Workout Day NLCS Interviews – Cards - Friday

Tony La Russa and Matt Morris speak upon arrival in Houston.

Tony La Russa


Just an update on Reggie and how he's doing?


He's doing better than we expected. He's up, he's moving around, I think we've got a chance for him to be in tomorrow. He's getting treatment and he's going to go out there and do a little bit, I think he's going to hit. But it's better than a lot of us expected.


And your other outfielder, Walker, how is he doing?


That's another question. (Pauses). Well, he's sore. What we're trying to do is figure out how sore. It's good for him to have a day off. You know, in the past, sometimes a day off, it eases, sometimes it doesn't back off. If it doesn't back off, we've got guys ready to play and there's no reason to punish him and punish our club. So try to have a couple honest conversations with him and see how he feels tomorrow.


In the future games you've had since Al Reyes had the injury with the elbow, do have a bullpen that's still trying to sort itself out in that regard or are you seeing positive things from it?


I don't think we're trying to sort it out because our attitude is Al wasn't available 162 games. Other games he wasn't available in and there's still games that had needs in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning, so just different guys get the assignments and what do we do, we played two games, Chris went eight, yesterday you had Mark and then you had Tav and then you saw Jason in the ninth. I think we feel good about our bullpen and the reason we feel good is Marquis can be a force out there.


As talented as Brad Lidge is, is there a particular set of circumstances that makes him a bad match-up for your hitters, and the second part of that would be, is there any possibility that at this point with his stretch of success that it might be a little bit of a mental thing for your hitters against them?


Well, I read a comment in the paper which was -- I think I appreciate and I think our hitters, I'm not sure how they appreciate it, but he complements our hitters and he always feels like he has to bring his best game, which is like good news, bad news. I wish he would think we were not as good so he would back off a little bit. No, he's really good. We feel like we have good hitters and I think it's a great challenge. Obviously if you've got an upper echelon closer the way you try to beat the club is not to have them ahead. I don't think it's as much mental as it is that he's really good and he makes good pitches and I think if there was a game out there if he's got the lead, if he makes a mistake or two, we're liable to get him.


You saw the young Roger Clemens and then as he got older, and now the last two years, you've seen him, has he changed or is he different in any way? What's been his evolution, so to speak?


I always thought he had above-average control. Even in his young, real power days. Now I see that he's got a lot of power. I think his control is better than ever. I think he's got Greg Maddux-like control. You look at him he rarely throws the ball on the middle of the plate; it's usually on the edges or down or wherever he wants to throw it. I just think his control and the command of his pitches and his stuff is still way above average, got all the experience working for him. He's a handful.


A little bit of a strange question. A new ballpark next year and new radio station and a lot of new things going on for St. Louis. What will it mean for an old school baseball city for that?


First I was told if we don't get to the World Series and win it, somebody else will have that problem, so maybe he should answer that question. Our fans used to love Sportsman's Park. I think when the idea of Busch Stadium was presented 40 years ago, people were scratching our heads, why we need this, why we need that, got some great memories here. Pretty soon you have, well, I'm glad for this ballpark and look what it's done for the downtown area. Fans that I talk to, most of them understand that there's been a lot of money spent where they watch the game, it's a good-looking ballpark but underneath it's crumbling and they are ready for a change.


Is Roger the best ever?


Well, that's one of those great questions to ask; terrible questions to answer. I mean, I've spent quite a bit of time with Bob Gibson. I'd hate to answer that question and have Bob not like the answer. To me, I remember, I think it was Reggie one time answered about -- and I have to stop ask really this about whether we're talking about a pitcher or a player, the greatest. And his answer, which I thought really, that's the appropriate way to answer and that's the way I'd answer this. To even be considered one of the greatest is plenty compliment. So to have Roger in the conversation with Bob Gibson and the Koufax's, Seavers, Cy Young, whoever you want to move to, that's enough right there without having to say that one is better than anybody else.


What sets Albert Pujols apart from other very good hitters, what makes him better?


Well, here again, not that he is the very best, but there's nobody better. I think that you would not be able to find one big or little characteristic that you would mark him down at less than a-plus. I mean, every category of what a hitter has to do, he does it, smart, courageous, works hard, uses the whole field, everything. And I think what brings is all together is that he has a burning desire to win. He just plays the game to win. At the end of the day he looks, oh, I had two hits and an RBI, he's out there trying to drive in runs. It's old-time baseball. He wants to have the ring some day. So I think that's why he goes to work, like right now he's in there working getting ready for this practice and he does this just to win the game. I think he's got every category covered. The only thing that you could change in him, somehow be different, if somehow he got comfortable or started sitting on his laurels or had too much money, and there's no indication of that.


If either of those outfielders cannot go tomorrow, is it a given that So would be the guy or would you look at a match-up going into that situation?


Well, I just think with the opportunity to look at somebody else, you want to do the coach or the manager thing, we talk about it. But of the guys that have been the first call and have had the greatest year, I think So is the first guy on that list. So my guess is -- I mean, we may need two guys, if Reggie and Larry don't play. But I think there will be a definite leaning towards So because of how he's stepped into that very same assignment all year long, whether it's left, right or center.


Matt Morris


Do you know how Reggie Sanders is and if he's hurt or unable to play how much of a loss is that for you guys?


I'm not sure the status of Reggie. He looked good today. He always looks good in a suit, so he was walking on the plane, big old smile. I'm sure he's got some aches and pains, but I have a good feeling he'll be back in the lineup.


You obviously pitched in these games before and you've been around a while; is it any more intimidating to pitch a game in Houston against Roger with the atmosphere

that's going to be around tomorrow and everything that goes along with it?


I'm familiar with the atmosphere. I'm sure the bees will be buzzing and the crowd, the noise levels is pretty loud. As far as pitching against Roger, I've never faced him before. It seems exciting, it's intense. He's going to go out and try to dominate the game and my job is to do the same and try and keep up with him. He's a heck of a competitor and it's an honor to be pitching against him for one, but, two, we've got a bunch of guys that want to win the game. So if I can go out there and put up some zeros and we get to him early, that's our best chance.


In regard to Houston, you faced them a lot, what do they present for you coming up tomorrow?


You've got to keep the top two guys off the line, off the bases. They have got Biggio and that Taveras, Berkman and Lamb have power, Ensberg is having a great year, so it looks like Ausmus is swinging the bat well. The bottom line, especially at this park is try to keep the ball down and try to keep the ball on the ground. The fly balls here, some of them tend to go out of the park and we have to keep the ball on the ground and look for some double play balls. This is a good, spirited rivalry but a lot of respect both ways. Yesterday's game was a battle but you have to tip your hat to the other side, Roy pitched a great game and they came up with some big hits. We're not kicking ourselves about it and we're going to go out and compete tomorrow.


How much do you rely on Pujols? Even though he has had great numbers for several years have you seen development from him even off the field over the past couple of



He came into the league like he was around for 10 years. So as far as his play is concerned, off the field stuff, I know he's involved in a lot of charities, I don't know much more than that. He's heavily involved in the St. Louis community, but on the field, he takes every at-bat seriously and wants to hit a home run and wants to do the right thing and win the game. He usually does it and he's been a big piece in our puzzle and yesterday he came up with a big home run that wasn't enough to get to Roy, but, you know, he's one of our main links.


As a guy who has pitched for a long time, can you imagine pitching when you're 42, 43 at that level?


No chance. That's unbelievable. He was born to do this. 20 years, still throwing the ball as hard as he is and in as good of shape as endurance-wise as he is, he's just phenomenal. We all look at him and marvel. You know, I get a good opportunity tomorrow to go out and compete with him, so I'm looking forward to it.


Kind of a strange topic, but you guys are getting a new ballpark, new radio station, sort of an end of an era for the Cardinals and such a traditional baseball town; how do you think St. Louis is going to react to that?


I'm not sure. They will be faithful no matter what I think. If we can send Busch Stadium off with a World Series title, it would be the cherry on top. So that might quiet the crowd a little bit, but I'm sure when the new stadium is up and ready a little bit, there will be just as many people at the park and looking forward to the next season.


From a pitcher's perspective, Brad Lidge has great numbers against your guys and it's been a long, long stretch. When you get in a guy's head and you've got a little bit of an advantage, how do you make that work for you long-term and how do you play into it a

little bit?


I think in his case, he's going out there and attacking our guys, he's got great stuff, and he's not fooling around, he's not picking at the corners. He's getting strike one and he's got a nasty breaking ball. He's saying, here it is, hit it, and so far our guys have been not been able to hit it. One of these days it's going to happen. It's baseball and right now he's going strong and he's a great pitcher. We're hoping we don't get to Brad Lidge, that's our goal.


How does a pitcher make that goal work for him in general though?


I think you just stay aggressive; you just keep coming out there, being aggressive. I think the more times you get certain guys out the more confidence you have, and not that it becomes easier but in your head it does, and sometimes you make a mistake and it's popped up in that situation instead of not being as aggressive and making the same pitch that gets hit for a base hit or a home run. So he's staying aggressive, he's attacking us, he's got confidence, everything is on his side right now.


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