Bobby Cox pre-playoffs interview

Braves Manager Bobby Cox discusses the first round series with Houston.

Q. I was wondering if you could please tell us what roster decisions you've made and who is on.
BOBBY COX: The ones that are off are (Todd) Hollandsworth in the outfield; we took Jordan and Kelly Johnson in that area. Going with two catchers, (Johnny) Estrada and (Brian) McCann. (Brayan) Pena and (Kyle) Davies will go to the instructional league on Thursday. Davies will pitch on Friday to stay sharp and Pena will stay down there the remainder of the playoffs in case we need a catcher. Danny Kolb didn't make it and Hollandsworth didn't make it.

Q. Has your philosophy on what it takes to win in the playoffs changed at all over the last 14 years?
BOBBY COX: (Laughing). Well, if you have good pitching, you've got a good chance of winning, so there is no true philosophy, I don't think. But generally the team that has the best pitching has got a good chance to win some games. You know, it's still a game of baseball. It's nine innings and you pitch and you hit it and you catch it. We've got a great defensive team so we're going to catch it. The first three starters that are going are quality guys - (Tim) Hudson, (John) Smoltz and (Jorge) Sosa. The fourth starter I'm not going to name yet. We took (John) Thomson and (Horacio) Ramirez, both starters on the roster, and one of them will pitch Game 4 unless we change our mind and do something else.

Q. Is this as good a defensive team as you've had among these 14 or so?
BOBBY COX: We've had really good defense here for years but this is one of the top ones, I think. We can really, really catch the ball. Our outfield with (Ryan) Langerhans, Andruw (Jones) and (Jeff) Francoeur is about as good as it can get. They often run. Especially Francoeur can throw people out from right field. Up the middle is excellent. We can throw runners out if given a chance behind the plate. (Rafael) Furcal and (Marcus) Giles up the middle are just brilliant. Julio (Franco) and (Adam) LaRoche have been great at first base. Chipper (Jones) is playing as good third base as I've seen him in the last few years.

Q. Which relievers did you wind up going with?
BOBBY COX: Well, (Chris) Reitsma, (Kyle) Farnsworth, (John) Foster, (Macay) McBride, Brower made the team. (Blaine) Boyer cannot pitch. His arm was hurting again this morning and we had to make a decision. We will keep him around and nurse him for the second round. If it gets better, he would be on.

Q. How much easier was it to move Smoltz back a day knowing you have Tim Hudson to go in Game 1?
BOBBY COX: Well, easy. Timmy has had a great year. He's been in the playoffs several times. He's really throwing the ball well right now. He told me the other day he feels better right now than he has all season, so, you know, he could go Game 1 and Game 5 or whatever we choose to do. But, you know, right now, John Smoltz feels very good himself. But we were still a little concerned after one game that he may not be able to go, but I think he will.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about Tim Hudson's season, what has he meant to the staff?
BOBBY COX: He's a No. 1 pitcher, there's no doubt about that. He could be anybody's No. 1 in baseball, certainly a No. 2 on a lot of teams as well. I mean, it would be hard to choose him 1 or 2. But he's a team leader, too. He has a lot of fun in the clubhouse, he's a lot of fun, he's energetic during the ballgame. Not only his ballgames but other ballgames. He's one of our big cheerleaders.

Q. Bobby, managing in the playoffs, how is it different?
BOBBY COX: I don't think it's any different than going down the stretch, to be honest with you. Phil Garner will be in here after a while and he will probably feel like he's been through two World Series this last month. So, you know, the pressure's there each pitch and each swing. You know, it's the time that you live for, actually. You leave spring training and before, you know, your first meeting in spring training you talk about how great the stretch run is. That's what we want to do. How much fun the playoffs and the Series can be. It's no different, I don't think. As tight as these races were this year, if you ask any team, any team's manager going down the stretch with the wildcard hopefuls and all that, and certainly some of the divisions unsettled, that there couldn't be much more pressure on you.

Q. Some people outside the team have cast you guys as the underdogs in this series. If you buy into that, is that kind of an odd feeling for you? If so, are you using it as motivation at this time?
BOBBY COX: Quite honestly, we haven't talked about it. I haven't read a paper yet, so... I don't think there are any underdogs, to be honest with you, in a short round. Any of these playoffs could go either way. You know, that doesn't matter if you're the favorite or underdog or you only won 78 games and some team won 100; it doesn't matter.

Q. Are you concerned at all about the rookies and their ability to step it up and play a higher level of baseball?
BOBBY COX: No, we want them to play exactly the way they've been playing. You know, they did fine down the stretch. Our division got a little tight there, too, you know. Philly got hot and Florida all of a sudden got cold, but they were certainly in it. You know, I thought they performed very well in games that meant an awful lot.

Q. Everybody talks about their top three, but your guys, do you have a power aspect that you maybe haven't had in the past few years?
BOBBY COX: I don't know how many people -- are you talking about the starting pitching? I don't know how many guys we're going to strike out. You know, they all have good arms. We have power arms, that's for sure. But, you know, Houston got there -- early in the season Houston was getting unbelievable pitching. They did it in the middle of the season, they did it down the stretch. Their hitters were cold early. They came from a long way. They kept the same pitching but they started hitting.

Q. Since the three-of-five format, a wildcard team has won 10 of 20 matchups or 12 of 20 matchups, I think. Why do you think that is? Why has a wildcard team been so successful in that period?
BOBBY COX: Because if you're a wildcard, you're as good as the other teams that won, I'm sure. You know, you may have had injuries during the course of the season and without players a good part of it and then got hot. So, you know, you could put Florida in these playoffs right now against any team and they could beat any team.

Q. What do you favor: The three-of-five or four-of-seven?
BOBBY COX: No, I've always been an advocate, you play 162 games, it should be four out of seven, definitely. I know they've looked at it for years. They keep talking about it, they as well know it. You know, but a lot of things would have to go in there, shorten the season, television, of course. Things like that. It should be definitely four out of seven.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Houston's pitching, the big three they have there.
BOBBY COX: You know, I keep seeing Roger (Clemens) on television all the time. To me, he's throwing as good as he ever has. Of course (Andy) Pettitte, they didn't have early, or last year. He's a great pitcher. He pitched for the Yankees in the World Series and all that, forever. I think they're all top notch. (Roy) Oswalt is as good a pitcher as you want to see. And they have a great bullpen. They have excellent pitching. To keep them afloat during the hard times early, you know they've got good pitching.

Q. Can you comment more on Smoltz's condition, whether he's 80%, 90%, 95%?
BOBBY COX: Well, as Bob Gibson said, he was only 100% maybe 10, 12 times the entire year out of, in those days, 40 starts. John is not 100%, but if he's 95%, that's good enough. He is feeling good. He's thrown a lot in between this time. He doesn't really ache or anything like that. It's just a matter of at one time locating his fastball a little bit better, that's all.

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