Phil Garner off-day interview
Astros manager talks about pressures of managing Game 3
Your club has a demonstrated ability to come back from some very difficult situations. Does that kind of thing help you at this moment?
GARNER: Yes, it better. We're not in the best of situations, obviously, but we feel pretty good. We've got a history of being able to do it. We're coming back to our ballpark where we played pretty well. But bottom line is we need to step up and do it. Talking doesn't do a whole lot for it, but we need to step up and play better.
Do you see any parallels between tomorrow's game and Game 6 with Roy and the way he might approach this predicament?
GARNER: I think Roy in his last well, all year long he's pitched well, his whole career he's pitched well in the Big Leagues. But the last few games he's shown a really tough determination and a can do attitude when he's been on the mound. And we certainly need him to step up and do that again. I really expect that he will do that.
Do you think the topic of the roof that there's actually a legitimacy for that being an advantage for you or what do you think of that?
GARNER: Well, there's a couple of things. We put a roof on this thing because we do have a lot of rain, but it can be uncomfortable here. Part of it is for the comfort of our fans.
The other part of it is that we've played with it closed most of the year, I want to say about 85 percent of the time. I find it strange that somebody would say we have to open it now.
But bottom line is I think that with it closed it does generate a lot of noise and it's a lot of fun. And I think that we play for that. We play for that excitement and that noise. It helps us a little bit.
This was supposed to be a series of small ball. What happened to that, home runs and other base hits have dominated?
GARNER: Well, we've played a little bit of small ball, it's just not winning. We're making some bad pitches and they're not missing them, either. A lot of things are going well for them. As a matter of fact everything has gone well for them so far. When we make mistakes they hammer them; they haven't popped them up and they haven't hit them at anybody. We've made mistakes, and Crede has made some great plays at third base. We haven't managed to get some of those balls to go in for us that they have gone in.
We've been hurt by the long ball, which is uncharacteristic of our pitching staff; usually they're pretty tough. To this point it's been a lot of White Sox. And I thought that when Andy had the inning when we got the guy at second, picked the guy after at 1st, I thought we turned that a bit. But it hasn't turned out that way. We still have work to do.
Can you give us an update on Clemens?
GARNER: I haven't seen him today. He was sore yesterday, we have him penciled in for Game 5 right now.
Taveras obviously has had a couple of real good games and played well. When you threw him under the fire at the beginning of the season, what has been his progression since then; is he the fastest player in the League in your opinion?
GARNER: Well, we actually the process was we were by the time the whole thing with Beltran had played out, we were left with nobody else in the League to go to. And we said at the time that we could give Willy a month and see what he would do. He'd been a very good Double A player and hitting in Double A, still a young player, but he'd done a good job. Our Minor League people were saying they wanted to give him a chance, they thought he could play up here. And of course we're trying to win a World Series or get to a World Series, certainly, and it's awful hard to go with a 23 year old kid and say he's going to be great for you. We felt we'd give him about a month, get Lance Berkman back, and make adjustments if we need to. He played well for the month and played solid all year.
He's actually hitting the ball harder now than he did all year. But it's been good. It's been great to watch him play. He's a very likable young man. He's very quietly confident. You don't even know he's around, but he sure makes a lot of noise on the field and does a good job. And is he the fastest player in the League? He might be when he gets going, might very well be. So from first to home he might very well be. But I think he's got a good finish. As a matter of fact, coming out of the box, I would say that in the League he's the fastest coming out of the box.
And what he really excels at is that last third of the line. He speeds past the bag. And I think a lot of times early in the year we got a lot of calls that didn't go away, because people hadn't seen anybody get across the line that fast. It surprised me, too, I thought there were a whole lot of plays that he was going to be out. And next thing you know he's a step past the bag.
If Roger can't play, is Plan B Wandy or Astacio?
GARNER: Wandy and Ezequiel.
Is there either/or?
GARNER: Those are options.
So you haven't decided on either one?
GARNER: Roger Clemens is pitching in the 5th game right now.
Have you changed basically as a manager over the last decade or so?
GARNER: I'm calm, wouldn't you say so? I've changed. In what way did you mean?
Well, do you feel like you're managing differently, better, or is it law of averages, you've finally got some decent players to work with?
GARNER: I wouldn't say there's a lot of difference. I hope I've changed I would hope I've gotten better and learned some things. I think every year there's something you look at a little differently, and you try to improve on where you think you could improve on. So I think there's probably some changes between now and ten years ago.
You had used the word "mellowed," I think, in an earlier description. Is that has that actually occurred?
GARNER: Probably not. (Laughter.)
The obligatory question, National League game now. No DH; your advantage, their disadvantage, does the game change a little bit? You managed it both ways, is that dynamic over the plate or what do you think?
GARNER: I don't know that it's a necessary advantage to it. It's something we're a little more comfortable with. And I don't know if they're comfortable with it or not. I haven't even looked at the numbers to see how they did in Interleague play. But we are our team is a little more geared to that. We use our bench a lot more. So I think probably you could say our team is built more for that, for non DH role. But right now we're the ones that are in a bind a little bit. So we're at a disadvantage because of where we stand. We're down two games. We need to buckle up and play pretty good, no matter what the style we're playing, DH or non DH.
There's been a couple of questionable calls. Is instant replay a bad idea, good idea or is it not even worth talking about?
GARNER: I had said earlier that I prefer to go ahead and leave it as it is. I might change my mind on that after a while. But the call didn't go our way last night.
Did it change the game? I don't think so. We might have thrown a pitch against them, the next pitch out of the ballpark, he may we may strike him out, he may hit a ground ball, you just don't know. I just don't think that was the major play. We had a whole lot of pitches, we did a lot of times, we had opportunities in the game we didn't take advantage of. But there are some times it does seem like that you wish you could I applaud the umpires, I think when they get together and I think that's a good plan and I think it's worked and in many cases they've gotten it right when there has been an initial improper call. I do like that. I might reconsider it a little bit, if it's very controlled, not just you're just going to start having replays all the time. One of things we've done is we've improved the pace of the game and I wouldn't want to change that anymore.
You're laying a lot on Roy's shoulders for a young pitcher. But he seems to have the ice water in his veins. How impressive is that aspect of his game and his personality to you?
GARNER: For a young pitcher he's been very confident, but not only that, he's delivered. He's delivered in these big games for us. We're impressed by it. We feel confident when he's on the mound.
Bottom line is Roy doesn't do it all himself. Our team is here because we are a team. We've played well as a team. We've played poorly as a team. We need to step up our game overall. We need Roy to pitch well for us, but we need to step up our game overall.
Talking about home field advantage, how difficult is it for a team coming in for the first time playing here? Is that does that give you a little bit extra than you might have normally?
PHIL GARNER: Well, I think the record will show that we play better at home. So I don't know if it's a disadvantage for them or an advantage for us the fact that we're home. It seems to be to our advantage a little bit. We seem to play a little better at home. But I think most all teams do. Just take anybody's home, any teams that win usually play better at home than they do on the road.
So we're comfortable here. It's a fun ballpark because there's angles in the outfield that make it different than most stadiums. So those little nuances can come into play. We talked about Tal's Hill, we talked about the Crawford Boxes. Your third base is not a levee, but we have things that come into play here that people are going to have to work with.
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