Joe Torre is ready to embark on his 10th season with the New York Yankees, an eye-opening, almost unimaginable tenure as the manager of baseball's most demanding team.

When Torre and his club take the field on Sunday night against the Red Sox -- the defending World Series champion Red Sox -- it will mark the first game for New York since the ALCS, when the Yankees dropped four straight games after taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

As Torre prepared for the final days of spring, he sat down with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand for a candid one-on-one conversation about the Red Sox, the rivalry and what lies ahead for the two clubs.

MLB.com: What is your most vivid memory of the ALCS?

Torre: I guess Trot Nixon making that catch on (Hideki) Matsui in Game 5. When that ball was hit, I thought, 'This is the game.' He made a hell of a play, and when you realize that they sometimes take him out for defensive purposes, that's not a good sign. Maybe that's the way it was supposed to happen.

MLB.com: What is your favorite thing about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry?

Torre: The players get juiced up for it. It's different than (playing against) the Mets. When you play in the same league, there's something more at stake. It sort of reminds me of the old days when I played, where it was war-like -- not to the point where you want to hurt somebody, but you knew how important it was to win. That's the passion that's great about this game. To the novice, baseball looks like a slow game, but what bubbles inside is what this game is all about.

We're always keeping an eye on the Red Sox and they're always keeping an eye on us, but we both have to make sure that all of a sudden Baltimore or Toronto don't go running by us. If Baltimore can pitch, it could be interesting, because they may score more runs than both of us.

It's a great stage. That's why I'm a little surprised that they piled it all into Opening Day and made it bigger than it really should be. You don't need it to be that big. It's not the postseason; it's one of 19 games we play. To me, Opening Day would sell out and it would be exciting without wasting one of the other exciting days on April 3.

MLB.com: What is your least favorite thing about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry?

Torre: Maybe trying to make more of it than it is. It's always a little frightening when the fans get carried away. Things get ugly and people get hurt. It's not that way on the field, even though last year and the year before, we had a couple of confrontations.

There's a great deal of respect that these clubs have for each other, and that should be the overriding factor. It's a tough competition, but you understand that if they beat us, they also worked hard to get there.

MLB.com: Do you like playing the Red Sox 19 times during the regular season, or does it almost feel like too much?

Torre: I don't like playing anybody 19 times during the season. They're trying to make the division games more impactful, but to play each other at the end is more of a necessity than playing 19 times.

Back in 1996, we beat Baltimore 10 out of 13, but when we had to play them in the ALCS, it was scary. The problem with the schedule is that we play everybody else no times, so when you go to a city once, you're at the mercy of the weatherman. I'm sure there's something in between that they can deal with.

MLB.com: As a manager, do you have the same excitement as a fan does for a matchup like Randy Johnson and David Wells on Opening Night?

Torre: I don't think the same as fans do, because they're reading what you write. Not to say that's wrong, but that's how they get a feel for it. We have to look at it as a ballgame, one we have to win. You're really not allowed to sit back and be a fan, because then you're not doing what you should be doing.

Think back to the one with (Pedro) Martinez and (Roger) Clemens (in Game 3 of the 1999 ALCS), that was supposed to be the prize fight, the tale of the tape. Roger got his butt kicked in the first inning and ended that fight real quick.

The excitement with these two groups of fans, I'm not sure what to expect this year, because they won. There's no curse. I don't know what it means, except it's hard to think it's going to be the same.

MLB.com: What kind of encore can the Yanks and Sox give the fans after going seven games in the ALCS the last two years?

Torre: The only thing I can tell you is that it's worth the price of admission. For me to try to predict what is going to happen, I'd be so far off and yet so close. Everything is going to be passionate, exciting and unpredictable.

The only thing you can predict is that it's going to be unpredictable.

MLB.com: Looking back, the way your pitching staff was spent, was deciding a Game 7 starter for the ALCS last year the toughest decision you had to make all year?

Torre: No, it really wasn't. It seemed that way because of the result. It was either Kevin Brown or Javier Vazquez, and both of them pitched before the second inning was over, unfortunately. Neither of them did well, but it wasn't a tough decision, because those were my only two choices in my mind.

There are no easy decisions. Things fall into place for you, and the toughest thing is probably talking about something that was a no-brainer when you made a decision, but having to explain why it didn't work. When Jeff Weaver came in for relief on the road in Game 4 of the (2003) World Series, who else were we going to use?

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