Tony La Russa stresses effort

PHOENIX -- Tony La Russa said effort was the main theme of his first talk to Arizona Diamondbacks players in his new role as the team's chief baseball officer.

"It was just a real brief effort to tell them what I hope to contribute," he said of his meeting with players before their game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

Headed to the Hall of Fame this year for his success as a manager, La Russa said he told players that competition doesn't start with talent, but with the level of effort.

He said he has seen the team show its character by playing hard through the tough times, but wanted to drive the point home.

"The one message is that there's never an excuse to back off the effort," La Russa said. "If times are tough, you can't back off it. If times are good, you don't back off and take it for granted. You just remind them who's watching. Your fans are watching."

In an informal half-hour session with reporters on Sunday, La Russa said he doesn't mind if Arizona players are "looking over their shoulder" wondering about their future, because that kind of pressure is a good thing.

"Anything that disturbs your comfort factor is good for you," he said

La Russa, named to his post on Saturday, will be subordinate only to owner Ken Kendrick and team president Derrick Hall, giving him authority over general manager Kevin Towers. But La Russa tried to dispute the notion that he has usurped Towers' authority.

Kendrick brought in La Russa to shake things up for a team that has had an awful start to the season.

La Russa said he doesn't like to use the word "patience," but it will take time to do any significant renovation.

"I'm not sure fans really appreciate when somebody comes in and says `patience," he said. "That's not what they want to hear. They want to hear `We're getting better.' `

Coming to the team during the season makes any significant changes a challenge.

"I don't have a lot of answers," La Russa said. "I feel a real urgency to pay as close attention as I can to every bit of the organization that I can, whether in person or talking with guys. This week I'm going to go out and watch some (minor league) clubs. I feel that urgency, but I don't want to talk patience to fans, but you can't answer unless you have an answer."

La Russa said he won't accompany the Diamondbacks to St. Louis, where Tuesday they open a three-game series with the Cardinals, who he led to two World Series titles.