10/14/2004 6:59 PM ET
Phil Garner pregame quotes
Astros manager discusses his team's chances
Q: Does your lineup look the same, and how is Jeff Kent feeling?
A: Lineup is the same and doesn't matter. I'm not going to ask him because I know he's going to tell me he's going to play anyway.
He's bruised. There's no question, he's bruised. As of right now, he hasn't been on the field, hasn't done anything, but he's in the lineup.
Q: The move last night for the defensive replacement, was that how Jeff was feeling or just to change?
A: A little bit of both. But Jeff's foot was swollen a little bit last night. He actually feels better today.
But last night it was swollen up a little bit, and he was sore.
Q: Is it fair to say you hope this is rained out?
A: It doesn't really matter. What you don't want to do if the weather's supposed to be bad beyond the game time, and I think what's bad is if you run players out there, you take them off the field or you wait until late and you have a couple of rain delays. That, to me, is where you don't have your best baseball.
Q: Have you given thought to who would start tomorrow?
Q: And who would it be in the event of a rainout?
A: You mean if there's a rainout? Tomorrow's Friday. When you asked the question, I was actually thinking about Saturday.
I'll deal with that if we get a rainout tonight. So we'll wait to make an announcement on that.
Q: There was a lot of speculation that Carlos Beltran may have been re-traded by the deadline. How worried were you that that was going to happen? Was it really a concern, or were you given assurances that it wasn't going to happen?
A: When I came in, Gerry Hunsicker, our general manager, told me he was going to give this club every chance it could to win. I take that to mean, if you get within a reasonable shot of making a race out of the Wild Card race, the Cardinals looked like they were going to run away with it. So given that scenario, I thought, "Well, that's pretty good, because we have some tradeable players, no question, and some players that are also big pluses on the team." So if you don't trade him, it's a different ballclub.
When we did not play like I thought we could going into the latter part -- mid part of August, I could not have complained if they would have wanted to make some moves and start planning for the future. I wasn't looking to the future. But to Gerry's credit and to everybody else, ownership's credit, to my knowledge, nobody ever suggested we make any trades, and to my knowledge we didn't pursue anything, or we didn't ask.
In terms of people calling us, I don't know. But Gerry never came to me and said, "We're going to have to do something." Never did. As a matter of fact, in our darkest hour, when we were probably a day or two away from me saying, "Hey, you know, it doesn't look likely," you're never out of it until you're mathematically eliminated, but you also have to face reality at some point. We were a couple games from that. Gerry was steadfast and said, "We're staying with the club." Of course I was glad to hear that.
I think a lot of credit goes to Gerry for being able to hold the club together, making the deal in the first place, then being able to hold the club together.
Q: Can you talk about Chad Harville's season overall.
A: Well, when we got him over here, we were trying to find a spot to fit him. He would pitch a couple of good outings, then have a couple of poor outings. You sort of are disappointed, because he does have good pitches, his quality of pitches is very good. He has a good fastball. He has a good sinker and he has a good breaking pitch.
It wasn't until somewhere in, I think in the mid part of August, we started using him in mid-relief situations, getting out of jams, get out of the inning. I started using him and he started performing well in those roles. He was very adept at coming in, getting a ground ball, a strikeout, getting us out of a jam. That's the role we've been using him. He's done well in that role. Doesn't mean he's invincible.
Q: If you do play tonight in the wet and cold weather, does that help the pitchers and does that help your ballclub?
A: I never know. I've played -- I've seen games; the 1979 World Series was the absolute worst conditions you could ever imagine -- cold, wet, miserable. Baltimore had three 20-game winners, and it was an offensive series.
I mean, everybody, bunch of people were hitting .400, balls were going all over the place. So I don't know. I have no idea.
Q: Having been in Houston and seen this team, when you took over, how aware were you of the problems and did you have a plan to remedy them?
A: I was aware of everything, everything that anybody knew about. I was reading, of course, what was going on in the paper. Sometimes it's accurate, sometimes it's not. Reports that you see, sometimes they're accurate, sometimes they're not. I was aware of all those things.
When I had my discussions with Gerry and Tal Smith and the owner, Drayton McLane, they were up front, everybody was open, and to whatever their knowledge to the extent that the ballclub had difficulties, they were open about it.
I had a lot of ideas on how to deal with some things, and we did a lot of those.
Q: If we do get the game in tonight, how does your starting pitching line up?
A: It will be (Roger) Clemens and (Roy) Oswalt, in that order.
Q: Did the events of last night create any more cause for concern for your bullpen?
A: No, none at all. As a matter of fact, bullpens aren't invincible. They're going to give up some runs.
But the interesting thing, I didn't read anything, but I thought Chad Qualls threw the ball well. What you ask a guy to do is keep the ball in the ballpark, in particular if you can keep the ball in the infield you're doing pretty good, get ground balls. They hit balls up the middle, base hits, Renteria did. But there were several broken bats that balls were not hit well. I thought he did a good job. Unfortunately, the balls were not balls that we were able to make plays on.
So to that regard, that's the way the game goes sometimes. Guys are going to make good pitches and not get outs, but that's all you can do, you can put the ball where you want to. At that point, it's up to whatever it is in baseball, what's going to happen with the ball.
But I had no problem with our bullpen. I thought our bullpen did a fine job. Chad Harville did not make a good pitch to Edmonds, and Edmonds made us pay, but there were a lot of good pitches prior to that and a lot of good pitches and efforts after that.
Q: Your thoughts on all the shattering bats?
A: Well, you're disappointed, you know. And you say, "Gee whiz, he's one pitch away from getting out of it and it just kept going on and on and on." But the point is, you make good pitches, and that's what you ask a pitcher to do. You can't guide the ball, you can't make it go in somebody's glove, you can't make them make the plays. All you want to do is make the pitches where you want to, and we're going to be successful most of the time.
There's times it's not going to work out that way, and one of the things you always try to get your offense to do is put the ball in play, because when the ball's in play, things can happen. To that, you have to give the Cardinals credit. They did put the ball in play; they didn't miss the ball.
Q: I was more concerned about the quality of bats these days (laughter). Seems there's an inordinate number shattering, going through the infield.
A: That is interesting. I'm not so sure. Chad Qualls might have been able to make a play on (Reggie) Sanders' ball had the bat not been flying through the air. He flinched a little bit. Might have been able to make a play on it.
I think -- generally speaking, most guys use thinner-handled bats which are easier to shatter -- a lot of bats are maple. Maple has an interesting characteristic because it's a hard piece of wood, but the players seem to think that at a certain number of hits, somewhere in there the bats are going to shatter, whether you hit them dead on center or not. It's almost like they develop a stress fracture in there over time. I've heard a lot of players say over the past several years they hit that ball right on the screws, and the bat just gave through.
So I don't know if there's anything to it, but it seems to be the case.
Q: Your team, obviously, had to grind for a long time to win the Wild Card, then you go to the Division Series, five games, very emotional. Was there any sign of physical or mental fatigue by your team yesterday -- the night, had a day off to catch a breath, was that helpful?
A: We had no signs of mental fatigue, no signs of physical fatigue. Our players played well in the five-game series against Atlanta. I thought we played well down the stretch. I thought we were eager to get going in the Division Series, let me put it that way.
So we came in here ready to play. We've lost one ballgame. I would like to have swept this series in four and go on from there, but obviously that didn't look -- doesn't look like that's going to happen. I don't think anybody's tired. In these situations, guys are eager and ready to play, and I think everybody's prepared.
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