|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
December 6, 2006
Q. You went down in January last year to Spring Training, Jim, early. Are you going to go down early this year?
JIM LEYLAND: No. I mean, I'll be down early before the camp starts, but I have a lot of things I have to take care of. I have some speeches that I'm giving. I'm going out to Notre Dame. I'm going to the writers' dinner, speaking for a charity up in Ohio. So I'll be down there early, but I won't be down there probably as early as last year.
Q. Off-season the schedule ends pretty busy, befitting the World Series, I suppose?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, the one nice thing about it is you don't get much time off, but the nice thing is I may go long into the postseason. It's going to be a short off-season, but that's just part of it, and you hope you have that problem every year.
Q. We talked about this near the end of the year, but what's the next step for Curtis as far as making him -- I guess taking the next step as a baseball player? Is it more offensive, just his approach as a hitter?
JIM LEYLAND: I think it's a combination of both. I think he's got some room to improve in both areas, offensively and defensively. Obviously the main thing is to maintain his aggressiveness, cut down on strikeouts, and that's a little bit of a Catch 22, but we need him to put the ball in play a little more often. He's still working on it and has gotten better, but he needs to take a little better angles on some balls in the outfield.
Q. Do you expect him to lead off again next year?
JIM LEYLAND: I'm really not sure. I ran through some lineups last night, and there's a scenario obviously where he is the leadoff guy, but there's another scenario where he's not, if we wanted to go that way, depending on if I want to space out the left-handers. That's something I'll look at prior to getting there, but it's pretty nice flexibility.
Q. Have you got a thought on a No. 3 hitter so far, anything close to --
JIM LEYLAND: I'm not sure about that, whether Guillen is going to hit third or Sheffield is going to hit third, one of those two.
Q. And Magglio 4?
JIM LEYLAND: Magglio or Sheffield. If Sheffiled hits fourth, Magglio fifth, probably Casey sixth.
Q. If Sheffield hits third, then Mags is 4?
JIM LEYLAND: Then Mags would hit 4, Guillen.
Q. How many different options are you looking at as leadoff, a couple, somebody besides --
JIM LEYLAND: We've only got a couple of choices. You've got Granderson, Polanco and Pudge.
Q. From the limited time Pudge had in the leadoff spot, he made a little bit of impression on you, right?
JIM LEYLAND: He did a good job.
Q. Is it getting to the point where the age of some of your everyday players gets to be a concern, almost except for Granderson, that they're all over 30 and some are quite a bit over 30?
JIM LEYLAND: I don't know. I think Inge is a tremendous athlete, got a young body, Pudge has got a young body, takes care of himself. Magglio is now a couple years off some surgery and he's working out right now. It's not like they're old. Sheff obviously is a little older, but he's been the DH a lot so he won't have the wear and tear of being on the field all that much. And Monroe, the physical stress on him, really we're in pretty good shape.
Q. Not as old as it looks when you just look at the ages?
JIM LEYLAND: Right.
Q. I remember I think a year ago when we were talking you were talking about how many lineups you had written out in your head or on paper. Have you written out as many this year?
JIM LEYLAND: No, it's a little more subtle then it was.
Q. Carlos' range might not be quite what it used to be at shortstop, but is that something just because of his leadership and the way he plays, something you just have to live with?
JIM LEYLAND: I think his range will be fine this year. He had had physical problems the last couple years, particularly the legs, and I think he's going to -- Devard (phonetic) is going down to see him. He wanted to come down. He's going to try to take a little weight off the lower half, and I think that will help him a little bit, plus he had that injury. I think he was a little cautious about really pushing it sometimes. I think that's going to be fine. I don't foresee any problem there at all.
Q. If you don't make any other moves the rest of the off-season, certainly offensively, do you feel like you can have a team that's a little bit less on the strikeouts and maybe have the potential to be a little bit more aggressive on the basepaths like you would like?
JIM LEYLAND: I don't know how much more aggressive we can be on the basepaths. We don't really have a lot of speed, so I don't know. I think we'll do -- one thing about it, we've added a hitter that's a tremendous offensive force, and he doesn't strike out. Sheffield is not a strikeout guy.
If you look at it, you've got Sheffield and you'll have Casey for the full year, two guys that historically don't really strike out that much. Casey struck out a little bit to start with, but once he started learning the league a little bit -- I think that's one of the reasons in the World Series, he knew those pitchers, and I think it takes time to learn those pitchers over the years. We've added two guys in the lineup that really don't strike out much and are pretty productive, so that will be a big help.
Q. Is there something that you have in mind that you'd like to see out of Shelton next season from his development, whether it's Toledo or if he hits his way onto the club? Is there something you expect to need to see out of him next season?
JIM LEYLAND: He's got to get it going again. He lost his confidence and he was fighting himself. I think probably fighting instruction a little bit, a little confused. When it was great for us it probably backfired for him a little bit, getting off to such a huge start and expectations going sky high and a young player not being able to handle that yet.
We're not off Chris Shelton, he's just going to have to come back and get in the groove and show us that he's capable of doing what he can do.
Q. The big thing with Marcus last year with his development seemed to be the ability to get at-bats. The roles seemed to have changed now assuming you guys keep him. Have you thought about ideas at least how to get him regular at-bats?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah, I'm going to play him at first base.
Q. And then work him out there in Spring Training to get him used to it?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah, I'm going to have him working on ground balls prior to Spring Training, and when I say -- that's what you have to do. You have to be creative enough to figure something out because you have Monroe, Granderson, Ordoñez and Sheffield, so I can play Marcus out there some, but obviously the outfield is really clogged up, so you get a little creative and you say, okay, Casey is a guy that has a little bit of a history of some injuries, so put Marcus over at first base against a left-handed pitcher and occasionally a righty when Casey needs some time off. He's a big target.
Is he going to be big power? No, that's not going to happen. You've got to be creative within your own roster, and I think what you hope for is similar -- a little bit like we talked about, but that didn't work out, play five, six innings over there, get a lead and get the other guy in there. But this is a guy that hit 25 homeruns or 26 homeruns with 343 at-bats. We're not going to forget about Marcus Thames.
Q. Are there any opportunities for him to maybe go to just a quick tour of winter ball to get used to it?
JIM LEYLAND: I would say no. He won't do that.
Q. Probably just get him started early?
JIM LEYLAND: Just work on it early. Got somebody working out down at his house.
Q. You haven't talked to him?
JIM LEYLAND: No, I didn't want to talk to him just yet about it.
Q. There's some athletic ability there when you consider his football background?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, he's a nice target, his hands are good enough. You worry about whether he can catch a grounder or not. He can catch it in the outfield but he's got a long time to make a decision on those grounders in the outfield.
Q. Do you have a sense of where Miner projects long time if he's more of a starter or' leave?
JIM LEYLAND: I'm not sure of that, to be honest with you. I think if he's going to be a starter, he probably needs to come up with a split, something like that. If he's going to be a reliever he's probably okay. So I'm not really sure how that will pan out. He definitely has to use a breaking ball a little bit or come up with a little bit of a trick pitch maybe if you're going to start, in my opinion. If he's going to relieve he can come in and throw some sinkers and get a ground ball or something, and he can do that. But he's a nice guy to have assisting because he's pretty versatile.
Q. I mean, you had two other relievers middle or long-type guys and really have starter stuff. Do you consider those guys as starting depth or do you kind of have those guys in your mind as bullpen only?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, right now I have them as bullpen only, but that doesn't mean it can't change, but that I guess would be the logical guy. At the same time with only one left-hander now, that could change things a little bit.
You know, they're both pencilled in on the club right now in the bullpen. Obviously we're going to have a couple spots in the bullpen.
Q. Has this whole off-season been unique from the standpoint of you got the business done with Sheffield and you re-signed Casey, now it's just little tweaks. Is this the most set you've kind of been at this stage of the off-season that you can recall?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I don't know. There's other years in similar situations. But the intriguing part about it is you're always trying to get your club better. So these things are interesting because who knows, every once in a while somebody will come along and make you a proposal and say, hey, that makes our team better. We're not really -- we're not pushing anybody. I think it's common knowledge that we'd like to have -- we're pretty much dominant around hitting, and if -- we've talked about this, if we could get a nice left-handed hitter and switch a right-handed hitter for that, maybe that's a possibility, whether it be by way of a utility infielder or outfielder, that might be a possibility. But we're not looking to peddle anybody, we're listening like everybody else.
We're not looking to trade Monroe, I can tell you that. I keep reading that, that we're shopping Craig Monroe. We're not shopping Craig Monroe. You can take that from the horse's mouth. We are not in any way, shape or form shopping Craig Monroe. Are there a lot of people that ask us about him? I mean, yeah, he's a good player. He's probably an interesting piece for a lot of teams, so his name comes up quite a bit. But we're not shopping Craig Monroe.
Q. That division being as good as it is, Jim, and you've seen a lot of good divisions, but this one is really extraordinary, how much of that spurred the team to really act quickly, do you think, to make the Sheffield and the Casey moves?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, probably a lot. I have to be real happy. I think we've got some players already. We've been talking since the All Star break about adding a bat. Today we talked about adding a bat, at that time preferably a left-handed bat. When you're a month after losing in the World Series and you add Gary Sheffield, that's pretty impressive. We got that done before we came down here, where everybody gets in bidding wars and more trades are talked about and everything, so we got that done. That's pretty impressive in my opinion.
Q. It kept him from going to somebody like Cleveland who was interested I heard, somebody in your division.
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I don't want to speak for Dave, but I know there have been several teams that within two weeks after we got Gary Sheffield that wanted to talk about Gary Sheffield or said that they were one of the teams that was definitely interested in acquiring him.
Q. What does Sheffield do for you offensively, the type of hitter he is?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, he makes around him a little more comfortable. I told our writers this yesterday, that we had a board at the organizational meetings and we had some pretty good names up there, hitters. You always try to figure out a way, how can you get the answer that you're looking for, and my question to Chuck Hernandez, our pitching coach was, which one of those hitters on the board do you fear the most, and his answer was Gary Sheffield. To me that pretty much says it all. So he helps people around him.
I think it's just -- you just have to keep him from not trying to do too much. All we need guys to do is just contribute what they can do and not try to do too much.
Q. Was Chuck the only one you asked at that meeting when you had the board up?
JIM LEYLAND: No, I asked Chuck. I wanted the pitching coach's opinion.
Q. What happens when Gary tries to do too much, gets in bad habits, strikes out a lot?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah, sometimes you make quick outs when you try to do too much. This guy is a professional hitter, he has been for a long time, and he's one of the most feared hitters in baseball, still is. I just talked to someone else today about him, and his wrist is stronger than ever. This guy is going to be on a mission. He's got some personal goals at stake, and I like that. We just think that's -- I mean, I think any manager in baseball, two, three weeks, a month, whatever, after the World Series, the general manager calls you and says, well, I just got you Gary Sheffield, you'll make every manager happy.
Q. How can you assess your offense last year, what its characteristics as personalities were? It seems like lots of times they get two, three early runs and then shut down the rest of the way. You'd allude sometimes and get into those flat ball patterns --
JIM LEYLAND: Well, it's because a pitcher shuts you down. We'd like to be a little more creative than we are, but at the same time it is what it is a lot of times, and you can't -- sometimes you just have to accept it, just like a player. Some players they can't get signs, can't do this, can't do that, but they're really good players. Some players strike out a lot, hit homeruns. You just have to be willing to accept if you have a player like that on your team, you have to be willing to accept what he is, and if you're not willing to accept that, then you need to change it and get another player there.
I think our offense is okay. I think it's gotten better. I think we did some nice things in late innings, some guys that hadn't done that before stepped up in late innings and we've gotten over that hump now.
We've got a good team. We've got a nice team, but we're not going to -- we said we weren't going to sit still. Like we said, a month after the season we had Sheffield.
Q. Thinking back to the meetings last year versus now, obviously you've got the win, but how was your outlook of the team, about the league, about yourself?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I was nervous about it because I knew how good the division was and I saw what our numbers were against Cleveland and Minnesota and the White Sox, and it wasn't very pretty. So I was a little concerned about it. But I knew that we had some talent. Obviously I thought we'd improve. I didn't think we'd go to the World Series. It's going to be a grind every year in this division as it stands right now. Cleveland will be better, Minnesota will be better, the White Sox will be better. They're an outstanding team, and Kansas City kick their ass the last week of the season. They're on the move. I don't mind, that's what it's all about. If you're going to be the best, you've got to beat the best.
Q. How do you replace Walker?
JIM LEYLAND: That's a great question. I couldn't be happier for Jamie Walker. He's so deserving, and I'll be frankly honest with you, we wanted him back, but sometimes you just have a figure where you think is the figure that you need to have to keep everything in perspective for your particular club and what you have come up, and we just -- he's going to be missed very, very much, and I think people don't realize what a nice piece he was to our ballclub. He took the ball all the time, he threw strikes, he's a veteran pitcher. He didn't panic. He's a winner, and he's going to be missed.
Everybody thinks, oh, a little spot, left-handed. No, that's not true. I'm very concerned about that.
Q. So what do you do?
JIM LEYLAND: We're trying to get one. You know, we might have to take a shot on somebody or a long shot on somebody, or I might have to do like I've done before, I might have to go to the Minor Leagues and look around over there and have them set up all their lefties for two, three days in a row and go over there and watch them.
Q. This spring?
JIM LEYLAND: This spring, and pick one out. One thing we do have to our advantage, we have Ledezma a left-hander and Rodney gets left-handers out there and Zumaya got left-handers out better than Rodney. You would think Rodney would get them out a little better than Zumaya. According to the numbers, batting averages, Zumaya got them out a little better.
But it's not like we have to have one, and if we get another right-hander that's better in that scenario, then I'll go with a right-hander.
Q. Left-handers are hard to come by, aren't they?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah, they're hard to come by.
Q. Jim, you were with St. Louis when Drew was there, J.D. Drew. What is your evaluation of him as a player?
JIM LEYLAND: He's a hell of a player. He's really a good player. He was nagged by injuries quite a bit, but this guy is a real talent.
Q. Why do you suppose he's been the lightning rod of so much criticism over the years for either being passive or not playing hurt?
JIM LEYLAND: The first thing I think is -- people in baseball, they just don't forget. I think the whole thing with the draft originally started, and I think that's always giving people an opportunity to take cheap shots at him. I think turn the page. This guy is a great talent and a great kid, outstanding. I think that's probably how that all got going, and people just won't let it up. But this guy is one heck of a player, trust me. He's a good player, real good player. I really liked him.
One year he was hurt a little bit and he still had unbelievable numbers over there in St. Louis. I mean, this guy is a player. He's an all-purpose player. He can do everything. He's a good player.
Q. You competed against Bobby and John for a lot of years over in National League. Now that they've finally had their run ended, do you have any doubts that they can get it back on with an $80 million payroll and all that?
JIM LEYLAND: They'll be back. I think if they -- I'm not in that league so I'll be careful what I say, but there was a good chance probably last year that if they got to the end of the bullpen they might have made the wild card last year. They're going to be back, there's no question about that. That's in the book. You don't do what they've done and -- the other thing is that there's some pretty good competition shooting at them all the time, too, maybe a few better teams, you know what I mean. So it's not going to be easy for them, but they'll be right in the thick of things.
That's unbelievable, what they did. That will never happen again, never. I don't think that will ever happen again in baseball, 14 straight or whatever it was. I don't think that will ever happen again. That's hard to even imagine.
Q. What kind of role do you see for Omar Infante going into next year?
JIM LEYLAND: Start some in the infield, maybe DH once in a while, maybe play the outfield a little bit, a little bit more than last year. I'm going to work him out a little harder in center field this year in Spring Training.
Q. In an ideal world could he be your backup center fielder?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, he'd probably have to be, unless we make a deal.
Q. When do you start planning for Spring Training?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I have my plans. I have everything down for what we did last year, and nothing is going to change. We keep all our fundamentals and things year in and year out. We just go back to them and organize it, get the time stuff all ready to go when we go to camp. We're all set.
Our main thing is going to be to not come in with a championship hangover, and like I said, wallets around and all that stuff about, I'm a veteran now and I know what it takes to get ready, we've won now, I know what it takes. That shit is not going to happen, I can tell you that right now. You do that, and that's part of championship hangover in my opinion. It starts right in Spring Training. We're going to work hard in Spring Training. We're going to work harder this spring than we worked last year because I think that's where it starts.
Q. What about the pitchers' fielding practice?
JIM LEYLAND: I'm not going to do that the first day because I don't want to draw attention to everything. I don't want these guys paranoid about it. It's going to be pretty boring if the main attraction at Spring Training is watching PFP. That was a fluke thing. It never happened before, so I'm not going to make a big deal out of that.
Q. How do you stop the championship hangover? A lot of teams have had it.
JIM LEYLAND: I think starting in Spring Training and making them aware of it, and not hiding the fact if you get too cool and too relaxed and too blase about what we've done and who we are, that's not what the Tigers are all about. We're about it's over with, this is what we did. We celebrated. The celebration is over, now it's time to go back. The one thing we've got going for us, which I really like, is we've got some players coming up on that time in their career where they got a chance to get their pot of gold, and I love stuff like that because they're going to be hungry if they're smart.
Q. We talked about the veteran players on the A's.
JIM LEYLAND: These are guys coming up for free agency a couple years from now, and hey, I want them to max out their financial power. I hope it's with us. But if you're going to do it, you've got to produce, so that's one thing we've got going for us.
Q. Six weeks later do you think your guys were getting a little paranoid during the series about your pitchers, about those errors?
JIM LEYLAND: No, I don't think so. It almost became humorous to be honest with you, one of those freak things.
Q. Except for you?
JIM LEYLAND: It didn't bother me. Everybody talks about -- I disagree with all of it. The fact of the matter is our five top hitters went 9 for 100 in the World Series. Everybody is focused on the couple bad throws by the pitchers or five errors or whatever. We didn't hit. We were 9 for 100 or something. Who are you going to beat with that?
Q. Was it poor hitting, or did you feel like they had you scouted and pitched well?
JIM LEYLAND: They pitched to us well. They had a great game plan and they had pitchers that were able to locate.
Q. You could feel as the series went on that they pitched to you well and knew where your holes were?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, it's pretty freaky when the MVP of the League Championship Series hasn't had a hit in the World Series. How often does that happen? That's the way it goes. We sat around, we got stale, and they beat us, and I tip my hat to them.
Q. Pudge is entering that age for a catcher where obviously it starts to get physically tough. How well do you think he handled it last year?
JIM LEYLAND: Pudge is in as good a shape as any player I've got and he's got as young a body as any player I've got. He's in tremendous shape, takes great care of himself. He's a specimen.
Like I said, he's probably got a body of a 25-, 26-year-old guy. He's in great shape.
Q. Did Perrysburg do anything for you after the series?
JIM LEYLAND: They wanted me to be the grand marshall in the holiday parade. I turned it down because I had done it before. I was just up there to speak a couple weeks ago at the kidney foundation and then I'm going up there to speak for a big fundraiser for two churches, one which my brother is the pastor. I'll give them a kidney before it's all done.
Q. What's the name of his parish up there?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah, St. Rose, where I went to grade school and high school. So I'm speaking there. It'll be the first time I've ever preached to him (laughter).
Q. What's his name?
JIM LEYLAND: Father Tom. I'm going to tell him -- it's going to be a tough crowd.
Q. Are you preaching in church or just talking to a church group?
JIM LEYLAND: No, I'm giving a speech at a benefit for a fundraiser. It's not going to be in the church. If they boo me, I'll let them have it a little bit (laughter). I'll tell them every once in a while I sub for Tom in that confessional so don't get too crazy (laughter).
Q. Zumaya, that was a long year for him it seemed like with all the hoopla and everything. Do you think by the end of it, he seemed maybe a little tired but you think he handled it all well?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah, I think all our guys did. I was very proud of our guys during the postseason, particularly guys that had never been there. I thought they were all dignified. I thought they handled the media well. I thought they were courteous and polite. They did an excellent job of handling everything. I was proud of our ballclub. In fact, I was surprised a little bit because if you haven't gone through this, as you know, it can be pretty hectic, and I thought they were very respectful to everybody, I thought they handled it well, and a lot of guys were tired. I was tired, I'm sure you guys were tired. Hey, at that time of year you're supposed to be tired.
Q. Given championship fatigue and everything like that, can you make a case that trying to go to a second consecutive World Series might even be tougher than a first?
JIM LEYLAND: Oh, sure. We're starting from scratch out in a real nasty division, and even if you're fortunate enough to get to the playoffs, you might have to go through the New York Yankees or Boston or Minnesota or somebody like that again. It's not going to be easy. It's not going to be easy. It's hard. I don't think people ever realize how hard it is to win a championship of any kind, let alone repeat. But we'll see. We'll have a good team. How well we'll do, I don't know. But we'll be a good team.
Q. Is there anything to the bull's eye theory that now that you're the American League champions people will play harder against you? Do you think there's anything to that theory?
JIM LEYLAND: No, I don't think they play harder against you, I just think they're more aware of you. I think last year we were kind of a surprise and snuck up on people, and this year we won't sneak up on them. But I didn't see anybody when we come to town not playing hard thinking these guys aren't too good. No, I think everybody respects us, just like we respect them.
I mean, our division, it's fun really, because you talk about Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota, us, now Kansas City making a move. There's not much room to relax, and then you go out -- this year we're going to have to go to Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York Mets. This is great. That's baseball. That's what you want. If you want to be the best you've got to play the best and beat them. I don't have a problem with that.
Q. Getting back to Sheffield, where will he hit in the order?
JIM LEYLAND: Probably third or fourth, I'm not sure which one. It'll be one of those two, three or four.
Q. Did you see Pudge make a transition as a hitter last year in accordance with -- he's a little older, he's not quite that same power hitter, maybe not even so much an average hitter but the kind of guy who's got to spring the ball a little bit more?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I think it's a big ballpark. He's not 25 anymore, even though he's in great shape. But he's not the same player he was at 25, but he's still a hell of a player. You can't expect him -- you're talking about playing in a big ballpark. I mean, he hit some balls to center field that I'm sure in Texas and some other places would be homeruns. In our ballpark they just stay right there and the guy just backs up and catches them. But our hitters talk about our park once in a while, that it's a tough park. But you usually win with pitching, and that's how we won, in my opinion.
Q. Does his speed factor at all into batting him higher into the order?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah, he's one of the fastest guys on the team and he's a good base-runner.
End of FastScripts