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October 2, 2006

Ron Gardenhire


Q. Were you worried about who you were going to play?
RON GARDENHIRE: We just let the chips fall where they may. We're just trying to win our division, get in the playoffs, that type of stuff. It's going to be a lot of fun. We know for a fact playing the Oakland A's, if you have looked at their history over the years, the games are battles. Always have been, always will be.
It's two good teams that play good baseball, good fundamental teams, and this is going to be very exciting. Great pitching match-ups. What more can you ask for, playoff baseball, every team that's in the playoffs has a chance to win, and that's what's great.

Q. This Twins team doesn't have a lot of players that have faced the A's in post-season play.
RON GARDENHIRE: There is a couple. Three, maybe. I think Santana, Hunter, Radke. That's the three I remember. It's a little bit different. And their pitching staff is different, they have got a lot of good pitchers, they have got Zito and guys like that. It's always been, like I said, great baseball. I think 2002 the series with Oakland probably was as good as it got.
We had to go back there and play Game 5, what a great baseball team and great organization, and you know what, you come back in here and the same kind of stuff.
It's going to be to be some kind of fun baseball because you are talking about two very long baseball teams.

Q. What do you rate your team mentally after this emotional roller coaster? Do you just let them keep riding this right now?
RON GARDENHIRE: It's playoff baseball. You say, how are you going to get them up for this after everything you have been through? This is why we worked. We worked hard to get here, and I don't think you are going to have to use a cattle prod to get them going.
I think they are going to be fine, very excited. They played good baseball and they are excited to be in the playoffs, and we won the division, which came as a little bit of a surprise to everybody yesterday, and they are very excited.
We played good enough baseball to win the division, we won 96 games, and fortunately for us, we are at home, and that's good. And it's going to be very exciting baseball, and these guys are going to be fired up. I don't have to worry about that part of it, they will be excited.

Q. Can you think back to when you had success with Zito, what the common thread was?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, you know, he is a great pitcher and it's going to be two outstanding left-handers going after each other, Zito and Johann are, and hits are going to be at a premium, and you can sit there and say, well, you got to play off the curve ball.
The guy has got all the pitches, he is a great pitcher, so you just have to find a way to get on the base, run around the base, and score a couple of hits. It's not going to be easy, never has, and that's why they are in the playoffs, because they have got a great pitching staff, and we feel the same way, so it's not going to be easy no matter what.
And I don't think there is any secret to how to hit Zito, you just have to get lucky, just like they are going to have to do, to get Johann.

Q. How are game days working for you?
RON GARDENHIRE: It's better than 11 o'clock, so we gained an hour. We don't have any curfew, that's good.

Q. (Inaudible)?
RON GARDENHIRE: Great players always find a way. Frank Thomas is a great player, and we looked at him during the winter and we were worried about the Astroturf on his foot and his health, and we knew if he could get in the right situation and he could stay healthy, he could do a lot of damage, and you know what, you got to be happy when the things he has gone through in the last couple years over the years with the Sox, and now to turn around and have a great year like this with Oakland, pretty special for him, I am sure.
We have to figure out a way to keep the ball in the ballpark, and he is up there because he can do some damages, so great players find ways to do great things.

Q. (Inaudible) Frank Thomas?
RON GARDENHIRE: We were talking to him just like every other team. When you have him in the room talking to him, obviously you are interested in him. Obviously, we went over a lot of things. He was very impressive. They didn't even let me in the room because they know I really like Frank as a person, so I didn't even get to sit in on the meetings because Terry knew I would probably say something really stupid and it would cost him more money.
They actually kicked me out, and they did the interviews, and you know what, it turned out. We were concerned -- we understand with his Astroturf and foot problems that he had had, that was the big concern.
We ended up going another route, not because of anything that's happened in the past. Frank is a great person and a great baseball person.

Q. (Inaudible)?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, honestly, I don't worry about that stuff because we have pretty much done it all year long. When something happens, this team is very resilient, they bounce back. Like I have said all along, you don't get in the playoffs if you can't handle a little adversity, if you can't work past some of the trouble you have had in the years, and you lose some key players.
We are not here if you can't handle these things. These guys can handle these things, that's why we are here.

Q. What's the biggest advantage of opening at home? Is it just a matter of home cooking and friendly crowds or is there more to it?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, you get more games at home, you are supposed to win at home, we have the best record in baseball at home. So, you know, that's the advantage. The Twins have notoriously played very good baseball here in the Metrodome during the playoffs, better than the Yankees (inaudible) us here.
But you know what, it's home. Everybody wants to play at home. You get to stay in your own bed and you get to pet your own cats and dogs and that type of thing, and that's good stuff.

Q. These guys, is it a good thing or a bad thing that guys that are new to the playoffs and really don't have a lot of experience, and they can just kind of play loose because they don't know what to expect?
RON GARDENHIRE: We have been playing, it seems like, a month and a half of playoff baseball. When you are down as many games as we were, every game, especially over the last two weeks felt like a playoff game. You are in a tight race for the wildcard, you are trying to catch your division, so I think these guys have been through enough now to understand what we have to do, you have to control your emotions out on the baseball field.
We have got young players but they have handled a lot of stuff up to that point, and I believe they will go there and give it -- they will give it everything they can, and that's all you ask, go out there and play as hard as you have all year long, and I don't think that will be a factor. These guys will go out and give it everything.

Q. (Inaudible)?
RON GARDENHIRE: That's just a bunch of BS in baseball, batting titles and stuff like that. That was actually another sidebar, but very, very exciting. You are driving yourself crazy trying to figure out all this stuff, how many bats does he need, what's Jeter doing, what's Cano doing. We just want to win a baseball game and get off the field without getting killed, and yeah, so all that stuff is out now.
Now we are talking about good playoff baseball against a great Oakland A's team, and that's fun stuff.

Q. We still have to settle manager of the year, though.
RON GARDENHIRE: We have to settle that one, too. I am just happy to be here, and I think if you look around in the playoffs, you have got four teams with good managers, and I included myself in that, I don't do that very often, but we have done a pretty good job for our baseball team, so we are happy that way, and I am happy that this team has picked me up.
As a manager, your team carries you. I am just on the back of that little circle riding and hoping I don't fall off.

Q. Gardy, can you speak to the people who say "Pitch around Frank Thomas," it helps to have success against Oakland, what the A's would look at if they could negate Mauer and Morneau, and you have got other guys around that makes the club successful.
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, you have Cuddyer in the middle of Mauer and Morneau, Torii Hunter is behind Morneau, so the A's can attack you a lot of different ways. They can try to pitch around those guys, but they are going to find out that some other guys are having very good years and are in the same boat.
I think normally in the lineup Chavez is hitting right behind Mr. Thomas. In my opinion, I don't like to face them because they have always Chavez and because he has always been a very good player and he has done a lot of damage to a lot of people. He is a great hitter. The lineup goes up and down. You can try to tell yourself you are going to pitch around this or that, but when you have good offensive lineups, like both of these teams do, you can run yourself into a lot of trouble.

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