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10/15/05 4:29 PM ET

Phil Garner pregame interview

Astros manager talks about starting Burke in center

It's a tough question, you didn't answer it yesterday but you're playing Burke?


What's your lineup?

GARNER: Biggio, Burke is in centerfield batting second, Berkman, Ensberg, Lamb is playing first base, Jason Lane, Ausmus and Everett. And of course this guy, some guy is pitching tonight.

What's your thought process and how did you come to all of that?

GARNER: Well, I think Chris is swinging the bat pretty good right now and he has through these playoff games. Go with a little bit of a hot hand.

This is only a move to do today, I haven't even thought to tomorrow. I called Willy in, he's a little bit disappointed and justifiably so but he'll be prepared to pinch run, pinch hit or come in for a switch at some point in the game. Chris is swinging the bat well and I wanted to get Lamb in the game, he's swinging the bat well, too. There's a lot of different combinations but I feel pretty good about this one.

Does that change your defense significantly not having Willy out there in centerfield?

GARNER: Well, he's played well defensively, no question. I don't feel like it hurts us defensively. I have felt comfortable with Chris playing in centerfield. I put Chris out there when Willy had stitches in his finger there right toward the end of the season. There have been a couple of defensive switches that I had made, double switches rather, that I had made and put Chris out there.

So he has not played it a lot but I feel comfortable with it and I think he'll do a fine job out there.

Did the fact that the Cardinals and Molina are tough to run against, did that go into your decision at all?

GARNER: That's one of the considerations.

How has Chris' transition to the outfield gone, what has been the toughest part for him?

GARNER: I don't know. I haven't asked him that. But going back into spring training, we worked with him quite a bit in spring training, we did a lot of extra work with him, Jose Cruz, with Cecil Cooper, a lot of groundballs, a lot of fly balls, and a lot of extra work. I felt from day one watching him do those things, he seemed to track the ball well and he seemed to have pretty good moves. Here and there he'd do a little backpedal every now and then which is one of my pet peeves, no back pedaling allowed, but he seemed to track the ball well. And he's had good instincts, he's thrown the ball to the right bases. He's made some pretty good plays.

So I don't know what his toughest part of the transition has been. He's thrown the ball well and you would think for a guy who has been playing second base for the last couple of years, that might be a difficult thing for him. But he's thrown the ball very well, and he's made good plays. So we've been very pleased with what he's done.

If somehow the Cardinals would win today, would you see any circumstance bringing Pettitte back or is Backe ...

GARNER: No, Backe is going to go tomorrow.

And that's not because of Pettitte's bruise. That's the way it would have been whether Pettitte would have been hit or not. Pettitte is fine, by the way.

This franchise has never been to the World Series but several players and coaches and yourself have; is that experience of getting to a World Series important in a series like this?

GARNER: Well, I think it can be. We can draw on what we've had to go through. One of the things that you say is, you know, there's a lot of nervous excitement and anxiety.

I think the first time that it happened to me when I was in the playoffs with the Oakland A's, you know, it's almost like you're flawed. Am I supposed to feel this nervous and scared, you know, and then you realize that everybody goes through that and the real key is you learn how to channel it.

I think having that sort of confidence that can flow from the experienced players to the guys who are inexperienced, and say, no, just live with it, because that's what makes you stronger and faster and better and more alert than you ever are as that fight or flight thing that happens to you when you get in these situations.

It's an exciting time and when you have had guys that have been through it and know what it's all about, I think it helps these guys who haven't been there.

When you look at some of your player splits, a lot of them have had tremendously better numbers here than on the road. This place isn't Coors Field. We all know why it happens there; why does it happen here?

GARNER: Well, I don't know. I'm going to say it's our fans. That's the best guess I can come up with. And I don't say that lightly, you know, and to blow smoke in the direction of our fans. But truth of the matter is, it seemed to start happening last year when we got on a roll last year, this place was rocking, and it's been that way this year, too. I think that there's definitely an energy involved when it starts to roll in here and you can't hear anything, and it just gets deafening. I think we feed off of it. That seems to be the way we've operated.

So that's as good of an explanation as I can give.

You've played and managed in other domed stadiums, how does this compare?

GARNER: Well, this is the loudest I've ever been in, you know, Minnesota, even Milwaukee when we were in Milwaukee, we didn't have great teams, but in 1992 when we were making a run for the pennant and we went into the Metrodome, there were some great ballgames and it was loud and it was a lot of fun. We had some of those crazy games where Kirby Puckett was playing second and left and moving around for different batters and fans were going crazy over that. It was wild, it was wild. But I've never seen anything like what's here.

You were pressed to use Backe in some pretty big games down the stretch and he opened the series; how much of the experience that he earned last year will help him this year?

GARNER: Well, I'm hoping that that's going to help a great deal. Obviously you still have to perform but I think what he did last year against the Cardinals here in Game 5, particularly our backs against the wall, he pitched very, very well, and some of the most tense situations that you can ever be in. And he can go back and say, this is the way I did it, I don't have to fool anybody and I can trust my stuff. When you do that under the watchful eye of everybody in the country and other countries, that gives you a certain sense of confidence. As we were talking about earlier, just the experience of having been here and dealing with these anxieties and pressures, the experience does help a little bit.

Last year and certainly in the playoffs after you got Beltran, Beltran was one of your best players. When he left in the off season and went to the Mets, how much did you worry about how you would replace him and everything that he brought to you offensively, defensively, everything?

GARNER: Well, first and foremost, I didn't necessarily think it was a big loss. One of my things that I feel is, if you put so much of your capital in any one player, it's going to hurt you in my opinion. So I think it might have been a little bit of a blessing. I don't think it's a good idea put in a whole lot of money. So I applaud our owner for going the extra mile and trying to make that happen, but I think it probably was a blessing in disguise. We all thought, well, let me put it this way.

Our Minor League people who had watched Willy Taveras play were confident that he could come up here and play defensively. They did not know exactly what he would do offensively, but they knew he was defensively capable. So they proved out to be right about that, so we all felt like that, hey, we'll play Willy for a little while and we'll get Berkman back and if Willy struggles, we'll make a move from there and as it turned out, he didn't struggle and he played very, very well. When we got Berkman back, we started clicking a little bit offensively and he continued to do his portion offensively and we all pitched in as a team and helped out.

So we didn't miss a beat. Now that's not to say that Carlos Beltran is not a great player; he is, and he brings a lot to your ballclub; speed, defense, power and a terrific player. But I don't think our club has suffered. I think we have actually perhaps have become a better ballclub because of it.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.