Monday Cards NLCS G5 Interviews – Carp/TLR

St. Louis Cardinals NLCS Game Six starting pitcher Chris Carpenter and Manager Tony La Russa spoke from Busch Stadium on Monday just prior to the Game Five rainout being announced. That game will be played on Tuesday instead, originally scheduled to be a travel day.

Chris Carpenter and Tony La Russa spoke from rainy Busch Stadium on Monday.

Chris Carpenter

If we get rained out tonight, are you pitching tomorrow?

(Laughter.) I don't think so. Nobody said anything to me.

Has that been broached to you, is it something you'd be interested in? If that comes up, how do you respond if somebody asks it to you and how does that sort of go?

It has not been brought up and I expect that Jeff is going to pitch tomorrow. If for some odd reason he comes up to me and tells me that I'm pitching and it rains out, I'll take the ball and go out and pitch.

Your last start you struggled, is there a fatigue effect at all this time of year? You have a lot of innings.

No, I felt good. I struggled with command, which is the biggest key, and obviously not only in this situation, but in any situation all season, if you struggle with command, throwing balls in the middle of the plate and don't throw strike one and don't get ahead of the hitters you're not going to be successful. I was able to throw my breaking ball for strikes during that game, so I'm looking forward to another chance, and I don't expect that to be the case.

Did you figure anything out in your side day that might help you from a mechanics standpoint?

No. My mechanics are fine. You know, again, I feel good. I feel strong. My stuff's there. The other day I was pulling an awful lot of balls and just not attacking the strike zone with my breaking stuff.

I wrote it off as it was one of those nights that, unfortunately, I wasn't able to throw my stuff for strikes and hopefully, I plan on the next time, like I said, not being like that.

Have you ever thought how you would handle Pujols? The second half of that, the reason I ask, do you even take note when another pitching staff, in this case the Mets, seems to have handled him relatively well?

I don't think about how I pitch to Albert because I don't have to as of right now. You know, again, Albert is probably the best hitter in the game, there's no question about it.

But if you make pitches, there's going to be times if you consistently make pitches that you're going to be able to get him out. He's human, you know, and these guys have been making a lot of quality pitches against him.

The only thing I've noticed is that a little bit of pitching backwards, where they are slow early, hard late, throwing a lot of pitches out of the strike zone when they get ahead. Albert has been trying to do what he can to help this club, and you know, he's got his hits. He's hitting three something or whatever and just hasn't been up in that situation where he could drive runs in.

I think that, you know, he has done a good job of, in the key situations where he has had the ability to drive a run in, to not give him anything good to hit.

What's going through a pitcher's mind when you don't know if he's going to start the game or what time, when you turn off the adrenaline, how do you prepare mentally for something like that?

For me, I can't speak for Jeff, but obviously Jeff's been through a couple of situations already this post-season. He got rained out the first game and there's a possibility he's going to get rained out a second game.

For me, you're continually, you've got to stay focused all the way up until they say it's over. And to be honest with you, you go home, and for me, I start getting prepared the night before, I start thinking about my plan and what I'm going to do.

I'm going over hitters in my head. It's just basically a nonstop process. You're continuing all the way up until this game is going to be played or not going to be played, and then if it's not going to be played, it's a continuing process of getting ready for tomorrow night. And Jeff's a professional guy, and obviously he handled it well the first time, and I believe he's going to handle it well again this time also.

Just a question on your breaking ball: In San Diego when you had that masterful game and you were able to drop the ball over the plate, what happens from start to start that you can locate a pitch that well in one game and two starts later you can't?

Mechanics. I mean, I was pulling off the ball the other night. I was cutting balls off and not finishing my pitches. I was trying as hard as I could to figure out a way to get myself to fix it. And unfortunately, it was one of those games, and I had a few this year, that everything I tried wasn't working for me.

You know, you go back, I believe every time I go out there that it's going to be there and I'm going to be able to do it. When it doesn't happen, you try to make adjustments pitch to pitch and hitter to hitter, and I was trying to do that all night long and I wasn't able to do it.

But, you know, I felt good on my side, and I felt good playing catch, and I believe that it's going to be there this time, too.

Can you just for the layman out there just explain what pulling off the ball is.

Well, it's just not -- it's finishing, finishing to the side, you know. Normally you want to finish --


Straightforward, going into the glove, going into the catcher. You're finishing your hand to the glove. I was, my front shoulder, my head, everything was going, basically slinging balls in there. You try to get locked back in, keeping your head still and getting on the mitt and getting on the catcher, and I was able to do it.

The two Carloses for the Mets have been cutting a wide swath through the post-season. What special challenges do each of those guys pose? And they seem to be covering both sides of the plate right now.

Obviously, you know, I've seen Carlos Beltrán play when he was in Kansas City. I played against him there when I was in Toronto and I saw him play against us when he came over to Houston, and obviously did some damage when he was there. There's a reason why he's an MVP candidate and hits 40 homers a year and drives in a bunch of runs and does the things that he does. He's a great player and a great hitter. He's a guy that you've got to move the ball around and really make pitches, and he doesn't miss mistakes and if you make a mistake he's going to hit it.

Carlos Delgado is the same way. I played with him in Toronto. These two guys are great. They do a great job of driving in runs and especially in key situations. The two games that they have won, they have hit some homers. You know, the first night, Beltrán hits the homer to win the game. Carlos does damage against me with the home run ball. But fortunately we were able to score runs to come back. Obviously Game 3 there was no homers. We kept guys off base. We kept that damage control down where if Carlos or Carlos run into one, it's a solo homer and it might not hurt you. Unfortunately last night, that wasn't the case. You know, you're getting first and second and bases loaded and you get those guys in those situations where you can't be as careful. You've got to be aggressive and make pitches, and all of a sudden you leave one over the middle of the plate and they do damage.

You had said before your first start in the series that you had stopped throwing side sessions for last several weeks, and I guess you threw a side session this time. You talked about saving bullets as a reason. How do you balance the need for the side session with what you said about saving bullets?

Well, the reason why I threw this side session, I'm not going to get into big detail about it, there was one thing I wanted to work on, and there wasn't an extensive session. It was just something that I wanted to get up there and work on a little bit and I got my work in and did that.

Don't get me wrong, I mean, you know, the last month of the season, there were times where I threw sides. You just pick and choose, you know, where you're at. Like I said before, where you're at and how you feel and what you think you need to work on. If there's something you think you need to work on, you do it, and if you don't, you relax and skip it. That's not just an opinion of mine, it's an opinion of Dunc's, too. When we talk about what I want to do and what I need to work on. If there's a reason to go up there on the mound and throw -- a lot of times I get up there and I get focused so much that I maybe throw a little bit too much, so I'm better off not doing it at all.

One of the old baseball wisdoms is that in a series, the second time a pitcher faces a team, it kind of favors the hitters, I'm not sure it's true. Do you buy into that, and if so, how do you counteract that?

I don't buy into it. I think that you have to go out and execute your game plan and execute pitches. No matter who you're facing and what you're doing, I mean, it's called pitching. That's what you do. You have to go out and you have to make pitches. And if you make pitches, you're going to have some success, no matter -- it happened with me in San Diego. It happened my last three starts before the series, my last three starts of the year, I had to face San Diego at home here and I had to face them twice in the playoffs. Obviously they got me here, and then the two times in San Diego, or the time in San Diego or the time here in the playoffs, I got them. You execute pitches.

I wasn't able to execute pitches the other night. I wasn't able to execute my game plan and I got beat. If you go out there and execute pitches and execute your game plan and do things that a pitcher is supposed to do, and that's pitch, off balance, back and forth, both sides of the plate, up-and-down, things like that, you're going to have success no matter how many times you face them.

How does Delgado's ability to hit for power and to hit really well to left and left-center affect the way that you pitch to him?

It doesn't affect it at all. Like I said, I've seen Carlos for a long time and he's been doing that since I got called up in '97 and before that. He's a phenomenal hitter, and you've got to go out and make pitches. If you make pitches, you have a chance. If you don't -- the balls that he's hit are balls that are up and away and balls that are in the middle of the plate, and he did it off me. The two homers he hit off me, I was trying to throw a fastball in, and I left it in the middle thigh-high. Guys that hit 40 homers and drive in 100 and some runs every year don't miss those pitches.

Second time I was trying to go the other way, left it out over the plate and he got it. That's what makes him a good hitter. If you make good pitches and execute what you're supposed to be doing, you have a better shot. Not saying he's not going to get you, because he can do that, too. They hit good pitches, too, but you have a better shot if you make good pitches.

Tony La Russa

Is the manager in you pleased to have a pitcher now being able to go on full rest?

I think it's not just the pitcher for either side -- it's exactly the same for both guys. You don't want to have a pitcher pitch short if you don't have to. And I think more importantly, because I think both guys have been gearing themselves to go, so they are ready. I think the position players would have had to deal with the elements, the manager in me, Willie and myself, it would be dangerous and a lot to ask.

I know it's a small sample, but Yadier has had a terrific post-season offensively, but he had a sub-par year, so was it anything mechanical or was the year more of a fluke? What can you say about his hitting in the post-season?

Very good question, because his Minor League record, he's always hit. And last year, his first full season after a slow start, he was a good hitter and got it to where he had very respectful numbers.

I think he had a tough year, and he's used to hitting and he pressed and a lot of days he's out there trying to get four hits in three at-bats and he just got stuck in a lot of at-bats and not enough hits. I think when he got to the post-season, in my opinion, he started 0 for 0, and with that fresh start, he's been more himself.

When you folks took on Jeff Weaver, was there something that you thought you wanted to work on with him? What was your basic overall view of how he got to be -- so he was even available to you?

Well, first thing is that we had need, you know, so that was important. Then he was available. We knew that he was a guy with a track record of success and more importantly, a very good competitor which I think counts for a lot. In the final hope we can get him, just like everything we do with pitching, Dave Duncan watches tapes, looks like he's healthy, throwing the ball, stuff-wise, look forward to getting him. I know we placed a couple of calls to people that knew Jeff and they said, "He would be good for your team," and they hit it right on the nose.

This is a little bit off the subject of this series, but Ken Macha was fired today in Oakland --

I beg your pardon?

Yeah. Obviously news to you. Amid reports that there was friction between him and players, etc. My question for you is as a long-time manager, can you describe your relationship with players and ideally what it needs to be. Do you need to be liked by players, do you need to be just respected, what is your view on this situation, because as I said, reports are that there was a lot of friction in the A's between the manager and the players.

Well, they had such a great second half, there was friction, how did they beat Minnesota -- they beat Minnesota, right? How did that happen?

Well, there's a long way to answer that. I mean, we don't want to get long winded. I think we all have an obligation, in the end, you have a coaching staff, you have front office and your boss and so forth, but you're supposed to be the decision maker. And you have to have a relationship where the players are willing to go in the direction that -- you speak for your coaching staff and for your front office and for your ownership. If you stand and say we need to go right, and your relationship with players is not one where they follow, then there's a couple things. No. 1, that's why sometimes managers don't go back on their own, because, you know, they just get tuned out. And that's why if an organization sees that, then they don't bring them back.

So I'm really shocked by this. I just look at the season they had. I didn't know that. But I think what you look for, in the best situations, you have a personal and a professional relationship with your players. In my opinion, if it's just an effective professional relationship, where they respect you, that's okay. But the dynamics of a baseball team is from Spring Training to hopefully October, you're together so much that professional alone, you're missing edges. It's like the guys that I respect the most that I've watched over the years, you've got to add the personal. There's got to be something personal with your players so that they respect, but there's feeling and there's caring and there's trust and all that.

You know, so that's kind of -- that's a little long winded, but I don't think you can just get up there and be a great strategist and get it done as well as somebody -- I use my friend Jim (Leyland). To me Jim is incredible that way because he's personally just gets into their hearts and heads and strategy, he's great.

But you need to have both of them in my opinion, and I'm surprised, Oakland.

Obviously the way you guys have pitched to Delgado and some of the damage he's done, that's been a big theme in the series so far, what are specifically some of the things that make him so tough to pitch to?

Well, I thought you were getting ready to get that answer, what are you going to do to get him out, can't talk about that. No, what makes him so tough, here is a guy that's a .300 hitter with power. If the guy is hitting .300 and doesn't have power, he's got holes. If a guy hits .300 and doesn't have power the damage is limited. This guy's got it all. Guys like that, they have the ability to hit a lot of different pitches and they make adjustments. That's Carlos Delgado, can't go to the same place to get him out. You've got to mix it up and if you've made a mistake like we've made, he punishes you. He's a big-time producer.

What makes a good coaching staff, and how much difference can they make on a team, good, bad?

Appreciate the question, because I really think there's a lot of respect due to good coaching staffs. As long as everybody understands, this is a player's game, but the demands on the players from the first day to the last are so difficult and they come in so many forms that a good coaching staff can really help put players in a position, both psychologically, fundamentally, you know, strategically.

A good coaching staff knows that they are there for the players. Same thing as managing. By the quality of how you are as a person and as a professional, you earn respect and trust and caring. So, I mean, we're blessed here. We have a great coaching staff, and these guys work hard and they work hard for the players. Nobody is here -- I challenge you to find one coach that's generated a headline out here, "I helped Albert" or "I helped Chris." They just don't do it. You're not there to be cute with the press. You're there because you're there to be a friend to somebody, help guys get into a position to succeed and it's all about them and not you.

And the other P.S. to that, we talk about with Red all the time, the veterans here, the last bunch of years, players get to the bigs here and they still need to be coached. You used to learn at all levels of the Minor Leagues but now you come to the big leagues, even in a good developmental situation, there's still a lot of teaching, so your coaches have to be good teachers as well.

Chris Carpenter is the ultimate competitor. The Mets maybe didn't see the best of him in this last game. He says that he's ready to take on this next challenge. Will they see a different pitcher most likely in the second game?

Well, that's interesting, you know, they saw the great Chris Carpenter. They saw a guy that was not the top of his game, and they couldn't finish him off and finish us off. That to me is part of why he's great. If he goes out there Wednesday and he's his normal self as far as command of his four pitches, they will see the greatest of the great.

Carpenter's greatness, just like the other day, the last game in San Diego, they could have had five or six the first two innings if he had not been as great as he is, and same thing with the Mets. Those great ones, when it's not their day, they give you a chance anyway.

Again it's a small sample on Albert and his batting average is fine, do you feel like a power explosion is there, that you cannot go through a series without him hitting some long balls?

We won a couple of games in this series, one game at Shea, he got a couple base hits.

We can win with him getting on base, whether it's a single or a walk or a double. I mean, you probably noticed, he's laboring when he runs. His right hamstring is a real problem, his push-off/drive leg. He can hit some home runs and catches it right, but he's not going to be generating as much power but he can still generate base hits. Just got to be careful running.

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