03/30/07 10:00 AM ET
Q&A with manager Joe Torre
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
The manager of the New York Yankees has less than 10 minutes to spare, and as he gestures for a club official to shut off a television replaying NBA highlights, Torre agrees to spend them discussing his club with MLB.com.
Entering his 12th season at the helm of the game's most storied franchise, the 66-year-old Torre made it clear that he still enjoys what he does and expects big things from the year ahead.
MLB.com: When you head to New York, you'll have had the clubhouse together for about seven weeks now. When you compare it to last season, do you see any changes in chemistry, based upon some of the roster moves that were made?
Torre: Well, this ballclub has been pretty stable in the way it goes about its business. For the most part, they're experienced players. A couple of years ago, when we brought Robbie Cano in and Chien-Ming Wang, and last year when Melky Cabrera all of a sudden came upon the scene the way he has, it's the first time in a long time that the Yankees have really relied on young players. It's given us a little more energy.
To me, we're very business-like in what we do, and there's a lot of pressure in what we do -- not that other teams don't experience the pressure. As far as chemistry, the thing about it for me is that I think winning creates chemistry, as opposed to the other way around.
When you have a lot of veteran players -- as I like to use the expression, 'true professionals' -- they understand even if you don't feel like going out to eat with somebody, you still have to go out there and play alongside them. The fact that we're all trying to do the same thing is reason enough to get along real well.
MLB.com: In the first weeks of Spring Training, much was made of the Yankees' depth in pitching. Could you have foreseen a test coming like the one the Yankees recently endured, losing Chien-Ming Wang to injury and having Andy Pettitte's availability placed into question?
Torre: You never see it coming, but I think from my experience, all managers come to Spring Training knowing that you're going to have some surprises. You hope the surprises are good ones, but that's not always the case.
The thing is, when it happens to a pitcher, it's so much more detrimental than if it happens to a player. A player can hurry up and get in shape once he's turned loose to go ahead and do what he does, and then he can do it every day. Pitchers can't do it every day. They can throw one day, rest a day, and if they're starting pitchers they have to wait four days.
Two starts, really, for a starter -- say, in Wang's case. When he's ready to physically get back on the mound and pitch a game, if we want him to pitch two games -- he's got the five days before, the five days after, and he's got the five days before he can pitch for us. We're talking about two weeks, even though it's only two games and he's felt good for two weeks. He's got that long to get that work in.
In Spring Training, you have to pretty much take what comes. If it happens to your pitchers, it's bad luck, but that's the way it goes. You just have to do the best that you can.
MLB.com: You've said often this spring that you're very comfortable with the state of the bullpen. Do you feel like that was the biggest improvement this team made going forward?
Torre: Leaving here, I think we've improved it, because we added [Luis] Vizcaino. To me, that was a huge get for us. We really wore [Ron] Villone down last year, we wore [Scott] Proctor down last year. Vizcaino is durable to the point where, not that we're going to use him multiple innings, but he's probably going to pitch multiple days and I think that's important.
[Kyle] Farnsworth, after the first year, figures to be more comfortable here. Proctor, after last year, he came as an extra pitcher at the end of Spring Training and turned into somebody very necessary. So I'd like to believe that our strength was there.
But again, the strength of your bullpen only depends on how well your starters do. Last year, your fourth and fifth starters, we didn't get a great deal of length out of them, so we really had to go to the bullpen more times than we wanted to.
MLB.com: One of the more memorable quotes from this spring, I thought, was that if the Yankees aren't scoring runs this year, you'll have a hard time pinning it on Doug Mientkiewicz. As the only new player in the everyday lineup, how much do you think he'll need to hit?
Torre: It's interesting. If a club is winning, you never pay attention to a guy who's 0-for-10. If a club is losing, all of a sudden you'll find that he's the main reason why you're losing, which is absurd for me.
A lot of it depends on how we're doing. Obviously, if you need offense, you'll move people around and try to force the issue. Doug is here basically for one reason -- he's going to play first base. Is it going to be a platoon? I'm not sure.
But the things he can do, aside from the defensive aspect of it, is that he can put the ball in play. When you put the ball in play, we can do some things with our offense. That's encouraging for us, because swinging and missing really curtails some of the things you can do.
MLB.com: When you look at what Boston just went through with shuffling Jonathan Papelbon back and forth, trying to figure out a closer, does it make you appreciate what you've had in Mariano Rivera all that much more?
Torre: Well, Mariano, God love him. For the 11 years I've been here, he's been terrific. His first year, he wasn't a closer, but he pitched two innings a game for us. Papelbon, last year, was terrific. He was intimidating and I'm sure Terry [Francona] is pleased that he has him back in the bullpen, because he certainly makes a difference.
You realize over the years that a closer is worth his weight in gold at this point in time, because he's like a regular player out there. But Mariano is the best. I've never seen a relief pitcher pitch for as long as he has with the same stuff, and still maintain his degree of success. It's great.
I grant you, he works hard and doesn't have some issues that others may have -- weight [problems] and all that stuff. But he's as good as they come, and I think what he's done in the past and the postseason really solidifies his place in Yankee lore and down the road, when it's time for him to take that walk up the steps to Cooperstown. I think there'll be a spot for him.
MLB.com: Through the course of this spring, has there been anything that has come up to tell you that you're enjoying this and you can see yourself doing this in the future?
Torre: I'm enjoying it, there's no question. Spring Training is a fun time for me. Winning isn't what it is during the season, let's put it that way. You're here to get players in shape to start the season and it's fun.
I'd like to believe that if I felt this way next year at this time, I hope I'm doing the same thing. I hope I'm still managing. But that being said, at my age, once you walk away from something, it's tough to say, 'Well, I miss that.'
So you decide to go back, and all of a sudden you realize you're 110 years old. You don't want to do that. As of right now, I'm enjoying it. It's not drudgery for me, and hopefully I continue to feel that way.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.