10/06/06 6:34 PM ET
Jim Leyland pregame interview
Tigers skipper will change lineup for lefty Randy Johnson
By / MLB.com
JIM LEYLAND:No, I don't think so. You know, I think we had two tough games up there, one where we got out of it a little bit. He fought back in it, and then we got out of it again. Then we got out of it again where we couldn't catch up. And then it was one great baseball game yesterday that we won. Basically, we're all smart enough to know we're down to two out of three. I think that's pretty much the way it is. I don't think there's any difference in the mood or anything. I haven't talked to many of the guys today, but I don't expect anything different.
Q. Will Joel be available today after pitching?
JIM LEYLAND:Yeah, he will be. Exactly how much, I don't know, but he will be available.
Q. Can you tell us what you're doing with your batting lineup with Johnson starting? With a lefty, are you making any changes?
JIM LEYLAND:Yes, I did. My lineup is Granderson will hit ninth; Casey will hit seventh; Polanco will lead off. I think left-hand hitters hitting .194, .197 off of Randy Johnson. And obviously Granderson has had a lot of strikeouts. He's swinging very well right now, but you're talking about a left-hander like Randy Johnson. So Polanco is going to lead off; Monroe is going to hit second; Thames is going to hit third; Ordonez, fourth; Guillen, fifth; Rodriguez, sixth; Casey seventh; Inge, eighth; and Granderson, ninth.
Q. How would you assess Bonderman's health with the ankle and everything else he's had this season?
JIM LEYLAND:Bonderman is healthy. We have some nagging aches and pains like every other team at this time of the year. Unfortunately, we're still playing with them and most teams aren't, so that's a good thing.
Q. Sticking with Bonderman, how do you think he'll rebound from a pretty tough outing on Sunday?
JIM LEYLAND:That's a great question. You know, if I knew the answer, I could make a lot of money. I don't really know. I just I know he's one of our top pitchers. He's one of our starters. He's been in our rotation all year. He's an excellent young pitcher. He's had some tremendous outings this year. He's had a few that haven't been the quality you would expect from him. But, you know, this time of the year I would expect we'll get a great effort from him tomorrow.
Q. When you know that Randy is coming off missing his last start because of his back, he's had the up epidural, do you want your hitters to approach him any differently to test him in any way?
JIM LEYLAND:No, I don't think so. You know, people talked about, maybe you could bunt on him and do things. We don't really have guys that bunt. We're not really a running team. We kind of hit the ball over the fence. I have no idea what the effects of his back will have on his performance as far as keeping the ball down or getting the ball up a little bit more. I think basically it's just like every other pitcher: You hope to get some mistakes, you hope to get some balls up in the zone, and you hope to capitalize on it when you get them. I have no idea, nor do I think anybody else does, how Randy Johnson is going to come out tonight. I don't know. I don't know how Kenny Rogers is going to come out. I expect they'll both come out good. I think they'll both be ready to pitch and they'll both be good. You just never know how that's going to work out. I think you can get lulled to sleep if you start saying his back might not be right, we may have a better chance now. I think you set yourself up for disaster when you talk like that. I think we just have to approach Randy Johnson tonight like he's the Randy Johnson we know and we got a battle on our hands and we got to go get it.
Q. The first two games, with pretty much a young team, if any questions have been answered for you about your players on how they'd react under this kind of pressure?
JIM LEYLAND:You know, I said yesterday, I was really pleased with that game. Obviously, number one, because we got the win and we evened up the series. Number two, I think it was probably it was important to us that I felt like and maybe it was just a complex I had. I got the sense and maybe because we were playing the Yankees, and it may have been whoever was going to play the Yankees, would have had the same type of feeling. But, you know, maybe we didn't belong in the playoffs. You know, I reminded everyone that we won 95 games, which was the fourth most in baseball. We went into Yankee Stadium yesterday under some tough conditions with a very young pitcher and won a big ballgame. So that's the thing that I'm pleased about. So I think our guys are doing fine. I mean, I think we're, you know I mean, we go through the same thing all the time. We know who the Yankees are. We have the utmost respect for them. It's a great team. We got a good team. We're trying to battle 'em. We're trying to make this real interesting. We know we're an underdog. We know we have to try some things. We know we have to do it a little bit different than maybe the Yankees do. We have to try some stuff. When you're the heavy favorite, you can let some things come to you. When you're the heavy underdog, you got to try an on side kick once in a while. So, I mean, I think that pretty much sums it up. We know we got we got to do some things to try to combat this team. This is a great team we're playing, and we think we're real good. It's 1-1. It's the best out of three. Can we win two games? Yeah. Can they win two games? Absolutely. We'll see.
Q. What impact, if any, do you think the crowd will have on your team tonight and the game in general?
JIM LEYLAND:That's a great question. It's one that I'm worried about. I think that, you know, you have to enjoy this and you have to realize what it's all about, the fans and all that. We want to put on a good show for them and everything. But I think sometimes you can lose your concentration if you're not careful, getting all wrapped up in all the hoopla around it, the first playoff game here in so many years, the excitement and everything. I think sometimes you can lose sight of your concentration if you're not careful. So I think we got to be careful with that. Toward the end of the season, we had two consecutive days where, I mean, they wanted to party, and that would have been because we won the division. We let 'em down. That's probably the most disappointing part of the season, because we should have won the division. We let it get away. These people wanted to party. But we just can't get caught up in all that. That's an excellent question, and I guess my answer is that I hope that we can maintain our concentration and still enjoy the atmosphere and the environment.
Q. It seemed like your team limped going into this ALDS. After that close win yesterday, do you feel your team has that confidence and swagger back?
JIM LEYLAND:I think we always had confidence. You know, as I mentioned before, the last time the Yankees won the World Series they lost 16 out of their last 19. We probably weren't as experienced as this Yankee team was, but at the same time, I think we're fine. You know, this boils down to whether we're good enough or not. We can talk and we can talk about all the things that go into this, all the planning that you make, what everybody else thinks about it, who's favored, who's not favored, who should win, who shouldn't win. What it boils down to tonight is whoever pitches best is going to win, most likely. That's whether it's April, May, June, July, August. If you pitch good, you got a chance to win. If you don't, you're not. If we out pitch the Yankees tonight we'll probably win the game. If they out pitch us, they'll probably win the game.
Q. Similar question to the crowd question two questions ago. From that standpoint, obviously you're thrilled to get the win in New York. As far as coming back here, I know you've been very happy that the fans have had something to cheer about here. 1-1 versus 0-2, the atmosphere, your feeling on the fans having more hope than they would have.
JIM LEYLAND:I think, to be honest with you, it probably would have been close in the atmosphere and everything. But I think in all honesty, I think if we come home 0-2, I think they'd have been here. I think they'd have been having a good time. But I think they would have probably thought, We don't have a chance to win the series, in their heart. Now I think there's a little extra incentive that at least they're saying, You know what, if we can win tonight, maybe. So I think it is a little bit different. I don't think there's any question about that.
Q. How good did you feel about your bullpen coming in? Do you feel you can match up with anybody with it?
JIM LEYLAND:Yeah, I feel real good about our bullpen. I felt good about our bullpen all year. The Yankee lineup is such it's set up that not only are they great hitters, but it's a very difficult lineup to manage against because it goes right left, right left, right left, switch, right left. You can't bring in a pitcher for every hitter. I guess basically what I'm saying is a right handed pitcher is going to have to get some of their left handed hitters out, and a left handed pitcher would have to get some of their right handed hitters out. That's just the way it is. I feel good about our bullpen. You know what, it's like everything else: This is our team. We're here. This is what we have. There's no magic. You can't reach in your pocket and pull out Sandy Koufax. Just doesn't work that way.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.