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10/14/08 7:13 PM ET

Joe Maddon pregame interview

Manager believes team has earned the right to be here

First of all, did you "Start Me Up" this morning?

JOE MADDON: Yes, sir.

No variation? No "Brown Sugar"? No "Jumping Jack Flash"?

JOE MADDON: No reason to now. Same game plan.

Just the mood of the team when you walked through the clubhouse today.

JOE MADDON: Just like yesterday. The guys are in pretty good order. I liked the way we were prior to the game yesterday in batting practice.

Was in the clubhouse, was kind of loud, the music was good before the game. Playing stuff even I'm not aware of, but it's still all good. But I like the way we are right now.

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Can you talk about B.J. Upton's home run surge in the postseason, and then during the regular season, he hit 24 home runs last season, only nine this year. Is there an explanation?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, I think his shoulder is feeling better. His left shoulder last year, we had some problems with that. And during the course of the first part of this season, it was weak. He's been working on getting it stronger. Him and Ronny Porterfield and our training group have been working harder to get it stronger, which it has.

Furthermore, we've cut back on the number of swings at batting practice, and I think that's helped, also. So you've got a stronger guy right now getting the bat out a lot better, because the first half of the season -- even more the first half most of the balls were heading over to the right side of second base, so now you're starting to see the ball in left center field gap again, which is what he did last year when he hit all those home runs. He hit a lot of balls to left center field and right center field as well as dead center.

When he's playing in the middle of the field, that's when he's good on both sides. The first half of the season, I just think that his shoulder was not strong enough to get to that side, and we had this little thing in Kansas City when the weather was like 100 degrees we didn't take BP for a couple days on the field, and he felt stronger in a week. So we chose to go with that game plan after that. So he's on his own regarding how many swings he needs on a daily basis, and I really believe that's the reason why.

Is he 100 percent right now with the shoulder?

JOE MADDON: I'll tell you what, I'm sure that it's still not 100. You'd have to ask him specifically. I just know it's a lot better than it had been. And again, when he -- I said it last year often times.

B.J. when he hits the ball well it has a different sound. He's a thin guy, he's wiry, strong, but he's got this different sound when the ball hits the end of his bat. And the sound has come back. Best I can describe it, I have not heard it all year until the last couple weeks.

In talking to Carlos Sunday when you guys got here, he described this whole experience as being, quote unquote, magical, about it having some mystique. Have you seen this team develop that aura, that mystique, that other teams maybe carry into the postseason? And do you think there's some value in it?

JOE MADDON: I've been involved a couple times in the past, and I think what he's talking about is that point when everybody starts really believing, and when you really believe you can do something. You get to this particular juncture and you know you've earned the right to be here, then you get here, and especially for the first time there's a certain amount of trepidation, how does this work, how do I do this, et cetera, et cetera, and then finally when you win a couple games, and of course, when you advance in the series, the confidence starts to build.

And we're young. We're young, and do lack experience. Even though I know our guys know we've earned the right to be here and believe that we belong here, you've got to get a rolling within the postseason to get that look or that feel, and I think we're starting to gain that about us. I think you can ask every one of our guys, we believe we can do this all the way, and I think that after having beaten the White Sox, then it truly became apparent to us that this is for real.

The other thing is I did talk to our guys about it a lot, to treat this part of the year with the respect that it deserves.

A lot of times when you are young, you think it's going to happen every year, and it doesn't. Just ask a lot of really good Major League Baseball players that have been around a long time and have not had a chance to get to this particular point.

So I want our guys to treat it with the respect that it deserves, but I want them to believe that they can do it. I'm a firm believer that if you do believe, then you can. And if you don't, just forget about it, it's just not going to happen.

If you had to describe Dustin Pedroia to someone who had not seen him play, what would you tell them?

JOE MADDON: He played in 1910, 1920, 1930, all the way up to present day. He is truly everybody, I think that the term throw back is thrown around way too loosely at times. He is not a great runner, he's not -- yes, he has some quickness in the infield.

I guess one time I saw that show on HBO when they did that bits and pieces of old films on HBO, and there was the Yankees, and I can't remember, it was Joe McCarthy talking about one of his players, and he called him over to be interviewed and asked him what he was hitting. He said, I don't know; what's our record, I don't know, blah, blah, blah. And he said thanks.

And the guy walked away, and he said, that's what I love about him, he just comes here to beat you. And then when I saw his comments in the paper regarding their loss yesterday where he was complimentary of us, but I could just sense from his attitude that he's just about beating you. So that's why I think he plays in every generation, because he's got all the right perspective.

Part of that is because he's not the tallest, biggest guy in the world, but he plays baseball big.

Follow up on B.J. Upton, he comes from a baseball family, a long baseball family, with his brother, his father, even his grandfathers. Is there anything about the way he plays the game that you can sense that?

JOE MADDON: Well, he's just gifted athletically. He's gifted. You watch him throw, okay, you watch a guy -- he's got power obviously, but watch what he does otherwise. He's a great athlete because he's got these long strides and he's very fast and he runs well.

You watch him in the outfield, you watch him throw, I think you put him up out against at least the American League guys that I see all the time, I think he might have the best throwing arm.

If you put a speed gun on the mound and have somebody throw from center field, I'd say B.J. might have the best throwing arm in the league in regard to velocity and accuracy.

So he's got all these intangible athletic qualities and as a baseball player you have to learn how to hit -- some of it is innate, but you learn how to hit better. And a part of that with him is his eye. He's very patient at the plate.

A lot of times people have gotten on him in the past for not swinging often enough. I like the idea that he's patient and you can build aggressiveness with him a little bit and have him swing the bat more.

So he's got a lot of these things that he just does, but primarily he's a gifted athlete based on his running speed and his arm strength, and he's learning how to be a good baseball player now.

He's gotten here rather quickly. I know everybody is seeing what he's doing right now, but he didn't spend all that much time in the Minor Leagues developing all of his skills. So he's made some mistakes here, which is understandable. But I guess what I'm saying is he's going to continue to get better. I really believe that. And furthermore, he listens. He's a very good listener and he accepts constructive criticism very well, and that's why I think he's going to get really good.

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Another Upton question. From what you were just saying, he sounds like a great kid, so what was going on with him in August when you had to do those couple of disciplinary things? Was that out of character for him and what did you make of that?

JOE MADDON: There was times I didn't listen very well when I was that age, either. That just happens. He and I have a great relationship, and I had spoken to the whole group about -- I'm not a big rules guy. I don't believe in rules. I believe you've see the sign in the locker room, "Integrity Has No Need of Rules." I really believe that you as a group if you conduct yourself properly, it functions rather well, especially a group of 25 or whatever or so people.

So with B.J., it's just a youthful thing, that's all it is. It's not disrespectful, he's not a bad person by any means. He's a great person. I really enjoy being around him. It was one of those moments, most of you out here have sons or daughters and you've had those moments, like I have with my own kids. It's just one of those things and we got our point across and he's been great.

And believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg for this kid, he's going to keep getting better and better because I think he's not a humility about him, also, and I really believe that's one of the strongest things any person can have about themselves is a strong sense of humility.

They're batting J.D. Drew in leadoff spot, Crisp in the seventh spot. Any reaction to those two?

JOE MADDON: No. I can say Ellsbury had a little bit of a problem lately. I love that guy, too. He's a great player. I just think they're just trying to get somebody to get on base in the top of the order.

Drew is very willing to accept a walk, he's very aggressive on a first pitch fastball, but he will take his walks, so it's probably just an attempt to just get somebody on the front of Pedroia and Ortiz.

I'm sure the other option would have been Crisp, but they like him hitting righty better than lefty to put in the top of the batting order. So it's really not that different if you look at it. He's in there and Ellsbury is not. They just threw the names around a little bit. I think that's what it's about, just to try to set up Pedroia and Ortiz.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

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