Walt Jocketty bounded in, with a light step. When I asked him how he was doing, his answer seemed out of sync. "Doing fine. Wouldn't do me any good to be otherwise." Walt turned into Tony La Russa's office for one of their regular one-on-one chats.
Oddly, the press, myself included, took TLR's brief comments given to the cameras in the hallway outside the clubhouse as the only communications that evening. As a result, La Russa was in his office reading after the game and was given brief solitude – until Walt showed up, that is.
Brad Thompson seems more at home, now that he has been a big-leaguer for a few months. He is lockering next to Ray King and it seems that the veteran is helping the rookie. After the game, Brad stopped by to chat with Scott Seabol, who I noticed had taken extra batting practice earlier in the afternoon.
Once the interviews were over, Jeff Suppan asked me about Billy Bob Thornton. I promised to bring him a copy of my interviews with him and Thornton, which I will do today. Unlike many other starters, Suppan is approachable, even on days he is pitching. Suppan seems the same whether in victory or in defeat. I guess that is how he handles the ongoing pressure.
One final comment. I was extremely impressed with John Rodriguez in my first meeting with him. It seems clear to me that he is both mature and thoughtful, while at the same time quietly confident. He acts like he belongs. Let's hope his play continues to reinforce that.
The actual comments themselves are fairly vanilla, however, they still offer insight to the thought process of the individuals.
Tony La Russa
On the comeback that fell short
It got real exciting there and sometimes lightning strikes twice. Jones has been pitching outstanding for them and he made an outstanding pitch to get So out and pitched well in the ninth. We just came up short.
On whether he thought Taguchi could beat the throw
Yeah. It's a tough play. For the second baseman, it was do or die. He could beat it out or the second baseman could have trouble with it. He made a real good play.
On whether Oquendo should have sent Edmonds home.
No, if he had sent him, it would have taken a real break for him to be safe. He's (first baseman Jeff Conine?) got a strong arm and it got to him in plenty of time.
On two-out hits
Yeah, the left fielder (Miguel Cabrera) had a huge day. A lot of stuff happened with two outs, nobody on and then "boom, boom". It is a good way to win and a tough way to lose. It is one of those formulas. You've got to get that third out with runners in scoring position. They did.
On Suppan's performance
Uhh… (hesitates) I thought he competed. The left fielder is one of the hottest guys in the league and he had a big day. The first baseman, Conine, got a couple and their catcher got some good swings in. You've got to give them credit.
On Burnett's performance
That's how he's been pitching. He is one of the upper-echelon guys in the league. But, we kept battling. We had a shot at the end. But, he is an upper-echelon guy.
On whether Burnett was different from the past
No, he's got a lot of different weapons.
On Rodriguez getting picked off first base
Actually, that was not a baserunning mistake. The ball was in the dirt. You teach your guys to be moving forward. The catcher moved over and caught it cleanly. And, he was going to first base. I mean, it was the perfect play. It was not a deke play. It was not a mistake. If you sit there planted, you'll never get that extra base. With the ball in the dirt, he took an extra step, but he caught it and was going that way on a snap throw. So, it was not a mistake at all.
On his outing
I had decent command. I think I could have used the fastball a little more effective. Moving it a little more. It basically came down to a couple of mistakes early in the game, putting us behind. There were times I needed to expand a little more outside of the strike zone when there were pitches they could put good wood on. That is basically what it came down to.
On giving up two-out hits
Yeah, it seems like I have to stay away from that right now. It has happened a couple of times now. Again, I think it goes back to expanding the zone in those situations.
On the comeback
We are never out of it. I've felt that way from the time I've been here. And it is apparent that we play the game hard until it is over. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.
On whether the Marlins 3-4-5 hitters are the best he has seen
I think they are swinging the bats very well now and they gave me a tough time. Cabrera is a tough out. And with Lo Duca, again in a similar situation, got some hits. I could be expanding it a bit more. A.J. threw the ball well, and that was about it.
On getting to Burnett in the eighth
There were finally a few pitches that we could put our bats on and came through.
On whether hits come in bunches
Oh, definitely. When we can put hits together like that, it is definitely contagious.
On whether it was tough against Burnett
Definitely. He was throwing 98 and the ball was moving. I take my hat off to him. He is a real good pitcher. A real good pitcher.
On whether they knew what to expect
Oh, yeah. We watched film, so we know what he has. Still, you've got to go out there and play ball.
On La Russa's comment that his pickoff play was not a mistake
But, still, I get a little frustrated. That is something I needed to hear. Not to get down on myself. That was a tough pick because he (Lo Duca) had to go to his side instead of keeping the ball in front. Keeping the ball in front and I get picked off, then that is my fault. But, he made a great play and he was facing first base, so it was tough. It wasn't a baserunning mistake, though.
On facing the Braves pitchers
Oh, yeah. It is a childhood dream. We've got to go out there and play our game and play it hard. And, we'll do alright.