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Phil Garner off-day quotes
10/19/2004 5:19 PM ET
Q. Let's start with the starting pitcher situation.

PHIL GARNER: I kind of like the suspense. I think I'll wait until later. Actually, Pete Munro is going to start tomorrow.

Q. Could you talk about the thinking that went into that.

PHIL GARNER: Well, Pete's been an important part of this ballclub. I think when you have pitchers the caliber that we have, when you talk about Roger Clemens and you talk about Oswalt and now Brandon Backe, we tend to forget that Pete did a good job for us down the stretch. I think, number one, he deserves to get the shot to start again.

Part of the other of the things that goes into it, if you ask Roger to come back on short days, two out of the last three starts, I'm not sure that even though he's willing and able and fine with it, he told me he'll do anything that we need to do to win a ballgame, and he feels comfortable, he feels good, his body feels strong. I think all things considered, it's best to let him go on the fifth day and give Pete his shot tomorrow.

Q. How tempting was it to go for the jugular?

PHIL GARNER: Well, starting Pete is, in my viewpoint.

I think it's false to assume that just because you're going to bring Roger back that you're sure to win. I don't think you're ever sure to win in these playoffs. Because I'm starting Pete doesn't mean we've giving this game away; doesn't mean that we are not taking this game as seriously as we've taken any game we've played the last two months.

I think that we're giving Pete and shot and let him do his thing.

Q. Was this a particularly hard decision?

PHIL GARNER: You want to make sure you've covered all your bases in the sense that you've considered everything that you feel like is a possible factor.

I talked with my staff. I thought about it for quite a bit. The process was a day or two, day and a half, I guess. And then you sit around and you think a little bit more. I think you can overthink it, you can see all kinds of scenarios. There's going to be a lot of people saying to you to do the opposite, start Roger.

But what I feel in my gut is what I have to do. If you take all the information that's available to you, all the facts, you assimilate them, and I haven't heard anybody give me anything I haven't thought about. So given all those circumstances, I think this is the best way to go.

Q. The Astros had to play as a desperate team to even make the playoffs, now you're facing a desperate team. What do you have to look for when you're in that situation?

PHIL GARNER: Well, what we're doing is taking care of our business. I can't worry about what the Cardinals are doing. I think they're a great ballclub; I've said that all along. They've played very well down the stretch. They're very capable.

But what we've got to do is focus on what we can do. I don't know that the Cardinals will play any differently. They're going to do everything they can to win the ballgame tomorrow just like they did yesterday and the first game that they did when we came in here.

So what's important to us is to play our game. Every game has been important to us now for quite a while. There's no difference in this game. Even though we might have a one game lead in this series, it means nothing as far as we're concerned. Tomorrow is still the most important game we're ever going to play.

Q. Had you come into Game 6 down three games to two instead of up three games to two, would your thinking about Clemens be different?

PHIL GARNER: Well, if I thought Clemens was the one to win the game tomorrow, I would send him out there no matter what. I think this is the best way to go. I think it's absolutely imperative that we do everything we can to win tomorrow's game. I think the best way to do that is go with Pete.

Q. If Clemens had come to you and said, "Phil, I'd like the ball in Game 6," how would that have affected you or your thought process, if at all?

PHIL GARNER: Well, I think any time you have I'm open. I would be open, as I am with anybody of Rocket's stature.

I've had a couple of great players along the way like a Robin Yount, Paul Molitor; you tend to listen to what great players say, you take that into consideration.

One thing about Roger, I've found is he's extremely professional; very, very professional. As far as we're concerned, he's tops. If he says, "I got to have the ball," you got to take that into consideration.

But the true professional that he is, he said, "I'll do whatever it takes and whatever you want us to do."

Q. When you have seen Roger pitch on three days' rest, do you see a noticeable difference in stuff or stamina?

PHIL GARNER: I did. And there were perhaps mitigating circumstances, I don't know if the stomach virus had anything to do with it or if it was coming back after having thrown a seven inning stint where he had gone 116, 117 pitches, not unlike his last start.

He threw about 116, 117 pitches his last start, if I'm not mistaken.

But I think he's stronger now than he was then. But I think there was a bit of difference, and I think he hit the wall a little bit quicker than I've seen him hit the wall before.

And whether he had a little bit more in his tank or not, I'm not sure that he did. And I think the stomach virus had something to do with that, although you're asking a player who's a very intense player, who's a power pitcher to come back late in the season after an entire season of pitching some very intense ballgames. If you ask him to come back on a short time, I think that's asking a bit much.

Q. Getting back to Munro, doing what he did earlier in the series, how much does that help him, how much does it help you in your decision?

PHIL GARNER: Well, I think it's always good to have gotten your feet wet in these playoff scenarios. So having been on the mound once, I think it always helps.

You still have to throw strikes, you still have to make good pitches, you still have to pitch. So as far as all that's concerned, it's just that you've done it once before, you still have to rise to the occasion again.

As far as my decision is concerned, I don't know that that was any part of the factor. The factor that Pete had pitched for us down the stretch and we had won ballgames that Pete had pitched in is part of the factor.

Q. Was there difference of opinion on your staff about this decision? I mean, was there some debate or discussion about it?

PHIL GARNER: I would hope so. If it's not, we've got the wrong staff. I don't want reflections of my opinions; I want differing opinions. What I'm looking for is something I haven't thought about, an angle that perhaps hasn't occurred to me.

So for me, discussion has to involve differences of opinion and different ways to go about things.

Q. Would the bottom line in this decision be the three days' rest?

PHIL GARNER: You could put it that way, although I think we've considered many more things. That might have been that weighed heavily, let's put it that way.

Q. During the World Series last year, Jack McKeon was questioned for using Josh Beckett on three days' rest. What was your opinion at that time?

PHIL GARNER: My opinion was that if anybody could do it, Beckett probably could because he's a young pitcher who could perhaps bounce back. But I also thought and remarked at the time, it's a very risky decision because the numbers don't suggest that it works. Managers tend to do it a lot of times. The numbers don't suggest that it works, though.

Q. What is the situation with Brad Lidge? Is that a game time decision tomorrow, as to his availability?

PHIL GARNER: No. He's fine. He'll be available.

Q. The home field has meant everything in this series so far. You guys have to turn that around at least one time to go to the World Series. How can you do that?

PHIL GARNER: Well, it can happen several different ways, obviously. You can score a lot of runs, you can take the crowd out of it, you can have a well pitched ballgame and play some stellar defense and stay on top of them. You don't want to get down too far. Of course all those things are things you'd like to do in any ballgame you play. If we had the ability to do that when we wanted to, we'd never lose a ballgame.

I think, as I've thought all along, these are going to be some exciting games, they're going to be tough fought games, there's just as likelihood to see an 8 10 game or a 2-1 game, a game like we saw last night.

It's imperative to us to score one more run than they do. Any way we can get it done, that's what we've got to do to get it done.

Q. Does a closer as dominating as Brad Lidge has been, does he begin to have a mental edge over the team he's dominating?

PHIL GARNER: Well, I'm not sure that three times makes for a large enough sample to make any sort of conclusion from that. What I can say that I feel about Brad is he's comfortable right now, I think he's throwing the ball good, I think he's locating it where he wants to. Typically, that means you can get the results you want to. You still have to continue to do that.

I think he's comfortable where he is right now.

Q. This presumably sets up Clemens if you need him for 7. Where does that leave Oswalt? Would you use him tomorrow?

PHIL GARNER: Well, I always wait until I see how the pitchers that have pitched in the game before to find out if they're OK.

But I assume that Roy will be okay and perhaps be available for tomorrow for some stint. And if not then, he certainly would be on for Game 7, if necessary.

Q. What are the qualities that Brad Lidge has as far as stuff and mental make up that have gotten him to this point, with this much success? And, secondly, is he at the point where he's elevated himself to among the elite closers or are we premature on that?

PHIL GARNER: Well, I think he deserves to be placed among the best closers in the league this year; there's no question. When you talk about elite closers, those that have done it for several years, it's only because he's emerged in that role this year, and he'll have more of an opportunity.

But what sets him apart is he's got a blazing fastball, he's got a dynamite slider and he throws strikes. You have to have a special make up to pitch the ninth inning of the game to close the game out, and I think he's proven that he has that sort of make up, too.

You have to face two of these games he's closed out, he's gone two innings, he had to face the middle of the lineup; that's a daunting lineup. He's gone at them with strikes and gotten them out. I think that puts him in a special class, certainly this year.

Q. Just back to the three days' rest, we've all seen the data that's overwhelmingly against it. Why do we see it as much as we do?

PHIL GARNER: I think one of the things is if you have a great pitcher, one thing you think is you can slide the reason you slot your pitchers one, two, three and four, you feel like your No. 1 pitcher is your best pitcher. That's why you pitch him No. 1. He's going to get the most starts against the best pitchers in the league. That's what everybody does.

If you compare the fifth starter, if you have your choice, I take my one starter, go as far as I can, I have my fifth starter that I can back him up with if he runs out earlier. I think you can rationalize it any way you want to. I'm not saying it's necessarily wrong. Of course I've done it a couple of times already.

I think that's why you do continue to see it, because you can, in these sort of series, use your fourth and fifth starters to pitch in the middle relief in the ballgames and you're looking for a jump start in the games. You're looking for an edge early in the games.

Q. How different are bullpen decisions in the postseason as opposed to the regular season? You see so many managers using different approaches from sort of the formula that they adopt during a regular season.

PHIL GARNER: Well, number one, you're going for the long haul. You'd like to establish your bullpen's order. You want them to have roles that they feel accustomed in. I think when you get into the short series, you're going to go with a hot hand. If a guy's throwing a ball real well and another guy's not, you tend to move him into the situation where he's hot.

And I think that makes a lot of sense a lot of times. I also think that you see starting pitchers that get moved into certain roles in the bullpen so they can that changes the make up of the bullpen, somewhat, too.

I think the other thing is whereas I think players like to know their roles, when you're looking at an extended a season, it can be something that can be a little bit disconcerting to players if they never know when they're going to pitch. When you're in a four , five game series, you say, "Let's put our personal feelings aside a little bit." That's what Pete's done a couple of times this year; he's put his personal feelings away. It's worked. He's pitched good for us in those situations. It's also difficult to do because you want your mindset when you take a ball, you want to know when you're going to be in a game and what situations you're going to be in.

I think most managers would like to keep it that way, but in these short series, there's no more tomorrow if you do things differently.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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