An Interview With: JOE TORRE, JEREMY AFFELDT, VINNIE PESTANO
Q. This is probably the biggest game of this tournament so far. You're playing for a spot in the championship round. What's your take on the Dominican team looking at it from the aspect that the Dominican Republic after the United States is the one with most players in MLB?
JOE TORRE: Well, I mean, as far as the biggest game, we had a biggest game to beat Canada to get here. So every game really when you have this type of format is important. Dominican Republic, you're right, we see a great many of these players at the Major League level, and their second baseman is not bad (laughter).
We respect them, obviously, and we see their passion. They have a great deal of confidence. We can see, at least I can see, that they play with a great deal of confidence and patience, and we feel the same way. We might not show our emotions as much as they do, but I don't think it means that we don't care as much.
Q. Joe, from a pure nationalistic standpoint, what does it mean to you to wear the colors and to represent the U.S., to hear fans cheering USA?
JOE TORRE: It's pretty emotional for me. It's pretty emotional. I made a comparison it may not be the right comparison but after 9/11 I was managing the Yankees, we realized that we were baseball is a lot more important than I thought it was, when you realize how many people were trying to hide from our problems and from their sorrow by coming to baseball games. So I think it's a responsibility, no question about it. And the fact that you know that each team takes a great deal of pride in beating our colors. It's not out of disrespect; I think it's the other way around. Supposedly it's our game. But I think it's a compliment to the United States that so many other countries have played it so well.
Q. If I can follow up, is there a different feeling when you put on the uniform with the colors on compared to other uniforms you may have had in the past?
JOE TORRE: Well, you know what? It is, it certainly is. And again, I've been fortunate, I've managed a number of All Star games, and the fact that you go around and you see players from different teams, different leagues, when you're an All Star team, you're managing all the American League players, this I've got American League, National League, and it means a lot to me that these players have come from different places, different experiences, and they're all coming together. That's the most excitement for me. I mean, obviously the USA is number one, but to have all these players come together with a common feeling, that's been terrific for me because you never really know until you get them together.
Q. Jerry, what has it been like to be around Joe Mauer? What are you sort of learning about him? He seems like the all American guy from a distance. But as a teammate, as a player, and Jeremy, especially since you play with Buster Posey, do you notice some similarities?
JEREMY AFFELDT: Yeah, I notice some similarities. I think one thing about Joe that he oozes is just the quiet confidence. He's not very vocal. When you talk to him, he's really soft spoken. But he has this confidence about him, even when he came out to the mound the other night, he said, this is what you throw, what are you feeling, I feel good with this. All right. When he looks in your eyes and gets back behind the dish, he has an idea what to call. When you have a guy there that can call the game and have the ability that he's had and have the résumé that he's had and carries it with just the humility that he carries it with, as well, it's pretty awesome to see. And I think a lot of Buster is in that. I have a lot of respect for Joe. He's played a lot time, and I have not been able to play with him or meet him, but just meeting him now, what an amazing guy. When he just walks around the clubhouse, you know he's there but he doesn't need to announce his presence. He's just there. I think that's the way he carries himself on the field. He's a really big guy with a big target. When he gets in the box, he has pretty good confidence there, as well, and he's a tough out. I think he just, for me, what a baseball what I look to when I want to see a baseball player that's got confidence, that's got leadership abilities, he's kind of the total package for me.
VINNIE PESTANO: I'll throw my two cents in on Joe. Playing against Joe in the American League Central, obviously we've got a pretty good book on him and we know what we want to do against him. So finally getting to meet him, hearing stories, obviously everybody knows Joe Mauer and the type of player he is and stuff like that. And I came to the game, first time he was catching me two days ago, I told him what I wanted to do, I told him you know how I like to throw, you've got a scouting report on me. He likes to do that. The first guy was Carlos Beltran, I figured he was going to call a fastball because that's what we just talked about, and he went sinker away. I was like, all right, Joe Mauer just told me to throw a sinker away; I throw a sinker away. Carlos Beltran grounds out to second. I was like, all right, there you go. I guess I'm going to trust Joe from now on and not worry about what I'm doing. But no, it's been great having him here, it's been great to play with all these guys so far, and just hope to keep it going.
Q. Joe, normally these guys are in Spring Training. You've managed in so many big games before. It's going to be such a great atmosphere here tonight. How would you say the players are perceiving this? Is this like a playoff game? How would you categorize the way the players are approaching this whole World Baseball Classic?
JOE TORRE: Well, we talked about it our first meeting a couple of Sundays ago, and it's definitely playoff attitude and atmosphere because you really can't afford the luxury. During the regular season, you're allowed to lose 62 times. You really can't lose here. It's a sense of urgency all the time.
But the clubhouse, we have sort of an inner conceit. We feel pretty good about ourselves. And we've gone out I mean, the first game, I know I was a little jumpy, and I sensed everybody was trying a little bit too hard on Friday. But the guys have really let their ability speak for itself, and they've been in a pretty good place for me.
Q. Jeremy, just looking ahead a little bit, you guys are one win away from going to the semifinals. Having won the World Series in San Fran two out of the last three years, what do you think that's going to be like over there playing the World Baseball Classic?
JEREMY AFFELDT: Well, I don't make promises in this game, I can tell you that. We've got to get there yet. But I think that just going over, having the opportunity or having a chance right now, if I could look ahead and imagine us being there, I think for me it's going to be awesome. I think the way that city has fallen in love with the game of baseball, probably as good as any city that I've seen in this country. I think they're really, really proud to have that there, and I think they're going to have some good teams there. They've got some good talent there. I think everybody is going to come out and watch these games, and I really hope we get there. Vogey being there and I being there. There's some great guys: Casilla is on the Dominican team. Puerto Rico, you've got Pagan. We have a lot of opportunities to have a lot of Giants go back to San Fran, so I think it'll be fun. So I'm looking forward to that and I'm hoping that that happens and we can get back there and have a good time. And I'm just looking forward to being back in the Bay Area and having fun playing baseball in that crowd because it's an exciting, electrifying crowd for me to play in front of.
Q. Talk about with the growth of baseball in San Francisco. It seems to me having covered it there for so many years that in 2010, it really became a real baseball city like Philly and New York and Chicago, and I think it's as good a city in the country now to go see a baseball game.
JEREMY AFFELDT: Yeah, if you're asking me if it is, yeah, it's a great baseball city. Yeah, it is. It's a phenomenal place to play. I think New York, for me when I was younger, I mean, you go and play the Yankees, when Joe had all these guys, it's an intimidating city to play in, it's an intimidating stadium to play in. And I think San Fran is getting to that situation. It's getting to that situation where you come into our ballpark with the fans that we have, the pitching staff that we have, it can be an intimidating place to play, and I think that is thrilling for me.
I've played on teams where I think we were scared two weeks before we even went into New York. So now to be on a team where you're a part of that intimidation, what an awesome opportunity to be a part of that, and I'm very thankful for it.
Q. There are a lot of languages in this event. I wanted to ask you about the new rule about interpreters being allowed to go to the mound. I don't know if you're familiar with the rule
JOE TORRE: I'd better be.
Q. How big an issue has this been in your experience and how well do you think this rule is going to address it?
JOE TORRE: Well, I mean, in the past we've done the best we could. You weren't allowed to have interpreters even on the bench initially, and you got the job done, it just took a longer time. I think in an effort to try to speed things up and try to do something made sense. So hopefully it's going to work well. Hopefully it'll speed the game, and obviously it's especially if a pitcher is coming out of the bullpen and you want to give him some instructions in an important situation in the game, I think hopefully it's going to be a benefit. Obviously until we see it happen, we're not going to know for sure, but I think in Major League Baseball we're making an effort to try to make the game better and move along better. With so many international players, to me it made sense.
Q. My understanding is during the season, full time employees of the club will be allowed to accompany the manager or the pitching coach?
JOE TORRE: You're talking about an interpreter?
Q. Yeah, right.
JOE TORRE: Yeah, he'll be I should say he or she will be dressed, but I don't know any shes yet. But will be dressed like a trainer, and he will be able to accompany a manager or a coach out to the mound.
Q. My other question: A lot of teams I guess have Asian speaking people on staff. Not so much with Spanish, so I'm wondering, do you think a Tony Peña would fill that role in that situation or how do you think that'll work with the Spanish language?
JOE TORRE: Well, I think there's going to be a designated interpreter for each club, and I don't think it's going to be a coach. I'm not that's a good question. Thanks for that one. I'll have to put that one
Q. Because there aren't as many employees
JOE TORRE: I understand, but there's a pretty good chance that somebody around that infield would be able to fill that situation, too.
Q. What's it been like coming back, managing again, and did you envision something like this happening? And does it feel like you never left? What's the experience been like?
JOE TORRE: Well, after Friday night it felt pretty good. But the biggest you know, managers are they're able to do their job because of these guys and everybody in that clubhouse. Just when you and I'm not just blowing smoke here. I've mentioned before, I've talked to each and every one of these guys before they joined the USA team, and they're here for a purpose. So that makes managing easy and fun. And of course you make moves here; you make moves there. But the managing is all about communication with people and being a part of a team, and that's really important for me. It's been fun. This has been a great experience that I don't want it to stop for a little while longer, there's no question about it.
As far as doing it full time and 162, no, I don't think I'd wish that on my wife anymore.
Q. Vinnie, I'm just wondering, you're playing for Tito now over in Cleveland, and you're playing for Joe this week, two of the managers who have won six World Championships between them. What's that like, and who wrote the better book?
VINNIE PESTANO: Well, I've definitely been spoiled over the past month, obviously working with Tito in Spring Training so far. I'm not a big reader. I play way more video games than read books these days. But it's just been it truly has been a great honor playing on this team, playing for Joe. You can see why these men have such great success in the sport is because they're so personable, they are leaders of men. They're not just put in a position to kind of write names on a card, but they truly are players' managers, and it's just been a great experience so far, and hopefully get to spend a little more time together.
Q. Vinnie, as I guy who did the side arm thing for a while, can you give us some observations on Steve Cishek and maybe why he's been able to maintain his success against lefties as well where a lot of side armers have very disparity splits?
VINNIE PESTANO: Yeah, been doing the side arm for thing for a while. For a right handed hitter, when you're coming from the right side like that, the ball is almost coming from behind your back and it's coming back in. And throwing from that angle, you get some of that natural run. Lefties, we don't get that. They see the ball the entire time. So usually when you've got side arm guys like myself, and I know Joe Smith, the bullpen out in Cleveland had trouble with that for a couple years until he's figured it out the past three years. It's all about really being able to, one, command your off speed pitches to lefties, being able to back door it, keeping them honest and really coming inside. It doesn't hurt that he throws 96 from that angle, as well.
So yeah, lefties are going to see better, see the ball better. They're going to see it longer. But if you can keep them honest, moving the ball in, out, and then keeping them honest again with the off speed, I think that's definitely beneficial. And watching Steve, a couple times he has come in and got some huge outs for us, especially early in the tournament when we needed him to.
Q. Joe, looking at both of these lineups and the importance the bullpen has had in this type of tournament, can I have your take on both bullpens which have played so strong throughout this tournament?
JOE TORRE: Well, it's going to be based we knew going in that, sure, you need starters. Starters had limitations, and even with the limitations you want to be a little more careful and that. But it was going to be all about bullpen.
I was asked a number of times here, yeah, did you ever think about bringing your closer in in the eighth inning. I guess on a normal team when you have normal designated roles for everybody, it's probably chances of bringing in a closer before the ninth inning are presented to you. But here when you have so much quality, it's so deep, and the experience of coming in there and pitching under duress, I mean, that's what it's about. These guys come out of the bullpen. I know Jeremy has done it a couple times already, and of course Vinnie the other night. Every single pitch means something. Start it, get in trouble, get out of trouble, but these guys have to come in and get out of somebody else's trouble a lot of times.
But both bullpens are obviously up to the task. They haven't lost a game yet, so their confidence is high. Ours is high also, because after the first game we haven't lost either. But to me it's going to be about how well we pitch and how well they pitch, there's no question about it. That hasn't that axiom in baseball hasn't changed; good pitching stops good hitting. Hopefully we can do our job.