April 2007

Waiting to put it all together

Just to get off the bat and answer a question, no come-out songs here. People were asking what kind of come-out songs do we as starters have, and none of the starters have songs. I’d like to say that we’re a little less maintenance, but what we do and why the bullpen guys do have come-out songs is because what the bullpen guys do is so much more of a high intensity that I think they need their moment to get locked in and music obviously helps some of these guys. We just go out there to whatever the stadium plays to get the game going.

Moving on to this past week, week and a half, I think the biggest thing, obviously in the paper and on record, our head’s right above .500 and we really haven’t caught stride yet. We’ve got a great team here. We just haven’t all put it together. I think the guys in here, nobody’s lost any faith in anybody. Again, we do know how good we are. We’re just waiting for us to all put it together. Baseball’s really kind of a funny game. You look at our team and last year, this team with less talent went to the World Series, and now we’re really an upgraded team and just haven’t caught stride.

But also, keep in mind, so that nobody’s discouraged, that this division is the toughest division in baseball. Now, certain people won’t get into that. I think every team in the Major Leagues is a quality team. You’ve got to have talent to be here, but I think that man for man and player for player, this is the toughest division. I don’t want to say it’s the most talented, but it is the toughest division. You’ve got really good ballclubs. And what makes a good ballclub is how guys fit together, how guys mesh and the chemistry. It’s not necessarily the talent on the team that wins. But this team right here, the reason we went as far as we did, we have talent, but we work well together and we have a manager who has a system that he put in play and we followed suit. And that’s what makes good clubs.

You look at the managers in this division: Eric Wedge, I know Eric Wedge, and Eric Wedge is a no-nonsense kind of guy. Ron Gardenhire, his track record speaks for itself. Ozzie’s had success over in Chicago. And Buddy Bell, I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. He’s earned the respect of his players, and I think that’s the biggest thing, how players play for their manager and how they play together. They all have to believe in something, so that’s why I want to reiterate the fact that everybody in here believes in each other and they believe in the system. That’s why we know we’re going to be fine. We just need to put some things together. We’ve had some dramatic wins and we’ve had some dramatic losses, and that’s just really kind of where we’re at right now.

The funny thing is I think even with losing a couple games here and winning a couple games there and just kind of floating around .500, we’re only a couple games out of first place. And everybody’s beating each other up. That’s not only just in this division. Really, it’s across the league. Eight days ago I looked in there, and every team in the league except for one team was within two games of .500 on one side or the other. So there’s nothing to be concerned about. I think there is concern.

I’ve read a couple blogs where there’s concern about players and why guys are starting slow, and that’s the toughest thing about the game. You go out and you’re successful and there’s the expectations in the following season and going out and repeating. I said this before, in Spring Training, that so many things have to happen in order for us to get back to where we were. Guys have to perform at the same level. You have to stay healthy, and you have to have those guys who come in and produce when the other guys are down that you weren’t expecting to produce. You’ve got a couple of classic examples, and we were talking about this the other day on the starting pitching staff. When Mike got hurt last year, Zach Miner came in here and won six straight games. It was huge. At the end of the year, he was 7-6. But at that point in the season, when he came in and did the things that he did, that was a heck of a rookie year for him. What he did was huge, and that’s the kind of stuff that has to happen.

You have to have guys perform at the same level. Kenny’s gone right now. We’re going to have to have guys step up. That’s the kind of team that we need to be. The Minnesota Twins have been doing that for years. The Minnesota Twins have guys go down and they have some player come up and fill a hole. You never heard of him and he’s great, he’s scrappy and he gets the job done. And that’s what it’s going to take for this team to be successful. When we do lose some of our key players, we’ve got to be ready to go. Our key players need to go out and do what they’re capable of doing. And we’re going to be fine.

I think for the most part, this team’s got everything in the world to be proud of, because where some guys aren’t necessarily performing to their level, other guys are picking them up. I mean, we’ve picked each other up pretty good so far. So that’s just shedding some light on where we’re at right now for anybody that’s reading in. We’re going to give the fans and everybody around the city plenty of dramatic comeback wins. We’ve done it already. And I know that this city is still every much alive. I had some kids Saturday yelling at me. We were down 11-3 in the ninth, and I’ve got some kids screaming at me because they’re telling me it’s gum time. Eight runs. I’m a big believer that anything can happen, but we’ll just keep gum time down for right now. But, you know, what’s awesome about that is people believe that we can do it, even at 11-3. They believe that we can put it together, and they’re all up there in the front row behind the dugout at yelling at me to get it going.

Back again

Last time we talked it was right when the season was about to start. I’ve seen a lot of responses now that the season has started, and more than anything, it’s good to see that everybody’s excited about another year. Coming back home and getting a chance to play at home to start the season was exciting, but it went by really quick with all the ceremonies, the banner raising, the ring ceremony. And then when that was all said and done, we were right back on the plane on a 10-day road trip. That was kind of taxing. It was taxing to the guys.

So far this season, we’ve had so many close games, I know that we’re giving everybody a thrill ride so far. And really, that kind of defines who we are as a team, obviously, with a couple of those comeback wins — where there was some gum involved, just so the faithful know that I have been responding. Because on the road games, they don’t see us in the dugout so much. The cameras on the road don’t scan the dugout like they do here at home, because the cameramen on the road don’t usually know what we’ve done with our little thing. But we had some big rallies and came up with some huge wins, obviously KC and having a late win in Baltimore, then in Toronto and against KC again. Three wins on the road like that is tremendous, especially late in the game off a guy like that who’s supposed to be nailing the game down. That’s what kind of team we are. Yeah, we’d obviously like to pull games away like Bondo’s games, the pitching job he’s done, and Verlander. You’re talking about guys going out there and giving outstanding starts. But it’s early on, and we’re in good position right now as a team. Our offense is going to start scoring a lot of runs. That’s just going to happen. But it’s good to get going again. It’s good to see that people are following along, especially here, and I do read all of them.

It would be nice to get back into a routine. We have a weekend series with the White Sox, with the Friday night game and two day games and then we’re flying back out. We’re going all the way out to the west coast for two games, and that’s just really confusing. I know that I have to go out and do my job on the mound and I’ll let other people do their jobs, too, but that one confuses me a little bit. And then we come right back to Chicago for two and come right back home. It’ll be good to get in a nice, long home stretch. A 10-game homestand would be nice.

But for the most part, everybody’s having a really good time. We miss Kenny, miss having him around. He keeps in touch, just for all those who wonder how he’s doing. He calls guys on the staff like myself and Bondo pretty much every other day just to see how everything’s going. He watches every game from home, follows the team, and he’s excited to get back with us. It’ll be good to have him around the clubhouse again. It was good to see Jamie Walker when we were in Baltimore and listen to his little antics. He’s the same guy. We had a chance to put it on him in Baltimore when he came into the game and he put it on us. I guess it was the best of both worlds. We ended up winning the game and he pitched well, so that’s good. I saw him outside the bus after my start, and I know that he misses being around this clubhouse, I can say that much.

And the beard I’m growing? Normally I grow at least one beard per offseason. I didn’t really grow one this offseason. I don’t really like to shave anyway. Some say I have sensitive skin, I don’t know, I don’t like to claim that. But I’m growing one right now and it’ll be gone here one day. I’ll just walk in and decide it’ll be completely gone. There might be some remnants of a handlebar mustache or something. It’s just a thing I’m doing right now, I guess. You look at yourself in the mirror every day and you get tired of looking at it, so you switch it up and make you less tired. I don’t get too many good reviews on it. For the most part, people say I look like a mountain man. I don’t know if those are positive remarks, but I wear it anyway.

Here we go

Finally, we wrapped up Spring Training. You want to say for the most part that everything went great. We had a good spring as a team. A large percentage came out of it healthy, and then of course at the very end here we had a couple setbacks. I think a lot of people would agree that all good teams, if you are a good team, go through difficult times like this and overcome them. Because regardless of what the results will be this year, if we overcome losing Kenny and even Vance, because of his important role on the squad and what he does for us, if we can get through the part of the season where we don’t have these guys and play it as good as we can, we’ve got enough talent that more guys can come in and step up and provide. We talked about that before the season began. You have to have everybody competing at the same level in order to get back to where we were. To have everbody compete at the same level they competed at last year, you have to stay healthy. Now, if you don’t stay healthy, then you have to have those guys that weren’t expected to come in and produce for you, they have to step in and produce. Those are the kind of factors that have to come together in order for you to be a successful team.

Anyway, reflecting on Spring Training, it was a good Spring Training. Obviously at the very end, that’s not exactly what you expect, but the great thing that we have is a manager who has been there before, understands to expect the unexpected. He always preaches about preparation. He’s prepared for things like this to happen, and if they do, he knows how to address us as a club, and he’s done that. Everybody’s mindset right now is pretty solid. It’s obviously tough for us to lose a leader like Kenny, but I think everybody’s pretty well grounded on this, and we’ll be just fine.

Other than that, we’re excited about a new year, new beginning. Excited about the ceremony on Wednesday. If there’s any way that Kenny can come out and be a part of that, that would be great. It’s time to get going, and everybody’s excited about it. For me, as the only one who lives here year round, it’s back home for me. I enjoy coming down for Spring Training, enjoy the weather, getting going again, but it’s good to be back home.

As far as interaction is concerned, I’ve had a couple people ask questions about a few things. I will follow up, and I do read the blogs. It’s just easier once the season starts.