him (there) after he fell short in '94 with the strike?

A: Well, there's a good example. I think it's such a tremendous experience for a professional to have a chance to contend for the ring in the World Series. I mean, there's so many horror stories. I don't care if you're a big leaguer, you don't have to be a great big leaguer and you never get the chance, it's really something that is missing when you retire. And Larry is one of the first-timers on our club; we have a number of them. That's why there's no doubt in my mind we're going to be really excited to play as good as we can. But it's a special meaning. Larry has everything you would want on an individual basis: MVPs, batting champions and now he gets to play in a World Series. He's very excited and I think it will have great meaning. It will be an experience he'll never forget.


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Q: We know you have offense all the way through the lineup, but what (Jim) Edmonds and (Scott) Rolen and Albert have done this year, historically, it's really never been done in World Series play going in with numbers like they have. What has it been like watching those three guys in the middle of your order the whole season?

A: A lot of fun. You win a game by stopping them in putting points up there. I just think, you know it's really a team effort because the first couple of months, the first three months, Scott went on a big run. Albert started off, for Albert, a little sluggish, and he went crazy. And Jim, the last four months, and so you take a big section of that season, all three of them were working.

Then it became very important to set the table. and that's something we did really well with Tony (Womack) and at one time, Edgar (Renteria) second, and (then) Larry came in. But I like what Albert said yesterday when he was asked about the MVP; it's a team full of MVPs, so I hesitate to brag on those three guys' offense where our strength is that we have eight guys that take really good at-bats, and in this park, we'll have nine.

Q: When you look at the two lineups, do you see a lot of similarities in the potential in the kind of numbers that the two teams can put up?

A: Well, I look at the lineups for the last -- of the four teams that got into the finals. I mean, there were four outstanding lineups, and there were days when the pitching wasn't sharp, runs got on the board, and whenever the pitching is sharp, as it always is in those games, they got those outstanding lineups out. So I think it will be the same, whoever pitches well here first. There's a lot of damage in both lineups.

Q: You've been on both sides with a designated hitter situation in the World Series. Who is benefitted or who gets hurt by that?

A: Well, I was hoping that we were the underdogs, so I hate to answer that honestly.

Q: You're always the underdog.

A: Because I think the American League -- it's a lot easier for us to add a hitter, and then you get in our park, the pitcher is involved in the game and that's not easy for him. Some guys make it work like it's no problem, but it's not normal, it's not easy. You have to run the bases, and usually the American League lineup has a DH guy that may have a tough time playing a position. So, you know, there's a couple of edges that you lose. But, you know, they can overcome the edge and it's not a big thing, but it's something.

Q: Who is your DH tomorrow, and what's your rotation for the first four games?

A: What a great question. Where are you from, sir? (Laughter.)

Q: Booneville.

A: Woody (Williams) tomorrow, TBD, TBA. With the win yesterday and the celebration and getting packed, the architect of our pitching has not told me how we are going to pitch. We played around a little bit and we still have some decisions to make. Everybody will know soon, including the pitchers. And I was starting to mess around on the plane with the lineups, and I really don't know for sure who the DH is yet. I've got a suspicion, but I might use a right-handed hitter, so you figure out which one of our right-handers might get in there, but that's not for sure.

Q: With all of the talk about how long it's been since the Red Sox have won the World Series and reversing the curse and all that, do you feel like the party-pooper coming in and trying to stop that from happening?

A: No, because I come from St. Louis, and talk about pooping on a party, man. (Laughter.) We haven't been there in 17 years and there's been a lot of doggy bags; we lost that Championship Series three times.

I mean, it's a time for both fans to be selfish and both teams to be selfish. They want to win for all of their reasons, but we have a clubhouse full of guys that have never had a World Series ring. So, you know, we're going to try and be greedy and selfish just like they are.

Q: You talk about the intangible of defense, and you guys have a great defense, Boston has pretty good defense, as well, how that might play in this series.

A: Well, if you play long enough, I think the beauty of the game is that you win a bunch of games if you do as much possible. Like, if you defend all over the field, you're going to win some extra games. We run the bases better than any club I've ever had, and that's won some extra games. Will it make any difference in this series? Depends on how they defend and whether -- how they run the bases, and whether you get on base to run them. And then there's the offense.

I mean, I saw quite a few of the Red Sox games. I know they are playing sound defense. We play good defense, sometimes great defense. If you want to win, whoever wins -- because you're not going to outscore people.

Q: You used Woody (Williams) as the Game 1 starter in both of the series and also in this series. Is there something about his style that makes him well-suited for being the first guy out in that series?

A: We certainly didn't do it timing out the World Series. He's got five days, and he's the perfect guy for it. Everything about the other ones, we had a choice. He's very competitive and he goes out there with good stuff, and he's going to find a way to keep you in the game. He pitched in the Interleague Play last year and does a good job. He can make pitches to righties and lefties, and he's got good experience, good competitive experience. Just the only problem, you know, he's not going to swing the bat and that's the right-handed DH I'm talking about; I might just let Woody hit.

Q: Is it just a matter of putting the same four guys in the slots as far as the rotation, or could there be a new name or a new person in there?

A: No, it will be the same four guys. It's a little bit tricky. Like I say, I was so concerned with beating the Astros that I didn't really start messing around with it until early this morning. It's a little tricky, so that's why it's not easy to announce it.

Q: Could you talk about Fenway Park and its special nuances, challenges that it presents for your team.

A: Well, it's a neat environment. Fans are very close to the ballpark, to the field, the players -- you feel their presence. A lot of passion, a lot of knowledge about the game. So it's not -- you know, it's different than someplace where they are far away from you or not as interested or don't know as much.

But mostly what's about Fenway is the team you're playing against. I mean, you go to Camden Yards, or you name any of these ballparks that are really fun and special, it has to do with the club you're playing and how well they play against you. So our problem is not Fenway, it's the Red Sox.

Q: How much of a lasting experience does it benefit your club from what you learned about this team in the League Series a year ago?

A: I think it's a little something. I mean, two-out-of-three, in their ballpark, you could give me a bunch of clubs that we either didn't play here or had not played in the last couple of years, a bunch of the guys that were on the Red Sox then are Red Sox now.

Yeah, it helps, especially it helps because it wasn't until late last night that we were in this thing, and we're playing tomorrow. You know, we like trying to get ready. It's going to be a real crash, hurry-up kind of thing. It helps a little bit that we've done it recently.

Q: You just mentioned the quick turnaround here, and it was obviously emotional, the seven-game series. Do you feel any concern about an emotional letdown or hangover of any kind? And also, if you could talk about Jason Isringhausen's development over the time you've had him and his importance to your team?

A: Well, I mean, that was a great LCS. We have such respect for the Astros, such a close series, terrific win, we celebrated. But I could tell, even by their comments yesterday, especially this morning, seeing them get on the bus and the plane, I mean, they know what's at stake here. You're not going to see any letdown or satisfied or whatever. I mean, we're going to be ready.

And Izzy, you know, any job you have, you learn by experience, and he's now been a closer for several years. He's learned more how to warm up and he's learning more about situations. What Dunc (pitching coach Dave Duncan) always does, he's added a couple of things. He was kind of a -- there's a couple of things he would do to get you out, and now he's got three or four and, in fact, he's working on five. I think he's going to be better and better and hopefully gets a lot of chances.

Q: What of David Ortiz's exploits were you able to see, and what did you think of it as you watched the Red Sox games? And also, having your pitching staff survive the Carlos Beltran experience, will that help in this series with Ortiz and Ramirez?

A: Well, yeah, because of the way the games were spaced, we had a chance to see a lot of the Red Sox and Yankee series and a lot of Ortiz's heroics against the Anaheim club. For two years now, he's really been in clutch form. He was big damage for us in the Interleague series. You know, you take your hat off because he's such a tough out and looks like guys rally around him.

Beltran, oh, it was almost good to watch, except you're in the other dugout, very painful. We couldn't shut him out. It was a hell of a series.

Q: Will it help that the pitching staff survived there?

A: The mistake we're not going to make is concentrating on Ortiz and Ramirez and forgetting the other seven guys. One of Boston's strengths is exactly what we do; we send eight or nine guys out there and any one of them can beat you. So you've got to respect every one of them.

Q: Given the condition of Curt Schilling's ankle, what are the pros and cons of trying to bunt on him -- situational bunts or trying to test him to see whether he can move around?

A: Well, I watched quite a bit of that last performance and it looks to me like the thing he has to do is throw the ball well and his ankle is good enough to do that.

The other thing -- you know, sometimes you pitch a guy that's got a little hamstring problem. Terry (Francona) is very sharp. You play first base in a little bit, third base in a little bit, take the bunt away. We're just going to play that way. If somebody backs up, I don't care if you have the best fielder on the mound, we try to bunt on him. You take the bunt away, you swing. The sacrifice is there, we sacrifice, but we are not going to try to run Schilling around because we are just going to run ourselves into outs.

Q: Just talk to us about your exhilaration factor and your emotions of being back in the World Series.

A: Well, I mean, I'm not the best at describing what you feel, just like each of these guys who come in for the first time are going to be really excited and it's going to go very fast and when they get back in, they will appreciate it more because they have a better idea.

So, you know, I've been here before and I know this is the best sports event there is. It goes on for seven games maybe, a lifetime opportunity to win a ring. Just everything culminates, you start talking about Spring Training, and there's so much involved with the team that survives the season and you survive two playoffs. You've got everything on the line, and everybody's watching. I mean, it's the best of everything and I think just the fact that you've been here before, you realize, just enjoy the moment and do the best you can and no regrets. I think that's the only advantage that I see from getting in before; just like you pop champagne, you look forward to the next one -- you know how great it is. Our guys that are in there for the first time, they will enjoy themselves, and I think they will get motivated to do it again.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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