10/14/2004 3:14 PM ET
Joe Torre off-day quotes
Yankees skipper discusses ALCS
Q. You have a lot of health questions surrounding the rotation heading into the post-season and yet you have five out of six superior performances from the starting staff; is this reasonably more than you could have expected?
JOE TORRE: Well, I always try to look at the glass half-full, and I know during the season with Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, and even Lieber, for that matter, didn't pitch a lot because of the health issues.
I said at the time, I said this may work to our benefit later on if we're lucky enough to get to the post-season, they are not throwing the number of innings that a lot of starting pitchers throw. That's the only thing I can put it on. The last few weeks felt pretty good. Lieber you can see the last couple of months we didn't have to give him any special treatment.
Early on when Lieber was pitching, whenever we had an off-day, which was often, we always try to move him back in the rotation to give him extra days. In the last couple of months it wasn't necessary to do that.
So I think the fact that we had health issues early could have contributed to the fact that we have a little more in the tank.
Q. Is Duque your starter for Game 4 and could you talk about why?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, Duque is starting Game 4. Experience. You know, we spoke to both Duque and Javy today, and explained to Javy, obviously, it wasn't anything he did wrong, it's just the fact that Duque has this post-season experience and we feel that he's healthy enough to try this. Just obviously to be ready, especially in light of the fact that the forecast isn't real good this weekend, or at least tomorrow. So the danger of starting and stopping could mean that you may need that extra starter.
Q. Historically, the Yankees have been terrific front-runners during the post-season when they have had a lead in a post-season series; can you talk about why that might be?
JOE TORRE: Well, to me it's short series. After you play 162 games and you understand that normally the best teams get to the post-season, you really have to stay on top of it in the post-season. You can't relax because the momentum switches so quickly.
We've been fortunate that when we've gotten a little bit of a head of steam going, we've been able to maintain our edge. I'm comfortable the way our team is playing right now, and just going into games, and we constantly remind the players about it and the players are reminding other players about it. Of course, going into Game 3, we're facing Arroyo, who has given us a lot of trouble and we just want to make sure we have the same type of approach; not thinking that we have an edge. You know, we want to play every game the same as if it's tied 1-1, 0-0. But we need to win this game and that's basically how we've tried to approach the series.
Q. You say experience with El Duque, but as far as physically, what do you see differently this week that you did not see last week during the Division Series; how has he gotten better or stronger?
JOE TORRE: Well, Mel -- I didn't see him early on. Mel Stottlemyre would take him into the bullpen. And Duque, Duque himself wasn't really pleased with the way he felt and felt what he referred to as "dead," no life in his shoulder. He really had not complained about pain. And when I went out there in the bullpen with him the other day, you know, starting out it took him a little time, but of course, Duque is one guy that does things the way he does them, and he just goes easy, goes easy, and then once he gets comfortable or loose, he seems to try to do what he does in the ballgame.
And when I saw toward the end of that, it looked pretty good, but I didn't really make a comment till Mel Stottlemyre and I talked later on, which was actually just right after he threw and he said it's really a pretty good step up from what we've been seeing.
Q. When was that?
JOE TORRE: The workout day I think.
JOE TORRE: I guess it was Monday, yeah. And he just felt that it was much different than he had seen.
And then Duque, contributing the fact that not only it felt good and he was excited about the fact that he was able to do certain things in the bullpen; and then the fact that he felt good the next day and had a bullpen yesterday and felt good. So we just decided to take a shot. And the fact that, you know, Javy is in the bullpen, hopefully gives us a safety net just depending on how long he can go and how good he feels the day he pitches.
Q. What has not been working for Tom Gordon, and you have not used Quantrill yet; is that just circumstances?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, circumstances with Quantrill. I have no problem with using Quantrill, but his time is usually around the seventh inning and our starters have been getting us beyond that. And again, when you get to the seventh inning and you get in a situation like last night, with men on base, Gordon is the name that pops up. Last night we were going to go with Lieber into the eighth and we had Gordon warming up in the seventh, just in the event we don't hit the double play, probably would have pitched to the next hitter if we didn't get that double play or if he had gotten a hit. We just feel this time of year with the off-day that you do get that we extend our short guys a little bit longer.
Gordon, it looked like he was a little jumpy to me last night. He threw good. His numbers were good. He got two important outs for us, but we made a pitch, we made a bad pitch to that same guy who hits bad pitches for sure in Varitek; I think he tried to slow a slider and just hung it up in his eyes.
But again, when we get to two out in the eighth inning and you have Mariano Rivera, you know, I think we're going to probably go there more times than not.
Q. Do you say anything to Tom at all -- he admitted to maybe getting overexcited in some situations and it may have affected his stuff?
JOE TORRE: Very honest.
Q. Have you said anything to him?
JOE TORRE: I can't tell him not to get overexcited. It's an exciting time of year. I think Flash is intelligent enough to understand that you make adjustments along the way, whether it's in how you breathe or how you prepare or whatever it is. But when he looks around, he sees a couple other guys are excited, too. So it's not something that's really a weakness; it's just something that you have to fight through. Again, we are still going to go to him in the eighth inning in those situations because of his stuff and his know-how and the emotions, which you really have to fight to get through.
Q. What is your recollections of your first visit here and how, if at all, has the ambiance changed over that period of time?
JOE TORRE: My first visit? You mean as a Yankee manager?
Q. First one ever.
JOE TORRE: Oh, first one ever. Well, I came as a member of the Milwaukee Braves in a Jimmy Fund game and played here. My first recollection was a very vivid one and that's Ted Williams sitting in our dugout during the game just talking about hitting and that's something I'll never forget. You couldn't wait to make an out or get a hit so you could come back and sit next to him. He was such, he was so open, you just respected what he was and what he stood for and his candor and the whole nine yards. But I'll never forget that as my first recollection.
The Red Sox have always been high on my list of respecting an organization. I mean, I was approached in, what was it, '86, I guess, was it '86? No, '88 -- was that when McNamarra was fired? In '88, I got a call earlier in that year about the possibility of managing here. Lou Gorman called me. He said, "I don't know what we're going to do." When I say earlier in that year, it was toward the middle of the year.
He said, "I don't know what we're going to do, but would you be interested in managing this team"? I said certainly. And they named Joe Morgan interim manager at the time because they didn't fire John until after the All-Star Break, which obviously, showed that there were a couple of people trying to make up their mind. They named Joe the interim and I think he won 12, 13, 14 games in a row and he became the permanent manager. I remember sending Lou a box of cigars saying thanks for thinking about me. That certainly was the right move because he went on to the post-season.
I've always respected this franchise, you know, being 64 years old, you go back and know the great players that have come through here and all the great things that have happened here. You know, the fact that they have not won a World Series since 1918 doesn't keep you from remembering Fisk's home run and the '86 World Series and how they got into it and stuff like that.
Q. How impressed have you been with, maybe beyond what you expected, of Gary Sheffield, not just in terms of ability, but in terms of personality?
JOE TORRE: Well, ability first, because really that's the only thing you get a chance to experience when you're not on his team. I remember the first look I had at him was when he was playing third base for Milwaukee when I was a broadcaster. You know, those were more or less his early, volatile years when he was a lot more immature. I mean, he was immature at the time. But you could see the talent was huge.
Then when he went from place to place, when we signed him, I felt just from watching him play and knowing that he played on an everyday basis that he would handle the New York situation. And then he really validated that feeling when I talked to Bobby Cox in the spring and Coxy said, "you're going to love Sheff." Just by happenstance I get a call from Jim Leyland, he was calling about getting a couple tickets for a Yankee game for a friend of his, just unsolicited he just said, "what do you think of Sheff?" I said "I love him." He said, "I knew you would."
When managers you respect tell you things like that it makes you feel good. I think right from spring training on, you could see that he was not looking for anything other than the support of the people around him, because he just wanted to play ball and win. He certainly has gained a great deal of respect in our clubhouse.
Q. Obviously you're very confident in your ballclub, but during the year, I've heard you talk about how tough the Red Sox are and how evenly matched the teams are, so is there part of you that's a bit surprised to be up 2-0 in this situation?
JOE TORRE: Well, you never want to say you're surprised when you win. But the fact of how tough it is to win, I know we had an 8-0 lead and you sit in the dugout and you say, do we stop trying to steal bases or did we stop trying to score runs or bunt a guy over, and then all of the sudden you see what happens the other night; they are capable. You certainly have to pay attention to detail when you go out there and try to beat them. We have had two well-pitched ballgames against them.
Pedro last night, you know, giving us one run for - what was it - six innings or so, to win that game last night was a big boost for us, because Curt didn't have his good stuff. He was hurting a little bit and we took advantage of that.
But to be able to hang tight and hang tough last night was huge for us. And as I say, you never want to be surprised when your club wins. I feel good about the way we're playing right now. It doesn't guarantee you're going to win, but at least I know that we're not getting distracted by anything.
Q. Terry Francona said earlier today that Schilling isn't going to pitch on Sunday and there's still some question as to if he can pitch at all. How does that change the dynamic of this series?
JOE TORRE: We can't go to Sunday; we have to play a game Friday. Whatever happens, that's Terry's decision and Curt's decision and we can't get caught up in what may or may not happen.
In baseball, you know -- other sports are different in my estimation, because when you match up and whether it's basketball, hockey and football and try to set plays, that's one thing. But baseball, it's really how you do, and you really don't concern yourself that you have to do it against somebody. So you have to maintain the fact that you stay within yourself.
We can't worry about who is going to pitch on Sunday or if there is a Sunday. So we don't know that. We pay attention to Friday and hopefully we can stay as focused as we've been in Games 1 and 2 and the only way that can happen is to have Browny go out there and give us a chance to get into the game a little bit.
Q. Will you keep the same lineup and will the weather impact your rotation? I'm thinking specifically of keeping Mussina on his normal rest?
JOE TORRE: Again, we are not going that far. We are proceeding like we are going to have the next three days. As I say, you're concerned about weather, but you really can't try to rearrange your schedule because of it. We'll take it a game at a time.
My lineup, I'm not sure what it's going to be yet.
Q. What was going on with Posada and that camera in the ground and where does everything stand?
JOE TORRE: I don't know. Jorge is a passionate guy. He just doesn't -- he just likes to be able to play baseball without people interfering, I guess. He just felt that that was a problem.
We talked to him about it and I don't think he did anything last night. I know he was messing around in front but it wasn't the same type of messing around he was doing in Game 1.
You know, we were made aware -- I saw what he was doing, but we were made aware that Major League Baseball doesn't care for it and we talked to him about it and as far as I know, it's not an issue.
Q. You guys had to come back for so many wins this year but this series so far is kind of different. What does it say about you guys that you are doing it a little bit easier now with the starting pitching and getting a lead early and is that kind of the way you prefer to do it all along?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, you prefer to have your starting pitching. You don't get anybody warmed up for seven innings; that's not too bad. That means you're very comfortable who your starter is and what he's doing. It has not been that way all year because we've been a little inconsistent in that regard as far as even staying healthy.
But sure, there's no manager that likes to say, go ahead and get a lead and we'll come catch you. No, that's not an ideal set-up, especially when you get to post-season when you know that the stakes are high and the games are few. So you try to -- certainly ideally, you want to do it the way we did it yesterday. The other day was nice that we had a big lead and maybe that's what a cushion is all about; that you can afford to give some of it back.
It certainly was -- it's better watching your pitcher control the game.
Q. I wonder if you can talk about Bernie's ongoing October heroics and how his role may have evolved over the last couple of years; you've got a lot of new faces with A-Rod and Sheffield, how is his role different from what it used to be?
JOE TORRE: Now he's one of the guys we look to lead other people and to show other people how it's done. When Kenny Lofton came over here, we started in the spring and I think Kenny understood that there's a lot more history going on here with Bernie and what he has done for this ballclub in the nine years I've been here and before I got here.
So he had a little bit of an inside track that he did perform well in the post-season. I remember having to drag him off the steps in 1997 when he made the last out in the Division Series and he couldn't understand why that happened. He cares very deeply, and to play this game is very difficult for him at times because he doesn't have the instincts that other players have. You know, everything he does, he really has to think about and work at. But again, long before his contract, he was one individual and long after he signed that lucrative deal, he was that same individual, which I think everybody around appreciates.
But it doesn't matter what's gone on in his year. This time of year, he seems to get a look in his eye and a good feel in his stomach, for me anyway.
Q. All of the questions that were swirling around your pitching staff this year, in your estimation is this the best job Mel has done to get them in the position to what they have done in this post-season?
JOE TORRE: Mel always does a great job. The thing about Mel, he never sits there and wishes we had something we didn't have or somebody was healthier than they are.
He is steady. I trust him. I mean, I rely on him late in the game when we're changing this guy, not changing this guy, and he'll give me some scenarios and I'll make the ultimate decision. But he's not going to wait for me to say something and agree with me. He feels strongly in a certain way, he's going to tell me. And it's a respect that I appreciate and it's something I trust. But Mel, yeah, he could be doing his best job because he didn't have as many pitchers to work with and we didn't have as much of a safety net this year was we've had in the past where we could always plug somebody else in.
But again, he gives those pitchers that confidence that they can accomplish something, with a little bit of a rough edge, letting them know how tough it is and not to take anything for granted, yeah. He's a special guy.
Q. Alex Rodriguez has always said that the seven-game series last year between the Sox and the Yankees really was the catalyst for him wanting to be part of this. Could you talk about how he's handled being part of the Sox/Yankees and how he's doing now?
JOE TORRE: Now or in April? I mean, he wasn't handling it very well in April. He was a mess. I think we all were. I maybe overplayed it when we came back from Japan and now we know we're going to go -- the questions were all about, you're coming back from Japan, you're going to be tired and you have the Red Sox to deal with. He spent a lot of time telling players what the rivalry is all about and that it's important to win. I may have overdone that in the spring. He certainly tried to be more than he was capable of being at that time.
I think it's been a slow process for him, you know, even beyond the Red Sox. But I think all of those experiences early on certainly helped him sort of slow the game down for himself, and the last about five or six weeks he has been the guy that we knew he could be, but right now, he's able to slow the game down and be the guy that we need for him to be. Because every single person's important, and when you sit between Jeter and Sheff, you know, his at-bats are very important and he's been getting some quality stuff.
Q. A lot has been made about the difference between these teams. Is it important that in addition to winning your team goes about it's business in a certain way, and is that spoken or unspoken as far as what you tell the team?
JOE TORRE: It has nothing to do with the Red Sox. It's how we approach every series. Respect is important to me. Again, I'm dealing from my end, I'm just telling you what I tell my team. I'm not just telling you that because we play these guys, you have to have that. This game is tough to play. Whether I'm putting somebody in the outfield or the infield and I have another guy sitting on the bench that feels he should be playing, the only thing I have asked my club and my players; you know, respect the fact that he has a right to be there, too, and this is where Ruben and I had problems back in '96. You know, he didn't recognize that at that time.
So the respect starts in your own clubhouse. And then even if a club you are playing is in last place, respect the fact that somebody can kick your ass at any time and just don't take anybody for granted.
We like to be businesslike. And it has nothing to do with reacting to what other people say or how somebody else behaves. You know, we deal with what we deal with, and we insist, and maybe the fact that we play in New York and get all of the attention all the time, we just try to fight off distractions and be able to do our job. You know, sometimes the distractions are maybe what other people say, including our boss, or it could be some hardship, like Mo is going through right now.
As I say, it's practice that we've experienced, and, you know, I'm proud to say that these guys have been very professional and you know hopefully we can continue staying focused.
Courtesy FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.