Piniella talks NLDS

Cubs manager Lou Piniella has seen many a promising playoff club in his tenure as both a player and manager. He's not willing to call this the best team he's ever led to the post-season, but the Cubs' skipper said that he felt overly good about his team entering the National League Division Series against Arizona.

Piniella spoke to the media during Workout Day sessions at Chase Field in Arizona on Tuesday. A transcript of his Q&A session with reporters follows:

As a manager or a player, what is the best you've ever felt going into a postseason?

Lou Piniella: I felt pretty good when I played on those really good Yankee teams in New York. We had good pitching, good defense and some people that could hit for some power and some people that could swing the bat in the clutch. As a player, you always feel better because you're always out there playing and you can do something about the outcome. You always feel good about teams that go in the postseason. Remember, the teams that go in the postseason have had success and they've been tested, so I feel good about this Cubs team coming into this postseason.

How do you feel about the perception that you guys are the favorite, even though the Diamondbacks won more games and have home field?

Lou Piniella: You know, I didn't even know that. We're going to come in here and play. We played Arizona six times this year. They've beaten us four, we've beaten them twice, but they've all been really competitive games. So we really respect the Diamondbacks. Our team, you know, we've had a really good second half, and we're coming here with a very positive attitude and we're going to play the best we can.

Earlier in the season, when you guys weren't playing well, you went off a little bit and then Carlos had the thing with (Michael) Barrett and it seemed for whatever reason the team started playing better. Does an instance like that kind of light a fire under a team?

Lou Piniella: I don't know; I think it's overrated. Since the start of the season, we basically changed just about our whole middle, center field, shortstop, (and) catcher. That's pretty hard to do in one year. At the same time, a few of our star players really started going good. (Alfonso) Soriano started hitting some home runs and we moved him over to left field. Carlos, who's pitching tomorrow. Zambrano, got on a roll. We brought up some young kids that gave us some energy. So I think my situation and the situation that -- with the fight, I think it happens to a lot of teams, it really does. I don't see either situation being too responsible for anything.

Could you talk about your decision to go with three pitchers. Three starters it looks like?

Lou Piniela: Well, that's our plan. I'm not saying that we're going to do that especially. We're going to pitch Zambrano tomorrow, we're going to pitch Lilly on Thursday, Hill on Saturday, and our plans basically are to bring Zambrano back on three days' rest. If we need a fifth game, I've got Lilly on his regular turn. If anybody can pitch on three days' rest in our regular rotation, we feel Carlos can. He's done it one time this year. We've done it three times all year. Lilly has one time and Zambrano once. So we'll see. We'll see what we do, but those are our plans.

You'll see Jason (Marquis) out of the bullpen then?

Lou Piniella: We'll use Jason out of the bullpen, yes.

Can you guys do something you haven't done all year, and that is manufacture runs in this short series?

Lou Piniella: Manufacture runs. You can't change. We're going to do the same things we've done all year. We're not going to change anything. Why? There's no need to. You know, we're basically a power hitting team. We hit a lot of home runs in September and we played well. I don't know what we can do. We're an aggressive hitting, swinging team. Arizona is a lot the same way, so I don't know what we could do differently. I mean, we might tinker with the lineup a little bit, change the combinations around. But outside of that, we've just got to go out and do the same things we've done all year, and that's play good, aggressive baseball, and take our chances.

You've managed veteran teams and young teams. Is there a difference in the approach? And what Bob (Melvin) did with this Arizona team, does that impress you?

Lou Piniella: Bob has done a nice job here. He really has. They're a young baseball team. It's unheard of to be outscored and win the most games in your league. They've played a lot of close games. They're tested that way. It speaks volumes about their bullpen. They pitch well out of the bullpen. But young team, old team, I think a team with experience probably should have a little bit of an edge, but we really respect this Arizona team, we really do. We played them six times and they played very well against us every game.

If you could talk about Brandon Webb and your thoughts on the Diamondbacks' starting pitcher tomorrow ...

Lou Piniella: He's good, real good. Really good sinker. You've got to make him bring the ball up. It's probably easier said than done, but, you know, he's aggressive in the strike zone, and he really relies on that sinker. When you have that weapon, it's a really good double play pitch. We're going to probably hit and run a little bit more and put the game in motion if we can, but we really respect him. He was a Cy Young winner last year. What else do I need to say?

Carlos was up here saying he wants to stay real calm and play with his head, not his heart, in this game. But A, can he do that? And B, how much is emotion important for the way he performs?

Lou Piniella: That's a good question. The last game he pitched against Cincinnati, he really stayed within himself well, the day we clinched. You know, I've never been on the mound. You can ask Ron Darling that question. He'll probably give you a better answer than I. A pitcher probably has to stay within himself, but Carlos has always been an emotional guy. I don't really have a specific answer for that, I really don't. I think he's just got to be himself. That's the secret: Don't try to be anybody else, just go out and have confidence in yourself and let it go and get people out.

A while back, you said it took you maybe six weeks, till maybe June, to learn this team and what you had and what they were all about. Do you think at the same time there was a learning curve for them to learn what you were all about and now everybody is kind of on the same page and everybody knows each other's moves a little?

Lou Piniella: I don't think the rules have changed much. I'm pretty easy to play for. Let people play. Just go out and give 100 percent and play. We had to make some changes here because it wasn't working. The team had lost a lot of games last year, and it wasn't working early in the year. You had to make a decision, and we did, to start making some changes that we thought would help us improve, and they did. And you know what, our minor league system had a lot to do with a lot of those changes. We brought a lot of kids in here and they played well. We had that good veteran leadership in our clubhouse, and like I said, we've changed up the middle. We changed the center field, shortstop, catching situation. That's a heck of a lot to do in one season. But me, I think I get along with young players and I get along with older players. The only thing I want players to do is play hard and play with a little passion and play hard to win. That's all I ask as a manager. We don't have many rules here.

I know you didn't have Carlos before, but from having seen him from afar and now having him this year, do you think there are things about him now that make him better equipped to make him a successful playoff pitcher than when he was 22 and trying that in '03?

Lou Piniella: Well, there's no substitute for experience. The more you pitch, the better you're going to get, and obviously in bigger situations. You know, I didn't know much about Carlos. I knew he had good stuff. I saw him pitch a couple ball games when I was up in the booth. But outside of that, I've enjoyed watching him pitch this year. At times, he fights himself a little bit. But I'll tell you what, he competes. He cares about pitching well. He's won 18 ballgames for us. That's a lot of ballgames to win. So I've got confidence he's going to go out and really pitch a good ballgame (Wednesday).

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