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December 9, 2008
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Q. You were privy to all of the dialogue; can you characterize your thoughts on if you can get something done here in Vegas?
RON GARDENHIRE: You never know. There's a lot of conversation, there's a lot of people out there floating through the hallways and striking up conversations. I think it's been well documented the things that we are looking for, and whether somebody is wanting to come in and join us in those talks, that's where we are all at, waiting and seeing. But there's conversation going on, and right now, nothing's happened.
Q. Obviously one of the needs would be a convincing shortstop, I guess ideally. Could there be a match with the Pirates and Jack Wilson?
RON GARDENHIRE: We have a shortstop in Nick Punto, who we are trying to sign, and whether we can get that done or not. That's kind of the first priority for us, see what our free agents are going to do.
Q. When you pursue Nick, are you telling him that he'll be the starter here?
RON GARDENHIRE: If we sign Nick Punto, he would be my starting shortstop, and I think that's what he's looking for. I like him and I think he's a gamer. He brings a lot to our baseball team; but whether we can do it or not, we'll have to wait and see. But I have a lot of respect for him and I think he does a good job. He can catch the ball, he can run the bases and all of those things that I like to see.
Q. So who are your three starting outfielders next year?
RON GARDENHIRE: That's what Spring Training is all about. We are fortunate to have five of them. I know I got it all stirred up a month ago in Fargo, and I was talking to farmers and I named three guys. And I said, if I had to do it right now, these guys would play and I didn't talk any farther than that.
Next thing you know, it's Delmon is out. I'm like, Delmon is not anywhere. We are pretty blessed to have four very good outfielders, Cuddyer, Span, Gomez and then Delmon. So that's a lot of talent, and then you have our DH, we are pretty blessed and pretty lucky.
You know what, if there's an area where we can move a person and somebody came after us strong with one of our outfielders and it happened to happen, that's an area where we have a little more depth than other places, and so if we can bring back somebody, we have to do it. There's nothing wrong with going into Spring Training with a little depth, and more than a little, we have a lot.
Q. Did you have to smooth is over with Delmon at all?
RON GARDENHIRE: No. You know what, I'm not going to say it's taken out of context, because I said what I said, but it was kind of left off there, you know what I mean. It wasn't a shot at anybody, I wouldn't do that.
I have a lot of respect for Delmon, because there is a guy that played the last two months with a bad ankle and came to the ballpark every day. He was part of our baseball team and he was one of the reasons why we got into one-game playoff. If Delmon would want me to call him, I would call him in a heartbeat and tell him, my bad. You shouldn't have to answer those questions and shouldn't have to deal with that. That was me screwing everything up more than anything else.
Q. Billy said maybe you were lighting a fire under him.
RON GARDENHIRE: I light a fire, all right. (Laughter.) It was a fire I lit. I don't try to light fires under players. Players they don't need fires under them. They are gamers. All my guys play. They didn't need me to light a fire it. Was just conversation and it was kind of winter conversation. We get to Spring Training, you know.
I was hunting and I saw my picture in the Aberdeen newspaper and I went, "Whoa, Chrysler." I had a gun with me, though. (Laughter.) Just kidding. That was a joke, okay. I don't want to start another fight.
Q. How close to Delmon is meeting your expectations and what did you want to see out of him last year?
RON GARDENHIRE: Like everything with every player, we want him to flow into our program and understand what we are all about, and he played. He's a little more stubborn than some of the guys.
You have to understand, Delmon is one of these kids that's come up and had -- he's been the best player from when he was probably this little all the way up. And the two people that have been probably the biggest people in his life, his father and his brother, pretty talented, pretty knowledgeable baseball people.
That's who he listened to, and our goal was to try to break into that and get him to understand what we are about, and that's all it's ever been. Delmon was not a problem, not an issue, and I would hate to think that somebody would think it was. Delmon was fine. Delmon and I got along fine all year. I would take him out of a game, he would say he wants to play and we never had an issue and he was ready when I wanted him off the bench. I liked the heck out of the young man. He was a very talented young player, along with all of our other outfielders.
Q. Can you make it work with four?
RON GARDENHIRE: Absolutely. The problem is when you don't have enough. When you have too many, you have good problems. If you have too many good players, that's not really problems. You might have some pretty miserable times as a manager because you're going to make some people mad when they are not playing that day, but you know what, it's never too big of a problem when you've got too much talent. We've got a lot of talent.
Q. Did you worry that your players will want that kind of a little more defined; do you think that could be a harmonious situation?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, they have to earn it. In the course of spring training next year, they will decide who is going to be out there playing. Either they get it done or they don't. I don't have to decide stuff like that, unless they all hit .500 in spring training and that makes it a little more difficult. But they have to decide who is going to go out there and play.
Q. Everybody is talking about how you guys are looking at shortstop and third base. Can you talk about why it is important to leave Casilla at second base than move him to short? A year ago we were thinking shortstop was his spot.
RON GARDENHIRE: And that could happen. If we were to lose Nicky or something like that, I'm not afraid to take a look to see a Tolbert at second base or something. I'm not afraid to do any of that. You can mix-and-match all you want.
I like the way it was going along when we had Casilla playing healthy at second base. That was a pretty good infield and we were playing pretty good baseball. We had lead-off guys and guys that would take pitchers and bunters and the whole package, and it was fun baseball to watch. If we can get back to that, that was okay. Nothing wrong with that infield at all.
Q. Do you ever any small market team pangs of jealousy knowing that your team cannot sign the biggest free agents?
RON GARDENHIRE: Not really. We have been doing this a long time, and we know where we are at and what we try to do. We have a pretty good plan in order.
You know what, I've been here when we've come in knowing that we are not going to keep one of the players, and this year, I've come in knowing and thinking that we have got a little shot here and we've got a shot to be a player in these meetings.
Like I said, we have a little bit of depth and we have a couple of places we are trying to fill and we have a little money to spend if it's needed.
Always said that if it's someone that's going to help you get over the hump, then go do that. But if there's a player that can get us over the hump and give us a better shot at winning the division, I think we'll step up and try to make a deal.
Q. You're automatically out for the biggest free agents.
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, I think a lot of clubs are. I don't think it's just small markets. I think there's a lot of clubs not in those markets or not that category.
Sure, we are not -- we lost the best pitcher in the game in Santana because we are not in that market. But we also understand it, and that's the way it's going to be and that's the way it is.
If you want to worry about it -- but you know what, for guys like that, I'm here thinking about it and I'm always anxious to see where they go, because where they go can affect just as much. We'll see what happens.
Q. Despite losing Santana and Torrey and your teammate, tremendous growth spurts last year, do you see yourselves needing to get one game better?
RON GARDENHIRE: I think it's just keep on that process of getting better, developing and not being satisfied that we had a decent year in the big leagues.
We were all very, very disappointed at the end. That was a hard way for a season to end, playoff game 1-0 ballgame in Chicago. That was hard for our baseball team. That put something in their guts for next year.
We are so young that it's going to be pretty easy to motivate them for next year. They got a good taste of it, and we were really close and a lot of guys had not been in that situation. Hopefully we'll be better for it, and be even hungrier. I think we'll be fine.
Q. How active of a role do you take in trying to recruit free agents from Minnesota, and did you talk to Casey Blake?
RON GARDENHIRE: I left him a voicemail. I was asked to leave a voicemail. I didn't call him and talk to him. I just left him a voicemail. I told him, "I really like you." I can't exactly offer money or contracts or years, you know what I'm saying? I just said, You know us, we know you. Here is what we are looking at here.
I left him a voicemail, and that was it. He didn't call me back, and I didn't expect him to. I just wanted to let him know what we were thinking and the role, that type of thing. I don't do that very often, every once in a while.
Q. If you don't sign with us, please don't sign with Cleveland?
RON GARDENHIRE: Like I said, I can't control any of that. I just left him a message. I know Casey pretty good.
Q. Maybe it was because of you, although some of it started before what you said but there have been a lot of rumors about Delmon being shopped or maybe teams calling about him. Would you prefer --
RON GARDENHIRE: I think I probably stirred that up more than anything else. If they start reading that these guys are my outfielders and they take it upon themselves to say Delmon is out, that means a lot of clubs are going to read that and say, Hey, we are not going to get Delmon Young for nothing, and that's not going to happen.
We gave up a lot to get Delmon Young, and we are not out here trying to give Delmon Young away. He's a very talented young player. That's just not the way it is.
And I probably stirred that whole thing up myself, and it was stupid on my part. Fortunately I have a boss that didn't slap me too awful hard.
Q. Not too hard, but a little bit?
RON GARDENHIRE: I don't think he was that happy with it, but he did tell me to take it easy. I said it was just my farmer buddies.
Q. You mentioned Lex may be going to short. Does that depend what goes on this winter?
RON GARDENHIRE: We just have to see where we are at when we get to spring training. I can't sit here and tell you what my infield is going to be right now. I can't do it.
If we come in as is and we were to re-sign Punto, then I would have a pretty good idea of where we were going to play people. We don't sign a guy for shortstop or something like that, and third base is as is, and then we'll figure it out. We'll figure out what's the best.
Q. Who is the best shortstop on the roster at this point?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, Brendan Harris is very consistent in catching the ball. His range is not as good as other guys. Tolbert is very young, kind of a good range guy and all of those things. A little erratic arm, but as a very young player. Still learning and probably the hardest worker.
We have talented people that can play, but none of them, you know, are as solid as Nick Punto out there playing every day and knowing what to do and knowing how to control the game from the shortstop, which is what I did. I ask my shortstop to do a lot, and that's control the game. I want him to take charge in the infield and that's why Nicky does a pretty good job for him, because he takes charge.
Q. You mentioned Santana earlier working on a story in the Rule V draft. How difficult is it for a team to carry a guy who is probably not ready to contribute for a whole year?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, there has to be some talent involved, and sometimes you're in a situation, and we had Santana, we had a lot of different issues going on as far as where we were going with the organization. We were not a major player in the top of the division, if you know what I'm saying. So you're able to keep guys like that.
When you're in a race every year, it makes it a little more difficult to have one spot for a guy, he's a Rule V guy that we think is going to be really good down the road to keep it. That makes it a little tougher when you're developing a baseball team and trying to change the ways, like we were at that time. We were able to do that with Santana and we all know how that works.
Q. Could you tell what he gained that year and that level?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, just getting the ball and being in the big leagues, he learned what the big leagues were all about. He took his lumps every once in a while going out there. But you know what? He was kind of a very confident kid that he came over. He didn't have the great changeup and the breaking ball was so-so. He had the good, deceptive fastball, and he really didn't know how to pitch. He's a good athlete and all of those things.
You know, like any other pitcher, it was a development thing, and he took a beating in the Major Leagues, but held his own. He was fun to have around, and was very athletic and would do just about anything to help us. He'll tell you that was a great experience for him, get to go pitch in the big leagues when he probably should have been in Astros or A ball or something like that.
Q. How much can you count on Jose Morales next year?
RON GARDENHIRE: He came up and took the ball in some big situations.
Q. Do you see him as a definite for the Major League team?
RON GARDENHIRE: You know, when he came up he did some pretty good things; we'll wait to see when we get to spring training and how he comes out of the winter. I would hope that we would be able to use him out of the bullpen.
From what we saw last year at the end, because we put him in some situations where he didn't back off an inch. He attacked, and I kind of like that kind of player.
Q. How much does he have to prove?
RON GARDENHIRE: He has to take the ball and throw the ball over. That's what he did last year, and if he goes into spring training and he works and doesn't let all of the, how good I did last year affect him, it's a new season, he'll be fine. He'll be just fine, because he showed no fear. I really like that about a pitcher. We put him in some big ones.
Q. He doesn't need any more AAA time?
RON GARDENHIRE: You know, he had command of three pitches. For a reliever like that, I'm not afraid to stick that kid out there throwing like he did then.
Q. Has the topic of the WBC --
RON GARDENHIRE: You know what? It's not something that I can control. If Laureano, if he's healthy -- you know what he's worked so stinking hard, I would never want to get in his way.
If he wants to pitch in his country and represent his country, I would never want to get in his way, because that man has worked so hard to get back. I think it would be another one of those notches in your belt saying, I did this, and I would never, ever, ever, go against him.
He's done his work now to get his arm healthy, and he's went through the rehab, went through the Minor League process. If they ask him to pitch and he wants to pitch for them, I'm proud for him.
Q. What's your level of optimism regarding attempts by Billy and Rob to find bullpen help?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, they are working. I've been up there around him a little bit. I just got in and I've talked to him off and on during the winter and they are working. They are trying different angles, and all you can do is try. You can call people and talk to them, and we know what we will do and what we won't do, pretty much what we will give up and won't give up, and there's parameters and they are staying within them. But they are trying. That's all you can ask.
Q. Do you think going into spring training knowing there's a relief pitcher will make a difference?
RON GARDENHIRE: I mean, we'll see. I think Boof wanted to be a starter but in the end he enjoyed taking the ball and blowing some people away. We told him, Just throw it and let it fly and just throw the ball. Power your fastball in and out and let it fly, and I think he enjoyed that part. So, you know what? Hopefully he'll accept that, because that's where he's at right now.
He's also that kind of ace in the hole because he started and he can go out there and start/stop for us, and he can do a lot of things. He's very valuable.
Q. If you had to sacrifice one of your starting five right now, in order to make a trade, would he be a logical guy to step in there?
RON GARDENHIRE: He would be a candidate. You're looking at depth and where you have it and where you don't and he would be a candidate.
Q. So it's not like he's gone over and he can't comeback?
RON GARDENHIRE: No, if we have any problems in spring training, he's been there before.
Q. Who are some of the other rotation candidates?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, have to see. Let's get to spring training and see who is in the roster and see who is in camp with us before we start naming them all. We have young kids that are coming in, and there's going to be six-year free agents that we sign and some people out there.
We'll see who all the candidates are that we sign, and then we'll know a little bit more about who they are.
Q. Does it matter to you whether it's left-handed or right-handed if they can find a guy to help you?
RON GARDENHIRE: As long as they can get him out. We have some lefties and we have some righties. If it's a guy that can get him out of in the eighth inning, doesn't matter if he's a lefty are or righty.
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, I'm probably out of my area code as far as knowing what we tried to do over there. That's a situation, budget-wise, it gets a little hairy for our organization, because we have a pretty standard thing that we don't go up and throw a lot of money towards too many free agent players from other countries or anywhere else.
So normally the bidding already starts out a little high than where we can go, and that's probably one of the reasons. It starts probably way above us. We have people scouting and we have scouts and so forth, but like I said, the players we all talk about, the bidding already starts here and we don't have a chance to get involved.
I can tell you about all kinds of players that I would love to have from other countries. And you know what? There's a lot of good ones out there, and there's been a lot of conversation, just like you said. I'm not really allowed to talk about other players from other teams, but we have always talked about it. I would love to.
I would love to go to Japan. I would like to coach the team that goes over, just be a part of it. I'll be the trainer. I'd just love to go there and see what it's like.
Q. Maybe you are too expensive.
RON GARDENHIRE: Probably for our team.
Q. What's your impression of him from what you've seen in spring training?
RON GARDENHIRE: Made a lot of progress in the last year and a half. He really stepped up last year and really threw the ball. Kind of jumped to a little different level, so he's a guy that will give a really good chance, get a good look at him this year.
He's right on the edge now, fine line, of getting an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. He's not quite there yet, but I think he got himself above that this year. That's what I saw through our reports and everything else, so there's a lot of optimism.
Q. He struggled in New Brighton, but did really well at Rochester.
RON GARDENHIRE: Sometimes players get stale at certain levels. You get motivated a little better when you step up to a new level. And I think that's what happened with Swarzak, so we'll see what happens.
Like I said, he proved himself at that AAA level when he was called up there. I think maybe I was a little stale at the other one and got the old fire burning.
Q. What's the plan going into spring training for Phil Humber?
RON GARDENHIRE: Same, long role, long relief, spot starter. He's going to be in that mix, too. Same situation. We know these guys are out of options. Going to have to make a lot of tough decisions.
Q. Not likely to challenge for the starting rotation in the spring?
RON GARDENHIRE: They are all going to get opportunities to start ballgames, because you never know what's going to happen throughout spring from injuries and everything. So we have to stretch people out all spring and make sure that if somebody were to break down midway through or the end of spring.
We have somebody stretched out ready to step in, so all of these guys are going to get opportunities to throw and stretch out and he's one of them. When you have a long guy, you need him to be stretched out to 50 to 70 pitches or more so. Yeah, he'll be one of those guys in that mix.
End of FastScripts