All-Star press conference transcript

All-Star press conference transcript

MIKE GREENBERG: Welcome, everybody. My name is Mike Greenberg from ESPN and it's my privilege to welcome you all to Pittsburgh and the activities surrounding the 77th Annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game and all the events including the Home Run Derby tonight.

It is my privilege to introduce the honorary president of the National League, Bill Giles.

BILL GILES: The National League All-Star Game manager this year, played 18 years of professional baseball and was an All-Star in the Major Leagues three times. He's their manager for 14 seasons and needs just 12 more victories to reach the 900 mark as a manager. His Houston Astros last year were remarkable. They were 15 games below .500, went on to win the wild card, beat the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series and became National League champions by beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.

Houston became the first team ever in the history of baseball to get in the World Series from the State of Texas. So it's my privilege to introduce to you the 2006 National League All-Star manager, Phil Garner.

PHIL GARNER: Thanks, Bill. It's a pleasure to be here. Before I announce my -- am I supposed to do the lineup first? Katie's not here, all right. I'm going to do the lineup first and I'm going to give our starting pitcher.

Before I do that, I'd like to thank Katy Feeney with the National League who has spent countless hours in this process trying to help out. I had no idea how much was involved, and it's a tribute to her hard work that everything goes off quite smoothly. And with all of the things she had to do, she met us at the plane at 4:30 this morning to make sure we had all our keys and tickets to the All-Star Game. So my hat is off to Katy Feeney for an absolutely marvelous job.

Let me get going with our National League All-Star 2006 lineup. Leading off will be Alfonso Soriano. I can't read my own writing so I'm going to turn and look at that. (Laughter.) Carlos Beltran in centerfield. Albert Pujols playing first base from St. Louis. Jason Bay from Pittsburgh will be in right field batting fourth. Edgar Renteria, shortstop from Atlanta. David Wright, third base from New York hitting sixth; Chase Utley hitting seventh. Paul Lo Duca catcher from New York, and I'm proud to be able to announce our starting pitcher, Brad Penny from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

MIKE GREENBERG: Brad, if you would say a few words about being an All-Star starter.

BRAD PENNY: I'm looking forward to it, go out there, have a lot of fun and try to compete and win one for the National League this time I hope. It's really an honor and my teammates are the only reason I'm here this year, so go out and try to represent the organization well.

MIKE GREENBERG: Right now, bringing on the American League, it's my pleasure to introduce the honorary president of the American League, Jackie Autry.

JACKIE AUTRY: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm here to introduce Ozzie Guillen who signed his first pro career contract in 1980 with the San Diego Padres. He played 16 seasons with the Chicago White Sox from 1985 through 1997. In 1985, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year. During his player career he was also a three time All-Star. Amongst White Sox shortstops he ranks first all time with a .974 fielding percentage and is second behind Luis Aparicio in games played.

When his playing career ended, he went on to coach the Expos and Marlins.

On Nov. 3, 2003 he returned to the White Sox and was named the 37th manager in White Sox history. Since his return he holds a 182-142 record with the club.

In 2005 Ozzie guided the White Sox to a 99-63 record and won their first World Championship since 1917.

For his efforts, he was named American League Manager of the Year, and is the first Venezuelan to win the award and only the third Latin American to do so.

Putting the frosting on the cake, Ozzie became a United States citizen on Jan, 20, 2006.

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly introduce last year's Manager of the Year, Mr. Ozzie Guillen.

OZZIE GUILLEN: Good morning. It's a privilege to be in this event, it's a great competition, and I want to thank the American people and the PR department for helping me put this team together. I thought it was going to be easy; it's not. It was real tough for us, too. Trying to pick the best guys from the ballclubs to pick the game.

Our starting lineup tomorrow is going to be Ichiro is going to play right field. Derek Jeter is going to be the shortstop. David Ortiz is going to be my first base; Alex Rodriguez is going to be my third baseman; Vladimir Guerrero is going to be in left field; Ivan Rodriguez is going to be my catcher; Vernon Wells, the centerfielder; Mark Loretta, the second baseman and Kenny Rogers will be my starting pitcher.

MIKE GREENBERG: Kenny, if you would be good enough to share some thoughts on being the starting pitcher.

KENNY ROGERS: It's a great honor for me, especially at this stage of my career, to be able to start an All-Star Game. It's something I never envisioned but I'm really grateful. I have a great club that I'm with now with Detroit and great pitching staff. We could have had any one of our starters here also with me. But I'm blessed to go out and start an All-Star Game at this stage of my career.

Q. What does it mean for you to be the first Venezuelan manager to be managing this game?

OZZIE GUILLEN: Well, to me it's a privilege, it's an honor to be the first Venezuelan manager. But besides that, it's a lot of responsibility because I try to put my country in the biggest stage I can have, you know, I can put on.

Besides that, it's not easy because we have to win this game. That is real important because somebody in our clubhouse is going to be in the World Series. Hopefully what the people did for us last year, we can do for them this year.

Q. Congratulations on the honor. What does it mean to you as a Latin to have your first All-Star managerial assignment in a city that's made famous by the great Roberto Clemente?

OZZIE GUILLEN: I was here a couple weeks ago in Pittsburgh, and I think to me it was really exciting to be back here. This means a lot to us, to Latin American fans and people. Coming back to be the manager of this ballclub is something I will never forget.

Roberto Clemente is a guy, he's done a lot of great things, not just for baseball, but for the community. He did a lot of great things for people around him. He opened a lot of doors for us. He was fun to watch, but it was more fun to see his real life. I didn't know him personally, but I read a lot about him, and he's one of the people we have to admire most in the Latin American community.

Q. Could you talk about your decision to start Kenny maybe over someone like Roy Halladay?

OZZIE GUILLEN: Well, Kenny, one, he's got more rest. We went through for a couple of days, I have three or four -- when we start this thing, I have five guys starting yesterday. And Kenny, he deserves to be there. He's on a first place team and he's one of the guys that can give me more than one inning, and that's the reason why I did it. But mostly I think he's the best pitcher right now in the American League. That's why he's there.

Q. Both for Phil and Ozzie. Given that the winner of this game will have the home field advantage for the All-Star or for the World Series, how does that affect your managing philosophy, or will you treat it like another exhibition?

OZZIE GUILLEN: It's one thing about it, it's real important for us to do it, because we felt that last year. I told my players in the meeting, maybe there's a few guys that will be playing because I will try to play this game to win and do the best I can to win. Disappointed maybe about some people not playing. I'll take the heat or the blame, but it's my job to win the championship. I will do anything to win.

PHIL GARNER: Well, I would echo that. There are certainly things that you're going to have to do in an exhibition game. First and foremost, everybody is an All-Star that's here and everybody deserves a chance to play. You'd like to get everybody in the ballgame and if it were just an exhibition game, that's what you would do.

Obviously you run into a potential problem like you did in Milwaukee a few years back, prompting this format now. So we will have to hold a couple of pitchers back and we will have to hold a couple position players back, either to pinch hit or move around in positions, which made a choice like Freddy Sanchez fairly important because he can play different positions. We do want to win. Found out painfully last year that home field is an advantage in the World Series.

So even though it's determined on this one game, we're going to do everything we can to win.

Q. Since Manny Ramirez could not be here because of a sore right knee, what was your reaction when he played all 19 innings yesterday? (Laughter.)

OZZIE GUILLEN: I think he was 0 for 6. You know what, I respect his opinion, I respect the Boston Red Sox. I talked to Francona. It's different when you go to defend a ballclub and they are in a pennant race and Manny Ramirez is very important for that ballclub. Everybody has different opinions and you can say whatever you people want to. But I think we have to respect what Manny's decision was.

I talked to Tito and a couple of guys. He was limping around, but that's the way he's walking, that's the way he runs and I don't know whether it's true or not. I have a lot of respect. It gave me an opportunity to bring one of my Venezuelan members on the ballclub. I got a chance to bring Ordonez to be on the American League team and I think it's well deserved. Some people have to do stuff and we have to respect that. But I don't worry about the outfielders. I have plenty of those.

Q. Can you talk about what it means to be managing this game team in a city in which you won the World Series?

PHIL GARNER: Well, it is a little more special I guess than it could be. It's very exciting to be in the All-Star Game in the first place.

Coming back to the city where we won the World Series is I think special. We have great memories here. I still have great friends here, actually get together with our friends usually once a year at the end of our baseball season and we still vacation together. It's exciting to be able to come back.

And on just a personal note, to be able to have Chuck Tanner around, I'm grateful for the league allowing me to have Chuck Tanner. This was Chuck's finest hour as a manager and as far as I'm concerned I probably don't have a baseball career to this extent without Chuck Tanner. In a small way, hopefully this honors Chuck and what he's meant to baseball all over, all over, but particularly here in Pittsburgh. So it will be a lot of fun to see Chuck in that uniform.

Q. Obviously last year when you were here, there was a lot of controversy over you being here last year, and then in the off season, there was a question over how much interest there was when you pitched for somebody else, how different is it this year compared to last year?

KENNY ROGERS: Well, very difficult. I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard. I think I grew up through that a little bit and learned from it and tried to make myself a little bit better. This year I'm hoping for a little bit more enjoyable time. I don't think it will affect how I go out there and approach the game and who I'm facing. All those things in my whole life, every challenge that's come my way, I try to -- if I fail through it, I try to take advantage of anything I can learn from it and move on and make myself better. This is no exception. Same thing.

Q. For both managers, with the way the starting lineups are and kind of rosters in general, it seems that the American League has the more established stars and the National League, has the more up and coming guys. Do you think that typifies both leagues in general?

OZZIE GUILLEN: Well, you know, in my -- you look at the American League, I've got a couple of guys that are going to be in reserve that come up and I left a few people, a lot of people that should be here right now, they are pretty young players. I think we have a great talent coming up. You know, you're looking at the team, the Detroit Tigers, the Minnesota Twins, they have Johan, Liriano, we have a lot of people coming up and we'll be here pretty soon replacing those guys, there's no doubt. I think Rios got hurt. The American League is loaded right now with a lot of young talent. Those guys, you won't see those names in the next couple years, you'll see those kids coming up. It's exciting for baseball when somebody goes through and is done with his career, there's a lot of good talent coming up in our league.

PHIL GARNER: I would say, also, the same thing in the National League. It was remarkable this year that the fans and the players picked the same team to start. I think it's a tribute to fans paying close attention and being excited about a lot of new talent that's in the League. I think you're going to see some names there for a number of years in the All-Star Game. I think young players like David Wright are going to be around for a long time and it seems like Albert Pujols is around forever and I'm really tired of seeing him after the last four years. (Laughter.) But he definitely leads the way.

What's somewhat remarkable in this All-Star Game from the National League, there's some really big, big names missing that are truly All-Stars. I can start with Bonds, Griffey, Biggio, and I think that's not to deflect poorly on them, but to deflect on a greater side that these young players who are making a name for themselves. So I think it's exciting for baseball. There's no question we're embarking on a new era of great talent in our league and I think the American League, too.

Q. Just picking up on that, Brad, being this your first time as an All-Star and being selected as the starting pitcher, the intensity of the American League with the desire of winning so strong, talk a little about how pumped up you're going to be for this being your first time, getting the chance to start, taking these guys on.

BRAD PENNY: Like I said, it's exciting for me. It is a first and it's something I always wanted to experience. I'm there are a lot of guys who deserve to start in this game just like Ozzie said, but unfortunately they had to pitch the yesterday or the day before and are not as fresh. I'll just go out and make my pitches and do the best I can.

Q. Along the lines of the talent in the two leagues, when you were playing and the National League was in the great run of winning All-Star Games, and now it's swung the other way and with the domination in the Interleague Play this year, why has there been such a disparity between the two leagues?

PHIL GARNER: It has changed a little bit over the years. When I first came up playing and Pete Rose was involved in the All-Star Game, the first thing that you noticed was fierce determination to win the All-Star Game. Right when I was coming in at the tail end of that, guys played to win the All-Star Game; Pete Rose is going to run over somebody if he had to at the plate; guys are going to take people out on the double play. It was played like it was the last game of the World Series.

So I think I can honestly say there was a little more pride in playing the game. Then it kind of got to where it was just an exhibition game, guys just going out and strut their stuff. They looked at it as an exhibition game, take a couple at-bats, I'll show the fans what I can do, I'll throw an inning and show the fans what I can do.

So I think it drifted into that mode. I think at this moment now, I think the American League is taking it a little more seriously. I think talent is equal. There's no question there's great talent in the American League. If you take the very best player in the National League, might be Albert Pujols right now and the very best player in the American League, they are great players. They are going to be in the Hall of Fame whether it's Jeter or whether it's Ortiz, they are great players. American League has a lot of them right now.

I think that what's imperative for us is to get this thing back from just an exhibition game into the sense that this is the National League, we're tired of getting beat. We'd like to bring a victory back for us and take that home field advantage.

So to me, the task this year is let's get that sense of pride back in the National League.

Q. Phil, could you talk a little about putting the batting order together in general and then specifically about putting Jason Bay in the clean up spot?

PHIL GARNER: Well, obviously they are all All-Stars. One of the things I was looking at last night was matchups with our All-Star hitters against the American League's All-Star pitchers, and it was really quite remarkable.

Normally when you look at matchups when you're facing another team, the pitchers, you'll have some pitchers that guys just don't hit, even great players just don't hit some of them. But I was stunned when I just looked down at the matchups, guys were hitting .500 against All-Star pitchers, and .700 with 12 at-bats and this kind of stuff.

Then I looked at the American League side and I thought, my goodness, is it that tough on their side, the same thing on their side, the hitters had remarkable success against the National League pitchers. I guess All-Stars are All-Stars, no matter how you line them up.

So trying to do a lineup, I think it I could have done it any way. There were no bad choices to put guys in the lineup. Obviously the one that I knew about was Carlos Beltran when I put him in the 2 hole when I had him, that's when we began to take off. I'm hoping that putting him in the 2 hole is going to be a move that seems to help.

The one difference that seems to help with the lineup in an All-Star Game is it's going to change fairly soon during the game. You know, guys are not going to stay in and play for the whole game. I kinds of looked at it in the sense of how I might make moves in the latter part of the ballgame.

And Jason Bay, I think there's a little extra, probably a little extra incentive on his part. Just from playing us, every time there's somebody on base, the guy is an entirely different hitter. So I've watched him in that role now for several years, and I think putting him in the four-hole is a pretty good spot.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on your relievers?

OZZIE GUILLEN: Not yet. I need to sit down and talk to them and my pitching coach about how many innings, how long they can throw. I have a couple guys that started the game yesterday. I have a couple guys who pitched yesterday. We'll see how we're going to work with them. Right now, I'm anticipating my relievers, hopefully tomorrow and tonight, we'll have a good idea about how those guys are doing. Bobby Jenks; Contreras, he threw 100 something pitches yesterday and was signed of sore. That's why I have to wait today to see how my relievers are going to be.

Q. Just to follow up on that, 19 innings yesterday, how difficult did that make it on you, not only the White Sox and the Red Sox but also putting together your lineup?

OZZIE GUILLEN: Well, I was walking to the mound and asking the pitcher how we're doing, how we feel. The bad thing about this game was I had these guys in the All-Star Game pitching a lot of innings, Jenks and Jose Contreras, that's why right now we tried to figure out if some of those guys can go, can be replaced by Curt Schilling. But Curt also pitched seven innings yesterday and he got hit by a line drive. Right now we'll see what we're going to do. If they are ready to go, fine. If not, we'll find a way to bring somebody out.

Q. Can you talk about the Home Run Derby and Miguel Cabrera being on it?

OZZIE GUILLEN: Last year it was a big celebration for us in our country because Bobby Abreu put on a show back in Detroit. For us it was one of the nicest things that ever happened in our country, talking about baseball.

Q. Are you going to be there?

OZZIE GUILLEN: I might be there for a couple minutes. I have a couple plans to do and hopefully Miguel will win it. I've spent a lot of hours and it's one thing I don't have to be involved. We have a lot of things after the Home Run Derby, I have to do some TV thing and talk about a couple TV shots and also we have a little gala. I think my kids are going to see it. I might stay for a couple at-bats.

Q. In a closing situation, who will you pick?

OZZIE GUILLEN: Probably Rivera is going to watch Bobby Jenks and Bobby Jenks is going to be watching Rivera pitch. He's going to be a Hall of Famer and he's earned that spot and he's the best. He's the best in the business and you will see Mariano Rivera closing the game.

MIKE GREENBERG: Many thanks, everyone.