ST. LOUIS -- Dale Sveum played for Tony La Russa in 1993 in Oakland and learned a lot from the former big league manager, who was celebrated Friday as part of the Cardinals' Opening Day festivities.
Sveum said La Russa, who retired after leading the Cardinals to the World Series championship last season, always put players in situations where he felt they would have success.
"He always played the big boys against the best pitchers," Sveum said Friday. "But the thing about Tony was he gave the bench players an opportunity and always put them in situations where they were going to succeed, meaning me, because I was on the bench. You feel good about yourself, except one day when I had to face Randy Johnson and he struck out 17 that day."
In 1993, Sveum played 30 games for the Athletics and saw playing time at all four infield positions as well as making one start in left.
"Watching him and coaching against him, [La Russa] was always ahead of the game and pushed the envelope, and he'll try things other managers won't do," Sveum said. "He'll do things with his pitchers. He'd get his pitchers moving and in running situations and things like that.
"Watching a guy like that, you learn. I think a lot of people learned in the postseason last year about a bullpen. He obviously had one heck of a durable bullpen, and he went to them and kept going to them, and it probably won them the World Series."
When La Russa was with the Cardinals, he often would insert the pitcher into the eighth spot in the lineup instead of ninth.
"I'm not going to say I wouldn't [do that]," Sveum said. "There are situations where you would. It's usually when you can get two leadoff guys at the top. That's when it works the best."
When he was hired by the Cubs, Sveum cited La Russa as well as Joe Torre and Tom Trebelhorn as managers he studied.
"The biggest thing is he wasn't afraid to play his role players," Sveum said. "He put me in left field one day, and I had never played left field in my life. He said, 'Yeah, I just want to get your bat in there and see what happens.'"
How did Sveum do?
"I did OK," he said. "I didn't get exposed too much."