Gardenhire Press Conference p.3

Will Liriano pitch in the WBC?

In our last installment of Ron Gardenhire's Las Vegas press conference, Gardy talks about Liriano pitching in the WBC, if he can rely on Jose Mijares this season, what he thinks about Anthony Swarzak, and much more.

Question:How much can you count on Jose Mijares next year?

Gardenhire: He came up and took the ball in some big situations.

Question: Do you see him as a definite for the Major League team?

Gardenhire: You know, when he came up he did some pretty good things; we'll wait to see when we get to spring training and how he comes out of the winter. I would hope that we would be able to use him out of the bullpen.

From what we saw last year at the end, because we put him in some situations where he didn't back off an inch. He attacked, and I kind of like that kind of player.

Question: How much does he have to prove?

Gardenhire: He has to take the ball and throw the ball over. That's what he did last year, and if he goes into spring training and he works and doesn't let all of the, how good I did last year affect him, it's a new season, he'll be fine. He'll be just fine, because he showed no fear. I really like that about a pitcher. We put him in some big ones.

Question: He doesn't need any more AAA time?

Gardenhire: You know, he had command of three pitches. For a reliever like that, I'm not afraid to stick that kid out there throwing like he did then.

Question: Has the topic of Francisco Liriano playing in the World Baseball Classic come up?

Gardenhire: You know what? It's not something that I can control. If Liriano, if he's healthy -- you know what he's worked so stinking hard, I would never want to get in his way.

If he wants to pitch in his country and represent his country, I would never want to get in his way, because that man has worked so hard to get back. I think it would be another one of those notches in your belt saying, I did this, and I would never, ever, ever, go against him.

He's done his work now to get his arm healthy, and he's went through the rehab, went through the Minor League process. If they ask him to pitch and he wants to pitch for them, I'm proud for him.

Question: What's your level of optimism regarding attempts by Billy and Rob to find bullpen help?

Gardenhire: Well, they are working. I've been up there around him a little bit. I just got in and I've talked to him off and on during the winter and they are working. They are trying different angles, and all you can do is try. You can call people and talk to them, and we know what we will do and what we won't do, pretty much what we will give up and won't give up, and there's parameters and they are staying within them. But they are trying. That's all you can ask.

Question: Do you think going into spring training that there is a relief pitcher who will make a difference?

Gardenhire: I mean, we'll see. I think Boof wanted to be a starter but in the end he enjoyed taking the ball and blowing some people away. We told him, Just throw it and let it fly and just throw the ball. Power your fastball in and out and let it fly, and I think he enjoyed that part. So, you know what? Hopefully he'll accept that, because that's where he's at right now.

He's also that kind of ace in the hole because he started and he can go out there and start/stop for us, and he can do a lot of things. He's very valuable.

Question: If you had to sacrifice one of your starting five right now, in order to make a trade, would he be a logical guy to step in there?

Gardenhire: He would be a candidate. You're looking at depth and where you have it and where you don't and he would be a candidate.

Question: So it's not like he's gone over and he can't comeback?

Gardenhire: No, if we have any problems in spring training, he's been there before.

Question: Who are some of the other rotation candidates?

Gardenhire: Well, have to see. Let's get to spring training and see who is in the roster and see who is in camp with us before we start naming them all. We have young kids that are coming in, and there's going to be six-year free agents that we sign and some people out there.  We'll see who all the candidates are that we sign, and then we'll know a little bit more about who they are.

Question: Does it matter to you whether it's left-handed or right-handed if they can find a guy to help you?

Gardenhire: As long as they can get him out. We have some lefties and we have some righties. If it's a guy that can get him out of in the eighth inning, doesn't matter if he's a lefty are or righty.

Question: What is your impression of Anthony Swarzak?

Gardenhire: Made a lot of progress in the last year and a half. He really stepped up last year and really threw the ball. Kind of jumped to a little different level, so he's a guy that will give a really good chance, get a good look at him this year.

He's right on the edge now, fine line, of getting an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. He's not quite there yet, but I think he got himself above that this year. That's what I saw through our reports and everything else, so there's a lot of optimism.

Question: He struggled in New Britain, but did really well at Rochester.

Gardenhire: Sometimes players get stale at certain levels. You get motivated a little better when you step up to a new level. And I think that's what happened with Swarzak, so we'll see what happens.

Like I said, he proved himself at that AAA level when he was called up there. I think maybe I was a little stale at the other one and got the old fire burning.

Question:What's the plan going into spring training for Phil Humber?

Gardenhire: Same, long role, long relief, spot starter. He's going to be in that mix, too. Same situation. We know these guys are out of options. Going to have to make a lot of tough decisions.

Question:Not likely to challenge for the starting rotation in the spring?

Gardenhire: They are all going to get opportunities to start ballgames, because you never know what's going to happen throughout spring from injuries and everything. So we have to stretch people out all spring and make sure that if somebody were to break down midway through or the end of spring.

We have somebody stretched out ready to step in, so all of these guys are going to get opportunities to throw and stretch out and he's one of them. When you have a long guy, you need him to be stretched out to 50 to 70 pitches or more so. Yeah, he'll be one of those guys in that mix. 

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