Phil Garner pregame interview
Manager discusses decision to put Bagwell in lineup
Obviously Bagwell is in, talk about that decision. I assume it wasn't a very hard decision for you?
PHIL GARNER: No. I'm excited for Jeff. Going back to the earlier part of the year after the surgery, I think there was probably some conversation about maybe just take the rest of the year off and rehab his shoulder and getting it strong over the winter and coming back and making his best efforts aimed at the beginning of the season next year. And I think it was Jeff that decided he wanted to do everything he could to try to get ready to go this year, just in case something good happened. And when he came back we were able to expand the roster in September and got him back on the roster. We saw him take BP, and decided to give him a few shots to drive some runs in, some big runs in key situations and he delivered. And the general manager and I thought he could make it.
We put him on the roster. We think he's been a big lift, and it's really exciting to be able to put him in the lineup as DH.
Phil, at the end of the year Roger was discussing probably retiring. Here he is starting the World Series for you. How much input did you have with him coming back this year, and can you discuss that with us?
GARNER: I don't think I had any input in coming back with him. I spent a little bit of time with Rocket in the winter. We had one day in particular we spent a whole day together doing some fun things that we like to do. And I didn't speak to him all day about his decision. I knew there was a lot of people talking to him about it, and so I didn't want to add anything in there that might be a problem, so I stayed away from it and knew that Rocket was going to do what was best for Rocket and he was going to take into consideration the Astro organization, too. I didn't have anything to do with that. But I'm delighted that he chose to come back.
What was Jeff's reaction when you told him he was going to be the DH tonight?
GARNER: I think he was excited. I think he wanted to make sure that this was a baseball decision, which it definitely was. I think Jeff, a measure of a great human being is the fact that he wants nothing handed to him and he wanted to make sure that I felt he was the right guy for the job tonight, which I definitely felt he's the right guy to be the DH for us tonight.
Just a variation on this, Phil, with Bagwell, how much a part of you thought he deserves this opportunity, as well? You said it's purely a baseball decision, but it seems like the deserving part
GARNER: I shouldn't say purely a baseball decision, because there's no question there's some sentimentality in here. And you guys heard me say all along that this organization is what it is because of what Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio has been, they've been there a decade and a half. The reason our fan base is so big is because of what they brought to the organization, and some other great players recently. So there's a lot of other reasons to have him to be a DH, but the overriding reason is that he's a good player. And if the game is on the line, I'd just as soon have Jeff Bagwell up there tonight as anybody, and that's why he's in there?
Continuing the Jeff Bagwell theme, where is he as far as his ability and talent now compared to where he used to be before he got hurt? In particular is he capable of driving the ball, all of his hits since he's come back have been singles?
GARNER: Well, in terms of all his other skills, baserunning, all that, he's still an excellent baserunner, that hasn't been a factor since the surgery. He doesn't have the power that he had, and he will have more power next year as his ability to work out like Jeff likes to work out gets better. But he still can put the bat on the ball. He can still give you good at bats, and that's what I saw the month of September and during the playoffs. He probably won't hit any home runs, but he's not going to have to. He's going to be in situations where he can put the ball in play and help us win a ballgame and that's going to be important for us.
Do you think that having Rocket on the mound is an advantage because Contreras has never pitched for the National League and Clemens also was in the American League?
GARNER: Is there going to be advantage to Rocket because he's pitched in both leagues, and maybe a disadvantage for Contreras because he's not? I think pitching under American League rules is probably in Contreras's favor tonight. I don't think it's going to be a disadvantage because he's accustomed to pitching like this tonight, for Contreras. I don't think it's a disadvantage or advantage for Rocket, one way or the other. I think Rocket is going to go out and do what he always does, give us a very, very good game, no matter what the rules we're playing under.
GARNER: Well, I wasn't sure. You never know, because we had seen Jeff's skills deteriorate. The biggest problem was that he had such limited mobility in his shoulder and pain when he tried to do anything. He couldn't strength train like he's used to strength training.
He's the guy, going back to my years that I retired, and I can't remember, 1989, I think it was, when I retired, I started lifting weights heavy and Jeff was a young rookie on the team. And we were lifting heavy weights in those days. Jeff continued doing it for the next 16, 18 years. And since the arm problems he hasn't been able to do that. So we saw his strength level go down. In terms of that it reduced power numbers. And so when the surgery happened we'd been warned there was a possibility it may not work out very well. And to tell you the truth, I don't know what might happen. But there's a phrase that we use around our clubhouse a lot, never underestimate the heart of a champion. And so I wanted to make sure I didn't underestimate Jeff's heart, because he's a tough guy. If anybody can do it, he can do it. Today is a tribute for his ability to persevere through pain and come back, and I think he'll be able to do something good for us tonight.
Would you anticipate using Bagwell against a lefty tomorrow?
GARNER: I haven't made out the lineup tomorrow. We'll wait for tomorrow to do that.
Your team has been shut out in a large number of Clemens's starts. Anything that you can point to that would be a reason why so often with this guy on the mound?
GARNER: The numbers are, I have used the word "stupid" in the past, it just doesn't make any sense. I don't know why, nobody seems to figure it out. But we're not worried about it. It's not something that I think I can do anything about, so I'm not going to worry about it. I will consider that's something that happened during the course of the season. We're in a different atmosphere, different field, so I'm not going to worry about it.
A lot has been made with Rocket coming home. Pettitte came home and you didn't have him last year in the postseason. Talking to him yesterday he seemed emotional about being here, and being back, and this is why he came home. Do you get the same read about how much it means to him?
GARNER: It was Andy's original move. I'm a resident of Houston and I was unemployed at the time when they were talking about bringing Andy back. I'm reading the paper thinking "I don't think that's going to happen." This is one of those situations where it's going to be we're used to jacking the price up a bit. And before I know it Andy signed in Houston. And the next thing I know they're going to talk Rocket out of retirement and he'll pitch with Andy. And I think that's not going to happen and then it happened. So I think Andy is probably the key figure in having all this happen. So it is an emotional time for Andy. And it's a very special time for him because he and his wife both are from Houston and they make their home there in the off season, they've never left. It's an exciting time for their whole family to be able to do this in our backyard.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.