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10/06/06 7:24 PM ET

Tony La Russa workout day interview

Manager comments on Suppan, Cardinals' lineup

Tony, in the game tomorrow, what will you be looking for out of Supp?

Tony La Russa: Some shut-down pitching like we had in their place, that would be a great step in the right direction.

Not that you have been back in town long, but have you noticed a difference in A, the mood of your club from late September or B, in the mood of the city?

Tony La Russa: Well, I haven't been able to see it in person. I know a lot of the players, coaches and myself got messages and phone calls, people are excited. But I think we need to have a realistic view. Somehow some way we got in, and when we play the first series, and see if you can advance.

Tony, how much of a positive have the young guys in the bullpen been for you?

Tony La Russa: Well they pitched very well. I mean, you know, the first game we had several runs, but there were guys on base that could have gotten away and you put a couple guys on base with the offense they have, yesterday there was no room for error. I mean they pitched very well.

With what Supp has done in big games over the past three or four years, how do you look at that? Do you look at him as the guy that comes up big when he's needed?

Tony La Russa: Well, he's won 16 games a couple times so those are all big. It's just a continuation. He's just pitched effectively. I know he's had a couple rough games against San Diego, so I'm sure they've got some confidence going in. But Supp, he's been known to rise to the occasion, and you know, we've been such a hit and miss club, we're definitely not overconfident and underestimating what's left ahead of us.

Tony, how huge has it been to have Jim Edmonds back in the starting lineup?

Tony La Russa: Well he's given us a lift. I mean he's come out, got a couple big hits. His range around the outfield is very well. That ball park is bigger than ours in the outfield, but he stabilizes the outfield and he's very important player, he's been one of our core guys for a long time, so to have him playing and playing well means a lot.

Tony what makes Chris Young so effective and how do you think your lineup stacks up against him?

Tony La Russa: Well we just saw him recently, and I mean I think everybody's numbers are legitimate. He's got a lot of height, a lot of deception in his delivery. He really moves the ball around the zone and he has good command of offspeed stuff. He's just a pitcher, pitcher with good stuff, very good array of weapons that he mixes up and he's tough to pick up.

Given the troubles you guys had down the stretch, what's happened now, could you have foreseen this? Is this beyond your wildest dreams?

Tony La Russa: Well, I've been a fan of playoffs for a long time. You get in, only eight clubs playing, so I've seen too often that the club that plays the best wins, and so your challenge is always to be the club that plays better than the opponent. Like I say, we've done two days, and we need to get another win, and not to take anything for granted.

With the way that your team has gone up and down, with these past two games would maybe be the most consistent two games for your pitching, from your pen, from your batting, that you have seen in a while, now with everyone back?

Tony La Russa: Well definitely a while. The last six weeks, two months, we had trouble winning two games in a row but the first part of the season, we had some real good spurts. Sure potentially everybody is capable of playing, but we have had two solid games. We played the whole thing, pitching, defense and hitting, a lot of energy. Been fun.

Tony, over the last three years, I think most folks would look at your starting rotation and pick out the marquis names like Carpenter and Matt Morris for a while and Mulder. Can you maybe discuss or describe what role Suppan has had in just being able to take the ball every fifth day and gobble up innings and give you the 16 wins you alluded to?

Tony La Russa: Well each of his first two years, 16 is a big total and you got to give him special credit in '04 when he pitched the clinching game a couple of times. I mean those are all really important for the way those seasons went and this year in the second half, when we struggled so much, and he's one guy that really was a consistent starter who would give us some wins. We need every bit of those wins to get to the finish line, so you know he just goes by it right. Very consistent in his approach, and you know we feel like he'll give us a chance tomorrow.

Were you surprised when Belliard made that double play? What was your reaction?

Tony La Russa: Well since the first day he's been in our uniform this guy has played an outstanding second base. I'm talking about left, right, back, double plays, smart, awareness of the field, so just those great. We needed it but no surprise, and that's the way he's been play, outstanding.

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Do you have any explanation or idea in your head of why you've done so well in the division round? It's almost a lockdown series for you?

Tony La Russa: You know, not really. I mean I think what the general perception, if you talk to players that have been in this thing and coaches, managers, general managers, they feel this is the most pressurized of the three rounds, because you lose three games and you're out. No matter what your season was like and then the next one, you at least pass that, you got some legitimacy in the post season and if you get to the World Series, then you've got four wins to be the whole thing. So we played really well and we only one won championship series. I don't know how you can claim that, you know, they don't handle one pressure well and they handle the other pressure. It's just -- it's just the way the history shows that it's gone. I haven't seen us really do anything different in any of the rounds.

With what Josh has done over this past six weeks or so, when he came back, and also in game 2, what have you seen from him, vs. when he was first up here back in June?

Tony La Russa: Well he's a pitcher that, in our system, we were getting glowing reports, goes back a couple years to this year, about the movement, on his fast ball, his quality breaking balls, so we were anxious to see him, and we had a look at him, you could see that the potential, and his consistency has gotten better and better as he's gotten more experience.

Being the underdog and the way the team has come out playing, what does that tell you?

Tony La Russa: Well those are labels, and the only difference, I think, for the team is the questions that you answer. Look, what you think, I mean we went in, when we've been -- when somebody had a higher opinion of us, you realize how tough the competition is. The other side can beat you and you just gear to take your best shot. And now here, you know the label is on the other side, but from our point of view, you gear to take your best shot and you go out and play. I mean I think we've handled it both ways. It hasn't been something, "we'll show them." We'll play our best, we're a dangerous club to play and we've got a shot.

I don't remember if you remember back in the spring, the magazine that said Leyland was one of the worst moves of the offseason. You said that will bite him in the rear end. How often do you talk in the season? What about the past week and how close are you following his team?

Tony La Russa: I interrupted our celebration the other day to try to watch the last game against Kansas City, watch them very closely. If you watch, we have a 7 o'clock game, and you know in that hour before we go out there, I don't care who is playing whether our division, I've got the Tigers on. We've talked twice today already. I just going way back to the late 70's, just recognize just what a gifted baseball man Jim is, and this is a very dramatic example of what he's capable of doing, to contribute from the manager's side. The players, we said a hundred times, it's a player's game, but he is real special.

Are you for tomorrow, how much different will it be your line up, now that you have Edmonds back. Discuss that.

Tony La Russa: Well Jim is going to play, but I think most of the core guys, you know, David, as opposed to the lineup that young face, David will play short, but most of the players will be the same.

When you look at the days off that you have had to this point, how much has the added flexibility in the bullpen helped you?

Tony La Russa: Well we came in with a lot of life, a lot of freshness in our bullpen. So you play two, take one off, if we would have had two days in a row, and a day off, they would have been fresh, so you know we've gone through this. It just seems like this has been the formula we have been in the most, except for maybe one time, in '01, but if anything, you know you play good, you like to go back out there so it's kind of interrupted when we do.

You just got to mentally tough it out. But I mean there's no doubt, we had guys throw 17, 20 pitches today. They will all be ready tomorrow. Where today, they would be a little bit careful, but they were fresh enough, and we're getting close to finish line, man, so this is where you push.

With those young guys in the bullpen, do you almost have to leap in and trust them? It seemed like maybe earlier in the season, you would go longer with starters, and just kind of hold off on the other guys?

Tony La Russa: No, I can't disagree with that more. I think what you do early in the season is just like with a Wainwright or a Tyler Johnson, you try to be a little bit careful how you break 'em in, but I mean we never pushed our starters all year long. We always had guys that we felt had some experience in the bullpen, Randy Flores had more experience than Tyler but I think just a matter of trying to get guys have some big league experience before you start pushing them. It's just way, I was talking to Jim this morning. He brings in a left-hander, 1-1 count, gets an out. If that guy doesn't do well, use a young guy. A couple years ago, Mike Matthews gave up a homerun, and why in the world would you pick Mike Matthews? Doesn't have experience. It's a brutal job that way.

If it works, it's good. If it doesn't work, you should have done something else. So that is why you don't worry. Try to figure your best and go from there.

The way that your pen is set up for the first two games, is that kind of what you will try to be going with, pitching flow, Josh, Tyler, Adam or do you see maybe a change in the way that you use some of those guys?

Tony La Russa: Just playing the game. I mean yesterday if one inning would have gone different, Looper would have pitched the eighth. Depends upon the lineup you're facing and first day, we used Tyler and if there had been another chance, Randy would have pitched behind him, so just try to watch and the thing is you you have weapons out there and you can have some. Brad Thompson is throwing as well as anybody in our bullpen, hasn't pitched in two days -- two games, that is a good sign for us.

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