Oct. 13 Torii Hunter pregame interview
Q. Talk about facing Buchholz and what makes him so tough. And what will be some of the keys for the Tigers?
TORII HUNTER: Clay is a really good pitcher. I know he's had some injuries during the 2013 season, but Clay is still a competitor. And he mixes his pitches up well. He has the cutter and the curveball, the change up, the two seamer, I can keep going, he's got everything but the kitchen sink. But you've got to respect him. He pitches well. He locates well. And keeps guys off balance.
Today we've got to try to hopefully get him in the strike zone and get a pitch we can handle because that's what he's going to do, he's going to nibble, hit the inside, outside corner, and we have to be patient and wait for that mistake. He doesn't make many.
Q. I believe 2009 was pretty much the closest you've come to being in a World Series. Look at all the things you've managed to accomplish, the All Stars, the Gold Gloves, how important is it for you to finally get to that World Series?
TORII HUNTER: I mean, it's important for every Major League Baseball player to get to the World Series. But just for me individually, 17 seasons, and been to the postseason 7 times, 3 LCS's and failed. But it's not the Yankees. We fell to the Yankees, with Minnesota and we failed with the Angels. And it was always because of the Yankees.
But it's vital that I get there. I see this all the time, guys jumping up and down on the field at the end of the season, during the World Series, at the end of the World Series, and I'm sitting on my couch and having a Coors Light (laughter) and you know, you're sitting there and you're seeing those guys. And you just kind of soak it in.
That's the way you want to be. It's my dream. And I'm going to keep fighting and keep trying to get there to my dream and watching those guys on the field celebrate. I just try to imagine myself doing that.
And we have a long way to go, but that's my ultimate goal is to win the World Series. I'm sure it's for every Major League Baseball player. But for me individually it's been a long time coming. A lot of the guys in the clubhouse are young, 22, 23, they think they're going to have an opportunity to do it later on. But when you're young and you're playing in the postseason, I don't care if it's the National League or American League, you better cherish this moment, you might not get a chance to do it again. Cherish the moment right now.
Q. The nucleus of your team is pretty much a veteran group. Can you talk about looking ahead to tonight's game and managing the expectations of tonight's game, knowing that if you do come away with a win, and with Verlander pitching Game 3, you're really in the driver's seat. How do you prevent yourself from looking too far ahead into the future?
TORII HUNTER: We don't do that. You guys do that. You guys kind of look at the matchups ahead or what ifs. We worry about the task at hand.
Today we've got to worry about Buchholz and the Red Sox, who these guys have one hit yesterday, trust me, they're going to come back with a vengeance tonight. We're excited to have Scherzer on the mound. He's been pitching well for us. And I'm pretty sure they're excited and take that chance with Clay Buchholz on the mound. He's been around, proving. We're studying, doing everything we can to prepare for the game tonight.
Tomorrow is going to come when it comes, but today is right here in the present, that's what we're going to worry about.
Q. What's it like having Justin Verlander as a teammate as opposed to facing him as a pitcher?
TORII HUNTER: It's awesome. My 0 4's are limited this year because I'm not facing Verlander and Scherzer. Just playing with JV, a Cy Young winner, an MVP of Major League Baseball, American League, and I definitely think that just playing with him, just seeing him being competitive.
All year he had ups and downs this year, but he fought through them, he kept making adjustments, to see him working so hard, going to the bullpen, having me go down there standing in the batter's box and he's throwing all kinds of pitches, I'm nervous with no help at all. But he's working his butt off, trying to figure out his arm angle, his curveball, his change up and figure out a grip. He's working his butt all season.
He's waiting for this moment in the postseason to show you who he really is. He's been pitching lights out against the Oakland A's ballclub, who was hot going in the postseason and he was able to shut those guys down, that's pretty impressive.
Q. Did you feel that Jhonny Peralta needed to say anything to you guys to be welcomed back to the clubhouse after the suspension? Have you been surprised at all about how easily he picked it up?
TORII HUNTER: I'm more surprised at how he's able to keep it going. Before the suspension he was banging. He was one of the reasons why we are in the position we are today was Jhonny Peralta. When we lost him for those 50 games, you can look at the numbers, I'm pretty sure it's not the same as a team, collectively. But I definitely think that Jhonny, no apology, we love him in the clubhouse.
If you know Jhonny, he's a soft spoken, nicest guy in the world. If you dig in everybody's closets, we've all made mistakes, in college, in high school, come on, somewhere down the line we've made mistakes. But we get over them and we learn from them. And we become better people because of our mistakes and that's why we're the people we are today.
And Jhonny Peralta is an awesome, awesome guy. If you got to know him you wouldn't boo him. We all made mistakes, he made mistakes, he's punished for them and now he's here to help us win a championship.
Q. Describe how you and David Ortiz became such close friends.
TORII HUNTER: David Ortiz, man, we came up together with the Twins, in Minor Leagues, we played in big leagues together for five seasons. And funniest guy in the world. He swear he looks good. He swears he can dress and everything. I've all respected the way he carried himself day to day, always wanted to hit. That's it. He didn't care about his defense, forget that, I just want to hit.
And he was, I thought, was the best hitter in 2002 on our ballclub. And he missed six, seven weeks, and we nontendered him and the Red Sox picked up a gold mine. I thought he was the best hitter on our ballclub with the Minnesota Twins. You guys found a diamond in the rough. And he's been one of the best postseason performers in the history of the game.
And so I definitely think David Ortiz everything, all his accomplishments, everything he's done in this game is well deserved. I've seen him grow. I've seen him in hard times, with family issues. I was there. We're like brothers. I love him. We're enemies, but I love him to death, I'd do anything for him.
Q. Your pitching staff, your rotation is racking up the strikeouts. As a defender what's it like playing behind a rotation, staff, that gets so many outs?
TORII HUNTER: You're talking about Anibal, Verlander and Scherzer, when those guys pitch, even Fister, his games are like hour and 50 minutes. He's on the mound, he takes five pitches between innings, and he's always working fast.
But playing behind those guys, it's boring. I don't get any balls. They're easy can of corn, fly ball, anything like that. These guys, they go out and they get the job done. They're very competitive and I think they feed off each other. If one has a great start, the other tries to top it, and the other tries to top that. I think they push each other in a way and make each other better.
Q. The Tigers moved quick to sign you last offseason and you signed with them fast, too. Money is always the big motivating factor. How close did you look at the roster and know in your mind they'd give you the best chance to get to a World Series?
TORII HUNTER: Well, I just kind of we came in July, when I was at the Angels, we came to play those guys in July at Comerica, and I watched the ballclub and I looked and saw the rotation. I hated facing those guys, because we had the battle with Scherzer and Anibal and Verlander and Fister.
I looked at that rotation. I know in my past, all my failures in the postseason, that pitching and defense means a lot. The reason I probably failed in the past in the postseason is because we didn't have the pitching. The matchup wasn't there. We had the hitting, we didn't have the pitching. We had the defense, just didn't have the pitching.
When you have Scherzer, Anibal and Verlander, I looked at that rotation this offseason, and said, Hey, this is where I want to be. You look at Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez coming back from an injury, I thought the offense is pretty good, it's there. Jhonny Peralta is a free agent, whenever a guy is a free agent they step it up a lot.
So I definitely think when I saw the ballclub, it wasn't about money. It was just give me what's fair. I came in, I said give me what's fair. If you give me what's fine, we'll sign right now. They gave me my fair offer, 13.1, whatever it might be, I didn't want to negotiate, we're done, this is what I want to play for.
You are what you are. You're going to get paid what you're going to get paid. You don't have to go higher if you want to you could. But you don't have to. With me I'm a veteran guy, I made my money. I'm about winning a World Series Championship. I'm going to get paid what I'm going to get paid. Whatever the fair amount is, that's what it is. And that's what the Tigers did to me.
Q. You're 28 years old, right?
TORII HUNTER: 28 years old.
Q. When you signed the deal for two years, was there a moment when you thought that that may be your final contract and did the change at some point during the season where maybe you thought, you know something, I'm going to keep playing a little bit longer than that?
TORII HUNTER: Where did you get that from? Well, you know, going into the season you just don't know. You don't know what's out there. You don't know what kind of offer you're going to get. And before the season last year, in 2012, before I didn't know what was going to happen. I wanted to stay out there in Anaheim at the time where I was playing. And it just didn't work out for me. And I end up hitting .300.
I was going through a lot. My son had some issues. My oldest son had some issues. And my mind was cloudy. I wanted to go home and be with my family through this issue. But we got through it. And I had a good season last year.
Then I came to the Tigers and rejuvenated. I'm laughing in the clubhouse every day. I feel like I'm 26 (laughter), and with Prince and Miguel and Santiago and Victor and Austin Jackson in that clubhouse, I think those guys have made me young again. I've been laughing with tears in my eyes in the clubhouse all year. They brought the fun back for me and the fight, I've always fought in this game. I've always played the game the right way. I could see myself playing beyond 2014, no doubt about it. I'm slim, trim and ready to go, babe.
Q. Excellent pitching and the fact that Cabrera has been dealing with a problem with the groin, why has the top of the order had so many hitting issues here in your estimation?
TORII HUNTER: My estimation is because in the postseason you're facing No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, their starter in the game, these guys are the best pitchers in the game and the best teams in the game. And offense, man, I always tell you guys, you might not believe me, but good pitching beats good hitting any day. And especially in the postseason. These guys have strategies and their thing is not let Miggy beat them.
The way you get out, they're going to stay there. If you've got a cold zone low and in or up and away or down and away, they're going to stick with it. You've got to actually commend the scouts during this part of the year.
Offensively we faced some good pitching. And I thought Oakland had some crazy pitching. The balls are moving all over the place. I felt like I was in a ring with Mike Tyson, the older one the younger one, the one that was "Ludicrous."