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Phil Garner off-day quotes
10/15/2004 9:05 PM ET
Q. Obviously, 0-2 isn't the most comfortable position, but 1-2 is a whole different story, at least you have Roger (Clemens) going.

PHIL GARNER: Right. Because of the way that the Division Series went, because it went five games, it forced us to use our rotation like this. If you've got to be 0-2, obviously coming back with your number one and number two starters are the way to go about this to get back in it. We've counted on them all year, we're going to count on them right now. They're our two horses.

Rocket, I asked him to come back on four days' rest, he did a good job for us. I think he is going to be okay. He is getting an extra day this time. I ask a lot of him, but I know that he'll be mentally prepared and physically, I think he'll be okay. But he'll give us everything he's got, I'm sure of that.

Q. Your playing career overlapped Roger's playing career. Now you're 55 years old.

PHIL GARNER: They obviously retired me too soon. I could have still been playing. I was fortunate to play as long as I did. I know how I hurt when I was 39 years old, I can't imagine going to 42. Those of us that have played for a while, you know how tough it is to do.

So what he does, to stay as mentally focused in the routine that he does physically to keep himself prepared, is a very, very difficult routine and it requires a great deal of determination and discipline to be able to stay on top of his game. He obviously does that. But he's had an absolutely terrific year for us this year, and we're going to count on him to do it a couple more times.

Q. When you mentioned number one and number two starters, is there a way to describe or quantify how the confidence jumps up a little in your dugout and in your clubhouse when Roger is on the mound?

PHIL GARNER: Well, we've been playing confidently anyway. So I don't think you're going to see that much difference. But when you are struggling, and when we did struggle, that's when you noticed a big difference.

When I first came in, Roger had been winning for us and every time the Rocket would take the mound, the intensity level went up. Even though we had games where we didn't score some runs for him, still, there was greater intensity.

So I think he pulls everybody up, there's no question that he's intense when he's in the game. He is one of the most intense competitors I've ever seen or ever been around. I think he pulls everybody up. What he definitely brings to the game, to our team, what he himself feels, and that he's out there to win the ballgame, he's going to do everything he can. But it's not sort of a YMCA, "I'm going to go out, play the game and have fun" kind of deal. That's not what we're talking about, playing the game. This is, "I love this game, yes, but we're going to win or somebody's going to die." It's almost that serious, I hate to say it like that. But it's almost like that intenseness that he brings.

Q. It turns out that Steve Kline's problems with his fingers are related to gout. Have you ever lost a player to something as unusual as that?

PHIL GARNER: Two things: I lost a player to double pink eye; we lost Miceli this year, which the doctors here in Houston we have some of the finest doctors in the world here in Houston - they've never seen a case of pink eyes in both eyes the way Miceli had. I would never think that would knock a player out. It was so bad he couldn't even do his workouts. You can tell Miceli likes to do his workouts.

Then the other one is losing a player lifting his suitcase out of his car. That's not a very pleasant prospect, too.

Q. Have there been any discussions with Clemens about next year?

PHIL GARNER: Not to my knowledge. I'm not thinking about next year. There might have been, I have no idea. I've not heard that they're having any discussions. That's between the Rocket, the owner and Gerry Hunsicker.

Q. Could you talk about the collective offense, two games at Busch, your expectations of getting back here at Minute Maid?

PHIL GARNER: By collective, you mean by teams or just mine? Obviously in the first game we struck the ball, I felt like on balance better than the Cardinals did, but in the second game they came up with the big four or five home runs they had in that game. They struck the ball well in the second game.

We had opportunities to score in the second game and we didn't take advantage of them, could have made a different outcome, obviously.

We have been swinging the bats well. We have been coming up with the big hits when we needed them. I think our club will get back into that mode.

The conditions Tuesday night you would think weren't going to be great for hitting, but both teams hit the ball pretty good as far as the long ball is concerned.

I think there's no question in my mind that hitting can go through cycles. You can see what happens to a great hitter like Scott Rolen. He doesn't get a hit in the Division Series and now he's come up with three big hits in this series. I think what you see are the ebbs and flows of the game. You're going to see our offense kick in, you're going to see what we can do a little tomorrow.

Q. When you have a closer the quality of Lidge, is it difficult this time of year to use him too often or to fight the temptation to use him too often for a nontraditional situation?

PHIL GARNER: Well, it doesn't matter this time of the year, you use him as much as you can. Part of the deal is I've used him, and in the common matter the way baseball has evolved in the last decade, down this stretch. He has come in in different situations. He's had to come in the eighth inning. I've brought him in in the seventh inning before to try to get us out of a jam. I've had him warmed up in innings to come in, get us out of jams.

And when you're in these playoff situations, you do the same thing. You're going to use him as much as you possibly think you can. Had we taken the lead the other night, he would have been in the ballgame and pitched two innings, maybe more. If we had held on, he was going to be in the ballgame and pitch what he could pitch, however many innings he could go.

He's willing and able to do it, and unless there's an injury to his shoulder and elbow, then even though they might be tired, you still push it.

Q. Back on Roger, what differences do you see in him now than when you were first playing with him?

PHIL GARNER: I think the noticeable difference, his fastball's not what it was when I first saw him. He was throwing the ball 94, 96 miles an hour when I first saw him. But his effectiveness is just as good. There's absolutely no dropoff in his ability to win ballgames or to get people out.

Most guys with those powerful fastballs don't learn how to pitch until usually midway through their career or at some point later in their careers. I thought Roger was a good pitcher when I first saw him and at that point he'd been pitching I want to say six years, perhaps but he was a good pitcher then. He knew what he was doing. Now I understand why, now that I know him better and see how he does, because he does take such great caution in studying the lineups, understanding how hitting works, knowing what he wants to do and knowing himself as well. So he may not be the overpowering power pitcher that he once was, but he can still be very much a power pitcher.

Q. Can you talk about the attitude of this club at this point, knowing what you've been up against all season?

PHIL GARNER: Well, our attitude is good. Our attitude is one of confidence. Our attitude is one of belief. We got here by doing something very unusual. I think the word I'd use most is probably "improbable" end of the season, where we've come from.

We had to go in to Atlanta, win the fifth game in Atlanta. You don't know how that game's going to turn out, but we have one of our biggest offensive explosions in recent weeks.

So this is obviously going against the Cardinals. Every series is different. They're a pretty doggone good ballclub that we're facing, but our guys feel like we're every bit as good and can stand with them. We haven't shown that yet, but we feel like we can.

Q. Is tomorrow's game all on Roger's shoulders?

PHIL GARNER: Good question, and I don't think it is. We need a well pitched ballgame but we're going to have to score runs, too. Our offense needs to play well, too.

You would expect Roger to do what he has been doing, and that is we give him the lead, which is important, and he stops any sort of offensive mount that they might put on the board.

So he's been good at doing that, but we've also been good in particular in giving him the lead. We need to do that and play well defensively behind him, too.

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