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September 29, 2011

Jim Leyland


Q. Jim, Miguel (Cabrera), I've calculated he's the 13th player in American League history to lead the league in batting average and have over 100 runs, hits, RBIs and walks. What does he do for you guys? Is he more impressive than even you thought he would be?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I think he's always going to have a good year. I think he's going to have a good year for a long time until Father Time catches up with him. He's a star. He's a superstar and putting up superstar numbers. It's pretty much that simple.
I think one of the big keys this year which was a big help for him was the fact that Victor Martinez was hitting behind him. I think that made a huge difference. He's a great player that is having another great year.

Q. Jim, can you talk about the similarities or the differences in the attitude coming here between now and 2006?
JIM LEYLAND: I don't ever really think about that. I think 2006 was 2006. This is a whole another year. We have a good team. The Yankees obviously have a great team. It's pretty much -- it's the same, but yet it's different to me because it's a different team, different personnel. It's raining, which it was in 2006.
A whole new season starts tomorrow for everybody. The elite eight are left, and obviously in the American and National League, and a whole new season starts tomorrow. We'll see how it plays out.

Q. Can you talk about the differences in your team between when you opened the season here and now?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, we're a different team, obviously. We've had some additions since that time. We did open the season here at Yankee Stadium, and we're a little bit of a different ballclub. We think we're a better ballclub. I'm sure the Yankees feel they're a better ballclub than they were opening day.
You size this thing up and I think it's two real good teams going at each other in a great setting, Yankee Stadium. I'm certainly aware of all the history. I can count to 27. It's great. This is what it's all about. I've always been a big supporter of the New York Yankees. I appreciate the things they've done. Certainly I think we're a very good opponent.

Q. Jim, can you talk about the match-up of Verlander and Sabathia.
JIM LEYLAND: Two premier pitchers on a big stage. Doesn't get much better than that. That's what it's supposed to be. The one thing that in most cases will always hold true is that when you go to postseason, you're going to see a good pitcher every night. And the whole world is going to see two of the best tomorrow. You can't ask for anything more than that.

Q. Specifically, you said you're better than you were, specifically what does your team do better now than it did April and May into June?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, for one thing, we've added Doug Fister and Delmon Young and Wilson Betemit. I thought Dave did a wonderful job at the trading deadline. You never know how those are going to work out, to be honest with you. A couple of years ago we tried a couple of things that didn't work out. This year we tried a couple of things, and we caught lightning in the bottle, so to speak. Those guys have performed very well.
I think the other thing is, I really believe this, I think that we had a good team, and I think we got to the trading deadline, and it's a credit to our ownership and Dave Dombrowski, they sent a real good message we weren't afraid to go out and do something and help our ballclub. I think that does something for the morale of the rest of the players, to be honest with you. I think it let's them know we're very serious about it and we're going to make a great effort to try to win the thing. And I think that really helped our ballclub. I think the guys really picked up after that. I think they knew that ownership was serious and Dave was serious. Dave has never been afraid to do something. I think that helped our team.

Q. Congratulations. Could you please talk about one aspect of Verlander's growth as a pitcher that has made him so dominant, that's impressed you so much.
JIM LEYLAND: One of my favorite lines is you can't make a senior out of a freshman. It takes time. We have a Hall-of-Fame manager sitting here watching this who I respect so much, he's gone through the same thing. You have to nurture players. You can't make them a senior when they're a sophomore. It doesn't work that way. You have to go through different experiences, I think, before you really get to the peak of competition or your ability or your own mindset or your own peace of mind, whatever that is. I think all players have to go through that. I think you have to suffer through some adversity before you ever figure it all out.
I think Justin has pretty much taken it step by step. He had the big year in 2006. Then he went through a little bit of a humbling period. He's made adjustments mentally, he's made some adjustments physically, obviously. He's figured some things out that you don't have to throw it 100 miles per hour every pitch. You can pitch to contact a little bit more at times and save it for when you do need a strikeout. He's matured a lot.
But I think that's just nature. I think if you work at it and you're smart enough to know that you don't have all the answers, you make yourself better when you continue to study it or however each individual goes about it.
These players up here, I don't think anybody realizes what they go through, the pressure. If you saw yesterday, one of the greatest days in the history of baseball. It had to be, I would think. It was such an emotional swing for everybody. I felt great for Tony La Russa, terrible for Fredi Gonzalez, terrible for Francona, obviously, happy for Joe Maddon. It's unbelievable. The same thing with players. They go through a lot of emotional swings until they really get settled in to where it's more of an even keel, not too high, not too low. I think that's very important.

Q. Managers also go through emotional swings. Can you talk about what this year was like for you and what it means getting back here.
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I'm proud of myself because I never wavered. I was supposed to be fired ten times this year. I only had one year left in my contract and all that. I'm a lot like Joe, I never get too excited about that. You go out and try to do the best you can. It wasn't going to change anything I do. I'm proud I'm here today. It wasn't going to change anything I do. I like to think I work hard each and every day. I was going to do the best I can and whatever the situation was it was.
But usually you're sitting up here having this press conference because you have really good players, and there's no manager that ever sat up here without the good players. Nobody, I don't care who it was. That's why I'm here today. We have good players. That's why Joe Girardi is here. They have good players. That's why we're here today.

Q. Do you have a roster set yet? And a rotation?
JIM LEYLAND: I'm sorry?

Q. Do you have a roster set yet?
JIM LEYLAND: We'll announce our roster tomorrow at 10:00. That's the deadline for the roster. We'll submit our roster. We'll have it in on time for 10:00 tomorrow.

Q. Rotation?
JIM LEYLAND: My rotation, my first three are Verlander, Fister and Scherzer.

Q. Where did you watch last night's games?
JIM LEYLAND: It was amazing. We sat -- we had a tough call. I wasn't going to use Valverde last night. When it was 1-1 about the fifth or sixth inning and it looked like we had the shot to win it, I had been preaching how we wanted to try to get home-field advantage for our fans and Mr. Ilitch because we're comfortable there. I didn't want to use him, but I thought it would go against everything I spoke about if I didn't use him to win this game. It was 1-1. To be honest with you, if it had been 7-1 Texas, I wouldn't have used him. I watched it. I saw the Napoli home run in my chair in my office. Trust me, I don't have one, but McClendon has one of those fancy things you can watch like -- I don't know what they call it. Playman --
JIM LEYLAND: I could see it. Then it went out because of the satellite or something. I don't know, it came back on. You could hear it, then you could see it again. It was great. We were talking back and forth.
Joe knows all about this. You can't explain this to people, the emotions in baseball. Even from our side. Just watching it. We became fans. After our game, we were the biggest fans there were just to say, oh my God, I couldn't believe obviously the Yankee-Tampa game. I don't know how it all happened. I still don't.
But it was amazing. I was in my office. When I went in my office I thought it was 7-0. When I turned on the TV it was 7-6.
It's neat. We watched it, and we actually saw the Baltimore hit by Andino by Reimold before that. We're saw that on that device.

Q. You were out playing, though.
JIM LEYLAND: We were at that time, yes. But the Texas game, they went ahead 3-1 I think in the ninth with Napoli's homer. I just jumped in the shower, because for a while we didn't know if we were coming or going.

Q. How are you going to follow all that tomorrow?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I don't know. I'm just -- I'm just happy to be here. Like I said, I think we know all about this organization that we're playing against. But I do think they respect us. I believe that. I don't think we're -- I think we were like fifth in all of baseball in wins.
So I think we're a good opponent, and like I said, we have the utmost respect for who we're going to play, and I think they probably have respect for us as well.

Q. You came in in 2006, you came into this series ice cold. It didn't seem to make any difference. You come in hot this time. Does it make any difference? Do you feel any better about it?
JIM LEYLAND: No, I don't. That's what I told everybody. It's a whole new season. We've all been through this. I think we lost something like six in a row, including the first game to Joe. And then we rattled off seven straight postseason wins. I don't know how that all works out. I don't know how that plays out. I don't believe in any of that. I think we're here and right now we have Verlander against Sabathia, Tigers against the Yankees. I don't know how this is going to play out. I have no idea. But that's never really bothered me whether you come in. I don't think because you come in really hot that means anything, and I don't think if it you come in cold it means anything. I think it's a whole new season. The blood is flowing a little bit different all of a sudden. I can't tell you how that works out or why that happens.
Like I say, we're thrilled to be back and we earned our way back. We certainly did that. I don't think anybody can take that away from us. We earned our way to have the right to play these guys, and hopefully move on.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jim.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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