Tuesday Interviews – Weaver/TLR/Carp/Pujols

Cardinals NLDS Game Two starting pitcher Jeff Weaver and his manager Tony La Russa fielded questions prior to Tuesday's Game One. Then, Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols joined La Russa after the Cardinals' Game One victory. Links provided to Padres interviews, too!

Jeff Weaver - Pre-Game

Jeff, we've talked about this earlier in the year but considering how the first half of this year went, just what does it kind of mean to you to be taking a mound in playoff game to have this kind of confidence they want you going maybe even as a guy that's going to go twice in this series, what does it mean to you considering where you were earlier in this year?

Well, I mean it's, you know, continued motivation, especially when you start off as rough as I did. You know, you are working your tail off to right the ship, and then get things going in the right direction. And, you know, I think a lot had to do with just the change itself, getting to St. Louis, starting, being able to start fresh and put those things behind me that occurred in the first half, and just continue to work and had a great time working with Duncan. And, you know, La Russa and those guys always had the confidence in me since I've been here.

So all those things enabled me to get back to knowing and doing what I'm capable of and, you know, like I said, this is what it's all about.

So getting the opportunity to get out there in the post-season and make your mark. So once again you start fresh and, you know, hopefully put your best foot forward and win some ball games.

The home road splits stand out a little bit. Apparently went into this decision a little bit. Is that just a coincidence in your mind or is there something to that?

I think it's just coincidence. I mean, you know, it's just the way that the season plays out sometimes. I mean, you know, just like Suppan pitched great at home. So it's just one of those things. Hopefully you play those percentages and they work out for you.

And I don't really have an answer why I pitch better on the road than at home. But it's just the way it works out sometimes.

When you were with the Dodgers you saw this team, you saw the Padres quite a bit and you know this park. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on pitching this park but when you're looking at the lineup now, how that differs from the one you saw when you were in the division?

Well, you know, there's being able to pitch quite a few games here in the past is definitely a plus. I mean you know your surroundings and you're comfortable. It's a big park. It plays big for the most part. And it enables you to be aggressive out there and attack the hitters, put the pressure on them to put the ball in play and make something happen.

You know, I think that they got a little bit more guys that are contact guys, guys that put the ball in play with a lot of consistency. So obviously, you know, getting ahead and making quality pitches early in the count is going to be huge. And keeping a couple of those guys off base, especially Dave Roberts, at the top of the order, is going to be a key point.

They're a scrapping team. They're not going to make it easy. We'll have to go out there and battle and grind but that's what all these games are here in the post-season. Each pitch and each out you gotta be at the top of your game and hopefully it goes the right way.

Jeff, can you elaborate on some of the particulars that Dave Duncan worked on with you when you came over?

The particulars, it was just more sitting down and just, you know, talking about, you know, what I do to succeed and not getting away from that, getting back to it.

You know, he wanted to hear from my mouth what I thought were my qualities and pitching and what I need to do to succeed and you know I think that was a huge factor was he wasn't trying to do anything to change me. He just wanted to hear from me to have an idea or just for him to know that I knew what I needed to do to succeed.

And I think it was just more the mental part of pitching more than the physical or the mechanics. I mean little things here and there, getting my arm angle back on top so I wasn't as rotational as I had been probably early in the season. My directions towards home were a little off, and he helped me with those, but more mental attributes than anything I would say.

Jeff, you finished the season with a bunch of quality starts. Does that, I mean it would seem that would help the confidence coming in. I'm just wondering what was particularly working for you over the last, say, three weeks?

It's hard to say because over the course of my career, I've had -- for some reason I've always kind of started out slow and worked into things and always typically finished strong, so with that it's kind of, you know, similar in the past years, but I think overall it's not going out there and thinking about everything, thinking about what my mechanics should be, what I should be throwing here or whatever might be going through my mind at the time. I was just able to get into a nice rhythm, not really worried about too much. I was a lot more free and easy out there, not battling myself to get pitches and do things.

It's kind of fun when you don't have to think about too much out there and just let things happen. You're a lot better off, and that's I think where I got to.

I know you're not from here but how does it feel to be here and are you going to have friends here and a cheering section here?

I'm kind of fortunate where the games are during the week so I won't have as many people traveling down, but you know, my parents and my brother and fiancee and couple friends will be making the trip down, so it's always fun to able to go out there and have those people in the stands, the people that support you throughout. It's a familiar environment, comfortable environment, so I'm just hoping all those things involved, doing well.

You talked about the mental approach that Dave spoke about, frame of reference for. When you first joined the Cardinals, there were some starts where maybe the results didn't line up with how you performed? Was that a big part of getting through that, maybe mining some positives from those starts with the wins, when the ERA wasn't there right at the start?

Yeah. I mean, you know, I think when you come to a new team and you start out a little rough, you know, you're kind of, you can't help but kind of look over your shoulder wondering what your teammates are thinking or your coaches or whatever else.

But you know, like you said, it definitely helps you get through those and continue to work in the right direction to correct things when you have the support of your pitching coach and manager and you know they're not going to be pushing you around, moving you back and forth to maybe the bullpen or whatever, they're going to stick with you and you know when you have that support, you know, makes everything that much better for you to be able to work through your struggles for sure.

Tony La Russa - Pre-Game

Same, the first question as the other guy got: What goes into the, however many it was, two, three, four decisions you had on the roster?

On the position player side, I think the toughest call would be Skip, because Jim's uncertainty. And Jose Vizcaino, who has been a good veteran playoff performer, but we just felt like David and Jim could go.

On the pitching side, you know, that was tougher. I think probably the only easy charge is Narveson because of his inexperience but Sosa was a tough guy to keep off. Tough call on Reyes, but I think the decision for Reyes, we'll try to pitch the five-game series because the format with the off days, with three pitchers and the other guys, including Jason, had more usability as relievers.

Tony, how then do you see Jason's role developing in this series? Do you look at him as a middle guy or matchups dictate that?

Well, I just think he has the ability to throw every day. He has experience in the playoffs, experience as a reliever, you know, years ago. But he hasn't done it much. Is he going to get the first call over some of those other guys? I think not. But that's the way the game is played. Several ways he could be used.

Tony, did the home and road factor figure into your number two and number three starters for this?

Well, a little bit. You know, we haven't played well on the road. I forget now what the stats were, the six or seven wins we've had. Jeff Weaver has been involved in the majority of them. It made sense, I think, to give him the ball, and Supp played well at Busch Stadium. That's part of the reason we did that.

Any idea why Jeff is so successful?

I don't think it's a big thing in the sense that that's where the games are played. When he first got with us, he had a couple tough games, he got better and better and his starts were on the road because he pitched last two games at home, two of the last three were good. So it's just -- you're splitting some fine hairs and that's the way we win it.

Having to have the guy for game five go on short rest, factor like Weaver on short rest as opposed to having Sup do that?

I actually think that Sup would be fine on short rest, too. But if it goes to game five, it would be Jeff. I don't know, we'll be back on the road.

Has anything changed, any uptakes with either Hancock or Edmonds in terms of their status?

We made clear, because, like I said, we had to keep some guys off, so we made clear that we saw Hancock is ready to go and he's ready to go. With Jim, he took a shot in his toe. He felt relief. So I mean, I think an important part of this series is defending center field at this ballpark. So we're going to go with Jim and see how he fares. He's hitting fourth.

Forgive the second-game question, but when the Padres got Wells, did you see that as a strong sign for them of their playoff potential?

Well, I agree with what Bruce said. Here's a guy that has a ton of experience. Experience is a great equalizer. You still have to have talent. He's got his talent left. So there won't be anything about that second game that's going to spook him. And, I mean, he's a good choice for them.

With Kinney and Thompson, are these two guys that pitched their way to the roster not so much the roles they fill, or is it just the success they've had?

I think it was an important part. Brad has just thrown the ball really well this whole month, and Josh has -- he started out pretty good and he's gotten better and better. I think there's a couple real weapons there for us.

Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa – Post-Game

Albert, on your home run at bat, the ball is not caught. From your view, do you think it was going to be caught and when it's not, what are your feelings on getting a second light?

ALBERT PUJOLS: Actually, I thought the ball was in the stands, obviously came back. But I think people were saying it hit the net. Kind of hit the net a little bit. But gave me another chance to hopefully put a good swing like I did and gave the lead to the club.

Tony, two part, obviously, you know, you answered a lot of questions about this yesterday and the way that this has played out with Carpenter. But your decision to hold them for the first game obviously worked like a charm. That's the first question. Second was: Edmonds, too, you know, you said you were going to talk to him about whether he's healthy enough to play. Now you see him dive out in the outfield for a ball, he gets couple of hits. Your thoughts on that?

TONY LA RUSSA: We worry about Thursday. He dove. I don't know if he jarred himself or whatever. I know he had an outstanding game, and he said he felt good to go. I think the shot hit the spot with his toe so his toe felt good, and he's always been a rise-to-the-occasion guy. The other thing, not pitching Chris on Sunday, that's probably got more attention for the easiest decision I've ever been called to make. That was just so straightforward, and if there's a way of pitching him today, our club plays better when he pitches. Nobody in the league is better than he is.

Two questions. First one is for the manager, Tony La Russa, and the second one is for Albert Pujols. Tony, you know, seven straight games ever since dating back to 1996, what's the confidence level going out to game two and then get back home to Busch for this team against the Padres? And second one for Albert: How important -- you have been part of the Cardinals post-season 2001. How important is it for the team to get the first win?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, the other two Division Series are in the book. It has no relevance. This is a different team for them. We got a lot of the same guys, but the Padres have shown over and over again, especially here in the last six weeks, they're a very tough bunch, very resilient. So I think we just -- you gotta win three. And we've got one, and that's all it is. No more than that. But it's nice to get off to a good start, but believe me, the Padres will be very tough from here to the end. ALBERT PUJOLS: I think Tony answered the question. It's not a one-game series. It's three out of five. Whoever wins three moves to the next round, and obviously it's always good to get your first win. But we need to come back on Thursday and get ourselves ready and hopefully score enough runs for Weaver.

Tony, you went out and got Chris, tell us what -- tell us what you saw when you made that decision to go get him, the reason why you did?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think you look at a couple of innings, he really had to work hard. It's the old thing, you do it once, you do it twice. Your gas tank gets tapped a little bit. If you have to do it again, you're asking an awful lot, especially when you have a bullpen that's fresh. I just think anyway, we punch out three guys, just keep that in the back of our mind. Duncan watched them closely and just didn't think we had to push him. Could have but didn't seem like it made sense.

Chris, two years in a row now in the opening game of the series you've outpitched Peavy. It's been Peavy is, what, 13 runs, you led up 1. Coming into the game today, what's your mind set out there? And seemed like your curve ball was really working and the particular one inning when the Padres, you know, could have scored some runs against you, that seemed like your out pitch?

CHRIS CARPENTER: Jake is obviously one of the elite pitchers. I met him last year in the All-Star game. Great guy. Comes out and competes. He's going to compete every time he comes out. In turn, so am I, and I'm going to go out and give it my best shot. And my mind set is to go out and get the Padres hitters out, not concern myself with what Jake Peavy is doing. Fortunately for me today I did. And you know, my stuff was good. My location was good. And, yeah, my breaking ball was very good. And sometimes during the game there I was using it a lot, able to get out of some situations with it. That's what it takes to pitch and compete.

What would separate this team from the previous two you pitched, the last two in the regular season? Was there anything markedly different for you?

CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah. I've said this before: It's executing pitches in the last few games. Before that, you know, came down to a couple of pitches that could have turned around the outcome and I wasn't able to execute the big pitch in that situation. Obviously in that one inning today I was able to execute some big pitches and pitch out of a jam. And that's the only difference between the last two and this one. It's making pitches in key situations to get out of jams. You're going to get into situations during the game where you have to do that. And fortunately today I was able to.

You know, just continuing it, it's interesting watching when you're this on because you obviously have a clue what you're doing with each hitter and you're watching the clock and you're going 95, 95, 78, 77, 98, and then you come back with 77. And it leaves the hitters completely off balance. It's a beautiful thing to watch.

CHRIS CARPENTER: I appreciate that. It's called pitching. You go out, keep people off balance, back and forth on each side of the plate and execute. You don't do that, you'll get beat. If you do that, you'll have success. And I was able to it today.

Chris, last time the Padres when they beat a couple weeks ago, that was obviously a big victory in how their season ended up. You were able to get out of the middle part of that lineup today, the same part of the lineup that beat you. Did you take anything from that that worked today in that situation?

CHRIS CARPENTER: You know, again, I can go through that whole situation, you know, last week, when I faced them. I get a couple guys on and told me to pitch to Bard. First of all I walk Gonzales, don't make a pitch to Bard. Get a chance to get out of it. Striking out Randy, don't make a pitch to Cameron when it's 0-2. I'm leaving balls in the middle of the plate. Today I didn't leave balls in the middle of the plate. That's the only difference.

Albert, there was a lot of discussion that they would pitch around you and try not to let you beat them. And they did not pitch around you, went after you. And wonder if you were surprised by that. And also on the 3-2 pitch when you hit the homerun, Jake said obviously that was a mistake that left it out over the middle of the plate. How big were your eyes or how excited were you when you saw that pitch coming where it was?

ALBERT PUJOLS: It was a slider. Actually, my attitude is to come to the ballpark, what can I do to help my team to win? I don't think about if they're going to pitch to me or if they will because I want to be aggressive. If I start thinking a lot of things like that, that's going to take my aggression away. I just take whatever they give me, you know. And if they give me a good pitch today, I'm going to try to put my best swing and hopefully help my team out to win. I got guys behind me. They've been driving me all year long, and they can get the big hits like I have in the past. I just thank God he's using me this year to get some big hits for my team and helping my team get big wins. 3-2, I knew he was going to go to the slider. I know the runner from first was going. I just tried to put the ball in play. Tried to stay inside the ball as deep as I can, improve my best swing, and that's what happened.

What are your thoughts on the foul ball that wasn't caught? What goes through your mind as a batter whenever you get a second chance like that?

ALBERT PUJOLS: I just answered that question. Like I said, I thought the ball was way out, understanding, obviously came back and I look up and I just have a second chance, you know. And I gotta remember, it kind of flashed me back to 2003-2004 when I hit it out when I faced Peavy. That happened two, three years ago. That came back to my mind. At the same time I said relax, don't try too much, see the ball and put a good swing. That's obviously what happened, put a good swing and it went out of the park.

Tony, if we figured this out right, I think the eight position players you had on the field today was the only second time you have been able to start those eight guys. I think maybe August 15th against the Reds, how neat was it for you to affect, kind of have your team out there, what you wanted out there, but couldn't have because of injuries?

TONY LA RUSSA: I'll answer that but I'll put a PS on it ahead of time. That is we're here because when those guys were missing, the guys that played in their place did a good job. You know who they are. Spiezio and Miles and guys like that. That's a team we like to compete with because it's an all-around team. I mean, the defense is outstanding. They're all competitors. They all run the bases and they will take the at-bat, whatever it takes to win the game. The key is: Is Jim healthy enough to go, is David healthy enough to go? The schedule kind of works out for us. Got a day off, play, got a day off. On paper it's a nice-looking team, especially when you got a nice looking pitcher.

Albert, you always hear how important it is when your team scores to go out in the next half inning and put up a 0. Given the team scuffled the last couple of weeks, how important was it for Chris to work out of the jam with all these four-count pitches to be executed?

ALBERT PUJOLS: Like you said, he couldn't be stopped today. He was making some pitches out there. He punched some guys out. When you have your ace out there, the main thing -- and they have their ace out there. You want to get those guys right away. That's what we did. We came up and be ready to swing. And he makes some mistake, Peavy, and we took advantage, and obviously we scored first and gave Chris some opportunity too, so he can make this pitch. And obviously he got in trouble in the fourth inning but he got out of there quick and he was pumped up. I think that's the first time I seen him say yes! It was really sad. We came back and Jimmy got a big hit with two outs and everybody just contributing. That's why this year we haven't contributed as a team and today we did a lot of things. We played defense. Chris pitched a great game and that's what we need to do if we want to go all the way.

I was just wondering, the play that Belliard made during the seventh inning and the play you make in the eighth inning, that's potentially three runs there if the two balls get through. How do you see those two plays affecting the game there late?

ALBERT PUJOLS: If that ball gets through, you have 5-1, 5-3. It still may be first and third, you know. We're two outs, and having Roberts leading off, I mean coming with two outs, and he's been seeing the ball really good. But that's the key, you know. When you're out there and you have that, you have to play defense. Obviously, you know, Ronnie is just a great player. He makes the plays, unbelievable. When that was hit, I never thought he was going to get to the ball and he had a good jump and he caught it and we got out of the inning. That was a big inning to us. And I think Johnson did a great job, and Wainwright. What can I say? He came up firing and got those three outs.

TONY LA RUSSA: In the clubhouse, the fellows gave Belliard the game ball for that play.

This is for either player. Can you tell us how the clubhouse changes during the playoffs? Is there a certain sense of, okay, here we are, this is a new year, new season?

CHRIS CARPENTER: I think that, you know, I said it yesterday and I've said it, I'll say it again today. I think that no matter how you get here, you're here. You got one of eight teams. You've got a chance. You get a couple guys hot, you get a couple starting pitchers throw the ball, get them hot the way they can. And you never know what can happen. Maybe you've seen it in the past with teams that aren't supposed to be there and aren't supposed to win. They end up going to win the World Series, things like that. Once you're here you come into the clubhouse and ready to go. You know, you've got a shot. You just go out and play a few games in a row as hard as you can and do the things you can to win. You have a good chance, and it's a new season.

Padres Post-Game Interviews:

Manager Bruce Bochy
Game One losing pitcher Jake Peavy
Game Two starting pitcher David Wells

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories