Jim Leyland pregame interview
Detroit skipper talks about Verlander, Guillen and Pudge
JIM LEYLAND: I'll give you my lineup. Granderson is leading off; Polanco is hitting second; Casey is hitting third; Ordoñez fourth; Guillen fifth; Rodriguez sixth; Monroe seventh; Thames is eighth; and Inge is nine. Nate Robertson is our pitcher.
When you first saw Verlander and how he might throw, do you remember what your first reaction was?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah, we had about five or six guys lined up on the mounds in spring training early, and there was about five or six of them throwing about 95, 96. We got some other kids coming, also. But certainly they were very impressive. I've always been a talent guy. When you write the name and you don't ask how old and when you call the bullpen you don't ask how old they are. You look at the talent and it was kind of a no brainer. I think sometimes organizations worry about, Well, if they don't do well, how is it going to affect them? I've always found out, if you would have had to send one of them down, if they're the real deal they'll be back, and if they're not, they won't. I don't worry about stuff like that. They had talent and we took them.
Beyond his stuff, what is it about Verlander's poise and maturity that allows him to pitch at the level? And how did what he learn maybe from his start against the Yankees?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I compare him a little bit to Dwight Gooden when he first came into the league. Man, this kid has got incredible poise. My reaction has always been the same, when you throw at 97 with a curve ball off the table and a good change up it's pretty easy to be poised. It's that simple.
Can you please compare the emotions of your team and their mood today before Game One as opposed to last week in New York?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I guess it's pretty much the same. I really haven't seen too many of them. We had a little bit of a small meeting. But both teams know what's at stake here, and I think this is a longer journey because it's a seven game series instead of a five game series. You can't get too excited if you win Game One, and you can't get too excited if you lose Game One. This is one of those grind it out deals, and at the end of game seven we'll find out who's going to move on and who's going to go home.
If the Yankees had fired Torre because they lost to a talented team, what would your reaction have been to that?
JIM LEYLAND: I don't like to get into somebody else's business. All I can tell you is that in my opinion, nobody represents baseball any better than Joe Torre. He's a great manager. I'm tickled to death that he's coming back because he should be back, yet I don't try to interfere with somebody else's business. I don't think that -- my own heartfelt opinion is I don't think the Yankees had any intention of firing Joe Torre. I think that was some speculation that got started and got running a little bit wild, and I don't think they had any intention of firing Joe Torre. In my opinion, I don't think they should have. He's done an unbelievable job. He's a class act. He's a great manager, and I'm thankful to God he's going to be back in the league. Joe Torre should be managing the Yankees, and not a lot of guys can do that.
Do you feel Carlos Guillen is sometimes overlooked amongst the game's elite short stops?
JIM LEYLAND: You know, it's become such an advertised position now with Young who has been so good offensively for Texas, and of course you've got Derek Jeter. Years ago your shortstop was just a guy that you really wanted to catch the ball and throw to first and not make errors and everything. The offense wasn't stressed as much as it is now. This guy is a real true player. He's an all-around player. He's probably the smartest player we have on our ball club. I told somebody the other day, He's probably the top candidate on our club to go on to a managerial career if he chose to do so. That's how bright he is about the game. I don't know that he gets overlooked. I think he's appreciated. When you say overlooked, if you're talking about newspaper articles or different parts around the country, maybe, but I think among his peers, I think everybody has as much respect for him as they should have.
Could you talk for a moment about what Pudge has meant to this team, and not just statistically, but in the clubhouse and even before you came, going back to 2004 when he was the first signing after that dismal year they had?
JIM LEYLAND: Pudge Rodriguez has been a guy that has done every single thing we've asked. When I first took the job, people thought there was going to be some friction, that maybe our personalities wouldn't work, and I couldn't figure out why. I mean, you just use common sense and you get along with people. I can tell you this: I have the utmost respect. We've had no problems. The one thing I'm proudest about Pudge Rodriguez is he's not as great a player as he was, but he's still an outstanding player. So don't misunderstand what I'm saying. But the thing I like about Pudge Rodriguez the most is that he plays hurt, he plays hard, and he comes to beat the other team. And he's done every single thing we've asked as far as cooperating with our pitchers and our pitchers meeting. He's been a manager's dream. We couldn't ask any more than what this guy has done for us this year. He's been a real treat.
Against Randy Johnson you dropped the left-handed hitters lower in the order, Granderson and Casey and, you're not doing that against Zito. Is that numbers?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, the numbers say that Barry is pretty much around the same, and obviously Randy wasn't. The other thing is that when I do that, when I change Granderson, I like to hit Monroe second, and in this particular case, Monroe is only two for 21 with seven strikeouts.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.