Exclusive Ron Gardenhire Press Conference p.1

Is Punto Gardy's Guy?

LAS VEGAS-In our first of three installments of Manager Ron Gardenhire's press conference live from Vegas, Gardenhire goes into depth about the whole Delmon Young trade conversation, is Nick Punto is his guy for the shortstop position, as we bring you exclusive coverage of his 37-question conference. TCD is on the floor in Vegas getting you ready for Spring Training.

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Question: You were privy to all of the dialog; can you characterize your thoughts on if you can get something done here in Vegas?

Ron Gardenhire: You never know. There's a lot of conversation, there's a lot of people out there floating through the hallways and striking up conversations. I think it's been well documented the things that we are looking for, and whether somebody is wanting to come in and join us in those talks, that's where we are all at, waiting and seeing. But there's conversation going on, and right now, nothings happened.

Question:Obviously one of the needs would be a convincing shortstop, I guess ideally. Could there be a match with the Pirates and Jack Wilson?

Gardenhire: We have a shortstop in Nick Punto, who we are trying to sign, and whether we can get that done or not. That's kind of the first priority for us, see what our free agents are going to do.

Question: When you pursue Nick, are you telling him that he'll be the starter here?

Gardenhire: If we sign Nick Punto, he would be my starting shortstop, and I think that's what he's looking for. I like him and I think he's a gamer. He brings a lot to our baseball team; but whether we can do it or not, we'll have to wait and see. But I have a lot of respect for him and I think he does a good job. He can catch the ball, he can run the bases and all of those things that I like to see.

Question:So who are your three starting outfielders next year?

Gardenhire: That's what Spring Training is all about. We are fortunate to have five of them. I know I got it all stirred up a month ago in Fargo, and I was talking to farmers and I named three guys. And I said, if I had to do it right now, these guys would play and I didn't talk any farther than that.

Next thing you know, it's Delmon is out. I'm like, Delmon is not anywhere. We are pretty blessed to have four very good outfielders, Cuddyer, Span, Gomez and then Delmon. So that's a lot of talent, and then you have our DH, we are pretty blessed and pretty lucky.

You know what, if there's an area where we can move a person and somebody came after us strong with one of our outfielders and it happened to happen, that's an area where we have a little more depth than other places, and so if we can bring back somebody, we have to do it. There's nothing wrong with going into Spring Training with a little depth, and more than a little, we have a lot.

Question: Did you have to smooth is over with Delmon at all?

Gardenhire:No. You know what, I'm not going to say it's taken out of context, because I said what I said, but it was kind of left off there, you know what I mean. It wasn't a shot at anybody, I wouldn't do that.

I have a lot of respect for Delmon, because there is a guy that played the last two months with a bad ankle and came to the ballpark every day. He was part of our baseball team and he was one of the reasons why we got into one-game playoff. If Delmon would want me to call him, I would call him in a heartbeat and tell him, my bad. You shouldn't have to answer those questions and shouldn't have to deal with that. That was me screwing everything up more than anything else.

Question: Billy said maybe you were lighting a fire under him.

Gardenhire: I light a fire, all right. (Laughter.) It was a fire I lit. I don't try to light fires under players. Players they don't need fires under them. They are gamers. All my guys play. They didn't need me to light a fire it. Was just conversation and it was kind of winter conversation. We get to Spring Training, you know.

I was hunting and I saw my picture in the Aberdeen newspaper and I went, "Whoa, Chrysler." I had a gun with me, though. (Laughter.) Just kidding. That was a joke, okay. I don't want to start another fight.

Question: How close to Delmon is meeting your expectations and what did you want to see out of him last year?

Gardenhire: Like everything with every player, we want him to flow into our program and understand what we are all about, and he played. He's a little more stubborn than some of the guys.

You have to understand, Delmon is one of these kids that's come up and had -- he's been the best player from when he was probably this little all the way up. And the two people that have been probably the biggest people in his life, his father and his brother, pretty talented, pretty knowledgeable baseball people.

That's who he listened to, and our goal was to try to break into that and get him to understand what we are about, and that's all it's ever been. Delmon was not a problem, not an issue, and I would hate to think that somebody would think it was. Delmon was fine. Delmon and I got along fine all year. I would take him out of a game, he would say he wants to play and we never had an issue and he was ready when I wanted him off the bench. I liked the heck out of the young man. He was a very talented young player, along with all of our other outfielders.

Question: Can you make it work with four?

Gardenhire: Absolutely. The problem is when you don't have enough. When you have too many, you have good problems. If you have too many good players, that's not really problems. You might have some pretty miserable times as a manager because you're going to make some people mad when they are not playing that day, but you know what, it's never too big of a problem when you've got too much talent. We've got a lot of talent.

Question:Did you worry that your players will want that kind of a little more defined; do you think that could be a harmonious situation?

Gardenhire: Well, they have to earn it. In the course of spring training next year, they will decide who is going to be out there playing. Either they get it done or they don't. I don't have to decide stuff like that, unless they all hit .500 in spring training and that makes it a little more difficult. But they have to decide who is going to go out there and play.

Want to read the rest? Take advantage of our Winter Meetings 2-1 deal. In parts 2 and 3, Gardenhire talks about Jose Mijares, Anthony Swarzak, the shortstop situation, Phillip Humber, and so much more.

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