Phil Garner pregame interview
Astros manager discusses his team, series prior to Game 2
PHIL GARNER: Let me start off by saying I'd like to wish our U.S. Navy a happy 230th birthday today and say I wish all of our sailors and marines who are serving the nation around the country a safe return home after their tours of duty. So a former navy chief of mine called me to remind me of that today.
Just how is Jeff Bagwell doing? Can you just update us on his physical status? Did you think about using him in the ninth in the pinch hitting spot where you used Vizcaíno last night?
GARNER: Yes. His physical status is great. He's in good shape, raring to go. And I did think about using him in that spot but I decided to use Vizcaíno in that spot but I was going to save Bagwell until we had the tying run on base.
Can you update us on Andy Pettitte?
GARNER: Yes, he feels a little sore, but he's better today. He's going to be fine. I guess I could say the bruise is sort of diffused somewhat so doesn't have a big whole the size of a watermelon on his knee now, it's spread up his calf and inner thigh a little bit. He's sore but he's just fine. I feel 100% that he will be okay to make his next start.
You mentioned that did affect him somewhat yesterday, in retrospect, should he have started and did you have any other alternatives?
GARNER: I had alternatives and he should have started.
Not so much to do with this series yet, but given what happened last night in the ALCS, just curious what your position would be if MLB ever considered using instant replay?
GARNER: Well, I wouldn't have a choice. We'd accept it, I guess. (Laughter.) If they considered to use it.
Are you in favor of it?
GARNER: I'd just as soon do what we do. I realize that there's a certain amount of human element. I can get as upset with the umpires as anybody but on balance, they do a terrific job, I'm comfortable, I like the fact that we have umpires here on merit. I think that's a great move on their part. These are our best umpires, and it's not an exact science. I don't know that you can make it an exact science.
So I'm comfortable with the way it is. Some will go our way, some won't. I'm going to argue sometimes thinking I'm right, and I'm wrong a lot of times. So I have to give our guys credit because I think they do a very good job.
GARNER: Well, it does. But winning definitely breeds chemistry in my viewpoint.
There have been some players on teams in the past that I have played on, we've had some players on this team that in the past are not exactly the kind of players that everybody goes to the church picnic with, but you still win. I go back to the old Oakland A's, I want to say we had 14 fights within three or four years, among ourselves, not with the opposing team, in our own clubhouse but we still won three World Series.
Chemistry for me is you win. It wins. We can have a whole bunch of good guys in that clubhouse that can't win.
Morgan Ensberg has really come into his own this year; can you talk about what he's meant to the team on a day to day basis?
GARNER: Well, he picked us out of the doldrums. He sort of led us out of the 15-30 foxhole we were in. I think he's probably emerged as the kind of player that he's going to be in the next few years, people that came up in the Minor Leagues, he showed a lot of power his first year up. He had power and power numbers. Last year he had a little arm injury that he didn't tell anybody about that affected his swing a little bit, and we certainly didn't see him swing this aggressively all year last year. But he did drive in some big runs for us. But now this year he started letting the bat go and he showed his power numbers, which is sort of what you would expect from him based on his history. This is to me the Morgan Ensberg of the future now for a number of years. We can expect him to hit a few home runs and be a big run producer.
What is it that you like about Chris Burke against lefties, and is it just a numbers things and what do you see his future as?
GARNER: Chris was signed originally as a shortstop and we moved him to second base to be a second baseman and that's probably his best use as a second baseman. Unfortunately he's playing behind a Hall of Famer right now and there's a good chance that that's not going to change. So Chris came to spring training this year, we worked him out in left field and I think he became the best left fielder in the League. So he's done a marvelous job of making some adjustments. He can play centerfield also and I think he can play it quite well.
So his versatility is going to be able to help us a little bit. One of the reasons I started platooning him is to give him a chance to get in the outfield. We were struggling, Mike Lamb was not hitting the ball well earlier in the season and I don't mind playing Mike Lamb against left handers when he is swinging the bat well. But we were trying to find some way to generate some offense, and so Chris started filling in and doing a pretty good job. So we've stayed with that configuration against left handers.
Last night you had a very aggressive approach against Carpenter, a lot of first pitch swings. What would be similar with Mulder on the hill tonight, the same approach or something different?
GARNER: We're a swinging team. We're going to swing the bats. We can't change that now. So if he throws it over the plate or near the plate or somewhere within the batter's box, we're going to swing at it probably.
What's your approach when you are going up against an extremely hot hitter like Reggie Sanders, would you like to see your pitchers be aggressive and go at him, go around him or not let him beat you?
GARNER: We certainly don't want him to beat us, that's for sure. What we would like to do is make better pitches on him if we didn't. We knew what we wanted to do but just didn't get the ball where we wanted to and that's what happens when a guy is hot obviously, he doesn't miss the cookies when he gets them. We'd like to keep guys off base in front of him so that he can't hurt us that much. That would be the first thing.
Second thing is we might like to make better pitches against him.
With several of your players towards the latter part of their career, Bagwell and Biggio, Clemens, is there an added sense of urgency to win this year?
GARNER: I think with our organization in addition to the players that you mentioned, we are probably at a point where we would certainly -- it would be important that if we could win this year it would be outstanding. We're going to have some major decisions I'm sure that are going to have to be made.
I really haven't thought that much about what the makeup of the club might be next year, but clearly Bagwell and Biggio, and Rocket may pitch another ten years, I don't know, but clearly a couple of our guys have been our stalwart for a number of years are at the tail end of their careers. This would be a golden opportunity. This would be a good chance for them.
Who knows, when we started this year, I wasn't sure that we could be back in this position and here we are. We're here with a different cast of characters, young players that have really helped out with some veterans that have continued to do well. So who knows what might happen next year. But this is a good opportunity for us right now, and at a good point in time.
Just when you think Clemens can't add any more to his legacy, he does that thing Sunday and I just wonder, what's it been like to manage him and does he ever cease to amaze you, and is it like a walking legend in your clubhouse, just the things that he's done?
GARNER: It is, indeed. It's phenomenal just to watch the man, what he does, how he prepares. But he's a true star in my viewpoint. And a true star is somebody who you just sense is bigger than anything you've ever been around, and he is that. Not only because of what he does on the field but just his nature, his very nature. He seems to transcend anything that we do here. You know, somebody commented after he made one start and we were having so much trouble that, you know, well, Rocket won a game for us today, we may see him on CNN saving the nation somewhere, and you know what, it wouldn't surprise you to see something like that because he is bigger than life. He's just large like that.
I think if you didn't know him and you had a chance to be around him, then we've all certainly gained a great deal of respect in Houston. I've watched him across the field for a number of years and I've admired his skills as a player, but now that I know him a little bit, he's a phenomenal athlete, and a phenomenal character in our sport, maybe the best all time pitcher. Certainly a lot of people are going to say that and probably are right about that.
The Cardinals turned seven double plays in the first two games of the series and a key one last night. When a team takes opportunities off the table as often as they do, what does that do to the mindset when you're playing them and at some point does it affect even how you run the game a little bit?
GARNER: Yes, it hurts you when you keep losing opportunities. You don't get a lot of opportunity against good pitchers, so when they got the double play in the third inning and they got out of the fourth inning without scoring a run, it enabled Carpenter to get on a roll. He just cruised until the eighth inning or through the eighth inning.
With good pitchers, if you usually don't get them early, then you probably don't get them, so we squandered our opportunities. I say squander. We really didn't squander them because they made a good play. Berkman hit the ball as good as you can hit it and they get a double play and get out of the inning. All you can do is hit the ball and he did and it didn't go our way in that particular case.
No, I'm not going hit and run with the bases loaded, no, I'm not going to squeeze with Berkman and I'm not going to do anything like that in those situations. If we keep hitting into double plays we're going to have a hard time but we're not going to do anything differently in those situations.
What was your naval connection?
GARNER: Navy Chief Al Blum, retired navy chief Al Blum was in the navy for a number of years and he was involved in the communications with navy with navy radio. He e mailed me to remind me that it's the 230th birthday.
And you know him through what?
GARNER: For a number of years, an old college buddy.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.