Thurs. WS Pre-G4 Interviews –TLR/Miles/J-Rod

St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa plus reserves Aaron Miles and John Rodriguez spoke from damp Busch Stadium before Thursday's Game Four of the 2006 World Series.

Tony La Russa

Any lineup changes or are you going with who you had yesterday?

The same lineup.

In the postseason, should they try to be more careful than the regular season with the weather in making sure games don't start where they could have delays, where your starters get burned?

Well, I think I heard the Commissioner say yesterday something that seems to make a lot of sense, and that is however the game is played, even if there's delays, you want to have, as best you can, reasonable playing competitive conditions. So part of that is not burning a starter, but sometimes you're in an area where squalls come through and -- you play in Florida, you can't wait for three-hour breaks there sometimes. But I think the idea to play nine innings in October as best you can as opposed to just trying to survive it, seems to make sense.

Still keeping your options open for the Game 6 starter?

No, we're going to go ahead and pitch Weaver tomorrow. Weaver will pitch Game 5.

How about after that?

We'll be consistent. We know we're going to play two more games, and then see how our staff shakes out.

Is it hard for your pitchers, especially the younger guys to wait a day, maybe they don't warm up, but they're motivated, they're excited about pitching and then they have to wait?

What are you talking about, our relievers? Our starter, Supp, has experience. I think generally maybe the veteran has a little more experience. There's such an excitement of being here that you deal with some of the interruptions and distractions and when it's time to go, the excitement and the enthusiasm carries you.

Do you think you could have played yesterday?

No chance. I was downtown late, they had no chance to play. If it had been anything other than a World Series game, they would have bagged it earlier. They did the best they could.

What made you go with Weaver over Reyes?

I think it will be his natural day, I think. The way he's pitched for us makes sense to go, and we keep Anthony ready for whatever we need.

How much do you think it ate away at Scott Rolen the struggles in the '04 World Series, and not being able to make it up with the last post-season? How much do you think that's helped with this postseason?

I think with Scott, he hadn't been healthy much in October. And the one time I think whatever it was, was it '01, I think it's '01 where he started off really good against the Diamondbacks, the first game and a half, and got blasted and that was it for him. And every year after that he gets to the end of the season he's pretty well beat up.

I liked his quote, since we've been playing, he said he thinks he's got a fighting chance, and that's all it takes with him.

Your only other World Series was '89, can you talk about how it that experience affected your view on baseball and life?

Well, I'm not sure I really want to think about it, because this is 2006 and it's completely different. We're just trying to win now.

But I remember that was a really talented club, and it's a coach's dream to have that kind of talent peak, and we were peaking as we got -- we beat a really good Toronto team. So all of a sudden you play two games, we were playing as good as we could play, pitching as good as we could pitch, and you have to wait. But looming over it all is people were killed, loss of property, injured. It was a devastating hit to the Bay Area. And there was some attempts to make us feel guilty for wanting to continue it, but I looked around and everybody else, every other form of entertainment -- we were out 10, 11 days, whatever it was, but I think we're all capable.

As a club we concentrated on professionally this is an opportunity. In that clubhouse there were very few guys with World Series rings, very, very, few. This was their chance. On the personal side we were careful not to celebrate. We didn't have a parade. We didn't have champagne, stuff like that.

One of the things Jim Leyland said yesterday is that your club's familiarity with Polanco very well could be playing a role in the fact he hasn't hit, how true could that be?

Let me ask you, if Poli goes out and gets two or three hits, what happens to familiarity?

That's what Jim said.

I know that's what Jim said. He said it could be.

I think we pitched him really tough. I think he's had a couple of pitches where he had real good swings, he fouled them off. I also remember against Chris he had a line drive on a 0-2 pitch to first or second. Was that the one Albert had to dive at or something?

He's going to get his hits. I think in a short series sometimes, averages don't count for lots. It's at-bats, and we're really worried about him, whether he hits third or seventh.

Do you, yourself, or any of your baseball friends, colleagues, ever wonder out loud about the TV ratings and how that plays against the record attendances and all these teams that thought two million was unimaginable when you were growing up, and three million and four million, and the ratings go down and down, do you think about it at all?

Well, I can just speak for myself, it's not something we talk a lot about in the clubhouse. It's really concentrating on playing the game. Everything else like that takes care of itself. I read once in a while if one of the New York teams had gotten in or both New York teams, so maybe that's a function of it.

The way I look at it, if you're anywhere from a casual to a great baseball fan, and you've got the Cardinals and the Tigers with the history both these franchises have, it's a must see World Series. That's enough for me.

Baseball, generally, what's happened to the first two spots in the batting order? It used to be leadoff guy was the guy that just got on base, and the second guy was a bat handler. And then you made the No. 2 spot a power position, how did that all evolve?

I didn't make that. I learned it. Everything I do I've learned from somebody. I tell you who taught me that one, but -- I don't know. I can remember didn't Bobby Bonds strike out a lot, and that was years ago. You look at the players you've got, the best players for the position, and you start configuring them in the lineup. In '89, Bo Jackson led off, because you had to put him somewhere. And guys like can Kirby were needed other places. So I do think that -- it's the only thing I've said for years about our -- I've been very fortunate in the three places I've been, I have always had a three hitter that was a real problem for the other side, from Harold to Jose to Mark to Albert, and when you've got that kind of problem for the other side (crossing fingers) makes sense.

Some of this stuff I run by Dave. It makes sense to put some extra-base pop in the two spot. I will say the best comeback we had here was in 2001, we were eight or nine games down to Houston in August, we came back to tie for the co-championship. The guy that hit second did more to trigger our spurt, his name is Placido Polanco. He was a classic Ted Sizemore kind of guy.

I think the big thing if you think about it strategically, if you have this dynamite guy hitting third, and you do the traditional thing where you use the second guy to get him in scoring position, open base, you put the guy on, you take the bat out of his hands, so it doesn't make a lot of sense, unless you can get him to third, which is something we try to do once in a while.

With the stay in St. Louis lasting about a week, do you think it's an advantage for your players home in their own beds rather than in a hotel and just trying to get through the day?

That's a good question. I think the mindset is so strong on both sides -- I know the Tigers are one of the best road clubs in both leagues. They're going to handle it, if we beat Detroit, guys are mentally set to play out their best shot. I think it is a problem, I don't know if -- because it happened to us, it happened to the Mets and there was a possibility that guys, some guys had to change rooms, not the players, some guys in the organization, because you had to stay over an extra day. But it's not going to be a factor either way.

What role do you see for Anthony Reyes in this series or what role would you like to see him in for the rest of the series?

There's so much uncertainty about how long the series is going to go, with the weather, what days. He's going to throw a bullpen today and we'll see how long this thing goes. And there's a reasonable chance that he will get -- he's not going to start in the St. Louis portion, but there's a chance he would start in Detroit. So we're going to get him ready for that.

Aaron Miles and John Rodriguez

Aaron, in this series with you guys waiting around and not knowing whether you're going to play or not and the fans are waiting around and it's cold and miserable in the stadium, do you think at all that baseball should do something to move the schedule up, whether it's double headers or do you have any thoughts? Some people have been kicking the idea of having a warm-weather site for the World Series. Do you think of anything like that, and what do you think of the stands and everybody is bundling up like it's December?

AARON MILES: I don't think the warm-weather site is a good idea, because I think the fans, it's something they've been waiting for, and it's a reward for coming to the games and doing everything they do. But the double headers is an idea, I guess, starting the season a little earlier. Of course you start the season earlier they'd have trouble with the weather there, too. I think it's something we've got to deal with. The fans have to deal with. I think they'd rather sit in the stands a couple of nights cold and come back the next night than see their team playing in San Diego or something.

This is for Aaron, I was going to ask you, about several years ago you played for the Birmingham Barons, and here you are on the World Series team. Can you talk about what this means to you, plus just the idea of maybe getting a big World Series check?

AARON MILES: Well, for the guys that don't have multi-year contracts, the World Series check, it's like another year you played, I guess, a whole another Big League salary for us. But that's big.

When Yadi hit that home run, of course the first thing that pops into your head is we're going to the World Series. But the next thing is it's really good money for us guys that aren't making those multi-million dollar contracts.

And as far as playing in the World Series is something that -- I mean, go back to when we're six, seven years old in our backyard throwing it around. You pretend like you're in the World Series, hitting the ninth inning, with the chance to win the game. So pretty much everybody's dreams are coming true right here.

John, did you feel like this team relaxed and kind of got a burden off of its shoulders when it did clinch the division, and everything went back to 0-0 and you could start playing playoff games again?

JOHN RODRIGUEZ: I think we were like that even when we were going through that stretch. We just had a couple of guys down who were a little beat up. We always felt confident within ourselves and we knew what kind of team we were, especially coming out of Spring Training. The first couple of months when we were hot, and it seemed like everybody thought we were winning. And the last stretch for a month or month and a half, we had a lot of people questioning us. We knew from the get-go that we were a good team and we should be in this situation now. So we're ready for the battle and ready to win this war.

This question is for both of you guys: You haven't gone through the NLCS, are veterans of the rainout here and had to pass the time. I am wondering, has anything developed to help you guys pass the time in the clubhouse or how you guys have done that here, if there's a hearts tournament going or a World Series of Poker?

JOHN RODRIGUEZ: Something like that. Most of the time we're just looking at video. Seriously, we are. We're looking at video. As for myself, Miles, Spiezio, guys that are on the bench who have the opportunity to come up in a key situation in the game, we live in the cages. We have guys in there that are throwing to us. We have hitting machines that we can just do different things with.

But besides that card playing, yeah, we have a little tournament going on. But there's no betting involved (laughter.)

AARON MILES: I took BP probably three times yesterday. So luckily we've got guys that will throw to us anytime. You might have a start at 8:00, we might have a start at 9:00. So just shuffling back and forth to the BP cage, going and watching the film. We watched it so much yesterday, I don't think we need to watch any today. If we're waiting around today, it will be boring for us.

A lot of people thought you should play or would have played yesterday when it was misting out. Did you want to get out and start the game based on the weather conditions at 7, 8:00?

AARON MILES: We wanted to play. No doubt about it. The whole thing is, we don't want to lose one of our pitchers, they don't want to lose one of their pitchers. Everything is based on that, I think, that's the bottom line. I know that you've got to take into consideration the TV and what have you, but the bottom line is the pitcher and giving each team the fair chance that they deserve.

John, Aaron was referring to the dreams you had when you were six or seven years old, can you take us through what your baseball was like when you were a kid and what your specific thoughts of the World Series was like when you were a kid.

JOHN RODRIGUEZ: I grew up in the projects in New York City, so everything was a dream. There was really no realities besides if you had a family member in your life that took you away from the bad stuff that was going around, you were privileged and you were blessed. So I was blessed to have my uncle in my life and my mom who kept me away from the drugs or the drug selling and things like that that was going on around my neighborhood.

Baseball and football, actually, kept me away from a lot of the negative. My uncle always took me away to his house and practiced with me, did things like that. It was just an amazing feeling how you go from there to where I'm at now and just sit back and just think about it. And it's definitely a dream come true.

When you guys are on the bench and throughout the game in these weather conditions, are you doing anything different to keep yourself warm and make it easier to get loose? I imagine it's different when you're going through these weather conditions?

JOHN RODRIGUEZ: During the regular season when it's a little bit warmer, we start getting ready around the fifth, sixth or even seventh inning. With temperatures like this, we keep moving around, even from the first inning. We just are doing things that are either walking back to the video room, walking back to the clubhouse, taking some swings, stretching in the cages and just doing things like that.

AARON MILES: I tell you, I wouldn't want to be at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, because there's no place to hit off the tee. There's no batting tunnels. Luckily here we can come in our hitting tunnel and warm up and stretch and throw in the hitting tunnel, take swings, when you're getting ready to get in there. So you're not necessarily cold. When you see the guy has been sitting on the bench and he's cold and frosty. It's true if you're at Wrigley or Boston or some of the old parks that don't have some of the new amenities that some of the new fields have, but that's one of the lucky things we have with the new ballparks now. Coming off the bench cold, it's not like it used to be.

John, just as a follow-up to what you were saying before, can you take us through the story of how you were discovered in New York and how you signed and came up.

JOHN RODRIGUEZ: Right after high school, it was a summer league that I played in in the Bronx. And I played there for a little bit and I had a try-out where my uncle knew a cop who knew the scout that was holding a try-out in Yankee Stadium. And I did the try-out, did well. But he also had invited about 5,200 kids. So I just felt like I had to go in there and prove my point. I just left. I went back to playing summer league in the Bronx and the same scout that ran it came to one of my games and was like, who is this kid? Everybody keeps talking about him. Lo and behold it was me, I went to that try-out and from there I spent eight years in the Minor Leagues, signed as a free agent last year with Cleveland, got traded over here, played one month in Memphis, got called up and have been here ever since. It's sort of like a male Cinderella story if you want (laughter.)

For both of you guys, when you look at this team, three weeks ago a lot of people were not saying that it was going to be the Cardinals and Detroit here. Were the Cardinals a team that was maybe built for a short series, and is it fair to say that? Is it fair to say that for Detroit and why?

AARON MILES: I don't know about you guys, but I think these are two of the best teams in baseball. You look at the Tigers, their pitching staff, they're built for any series with a pitching staff like that.

And the same with us. You go Carp, Supp, Weaver, these guys have been great down the stretch of the season. And there's not too many teams that can throw out those top notch three pitchers like that.

Everybody was wondering about Weaver when he came over here, but he's been a top notch Major League pitcher, No. 1, No. 2 guy for us. He's struggled on a little bit early, but when we went down the stretch he picked it up big time. The postseason is all about pitching. We're here because of pitching. We've got the big guys that can swing the bat, but the bottom line is we're here because we pitch and play good defense.

JOHN RODRIGUEZ: Like Aaron said, it is all about pitching. You're not seeing games that are outrageous scores, like 12 to 10 or even 9 to 8. Everything has been like 2-1, or 3-0 or 5-2 or 5-3. There might have been that one game we scored 12, but that's about it. It really is pitching.

John, how many balls did you hit out for home runs in Yankee Stadium that day? And I also wanted to get the names of the uncle, the cop and the scout?

JOHN RODRIGUEZ: Three in the upper deck at 18 years old was definitely a dream come true for me, in right field.

My uncle's name is Robert Allende, A-l-l-e-n-d-e; Ralph Morales.

The cop?

JOHN RODRIGUEZ: Yes. And Cesar Presbott was the scout.

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