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December 5, 2007

Ron Gardenhire


Q. You played with Ralphie Santana?
RON GARDENHIRE: He took my job. Got hurt and never got back. That was more my doing than his, though. Okay. That's good. You guys are hot. I don't know anything about Santana right now other than he's still my pitcher, and worse case scenario for me is if nothing happens, then he starts for me and I can't complain about that. So, all kinds of talk and all kinds of this and that, but nothing has happened and nothing is imminent, and he's still my starting pitcher. That's what I know about Johan Santana.

Q. What about the status of your division after that big trade yesterday?
RON GARDENHIRE: It's tilting, isn't it? It's not a good thing. There's very, very good teams in our division. Detroit obviously has really, really improved themselves, and they're pretty good to start with. So you have to see as you go along. Everything always looks different on paper. You have to always start playing the games and see where you stand and how you match up. We're not done during the winter, but they definitely stepped up and done a lot of really, really good things for their ball club.

Q. Responsibility, all this Santana stuff, do you even think about Plan B or C?
RON GARDENHIRE: I've had -- you know what? You try. Honestly, I've tried to sit and think about it and where you go and what you have. But in all honesty, it's really hard. It's hard to kind of imagine where you're going to be and what you have. So you just have to see -- let it happen, see where you go from there.
People ask me about lineups. I don't know who is on my ball club right now. I know I have Santana starting for me right now, and I don't know my lineup yet, haven't got there. They haven't finished to start writing it out. It would be okay to do right this second, but I think it's going to change. I have to just go with what I have right now, and we'll see where we're at. We've got a long ways before we get to Spring Training.

Q. Managers are kind of like fans in the off-season. They're waiting to see how it's going to shake out. Spring Training, what you really have to throw out there?
RON GARDENHIRE: Fans are nervous nellies, depending on which way you look at it. We knew going into this winter, it was going to be a hard winter. We lost Torii Hunter, and that's been tough. Not just as a manager to a player but he's been with up, grew up in the organization. We're very proud of him. So losing Torii was hard for everybody involved -- our fan base, families and everybody else. But as a manager, you -- honestly you have to just sit back and take it in stride. It's the way the game is now. You know there's going to be player movements. Markets are going to be able to handle certain situations. Others are not. I know what we tried to do in the past. We stay with our philosophy and program. That's what we're trying to do is do the best we can to put a great team on the field, knowing that we have to make some moves. That's what we're trying to do.

Q. What can you expect from Liriano next year?
RON GARDENHIRE: I saw him in the Instructional League. The ball was coming out his hand free and easy, and we all know it's a process after the first year back. There's a lot of ifs. Then we see where we're at. He's pretty special talent. He's stronger, I know that, the ball is really coming out of his hand. In Spring Training we'll see where he's at. He feels great. It was free and easy and the ball was really popping pretty good. That was an exciting thing when I went down there.

Q. Does he have to change any of his approach for the way he pitches?
RON GARDENHIRE: It sounds logical to say violent motion, all those things. And it sounds easy, but it's not. You grow up throwing a baseball one way, and you got a motion and wind up, that's the way it is. That's the way you throw the ball. We talked about obviously cleaning up a few things, stride, his landing and all those things, but he's going to throw the ball that his body allows him to throw the ball. Got a pretty good pitching coach that has already talked to him about different things. Lot of people in our organization have. Only we're going to try to make a few adjustments. It's going to get down to how he feels. The bottom line is what he wants to do when he's out there on the mound.

Q. Do you think the Tigers and the Indians have moved away from the rest of the division at this point when you're looking at it on December 5th?
RON GARDENHIRE: You know what? Obviously the Tigers made a big move here since the season has ended -- Renteria at shortstop, the guys they get. Moved away, never know until you get out on the baseball field. Definitely they solidified themselves as the favorites. I think them and Cleveland are definitely at the top right now because they really -- Cleveland was there last year and won it.
Detroit is making some strides to really get better. We're all trying to do that. Always get back to we'll see what happens. See how it all breaks out and you start playing together, and you just never know. Lot of things going into play during the course of a season. But they've gotten better. No doubt about that. We made a good trade with Tampa Bay. Got a very good hitter to go with some of our guys we got now. We're very excited about that.
We're trying to add more offense, going with a young pitching staff, a good pitching staff and bullpen. We'll compete with anybody. We're not done yet. We feel very good with the guys we have.

Q. Were you surprised you could get a guy like Delmon Young? What do you expect from him?
RON GARDENHIRE: He's very excited, and we're very excited to have him. We lost Torii. We needed a bat. We had our sights set on a couple guys. We talked to Tampa Bay about a few guys. We were very excited about them. I talked with them in the outfield last year about his theory, what he was going through, and he was such a positive kid. When his name came up and we started kind of setting our sights on seeing if we could pry him away. You knew you were going to have to give up some very good people, but we're very excited.
His past doesn't worry me at all. I've known Dmitri for a long time. He plays the game, has fun, and watching this young man play was the same way. He went out and played the game. He worked hard. He was at the ballpark early. Those things bode well for our ball club. We like that kind of player. I think he'll be fine. He's a young hitter.

Q. Do you know who you might bring in for Johan? What would it mean if you were to trade him?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, another guy that I've grown up with, been with for a long time. I don't want to start talking like he's gone, but he's a special person, special talent. Means a lot to our clubhouse and our ball club. Never going to be easy if something like that were to happen to watch him go somewhere else and pitch and have to actually compete against him, but I have a lot of respect for Jo, his family, everything they've done for us up to the this point and hopefully will continue. You never know what's going to happen.
You know what, doesn't get any better, I can tell you that. Right now he's still ours. Just don't get any better.

Q. Responsibility, what about a mid season trade? Would you rather if he's going to be moved, to be moved now rather than in July when you guys maybe are two, three games out of a wild card spot?
RON GARDENHIRE: You know what? You talk to the guys upstairs on that stuff. I don't hand is my pitcher right now. There's a lot of intangibles that go into these things, lot of issues. We're trying to do what's right for our ball club and for Johan. Obviously there's been a lot of talk between our GM and our people upstairs and Johan and his agent, and there's a lot of wishes, lot of way things they want things to happen. And you know what? They're all trying to work through it as best they can and try to do what's right for everybody.

Q. How about Bonser and Baker and Slowey?
RON GARDENHIRE: We just want him to get to a point where stamina is a better, and we've talked to him about where it works best for him. He's got all the pitches and all those things this year. He's a little bigger than he was the year before, and his performance was a little, you know, not as good as we had hoped. But he's still a very, very young pitcher. We've got a good plan for him during the winter. He'll come into Spring Training. Baker really stepped up last year, got better.
Slowey was up and went back down. He's learned a little bit about slowing the ball down and using both sides of the plate a little better with changing speeds. So we like those guys, and then we go from there. You see where you're at. It's interesting with Silva and Santana to see where you're going to be.
We have young pitchers with good, young arms. There's some veteran pitchers out there that we've looked at, possibility of signing and bringing some people in to compete. Some of our young guys need more time.

Q. Are you worried that your closer may get dealt?
RON GARDENHIRE: Why do you have to go there? Am I worried?

Q. Yes.
A I would be silly to say "No, I'm not worried." It's not something that's been talked about a lot. If it starts going there, then obviously they have a plan. But Joe Nathan is my closer right now. I do know that. I like having him in the end of the ballgame. If something gets heated up about that, obviously it would be a package that would probably have to bring somebody else in to do that job. But that's not been something that's been really revved up too much.

Q. Delmon Young certainly has had his precocious moments here. How do you plan on kind of reaching some common ground with the guys, some sort of level of understanding?
RON GARDENHIRE: I think you're talking about maturity and maturing as a ballplayer and a person, and you learn from your mistakes and you move on. I think that's where we're at. He's got a clean slate. He's with the Minnesota Twins now, and we are very, very excited to have him. I don't worry about his past, what's happened. He's very excited to be with us, and we're very excited to have him. And as far as I'm concerned, he's starting brand new here with us. We look forward it. He's very talented and nice young man. A guy I talked to in the outfield, pretty special. We look for him to grow around the rest of our players. We've got pretty good guys.

Q. Do you figure him in leftfield or talked to Cuddy about that?
RON GARDENHIRE: Haven't talked to Cuddy about that. We'll see which one can make the transition the easiest and what's going to be best for our ball club, and we'll go from there.

Q. For people who think Johan, you can't say many bad things about him. People think he took a step back last year. What do you say to that?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, I can't say Johan took a step back. I'd say he's pretty good. We didn't score many runs for him. So it became a battle of Johan trying to actually probably do too much, and he still had a great year, was up for the a young and all those things.
As you're in this league, people start making adjustments to you, and then you have to adjust back, and that's where Jo is at. People are making adjustments to him. They're realizing you can't just sit out there and try to get a good pitch and hit it. You got to sit on things. And you know what? I'd still take my chances with him over anybody in this game.

Q. Is doing too much where the increase in homeruns probably comes from?
RON GARDENHIRE: Probably so. Working, trying to get ahead, knowing that you can't give up too many runs and all those things and trying to be too fine in all those things. He tried to be too fine at times, but there was an understanding also we weren't scoring any runs. So he knew he had to be, and that leads to a few balls going out of the ballpark. But like I said, bottom line is, he's as good as they get. When you have him on the mound, you got a chance to win.

Q. You think his stuff is as good as it has been?
RON GARDENHIRE: Yeah. More knowledge behind his stuff, too. More consistent with it. Yeah, he's pretty good.

Q. People talking about Garza being a guy who has the potential to be front of the rotation guy, what does he have to do to get there?
RON GARDENHIRE: The only issues we had with Garza and the things we talked to him over and over about was controlling the game and controlling him out on the mound. His stuff is there. He's gotten better with his pitches. He overthrows at times and -- if he controls himself out on the mound and his emotions -- he's an emotional kid, but you got to control the game, not let the game control you.
Those are the things that we talked over and over with him about. Not getting too frustrated on the mound when it doesn't go your way and controlling the game. As far as talent, it's all there. It's a package that it's hard to find and it's hard to get rid of guys like the Garza.
He's got a great arm. He's a great competitor and great kid. And to get good players, you have to give them up. That was a hard one to do. Lot of debate on what we should do here. The decision was we needed this bat, we gave up a very talented young man there. When he learns to control the game and his emotions on the mound, he's going to be pretty good.

Q. Just continuing that theme, how would you talk about Bartlett?
RON GARDENHIRE: We kind of had a lot of things that we worked on and talked about, and he made a lot of adjustments, I thought. His errors were up this year not using his feet. He got better as the year went along. He knows how to play now. He knows the league. Speed guy, knows how to run the bases. He's an aggressive person as to where he was passive before. That was another one of those situations when you're giving up your starting shortstop. Very, very leary of those things especially when something has worked.
That was hard to do. But as I said, sometimes you have to give up some people to get some people, and we made the decision to do it. But I have a lot of respect for Jason. He's a classy kid and a good baseball player with a lot of talent.

Q. Have you given any thought to who is going to play short for you now?
RON GARDENHIRE: I'm trying. We're trying. We got Harris in the mix. We've got Punto and Casilla. We've got some good young infielders. I think Harris looks like offensively he can do something offensively: He can swing the bat. If he comes in and shows that he can move around a little bit and make the routines plays and all those things, he'll get a good look at it.

Q. Will you definitely go inside from the shortstop or might there be some outside?
RON GARDENHIRE: Not going to back ourselves in a corner. There could be possibility of going out and finding somebody and making a move to get a shortstop if you had to. If one pops up in your face, you're not going to back away from it, but we've got people in-house that can -- we think can do the job. We don't know that, but we think it. I know Punto can.

Q. Guy like Eckstein, whose salary is exorbitant.
RON GARDENHIRE: Yes, I've had a lot of respect for him. A winner. Proven winner. Guys like that, you know, those are decisions and things we'll talk about as you go along.

Q. What about Punto? Going to be in your lineup next year no matter what?
RON GARDENHIRE: Not no matter what. He's coming to Spring Training. I would like to -- I like having him on the field. I like the way he plays. I like the way he separates offense, defense. He's a very entertaining baseball player. He's as good as they get with that glove, no matter where you put him and offensively, if he learns to get back to the basics of putting the ball in play a little more and on the ground and out of the air, he's a pretty good player. He can do a lot.

Q. With that said, don't you think that he may relax a little more offensively once you put him back at second late last year?
RON GARDENHIRE: Sure. Middle of the infield where he's really comfortable. He handled 3rd fine the year before. He got in his own head and probably listened to everybody. He probably listened to you about hitting, you know. That's the way it goes sometimes.

Q. You just have to change his approach?
RON GARDENHIRE: That's all. It's about his.

Q. He was trying to hit --
RON GARDENHIRE: Everything in the air. Too many balls in the air. Got in his own head about -- instead of seeing the ball and hitting the ball, getting back to the basics, covering the ball and using your speed, he just got out of whack. And, like I said, you get in those situations and things get in your head, you try everything. He never really settled on a plan and stuck with it.

Q. At this point, 3rd, short, and 2nd you're not sure?
RON GARDENHIRE: That's pretty good statement, yeah. That's about where we're at. I'm not real sure. From 1st base over. I got 1st base covered, though.

Q. If a player is mentioned in the Mitchell Report, should anything be noted on his career statistics to reflect that?
RON GARDENHIRE: I think you have to see how that breaks out, where it goes, and all the decisions on it. You know what? That's going to be, I think, just as interesting for me as it is everybody else to see what happens, what comes out. I'm not sure about all these asterisks and all those things. I guess there's people that understand it and have a little more insight than I do about it and what it can and can't do for your body and how much it has helped.
I think as far as stuff like that goes, to me it's really hard to know when it helped a person and when it didn't help a person. I'm not -- I wish I had more insight on it, but I don't.

Q. You lost Hunter. You might have to part with Santana. Is there any disconnect in your mind between that and what we're seeing with the overall health in the game, the new stadium you've got coming in your market, or should we be talking about who you guys are bringing in as opposed to sort of who is saying goodbye?
RON GARDENHIRE: That's the thing. We're not trying to -- everybody keeps talking about us like trying to shelf everybody and get rid of everybody and clean house and get ready for the new stadium. That's why we haven't parted with W-D Santana up to this point. We have to get back people that are going to help us win in the major league. Everybody thinks we're just launching people. That's not the case, or Santana would have been traded. We've had good offers from people on Santana, but it has to be a package that we're comfortable with that's going to help us win this year and all the way through the opening of the new stadium. The same way we got Delmon Young. We got a great young hitter. That's very important for our fan base to know that we're not just sitting here going launching guys. We're making sure that we're going to compete. We want to win. We want to keep up with these other guys.
We have a pretty good core group of young hitters in our lineup and players. We can compete, and we have to fill the holes to do it. That's what we're trying to do. If we have to trade Santana because we're not going to be able to sign him, we'll trade him because we can get quality back for him and not quality to fill up our lower Minor League, quality to fill up our big league.

Q. Do you think that message has resonated with your fan base?
RON GARDENHIRE: You're talking about Torii Hunter and Santana, the best players in any fan base, I don't care ours or -- no fan base in the world that's going to be happy about that. There's no way. It's just not going to happen.
We ask them to understand what we're trying to do here and not trying to sell out our baseball team. We're trying to win. That's all we're trying to ask our fan base is to stick with us. We've done -- this organization has been pretty good about putting a winner out on the field and doing the right things and trying to maintain and staying within what we can and can't do, and that's all we're trying to do now, and I think our fan base understands that.
We did a pretty good job of competing, and we're going to try to do that still.

Q. Bullpens aren't easy to keep stable. You guys have had good bullpens. What's the key to having stability?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, I think finding roles for guys and staying with that. A good bullpen starts with the guy at the end. If you can't finish it off, having those guys to get to him makes it probably not worthwhile. We've been fortunate to have the guy at the end now pretty much every year I've been managing here, a guy at the end that can get it done. And we've been able to fill the roles with some good pitchers in Minor League system.

Q. What's set in your bullpen now?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, you got Nathan at the end, and then we've got Rincon. Jesse Crain is going to be coming back. Reyes had a lot of injuries last year. That's a solid lefty. Matt Guerrier stepped up where we can use him anywhere. Neshek kind of wore down. We used him a lot early part of the year last year and wore down, but he's pretty good. We have good arms, and we have a little variety in our arms. They're not all the same guy going straight fast balls. We give you a little mix. So we're pretty happy with our bullpen. We had some young players that we saw last year that we could mix them up, and we think they can really help us, too. Pretty solid with our bullpen.

Q. Would you be surprised, not surprised if Johan Santana is your opening day pitcher?
RON GARDENHIRE: I'm kind of rolling with it. I've been here a few days now and been up in the office. And is it in that room, sitting in that room. And listen, lot of panicking going on here. As I said, we're waiting for the right situation here. We've heard ultimatums from teams. So I just get salve and rub some on my wrist and get slapped. We got from there. We're doing just fine. Lots of panic in our ball club. We don't have to do anything.
Johan is my opening day starter next year I'm a lot better off than most teams. I do know that. We're not panicking, letting it flow, seeing what happens.

Q. How impressed are you with how the Billy kind of handled things to this point, being in the national spotlight with talk about this move, having to deal with ultimatums, people saying things about how you want this guy, things like that.
RON GARDENHIRE: He's doing fine. Terry is sitting up in there and all his staff sitting up there. It's not like he's out there on his own, sitting in the king chair. Got a lot of people helping him, talking, and we're talking in depth and talking everything through. He's doing fine. I've had an opportunity to sit down with him. We talked about a lot different things. He's doing fine. He's handling it real well. He's not panicking, refuses to. That's a good thing.

Q. What kind of salve?
RON GARDENHIRE: Little cream. I've got a little red on my wrist from getting slapped.

Q. Are you any more optimistic about keeping him than a week ago?
RON GARDENHIRE: You know what, I'm just letting it fly. Honestly, it's just -- it's out there. We all know it's out there. You can't hide from it. Everything you read, every -- turn on the TV, open the newspaper, it's all there. There's not really much I can say about it. So, I'm just letting it happen. Whatever happens, happens. It's going to be for the best with the ball club.
My scenario if we make a deal, we're going to get back some very good players. If we don't make a deal, I have him pitching for us.

Q. You got a little worn down with all the questions about Torii said last year. You got a little worn down.
RON GARDENHIRE: That's a concern. We talked about some of our issues last year everywhere. We went from all star break on wasn't about baseball, it was about all of our free agents, all of our guys that wanted to be re-signed, and we got away from baseball and the field. Those are concerns. We've talked about them in depth up there. There's not a lot you can do about them. We like to kind of alleviate a lot of those issues where we don't have to deal with it and we can play baseball.

Q. But from what you saw last year, are they legitimately --
A Casilla is a very talented player. Buscher did alright. Casilla is kind of a loose cannon. He can make some of greatest plays in the world, and he can get a little out of whack. I like him a lot. I think he can do a lot of things.
And Busher has issues as far as learning the game, but he did pretty good at the end as we worked with him and talked with him about different things. He came on and did alright. He's an everyday guy. I'm not positive about that, but he did okay. He handled himself just fine.
RON GARDENHIRE: Absolutely Busher is an option.

Q. How is Scott Baker a better pitcher?
RON GARDENHIRE: Scott Baker has actually learned to kind of pick up the pace of the game, not let one bad pitch affect the rest of the inning. Has learned to control the game instead of the game controlling him. He gets on the mound, he throws the ball, and he's not worried about every pitch he throws like it's the last screw-up he's going to make the rest of his life. You know what I'm saying? He actually pitches. He's goes and steps back on the mound and gets the ball and goes right out instead of dibble, dabble. We've kind of got it through his head. He's finally understood that. It's pitching. It's baseball. Hit the ball, make a good pitch, and hit the ball again, try to do it.

Q. I think we've all assumed with Delmon and Cuddyer you're set with a DH.
RON GARDENHIRE: Possibility. Delmon is not going to be a DH. Kubel is the one who had the knee issues. He's play outfield. Cuddy is an outfielder that plays everyday. Loves to play everyday. That's kind of where we are.

Q. It gives you a little bit of flexibility to kind of give guys --
RON GARDENHIRE: We have Monroe, too. I saw him play a little 1st base, I think. It's entertainment when do you that, so we can use him a lot. We're trying to get some good people in here that can do a few things and not be so limited to one lineup and limit your moves on what you can and can't do, and that's kind where we're going here, a little depth to add on.

Q. If I could change up real quick, the Mitchell report, probably before Christmas it's going to come out. Are you or do you think baseball in general -- are you guys bracing for a bad news, or how do you look at that?
RON GARDENHIRE: Waiting like everybody else. It's a situation that I think everybody wants to see a little finality to it.

Q. Get it over with?
RON GARDENHIRE: That's right. See what he says, see where he's at, and we'll all get better for it in the future from where he goes with this and what's out there. We'll get it out, and we'll get maybe a little bit of that cloud from over our heads and get back to baseball and controlling and also protecting the game.

Q. Do you think it might hurt the game short-term but perhaps benefit it long-term?
RON GARDENHIRE: The goal is to make our game better and clean it up. That's what we're trying to do. That was set out a long ago. There's people like Marty Noble around, they try to screw the game up, but we're not going to let that happen.

Q. Were you surprised by Torii's contract?
RON GARDENHIRE: Surprised by it? Second richest guy I know now. Mr. Pollack is first. I was happy.

Q. Did you talk to him?
RON GARDENHIRE: Yeah. He was buying a house in L.A. when I called him.

Q. He met Lindsay Lohan?
RON GARDENHIRE: I was very happy for him. We made him a very good offer. The years obviously weren't enough, but we made him a good offer as far as money goes, but they doubled us. They doubled down and won. Alright? That's the way it happens in this game.

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