Oct. 14 Jim Leyland pregame interview
Q. Can you talk a little about what it means as the opposing manager not to face Derek Jeter in the lineup?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, this is a tough story for baseball. What he has done in the postseason, what he means to the Yankees, what he means to baseball in general. So it makes it a tough thing obviously. As I said last night, thinking about it after I left here, when you think about the postseason baseball I guess the Atlanta Braves, 14 straight postseasons, Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, and Derek Jeter. I mean, if I said "postseason baseball, what do you think about?" Those are probably three of the things I would talk about.
It's one of those situations where, you know, the Yankees are going to be pumped up. They are going to play the game. They are going to play it the right way. They are not going to give us anything. The manager is tough, the team is tough, we know that. It would be different, to say the least, not to see him in the lineup. We have been watching him in the postseason lineup for a lot of years.
So it's really an unfortunate situation, it really is. It's sad really. But I don't think it's not going to have any effect on how the Yankees approach this series or how they go about their business. They are certainly a very respected organization. They are very tough.
Q. Jim, you are going to closer by committee? I want to clarify that. Are you going to closer by committee, is that your plan?
JIM LEYLAND: I am going to explain this Valverde situation because obviously it is a very hot topic, I will try to do the best I can to explain it. I had a conversation with him today. He will not close the game today, if it is a close situation. I still consider him the closer. I guess that sounds like I am  mud watching but I am really not. I still consider him the closer, but he will not close the game. We will do some work with him. 3:00 this morning we were looking at some stuff, Jeff Jones and I, about his delivery. It is way too slow, the tempo is not good at all.
So we're going to have to make an adjustment and I will not close the game with him today. I have spoken to with him, and obviously that's the reason I did not have any information for you last night, because I would never make a statement about something like that without talking to the player first. That would be totally disrespectful.And I just hope that fans everywhere, but particularly in Detroit, don't have too short of memories. This guy saved 110 games out of 118 opportunities in the last three years as Detroit Tiger closer; that's pretty good. 49 for 49 last year. 35 for 40 this year.
So never would I be disrespectful to a player. I understand the magnitude of it in the postseason. I understand it's a normal thing to say, well, you can't close with him. That's easy to say. However, don't forget, the last three outs are very tough to get, and it takes a special cat in a lot of cases to do that.
And the other thing about it is, you can't pitch with ten pitchers in the postseason. So Jose Valverde will be a very important part of this postseason. If he's not, it's going to be tougher for us, obviously. So I just want to make sure that, you know, that we certainly show him the respect that he has earned and deserves. And also with the understanding that people are a little edgy right now. It is the postseason, I am all for that. I understand the articles, I understand the questions; there is nothing wrong with that. You have every right to ask them. I don't blame you. So I am trying to handle this the best we can.
I think the best way to put it right now is that we still plan on him being our closer, but he will not close the game today. If you think I'm trying to avoid something, I am really not because that's really the way we come up with it after I called all of the coaches, along with my General Manager Dave Dombrowski, and Assistant General Manager Al Avila last night in the office after the game. We were here up until the wee hours of the morning talking about it, and this is the decision we came up with at this time. I hope it clears it up.
Q. Just today you have one guy in mind, the closer? Will it be match up? Situational?
JIM LEYLAND: I will see how the game plays out. I will try to maybe go by committee. I cannot sit here right now and tell you I have a definite closer for the end of this game today. I hope I have to close this game out today, but I cannot tell you I have a definite closer for it, one name. I cannot give you one name. I have a suggestion box down by my office. [Laughter].
Q. Jim, based on Wednesday night and what happened in Oakland, and then when you saw him give up the single to Martin and then Ichiro's home run, were you at all tempted to bring in somebody else at that point?
JIM LEYLAND: No. No, I was not. I have seen him give up hits before, walk guys before. I've seen him close 110 games out of 118, I don't think one hit makes you I think, I explain the strategy, I don't defend it. So I will say in my heart I definitely believe last night was the perfect time to get a guy who has done what he has done for us right back out to the mound, with a little extra comfort with a 4 run lead. I thought it was important to get him back there, because he will be important for this ballclub in the series. I thought it was the opportune time to get him back out there and get him through it. Obviously it didn't work; I was wrong.
Q. If you can explain two more things: If you take a Dotel, let's say, from a seventh inning spot and put him into a ninth inning role, just if you were hypothetically to do that, what does that do? How much stress does that place on that seventh and eighth or sixth inning situations? How much of a factor is that? The second part, a lot of people think that closers should be interchangeable parts. The guy who pitches is the closer, regardless of whatever his particular role maybe. Could you talk about those two points?
JIM LEYLAND: Yeah. I will answer your second one first. I totally disagree with anybody that thinks the closer can be interchangeable parts. And if I was ever in the right place to have a lot of people on my side, this is the place because they had a guy named Mariano Rivera that I don't think they wanted to interchange too damn often. That's the answer to one question. I disagree with it totally, I mean the thought process.
The other part of the question is very tricky. This is why I don't think like today I want to name a closer because of the fact, what if the seventh inning becomes the urgent part of the game, and I think I need to use the best guy for that match up right then, I have to use him then. I can't say, I want to close with him today, so I will not put him in now. There is a point in the game, sometimes the biggest out is in the seventh inning or eighth inning, not always in the ninth inning.
That's why when you start going by committee, that's what "committee" means. You say, this is the most important out I have to get. I will use my bullet now and take my chances later. If you don't use your bullet and you get beat in the seventh it's like saving a pinch hitter. I will save him for the ninth, well, you may not need him in the ninth. You better use him when you have the opportunity to use him, or you will be sitting there with him in your pocket at the end of the game. And they will say, Jim Leyland is really smart, he had the pinch hitter waiting. Yeah, he was waiting and the other team was on the bus going to the airport. I think it is a little tricky.
I definitely disagree with the stuff about not having a definite closer. All I know is I go to Winter Meetings every year, and everybody is talking about closers, and everybody is talking about trying to get one, and some of the new philosophy in baseball is that anybody can close; I totally disagree with that. And I am not staying I am right, but I totally disagree with that. Like I said, I am in a pretty good place to state my guys today. That guy No. 42, they didn't interchange him very often.
Q. So Jimmy, in regard to Valverde, essentially what you're saying is you need to get him fixed, which would be obviously a lot easier to do if you were in the middle of the season, but right now you are in the middle of potentially seven game playoff.
JIM LEYLAND: That's a very legitimate and great point. Jonesy might be working with him as we speak, if we can get him, because we are definitely going to need him in some form to help this club try to get through this postseason. That's an excellent point, and I don't really probably have a real smart answer for you because you're right. And we talked about that. When Jones said, "I need to work with him." Well, we don't have a lot of time to work right now. We have to get things ironed out as quick as we possibly can. We are trying to do that.
Is it going to work? I can't answer that. If I had a crystal ball, I wish I did, I don't. We will play the series, do the best we can to compete against the New York Yankees, and they will do the best they can under some weird circumstances all of a sudden, with the injury to their captain. And I just hope that we both put on a good show for you. It was a weird game, but it was an exciting game last night. It should have been for everybody.
Q. Jim, can you talk about the decision in August to bring in Garcia in the line of fire as opposed to a September call up, and how he has responded, and any spark he has given you.
JIM LEYLAND: I can answer that one. We had some injuries and problems going on with Ryan Rayburn, one of our good right handed hitters, that had hit some home runs, and we thought would be very productive this year, and that wasn't happening. And we needed a right handed hitter. We called down to our Minor League people, we asked them the question, could this kid come up and compete against left handed pitching and help us? And their thought process was that he could. And the way we work here is when we call down to the Minor Leagues, it is like sending a guy down in Spring Training. I never tell a guy, "Well, we are sending you down, but you'll be back." I take who the Minor League people recommended. That's what they are there for, I trust in them. That's what they are there for and that's what we do with the Detroit Tigers. They thought this kid could handle it, and I think he has done a good job. He's a little overmatched at times, and probably not ready for this, but he has done well.
Q. You mentioned it takes a special kind of guy to get the last three outs, and Valverde has been that guy for you guys for the most part. When he's right, what about him makes him a good fit?
JIM LEYLAND: He is kind of a free spirited guy, and I think the biggest thing with him is that he's able to turn the page. He's one of the best I have ever seen. Some guys that blow a save, and I am a little worried about that right now, but for the most part whatever he has blown a save, he has been able to come right back the next day and shrug it off. And right now I am a little concerned about it because one thing you take pride in as a manager is reading your players. And I don't even know if I am right about it, I probably shouldn't say it, but I will say it anyway, it almost appears to me that it looks like he is kind of waiting for something bad to happen. And I don't know if I am accurate on that, I may be totally wrong. But sometimes when you read a player, you can see that he's not quite as confident. And he is normally very confident.
But I think there is something to this mechanical part of that; I definitely think that. But he is going to be an important guy for us, and we're going to need him.
Q. Just the follow up on that: I think you said you might have to use somebody else there today. Can you read a player and get a sense of which one of those guys can handle the situation? You know, or is it just a matter of throwing them out there and seeing if they can do it?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, I think the biggest part is do they handle it mentally? There's a lot of guys that have the stuff to do it, but not quite as many of them have the mentality to do it. And I think that's the major difference. If could have a conversation with the Yankees No. 42 today, I would like to have it at some point, but I'm probably not going to get that conversation. He was pretty good at it.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, thank you.