Phil Garner pregame interview

Phil Garner pregame interview

How are the Cardinals better than they were a year ago when you faced them?

PHIL GARNER: I think their pitching is better. Their starters, Carpenter is here. I think Morris is better. I think having Marquis in the bullpen is probably going to help them a little bit. Even though some are probably going to say their bullpen is a little suspect right now, I don't look at it that way. So I think their pitching is better than it was last year and they are still a good offensive ballclub.

I'm sure tomorrow night is the farthest thing from your mind right now but when you face a pitcher who has had an arm injury how does that change your approach, if at all?

GARNER: It won't. It won't change our approach because I'm sure he's going to be fine. I would expect that he'll be fine. I don't think they would sit him out there if he wasn't fine.

So it will be easy enough for them to move him to the third game if he needed a extra days, so I don't think they need to take the chance. So I'm sure he'll be fine and we'll take the same approach.

You know, we should take a different approach because we have not done too well against him, but it's hard for us to do sometimes. (Laughing).

Can you make any roster changes for this round?

GARNER: We did. Ezequiel Astacio has been added and Luke Scott has been taken off.

The theory behind that?

GARNER: I felt like that in a seven-game series, that having 11 pitchers is probably going to be an important move to make, to have an extra pitcher on the roster would probably help.

Does it give you any sort of advantage to have the different looks of Pettitte in Game 1 and Oswalt in Game 2?

GARNER: You know, you wrestle with that over the course of a season. How do you set up your rotation, you don't want different looks, you don't want the same type of pitcher following another pitcher. I don't think that I've been able to decide that that's an advantage or a disadvantage, so I'm going to have to say no, I don't think it's an advantage to have a left hander that can sink the ball and run it in on you with a good curveball, and then the next day have a power pitcher like Roy going. I don't think that's going to be an advantage because of the different looks.

What are your impressions of Mulder, and does he bring to the Cardinals what Pettitte brought to you guys?

GARNER: Well, certainly Pettitte has a longer and grander history than Mulder does, but I think what Mulder has done has really solidified their rotation. It enables them to put pitches in a third and fourth position that they would like to do and it gives them a very strong, strong rotation, plus he's had success. I think anybody would like to have a left hander in your rotation in this league because left handers seem to do well, particularly ones like him.

Could you please talk about the progression that Jason Lane made from Astros to an everyday player and what you like about him in particular?

GARNER: What our coaches told us, Jason in the minor leagues going back prior to this year, going into last season, is that Jason was a guy that was going to hit for power, a little bit of an unusual swing at times but he's a solid defensive player. He doesn't make mistakes, makes good decisions and he figures out a way to compete and get it done at the plate, even though he can look a little unusual at times.

Last year it looked like he was going to have a chance to play every day and he's been dying for that chance. We made a trade for Beltran and he gets put on the bench and doesn't get to do his thing.

So this year we were looking for an opportunity to be able to play him. He got his opportunity and he's responded quite well. He's gotten better offensively as the season has gone on. He's gotten better at giving us good at bats. Now, he has power, but I think his at bats have gotten more determined, and he realizes I think that every swing doesn't have to be a home run swing. He can put it in play and do some damage that way, too. He's done a fine job defensively playing any outfield position and that includes right field, left field and centerfield. He's done a good job offensively, too.

Do you think how good Roy Oswalt is sometimes gets lost in what Andy and Roger have done?

GARNER: I think so. He's a second game second time 20 game winner two years now and you don't hear that much about it. If it happened with somebody else, it would be all over the place, but Roy kind of Roy himself is not a self promoter. He's very laid back, as you all know now, and that's not a show that he puts on. That's the way he is. He's very comfortable being in the back room. He doesn't need to be out in the front. He doesn't have to have a lot of the spotlights. He just likes going out and pitching, doing his job and saying thank you very much and going on home.

But then you have great personalities like the Rocket and Pettitte who have done wonderful things. So I think it all naturally gravitates in their direction. But Roy has done a fine job for us and he's going to go down as one of the great pitchers in this decade.

Tony La Russa yesterday was talking about how competitive you were as a player and how your personality kind of shows in the Astros, and he's very competitive as you know, too. What's your relationship with Tony and is there anything, manager to manager you pick up from him or anything like that? What have you observed from going against Tony over the years?

GARNER: Well, I do believe, and I appreciate the comments. It's nice to hear good things.

But let's face it, Tony is one of the great managers in baseball history and will go down and probably go in the Hall of Fame as one of the great managers. So there's clearly things that you appreciate and you try to learn from what he does.

I think most of what I've learned managerially speaking comes from Chuck Tanner who was my mentor when I was a player and as a coach and as a manager. So I tend to look towards Chuck Tanner and listen to him, because I don't talk to Tony much, as combatants we don't sit down and share our opinions or what we like to do and those kind of things. But you do watch what Tony does. You watch how he holds his composure during games and you see how well managed and how well prepared his teams are. They don't make mistakes, they do the things the right way and that's a reflection on how he prepares his staff and how they prepare the players. Those are the kind of things we would all like players to say about our teams, and you say that with a great deal of respect about his teams.

Through your playing career and coaching and managing, is there anybody that you can compare Oswalt to, any body type or the way he pitches?

GARNER: You know, I'll have to think about that a little bit. I'm sure there's going to be somebody that I can think of here at some point. Right off, I don't recall anybody.

So you feel he's fairly unique?

GARNER: Well, perhaps. I'll give it a little bit of thought in that regard. But Roy, he's not a big guy. A lot of times when you look at Nolan Ryan, Rocket, Andy, you think about Randy Johnson, and some of the great guys that have pitched over the years, they tend to be Catfish Hunter wasn't a great big man, but he had a big barrel chest, and Roy is on the slight side and he's lean, but very strong, very strong and a very good athlete.

So I'm sure there's somebody I can think of, given enough time.

Guidry?

GARNER: Well, Guidry was actually a little smaller than Roy. He would be a good one from the left side that would be a good comparison. They had sort of a quick delivery but Guidry was actually a little smaller than Roy. I played with Guidry in college ball, or summer college ball.

With all of the Astros offensive losses going into the season, before the season, maybe not when you were 15 games under, were you still confident that pitching could prevail for you?

GARNER: Confident that what?

Pitching could still prevail for you?

GARNER: Well, at 15-30, I wasn't sure how good we were. I knew we weren't a 15 game under .500 team. I certainly didn't feel that way. I felt that our strong point was pitching and that pitching was going to help us get out of it and our pitching had been good to that point. Our offense had just been very bad.

As our offense got hot, you get to the point where you think, wow, we might not lose another game and you realize, well, maybe we're not this good, we're certainly not going to be 50 games over .500 but you figure we'll settle somewhere between 10 and 15 games over .500 and got into that 15 game over .500 mode. Pitching was what led the way. It was the most consistent part of our game all along. Our offense caught up a little bit but our pitching is what kept us where we are.

You say Roy really likes to keep to himself and stay in the background, but on a stage like this with so much on the line how does he come through that?

GARNER: Well, he just does his thing. He takes the ball and he pitches.

I think part of the experience of post season is learning how to handle all of the notoriety, how to handle all of this that goes on. Normally we come to the ballpark, you might talk to a couple of reporters and we go out and we play a game and if you've played or you've pitched then you talk to them for a little bit and go on.

One of the things that you have to learn when you get here is, you know, these things happen for a couple hours now. And in Roy's case, I think he's just learned that, hey, I'll just do what I have to do, but what I really do is I pitch and I'll do my thing. He doesn't let anything bother him, doesn't let anything get to him. He pitches; that's what he does.

Do you think there's any advantage to being a Wild Card team and having to really push to get into the playoffs and to get to this round as well?

GARNER: Well, certainly in the last couple of years, it appears to have been an advantage to be a Wild Card team. But I don't see where that advantage would be, other than the fact we were fighting down to the last day to try to get into the playoff picture.

I do think it's a little more difficult if you've clinched earlier and you've had a lot of time to think about it, because I think it's hard to have a letdown and then pick back up.

Having said that, take a look at the Cardinals. They had clinched a long time ago and I might have thought they would have had a little letdown and a little tougher time against the Padres. They didn't. They came out and just played great ball.

In my viewpoint, I would prefer to have to fight right up to the last couple of days to win. I think it gives you an edge and you want to keep that edge as you go into the playoffs. And it's not just because it's the wild card, even if you're trying to win a pennant, I think that's important, too.

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