Willie Randolph pregame interview

Willie Randolph pregame interview

Now that we know what El Duque's problem is, can you review a little bit how he reacted. I heard it on the radio in the car but I wasn't taking notes.

WILLIE RANDOLPH: He was obviously very, very distraught, very upset. I mean, El Duque has always been a warrior. He's always been a guy who takes full responsibility for taking the ball and being accountable. This is his time of year. You can just see how the last, you know, month or so, how he's kind of worked his way into this point in the season. It's almost like he knew he would be the one, because this is his time. I kind of sensed that every start he went out, he just got better and better. You know, just his whole body language, he had some injuries, some nicks here and there. He always worked through it. That's why to me it was so devastating and disappointing.

He's one of the hardest workers on the team, regardless of how old you might think he is, no one lifts as many weights and runs as hard as he was. For him to be out there getting loose, getting ready for the game, to pull a muscle like that is really bizarre.

But, hey, he feels terrible today. I saw him earlier. He felt like he let us down. But I told him that, you know, I knew he was gonna be the guy for us and we're gonna have to pick you up, just like he picked us up. When we first got El Duque, there were a lot of questions about him physically and the fact that he didn't have a great year last year and all that stuff. But, you know, I remember him in the World Series against Chicago, doing a great job, doing a great job in relief. When he started to come together, I just knew that he was the El Duque I remember in the years I was with the Yankees. It's a shame that he's not able to take the ball for us.

What were the decision factors that went into choosing Maine over Glavine? Was it just the rest period?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Yeah, has to do more with just being able to be on the right turn and enough rest to line everything up after that. He was the perfect guy for it. He was right on turn.

When was it clear it couldn't be El Duque?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Well, it wasn't really clear until after the MRI. I just told Johnny to prepare himself, you know, mentally for, you know, the decision to switch if we had to do it, then we got the news late last night that he did strain his calf. So we just made that transition right there.

We know he's off the roster for this series, but will he be able to come back?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: I hope so. You just never know with those types of strains. Grade one, grade two, grade three, I don't understand all that.

We're gonna hold out that, you know, when we get to the World Series that he'll be able to help us.

Probably not the next series?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: That, again, without knowing for sure, not being a doctor, that would be kind of tough. I mean, you know, he loads up on that back leg. You see his delivery, how it is, everything is back on that back leg. So I would see it would be kind of tough for him to gather himself and push off like he wants to. Pitching is not obviously always about your arm, it's your legs, that's your core. I would say that, I would guess that it would be tough.

What have you and Rick (Peterson) talked to John Maine about his start today? What do you want to see him do, what do you want him to stay away from?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: I told him, "Just pitch your game. Just go out and do what you do." I mean, we obviously want a quality start, whatever that means, five, six innings. Ideally we have a strong bullpen. We're gonna lean very heavily on our bullpen this whole series.

We just want a nice sound, sound quality start, and who knows? I mean, about a week ago, I think Oliver Perez went into a ballgame where we thought the same thing, give us five or six, he ended up pitching a shutout. There's always that possibility. That's why I don't trip about who's not here and the fact that, you know, we don't have "the" guys. I've been in the game too long. I know all you need is one game, one performance, one outing, and you win a ballgame. So hopefully John will give us that today.

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Are you concerned about him getting caught up in the moment?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Well, there's always that concern, but he seems pretty calm. Obviously, you have to channel that energy. You know, make it work for you. We'll keep an eye on him.

Listen, he's gonna have that. It's gonna be there. I'm sure he's gonna have all kinds of things going on in his head and butterflies everywhere, but he's a pro and you have to deal with that kind of stuff. This is a great opportunity for him to step up. You know, he's been up and down a little bit in his career. What more do you want right now, man? This is what he should be looking forward to. So it's here to take it. Hope he takes advantage of that.

If El Duque's injury is the first domino, what happened to make you make the moves you did with the roster? Oliver Perez and Royce Ring, how do you see them filling the void he created?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Well, listen, our pitchers for the most part, our starting staff, you know, if you want to get into pitch count, 100 pitches, five, six innings, whatever, you want to make sure you have a strong bullpen to pick those guys up. Every once in a while you're gonna get a gem thrown at you and have a guy come step up for you. But you want to make sure if you have to go to your bullpen early you have a surplus of guys. If you have to get out of an inning, you want to have an extra guy to be able to do that. It makes your bench a little bit thin, but can't have it both ways. The fact that we have Glavine, Trachsel and Oliver and Maine in the rotation, we have to make some adjustments. We feel like an extra pitcher would be better for us.

The bench is thinner. Where do you see Perez pitching?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: He'll pitch this weekend. I haven't decided if it's the third game or the fourth game.

He'll start?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Yeah, he'll start, yeah. We'll see where Trachsel is. I mean, he arrived last night, he had a bullpen last night. We'll get through the first couple games and then we'll see where we are, and I think it's safe to say that Oliver and Trachsel will get either Game 3 or 4.

One or the other?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Yes.

Did you talk to El Duque here? Is he still here? Will he be here during the game?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Yeah, I spoke to him this morning. He's in the back getting treatment and stuff.

Will he stay here during the game, be in the dugout?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: I really don't know. We don't know. I mean, he's got a boot on his leg, so not too comfortable getting around. He might sit inside and watch the game inside maybe.

Did you feel a little bit hamstrung by the lack of an extra catcher, extra infielder?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: No, no, we play the game and you just react to what happens in the course of the game. You can't worry about stuff like that. If we score a lot of runs and pitch well, it becomes a moot point. That's the way I look at it. You just got to adjust on the fly, do what you got to do, react instinctively, that's what I've always done. I always feel like if we guys step up and do what they have to do, it makes me look a little different, little easier.

You've been on a lot of postseason teams in different series. Can you remember a team that had to shuffle its rotation this much?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: No, it's right in front of me and I'm dealing with it. So as a coach, you know, you kind of are on the peripheral looking in. I don't remember anything like this. I mean, you always had injuries going and you always have situations where should you add a guy, should you not add a guy, he might have a pulled hamstring, you wonder if you should take a chance on putting him on 'cause you can't add. There's always that stuff.

I look at it from a broader sense, in the last couple weeks, you know, with Pedro, leading into that. When you think about the team, you think about even during the season where we've had our share of injuries. That's why this is not a difficult thing for us as a team or me as a manager because we've dealt with this kind of adversity all year. We've answered the bell. We've picked each other up. The sense inside the clubhouse is that, Okay, it's unfortunate, you feel bad for your teammates, for your brothers, but we got to win a ballgame. No one's gonna feel sorry for you, that's for sure.

The approach to your offense, is it different now given the pitching situation? Be more aggressive?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: We always want to be aggressive, that's our game. We're not gonna change, deviate from that. We're gonna play our game. Obviously Jose and guys up front set the tone for us. When we get rolling, we'll roll.

Everything else aside, how do you feel, confident, comfortable, knowing that a veteran like Glavine is going to be pitching for you tomorrow?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Yeah, Tommy is solid. He's been in there before. He's experienced. It's a valuable thing when you go into a situation like this. Tommy threw the last couple times out and he's another guy that can do it anytime. Yeah, it's very comforting knowing you have a Tommy Glavine, a real solid veteran guy who's not gonna waver or scare in a situation like this. We're looking forward to getting past this one and giving Tommy the ball tomorrow.

Can you outline what the process was in deciding on Perez as that fourth starter? What other options?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: I haven't made that clear yet. I said third or fourth game, we'll do it.

As the fourth guy who is in line to be a starter as opposed to somebody else that could have been on the roster, Dave Williams or even reaching for --

WILLIE RANDOLPH: He's throwing well. He's throwing the ball pretty well. It's as simple as putting in the right guys who can help you win a game. You know, he's been up and down at times like a lot of the guys have; that's pitching.

But Oliver Perez is the kind of kid who has electric stuff. At any given time, he can spin up a gem. That's what you're looking for in a situation like this. So, yeah, he's the best of what we have right now. That's good enough.

You're about an hour and 15 minutes from managing your first playoff game.

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Uh hmm.

Any nerves or anything that is playing on your mind? Did you sleep last night?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: I always sleep like a baby. I tell these guys all the time, I sleep good. I put all my energy into the day and when it's over, I'm gonna have a beer or glass of wine and I'm out, okay.

So I thank goodness I can do that. A lot of managers say they can't believe that I can do that, but that's just me. Listen, I'm excited, you know. I don't feel nervous. I've been in this situation many, many times. Obviously, it's my first time as a manager, but I was out there running around with the players and talking to my players. I wanted to take groundballs. I was shagging flies. I felt like I wanted to play.

I'm just excited about this opportunity. You know, it's gonna be an unbelievable atmosphere out there today. My players get a chance to experience this together for the first time, and that to me is very, very important as we move forward, you know, together as a team. So I can't wait to get it rolling. There's gonna be a lot of emotion. I'm gonna probably be a little bit emotional about it, but this feels good to me. It's very comfortable. I've experienced a lot of this.

So let's get it on. Let's have fun with it, man. I try to always keep the perspective, and I'm gonna enjoy this day and at the end, we get a victory, have another glass of wine and get ready for tomorrow (smiling).

What kind of wine?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Merlot. Well, red wine. I'm a red wine guy. Trachs has good wine, too, I might tap into what he's got. I got a nice little cellar. I'll think about you when I'm sipping on it.

Bottle from Maritines?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: I've got some bottles from Maritines. My man has taken care of me over the years. Don't try to weasel in and get a taste later on. You're not getting anything. We don't live too far away from each other, you're not coming over, okay?

If we could step away from this series a little bit for a second, some of the managerial changes leaves you as one of the few minority managers and I think the only African American. Baseball has struggled with that a lot over the years. Do you have any thoughts about that?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Well, you know, it's been a concern and it's been something that I think Major League Baseball needs to do a better job on addressing. But hopefully, after Dusty (Baker) and Felipe (Alou) and guys like Jerry Manuel, Manny Acta in the mix. Maybe Don Baylor will get another shot. That kind of thing. It's not over yet. Hopefully the interview process will go on and these guys will be considered and get the opportunity.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.