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10/09/06 7:24 PM ET

Ken Macha off-day interview

Has Rich pitched in his instruction game yet, and what happened there?

KEN MACHA: Well, I just spoke to Curt, and he had completed one inning, so he's throwing in the low 90s and he felt he was throwing free and easy. So he felt real good about the way he was throwing. So yes, he pitched. I haven't gotten a complete update. That's the best I can do.

In that game, are you playing the two infielders you're looking at, or have you made a decision on that last roster spot yet?

KEN MACHA: We have not, on the roster.

That would be tomorrow then?

KEN MACHA: Scutaro and Jimenez are going to be the starters. Is that your question?

No. You had the two backup guys, Ginter and --

KEN MACHA: We haven't made that decision yesterday.

Will that be tomorrow?

KEN MACHA: It's going to be tonight. They're down there playing, also, and we're going to talk to our people that are down there running the process down there and see what their evaluation is.

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What's made Polanco so successful against you guys, and how important is it to keep him down this series?

KEN MACHA: I want you to tell me that (laughter), because I just looked at all the match-ups. He hits a million off us. Somebody said throw it, like, behind him and see if he can hit it. I'm just kidding.

No, he's just a contact guy. Hits line drives everywhere. Doesn't overswing. Really the only pitcher we've got who gets him out is Saarloos. Everybody else he kind of wears out. The law of averages are going to even up in this series.

Obviously we've heard so much about Moneyball, small budget teams, et cetera. People say, Well, look at the Yankees; they were going to buy the World Series. They're not even getting to the next round. As a guy who's been around sports a lot, baseball, do you think going out and getting the best players is sometimes overrated, that there's so many other factors?

KEN MACHA: Well, the Tigers have built an excellent pitching staff. When you get into a short series, the pitching staff can go out and dominate. Kenny Rogers goes out there and throws the game that he did, and Bonderman, that's just what's happening.

Over the course of a year, you're going to see those pitchers several times, and they're probably not going to be at the top of their game like they were at that time. I think we were fortunate to have clinched early and to have rested our bullpen. I was able to bring in Duchscherer in two of those games. He was very effective against the Twins. He was a little bit of an MVP in that series that went unnoticed.

Pitching a lot will come in and take over. This particular series, they've got a great lineup, and we've got some guys that have been swinging the bats very well. But you look at the pitching, they make their pitches, if we make our pitches. This is going to be a tight, low-scoring series.

You clearly have more experience than the Tigers do in the post-season, but so too did the Yankees. Is post-series experience overrated sometimes in your mind?

KEN MACHA: Well, their catcher did win the World Series with the Marlins, so I don't think we have anybody with a World Series ring. That's probably important there.

Just to answer that question, as I look at our club, that's the one thing I really like about it; we've got some veteran guys that have been around and that you kind of know what you're going to expect to get out of them. So Chavez has been playing quite a while, and Kendall and Kotsay and Frank. We've got some veteran guys.

Pretty much you're going to get a pretty solid performance out of those guys. So to that extent, I'll agree with what you say. I respect their team. I mean, Guillen has been in a playoff situation. He's one of the best hitters on their club. Rodriguez is back there, he's been all the way through. He can let these guys know what it's all about and be that example.

That's what a big boost for our club by getting Frank here. He kind of led the charge in August and September, and the rest of our guys picked up on that and saw the way he handled the pressure and all the situations going down there. I'm sure with them having Pudge, this will be a big help for them.

Could you describe a little bit about the way that -- your feelings about the kind of season? Frank Thomas was going to have evolved as this season progressed from what you were expecting of him early on to what he became like in August and September?

KEN MACHA: Well, you know, in spring training, he told me, "don't worry, I don't need any at-bats. I'll be ready." We were just trying to get the guy healthy. He had a hard time even running. Some of the big days in spring training, Frank jogged 50 feet. Well, that's progress.

And then his first spring training game he steps up at his first at-bat he steps up and hits one up in the rocks there in Phoenix, which was pretty impressive. Still, coming into the season we knew he could still hit. He had 12 home runs in 100 at-bats in the previous year, hit for power. I think as the season went on and he got more at-bats, he just got better. As the season went on from the All-Star Break until we clinched it, he played every game. That's a tribute to him and our trainers. The work they did on his ankle, foot bone, whatever it is, you go in there every game, Frank has got both feet stuck in ice water and it sits in there for 20 minutes.

That thing they say on TV, "Don't try that at home." It's not very pleasant, but he does that every night to get himself out there on the field. He put a lot of work into it, and I know the organization, myself included, are very appreciative of what he did. He's been a big factor in us getting where we are.

How important has the clubhouse chemistry been in your team's success this year and through the playoffs?

KEN MACHA: You know what, I've been here eight years, four working for Art. This clubhouse chemistry thing has been kind of a constant. I normally hit the ballpark real early. We were going to Minnesota and we were playing a noon game, so I think Brad Fischer and I are getting in there about quarter to 8:00. As we're walking down the hallway, the music was already going.

These guys were ready to go already, Swish and Frank, and there were a couple other guys in there. They had the music turned up and they were having breakfast and real loose. We've got a great bunch of guys. They're not just all one way. We've got a wide diversity of personalities. Barry Zito is a lot different than Mark Ellis or Kotsay, but they all get along and they all have a common goal, and it's a pretty neat thing.

When you take a look at Detroit, are you more impressed by the starting rotation they bring out or the guys who come out of the bullpen, and why?

KEN MACHA: I'll answer that question yes (laughter). They led the league in pitching by a pretty good distance. You bring in Rodney, Zumaya out of the bullpen, not to mention their closer, much like Duchscherer was for us. Those guys can do the same thing. They can close that gap, 6th, 7th, 8th inning and turn it over to Jones. They're impressive all the way through with their pitching.

A little connection here, their pitching coach is one of my best friends in baseball. I'm glad he got this opportunity to show people what he can do. He's a great guy, and we worked together when I was with the Angels.

As a matter of fact, we roomed together. I'm happy for him he's gotten in this position. I hope he's got bad instructions for these guys this week (laughter).

Everybody knows, obviously, the importance of pitching proved again during the first round of the playoffs. How old were you? Were you in high school or college when you realized as a batter how important pitching was?

KEN MACHA: Goodness. This is a test of letting you know how old I am, period. That's a hard one to answer. I know how difficult it was to hit. I don't think you come to that realization until you get into the management end of it, or when I went down to the minor leagues and managed, or the coaching end of it.

I played on some teams. The Montreal Expos, we had some pretty good pitchers, Scott Sanderson and Steve Rogers and David Palmer, and they could go out and shut a team down and keep you in the game all the time.

And I played for Dick Williams, and one of his things was the defense and the pitching. The two years I was up there, '79 and '80, we competed, and it kind of put a highlight on it. The other years I was with the Pirates, we just got up there and swung the bat and didn't worry about it. That might be it, in '79 and '80 when I played with the Expos.

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