Friday Workout Day Interviews – Suppan/TLR

From Busch Stadium on Friday, Cardinals NLDS Game Three starting pitcher Jeff Suppan and manager Tony La Russa field questions in preparation for Saturday's contest.

Jeff Suppan

Jeff, why is it in big games, you have had so much success?

Well I think, when you break it down, it always comes down to the basics anyway, making pitches, location, and I think whether it's a regular season game, spring training game or a playoff game, that is the bottom line, and that's why I try to keep my focus.

Supp, what does it mean knowing tomorrow you would have the opportunity to clinch the division series for the Cardinals?

It's a great situation to be in. We played hard all year. I think we have had ups and downs during the season, and you know we were able to work our way through it, and to be in this situation is a great feeling for me, and you know, looking forward to it.

Supp, even in the post season, you say it still boils down to basics but emotionally, do you feel any different when you know that there's much more on the line in the playoffs?

I think when you keep it at the basics, you're able to control your emotions a little bit better. Of course, you're going to have different feelings, maybe more adrenalin or more thoughts going in, possibly, and I think when you're able to just do, focus on that bottom line, it takes all those extra distractions away from, away from your thoughts, and puts them on -- (LAUGHING) thanks buddy -- puts them on the task at hand.

Supp, can you describe kind of the opportunity you have had here with the Cardinals over the last three years and maybe some of the things you see where you've improved or maybe matured as a pitcher, kind of in this environment?

Well basically, when you gain, when you gain experience through pitching, you have that knowledge. With experience and knowledge, you have an awareness, and I think the more you are in that awareness state, the better you do, and I think I've been very blessed to play with this organization, and I said when I came here, I always wanted to play here, from a visiting standpoint, from watching the Cardinals and watching how they held themselves, and you know I wanted to be a part of that, so basically, you know, when you go out there as a starting pitcher on this staff, you have great defense and great offense, so basically, you try to keep the ball down, change speeds and work fast.

Supp, you talked about your ups and downs the guys had this season. Now you're playing the best ball of the season. Can you explain the turnaround?

I think whether we were winning eight or losing eight, I think we had the same focus. I think that we were trying to win that game at hand. We weren't trying to carry the previous losses or the previous wins into that one game. Our focus was on that one game and I think when you have a team that's able to focus on one game at a time, your success is usually better.

Supp, do you feel that this outing tomorrow will be the biggest outing of your career so far?

You know, every start is my biggest start, so I guess, yes, this would be my next biggest start. I think that you basically go out and every game is important, so I take every game the same, so keep the same focus, the same preparation that I do in every game, like I'm going to do this next game, so I'm going to keep everything the same and go out and make my pitches.

Supp, having Jim back in center and Eck at short, how does that change your game plan and how does it change you going out there, knowing that they're there with the glove and they're also there with their bat now, versus two or three weeks ago they weren't there?

Yeah, obviously to the team, that's a big boost, and as far as me pitching, I still have to go out and make my pitch, so it doesn't matter who is playing back there. I have to make a pitch to make them hit it on the ground, so I think with Eck and Jimmy being out, obviously is a big boost for our team.

Supp, you always seem to be your best with men on base. What do you attribute that to?

I think being able to relax in those situations, to not try to do more than what you can. I think when you're in bigger situations, you know your best fast ball is your best fast ball, so that being said, it doesn't matter who is up or who is on first or second or third, you have to make that pitch, so I think that's where I put my focus in on that one pitch and let everything happen, because I can only control two things and that is what pitch I throw and where I throw it, so that's where I keep my attention.

Jeff, is there a difference being able to pitch when your team is up 2-0 rather than being down 2- 0, are you more aggressive, more relaxed, or less pressure on your shoulders? Your feelings having a 2-0 lead?

My feelings having a 2-0 lead is that those two games are over with. I mean we have to win tomorrow. And I try to stay the same in any situation, so it doesn't matter if we were down or up. I got to go out and help the team win tomorrow.

Jeff, the start against the Dodgers two years ago in the division series, what do you take from that night? How big was that for you to do in your home town and I mean do you recall much of it? Do you kind of cherish that game in any way?

Well that was my first playoff game. That was -- I hadn't pitched in a while, and it was obviously a big game, and having all my family there and friends, in my home town, was a little different experience, but going through that experience, I didn't take that, all those thoughts into the game. I took my same approach into that game, and it was enjoyable, afterward, obviously, and what is a very good experience for me.

You talk a lot about your process going into games. Maybe the best question then is, is that game different after it than any game you pitched? Was the aftermath of that game a little bit more special than most games, than say a regular season game?

It was definitely way up there. I don't know if I can rate all my games, but it definitely was a great feeling. I mean we were going to the championship series, and I was there with, able to celebrate with my family who I'm sure were more nervous than I was, so obviously that aspect was great, but actually just to celebrate with my teammates was great but I really can't rate. That would be hard for me to do.

Supp, obviously Tony acknowledged that you pitched so well at home, by having you start this game 3, he was open about that. How aware of that are you and is there anything in this first year in this new park that you can attribute to why you've been so successful here?

I didn't even know that. Thanks for letting me know now.

Jinx. Tony obviously said that is why he didn't want you in 2, saving you for 3. Were you fully aware of it before that?

No, I wasn't. I think you have different streaks. There's different things that happen during a season and that is not for me to concern myself with. Obviously, that is for Tony to be aware of and Dunc. I try to not look at it that way. I think one year I had pitched really well on the road, and I won a lot of starts on the road, so I mean like I said, I really just try to bear down and what I have control over, and to focus on what I can control.

It's safe to say you like pitching here?

I enjoy, yeah I enjoy pitching here. Safe to say that.

Supp, you were able to watch these last two games knowing you weren't going to be in the games. Can you reflect on how the team has played all around these last two days, these last two games in San Diego?

I think we played really well. I think Carp came out, and I mentioned to him after the game, way to set the tone and Carp is a bonafide No. 1 starter, Cy Young award winner and he really came out and did the job, and offensively, we were able to score runs and get big hits. Rolen had a great hit right there, and you know and then with the second game, Weaver came out and threw five scoreless and our bullpen finished the game, so I think as a team, we played very well in those first two games.

What do you look at the cause for that, for a team that, of course, over this last two weeks, you guys kind of struggled down the stretch. What do you think was the key point, really turning things around for these last two games? Was it Tony, was it just players that had been in the post season before, combination of factors?

I think once you get to the post season, anything can happen and if you're able to keep your eyes on the task at hand, you're going to have success, so we can't control how we got into the playoffs any more. It's over with. Now we're here and now our focus is here. We're not concerning ourself with what we did leading up to the post season or anything in that manner. I think when you have a team that's been around, played a lot with each other, you know you just really go out there, and I don't know if it's a philosophy or what, or how I feel about our team is that we bear down, we focus on one game at a time.

Kevin Kennedy said you were underrated when you came to the Cardinals. It was a very good choice. Have you changed anything, any new pitches? Do you do anything different since you've joined the Cardinals?

I can't say that I have done anything different. I could say that I have done things better. I think my first year coming over here, being able to throw to Mike Matheny was great for me, and I think just with the caliber of teammates that I have, good people on and off the field, I think that added to my success. I always try to put the team first and do whatever I can to help to contribute and so I think when I came over here, that philosophy was here, and so I think it helped me become a better pitcher.

Tony La Russa

Tony, in the game tomorrow, what will you be looking for out of Supp?

Some shut-down pitching like we had in their place, that would be a great step in the right direction.

Not that you have been back in town long, but have you noticed a difference in A, the mood of your club from late September or B, in the mood of the city?

Well, I haven't been able to see it in person. I know a lot of the players, coaches and myself got messages and phone calls, people are excited. But I think we need to have a realistic view. Somehow some way we got in, and when we play the first series, and see if you can advance.

Tony, how much of a positive have the young guys in the bullpen been for you?

Well they pitched very well. I mean, you know, the first game we had several runs, but there were guys on base that could have gotten away and you put a couple guys on base with the offense they have, yesterday there was no room for error. I mean they pitched very well.

With what Supp has done in big games over the past three or four years, how do you look at that? Do you look at him as the guy that comes up big when he's needed?

Well, he's won 16 games a couple times so those are all big. It's just a continuation. He's just pitched effectively. I know he's had a couple rough games against San Diego, so I'm sure they've got some confidence going in. But Supp, he's been known to rise to the occasion, and you know, we've been such a hit and miss club, we're definitely not overconfident and underestimating what's left ahead of us.

Tony, how huge has it been to have Jim Edmonds back in the starting lineup?

Well he's given us a lift. I mean he's come out, got a couple big hits. His range around the outfield is very well. That ball park is bigger than ours in the outfield, but he stabilizes the outfield and he's very important player, he's been one of our core guys for a long time, so to have him playing and playing well means a lot.

Tony what makes Chris Young so effective and how do you think your lineup stacks up against him?

Well we just saw him recently, and I mean I think everybody's numbers are legitimate. He's got a lot of height, a lot of deception in his delivery. He really moves the ball around the zone and he has good command of offspeed stuff. He's just a pitcher, pitcher with good stuff, very good array of weapons that he mixes up and he's tough to pick up.

Given the troubles you guys had down the stretch, what's happened now, could you have foreseen this? Is this beyond your wildest dreams?

Well, I've been a fan of playoffs for a long time. You get in, only eight clubs playing, so I've seen too often that the club that plays the best wins, and so your challenge is always to be the club that plays better than the opponent. Like I say, we've done two days, and we need to get another win, and not to take anything for granted.

With the way that your team has gone up and down, with these past two games would maybe be the most consistent two games for your pitching, from your pen, from your batting, that you have seen in a while, now with everyone back?

Well definitely a while. The last six weeks, two months, we had trouble winning two games in a row but the first part of the season, we had some real good spurts. Sure potentially everybody is capable of playing, but we have had two solid games. We played the whole thing, pitching, defense and hitting, a lot of energy. Been fun.

Tony, over the last three years, I think most folks would look at your starting rotation and pick out the marquis names like Carpenter and Matt Morris for a while and Mulder. Can you maybe discuss or describe what role Suppan has had in just being able to take the ball every fifth day and gobble up innings and give you the 16 wins you alluded to?

Well each of his first two years, 16 is a big total and you got to give him special credit in '04 when he pitched the clinching game a couple of times. I mean those are all really important for the way those seasons went and this year in the second half, when we struggled so much, and he's one guy that really was a consistent starter who would give us some wins. We need every bit of those wins to get to the finish line, so you know he just goes by it right. Very consistent in his approach, and you know we feel like he'll give us a chance tomorrow.

Were you surprised when Belliard made that double play? What was your reaction?

Well since the first day he's been in our uniform this guy has played an outstanding second base. I'm talking about left, right, back, double plays, smart, awareness of the field, so just those great. We needed it but no surprise, and that's the way he's been play, outstanding.

Do you have any explanation or idea in your head of why you've done so well in the division round? It's almost a lockdown series for you?

You know, not really. I mean I think what the general perception, if you talk to players that have been in this thing and coaches, managers, general managers, they feel this is the most pressurized of the three rounds, because you lose three games and you're out. No matter what your season was like and then the next one, you at least pass that, you got some legitimacy in the post season and if you get to the World Series, then you've got four wins to be the whole thing. So we played really well and we only one won championship series. I don't know how you can claim that, you know, they don't handle one pressure well and they handle the other pressure. It's just -- it's just the way the history shows that it's gone. I haven't seen us really do anything different in any of the rounds.

With what Josh has done over this past six weeks or so, when he came back, and also in game 2, what have you seen from him, versus when he was first up here back in June?

Well he's a pitcher that, in our system, we were getting glowing reports, goes back a couple years to this year, about the movement, on his fast ball, his quality breaking balls, so we were anxious to see him, and we had a look at him, you could see that the potential, and his consistency has gotten better and better as he's gotten more experience.

Being the underdog and the way the team has come out playing, what does that tell you?

Well those are labels, and the only difference, I think, for the team is the questions that you answer. Look, what you think, I mean we went in, when we've been -- when somebody had a higher opinion of us, you realize how tough the competition is. The other side can beat you and you just gear to take your best shot. And now here, you know the label is on the other side, but from our point of view, you gear to take your best shot and you go out and play. I mean I think we've handled it both ways. It hasn't been something, "we'll show them." We'll play our best, we're a dangerous club to play and we've got a shot.

I don't remember if you remember back in the spring, the magazine that said Leyland was one of the worst moves of the offseason. You said that will bite him in the rear end. How often do you talk in the season? What about the past week and how close are you following his team?

I interrupted our celebration the other day to try to watch the last game against Kansas City, watch them very closely. If you watch, we have a 7 o'clock game, and you know in that hour before we go out there, I don't care who is playing whether our division, I've got the Tigers on. We've talked twice today already. I just going way back to the late 70's, just recognize just what a gifted baseball man Jim is, and this is a very dramatic example of what he's capable of doing, to contribute from the manager's side. The players, we said a hundred times, it's a player's game, but he is real special.

Are you for tomorrow, how much different will it be your line up, now that you have Edmonds back. Discuss that.

Well Jim is going to play, but I think most of the core guys, you know, David, as opposed to the lineup that Young face, David will play short, but most of the players will be the same.

When you look at the days off that you have had to this point, how much has the added flexibility in the bullpen helped you?

Well we came in with a lot of life, a lot of freshness in our bullpen. So you play two, take one off, if we would have had two days in a row, and a day off, they would have been fresh, so you know we've gone through this. It just seems like this has been the formula we have been in the most, except for maybe one time, in '01, but if anything, you know you play good, you like to go back out there so it's kind of interrupted when we do. You just got to mentally tough it out. But I mean there's no doubt, we had guys throw 17, 20 pitches today. They will all be ready tomorrow. Where today, they would be a little bit careful, but they were fresh enough, and we're getting close to finish line, man, so this is where you push.

With those young guys in the bullpen, do you almost have to leap in and trust them? It seemed like maybe earlier in the season, you would go longer with starters, and just kind of hold off on the other guys?

No, I can't disagree with that more. I think what you do early in the season is just like with a Wainwright or a Tyler Johnson, you try to be a little bit careful how you break 'em in, but I mean we never pushed our starters all year long. We always had guys that we felt had some experience in the bullpen, Randy Flores had more experience than Tyler but I think just a matter of trying to get guys have some big league experience before you start pushing them. It's just way, I was talking to Jim this morning. He brings in a left-hander, 1-1 count, gets an out. If that guy doesn't do well, use a young guy. A couple years ago, Mike Matthews gave up a homerun, and why in the world would you pick Mike Matthews? Doesn't have experience. It's a brutal job that way.

If it works, it's good. If it doesn't work, you should have done something else. So that is why you don't worry. Try to figure your best and go from there.

The way that your pen is set up for the first two games, is that kind of what you will try to be going with, pitching flow, Josh, Tyler, Adam or do you see maybe a change in the way that you use some of those guys?

Just playing the game. I mean yesterday if one inning would have gone different, Looper would have pitched the eighth. Depends upon the lineup you're facing and first day, we used Tyler and if there had been another chance, Randy would have pitched behind him, so just try to watch and the thing is you you have weapons out there and you can have some. Brad Thompson is throwing as well as anybody in our bullpen, hasn't pitched in two days -- two games, that is a good sign for us.

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