Results tagged ‘ Chone Figgins ’

Humbling year comes to a close

ARLINGTON – This is where the long season ends, today, much too soon for us. It’s been a trying year. I’ve been humbled, and we’ve been humbled as a team. Nobody saw this coming, and we’re not going to let it happen again. When we get together for Spring Training, I want us all to remember how bad this felt. That will make us that much hungrier.

Looking back, we got beat down, starting in Spring Training. There was a lot of turnover, a lot of change. Four core guys left: Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Darren Oliver. That’s a good piece of the club. And Gary Matthews Jr., too. He was an important role player for us.

It never really came together for us, other than that one stretch we put together in June where we played like us. The rest of the year, that wasn’t us at all. It was somebody else. We weren’t letting our talents flow. We were pressing, trying to do too much, trying to win games by ourselves.

When I signed here, I expected us to be dominant every year. We have to get that feeling back. One thing you can’t expect is injuries, and we had some big ones: Kendry Morales, Maicer Izturis, Jeff Mathis, Joel Pineiro, Jason Bulger. We lost key guys, and I think it kind of knocked us off balance because we didn’t have as much depth as in the past.

This is the first time in my career since 2000, when I was 24 years old, that I played on a team that didn’t have a winning record. With the Twins, we were always in contention. In 2005 I broke my ankle and we didn’t make the postseason, and we didn’t make it in 2007 even though we were fighting for it and got close. Then we made it my first two years here and were two wins away from the World Series last season.

This is a humbling season for me. Sometimes you have to be humbled. You get spoiled sometimes with winning. I have been slapped in the face and the team’s been slapped in the face. I’ve been winning my whole career, and I’m not used to this feeling.

Things don’t always work out the way you plan. I had sports hernia surgery on Nov. 27, and it took me time to get to where I could do my rehab. When I got to Spring Training, it was like I had to learn to run the bases with it again. I had a lot of catching up to do, and the truth is, I didn’t feel the same, like myself, until recently, in August and September.

It all went back to May of 2009 at Dodger Stadium when I crashed into the wall making a catch on Matt Kemp. Then I hit the wall hard in San Francisco a few weeks later, and my groin got really bad. I always try to play through injuries – that’s just who I am – but this was bad. I had to sit a long time, and when I came back I wasn’t right but I gave it my best shot.

Playing center field requires a lot of running, and it seems like I was doing even more than normal this season. My old explosion wasn’t there. I didn’t feel like myself going after balls. I could still make plays, but it wasn’t me. That was something that really hurt me. I always told myself I would retire if I couldn’t play center field, but life is about revising things. It’s like when I said I wasn’t going to get married until I was 25, and I got married when I was 21. Life happens, as they say.

Anyway, I always thought I loved center field more than the game itself. When the decision was made to move me to right field and play Peter Bourjos in center, I found out I loved the game more than center field. That was big. It was hard for me to give up center field, but I knew I had to do it. It improved our defense. Peter is showing what he can do out there. He’s not a finished product, and that’s what’s scary – seeing how good he is already and knowing that he can get so much better.

When Pete got here, I liked that he asked me questions. That let me know he really wanted it. He’s into the game and understands the game offensively and defensively. I wouldn’t put too much on him too soon – let him play and learn and grow. This is just the beginning for him, and I know what that’s like. When I started out in Minnesota, I had guys like Kirby Puckett and Shane Mack to show me things. Now I can do that with Peter, like I did with Denard Span while I was still with the Twins. Now he’s playing some good center field.

It’s funny, it wasn’t until the end of August, the beginning of September, that my legs started feeling a lot better. I felt like I had some burst again, and I was getting down the line better. I think that moving to right actually did help me save wear on my legs. In the long run, that can be a really good thing. Next Spring Training, I’m going to be primed.

We learned a lot this season through the humbling we took. Now we have to turn it back around and be the Angels. That’s all. Just be the Angels, who we are. That will be enough. I’m excited about coming back and getting back to the top, where we belong.

You can catch me on MLB Network with some commentary during the postseason, and I’ll try to be enthusiastic and upbeat. But you know me: I’d rather be on that field, helping drive the Angels toward our ultimate goal. Wait’ll next year.

Angels: Built to win

ANAHEIM – It’s great to be back in our park, back home. We got everything accomplished we needed to do in Arizona, and now it’s time to get ready for the real thing. We’re looking forward to seeing the Twins on Monday, so we can get this show started.

I know there’s been a lot of attention focused on the guys we lost this winter – Chone Figgins, John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver, Gary Matthews Jr. But that’s the way the game is. Guys move on, and you adapt. We’ve made some great additions, and I’m really excited with the team we’ve put together here.

Of course, it hurts losing teammates who were friends. A guy like Figgy, he was a respected man in the clubhouse, a leadoff guy who scored more than 100 runs and saved a lot of runs with his glove. He played the game right. But he got a great deal in Seattle, just like I got a great deal here. I’m happy for Figgy, but he’s on the other side now, and we’ll compete against each other with everything we’ve got.

I’ve got a ton of confidence in Erick Aybar taking over as the leadoff man. He’s a young guy with tremendous talent coming off a big year. And he can fly. He’s going to be fun to watch on the bases. With another year of experience with his mentor, Bobby Abreu, Aybar should be even better.

Bobby’s one of the best leaders in the game, and I’m so happy he’s back. You could see his influence last year in how much Aybar and Kendry Morales and so many other guys improved during the season. Bobby even helped out veterans like Figgy and me in a big way by showing us how to be more disciplined and selective at the plate. Everyone learned from watching Bobby and listening to him.

Lackey was a bulldog, one of the reasons I wanted to come here, but he got a great deal in Boston. We signed Joel Pineiro to replace Lackey in the rotation, and I’m impressed with Pineiro. You’ve got to like a guy who throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He should get real deep in games with our defense behind him.

With Pineiro, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir, we’ve got five solid starters, five guys who will give us a chance to win every night. We’re built to win with that rotation and with a deep bullpen. We’ve got some big arms out there, and this is Brian Fuentes’ second year in the American League. That always helps, getting that first year to figure things out.
 
Hideki Matsui is the guy I call the Quiet Assassin. He’s as clutch as they come, in a quiet way. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Hideki does in our lineup. He’s a pro, like Bobby, and you can never have enough of those guys.

Morales was born to hit. I call him Captain Caveman and Bam-Bam. He’s solid, strong and he always wants to use that stick and hit. And he’s good down at first with the glove.

Hitting behind Aybar and Bobby, and in front of Hideki, Morales, Juan Rivera, Howard Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, Maicer Izturis. That’s a lot of talent, a load of weapons.

Brandon Wood, his thing is to play defense and do his part. Let us have the pressure. That’s why they’re paying us. We just want him to relax and play. He’s got it in him to hit at least 20 homers, with 70-plus RBIs. If he does that, he helps the team tremendously. The way he’s played third base, he’s been impressive.

Everybody knows what Izturis can do – pretty much whatever you need. He’s versatile and clutch, the kind of guy every winning team needs. Kendrick is going to do some really big damage this year. He’s my pick to click. I definitely feel he’s one day going to win that batting title, if he can just stay healthy.

With the kind of talent we have in front of me and behind me, I should be in a good position to drive in runs and score a lot of runs. All I have to do is stay on the field.

I was on my way to my best season ever when I messed up my groin crashing into walls last year. I really feel good now – once I broke the scar tissue sliding this spring, I was good to go. I don’t even think about the sports hernia surgery I had last winter anymore. I’m ready to get after it.

I think we’re built to win the division. There’s a reason why the Angels have won the AL West three years in a row and five of the past six. These guys know how to compete, how to win. I thought we had a great year last season, considering everything we went through losing Nick Adenhart. We’ll never forget Nick, what he meant to us.

This team has a lot of heart. Our mission this season is to take it all the way. We can’t wait to get started.

 

Abreu, another Gold Glove and charity golf

I just got into Arizona to host a charity golf event, and I figured it was a good time to catch up.

First off, I want to say I’m really happy we signed my buddy Bobby Abreu to come back and play for the Angels. I’ll get to pick his brain some more now. Bobby’s so smart, and so valuable. He can hit in a lot of places in the lineup, and he’s a great leader, sharing all his knowledge and wisdom. He also cracks everybody up with his sense of humor, and you need that over a long season.

I spoke with Chone Figgins a few days ago, but we didn’t talk about his free agency situation. I know he’ll do what’s right for him and his family. Chone’s a smart guy. I was eating some red beans and rice, and he said he was hungry. That guy loves his red beans and rice.

I got word today that I won my ninth straight Rawlings Gold Glove, and that’s always a thrill. What makes it so meaningful is that it’s voted on by the managers and coaches, the men who know what’s really going on out there. Much respect from them is important to me, because they recognize all the things that go into being a good defensive player, like hitting the cutoff man, throwing to the right base, backing up guys along with making all the routine plays – and some spectacular ones.

I was disappointed my teammates, Figgy and Erick Aybar, didn’t win their first Gold Gloves. Both those guys were deserving. They worked so hard and had tremendous seasons, defensively and offensively. Those are two of the premier athletes in the game, with great speed and quickness and strong arms. Their time will come.

I thought I was having my best season when I injured my groin running into walls first at Dodger Stadium and then in San Francisco. Missing all those games, 32, that really hurt. When I came back, my groin was sore for another month or so, but I’m not second-guessing what I did. I play the game all out. You can’t worry about getting hurt.

I’m really looking forward to staying healthy next season and putting up some good numbers and helping us to get to our ultimate goal this time, the World Series. We were so close . . . but the Yankees beat us fair and square in the ALCS, and they showed how good they were winning the World Series.  

I like to relax as much as I can after a long season, but there are things to take care of, too. The Torii Hunter Celebrity Golf Classic I’m hosting will benefit schools and kids in need the next two days at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino.

Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks and his brother, B.J., of the Rays also are here helping out, and we’ve got a lot of big names showing up. Benefits will go to The Torii Hunter Project, The Heart of a Champion Foundation, Teleos Preparatory Academy in Phoenix and Sacaton Middle School on the Gila River Indian Reservation.

Tonight we have a gourmet dinner and a performance by Brian McKnight, a great recording artist. On Wednesday, we’ll have an exclusive pre-round golf clinic hosted by former PGA Tour professionals and golf TV analysts Gary McCord and David Feherty. Golfers, sponsors and some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment will then hit the course for a round of golf at The Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass.

Tonight’s emcee is Harold Reynolds, the former second baseman now doing TV commentary. We’re looking forward to having some of my teammates – Joe Saunders, Howard Kendrick, Jason Bulger, Mike Napoli and Scott Kazmir – along with my old buddy David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Darryl Strawberry, Nick Swisher, Derrek Lee, Tony Clark, Eddie Murray, Chris Young, Don Baylor, Kenny Lofton, Mark Grace and many others.

If you want to know more about the Torii Hunter Celebrity Golf Classic or to purchase tickets, call (480) 245-7177 or visit www.toriihunter.com.

I hope all my fans and fans everywhere have a great offseason. I’ll stay in touch now and then. Take good care of yourselves and your families.

 

Back to the Bronx for more thrills

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We earned ourselves another trip to the big city, to New York. It wasn’t easy, but we made it happen. I’m so proud of this team, the way it keeps coming back.

The Angels are for real. I don’t think anybody can doubt that now.

Man, I was going crazy out there in the seventh inning. They scored six runs to take the lead, and we came right back to get three and then held on. Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy, right?

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That ninth inning got to me. My knee started hurting me. That hasn’t happened all year. I guess it was the intensity of the moment. My heart was beating fast. It was very exciting — especially when Erick Aybar got under that last popup by Nick Swisher on the 3-2 pitch by Brian Fuentes and it was finally over.

We came out and played our game. We were aggressive right from the start. I’m not giving away any strategies, but A.J. Burnett, last time we faced him in New York, got ahead of us pounding the strike zone. We came out taking some good swings after Chone Figgins worked a walk to get us started.

Bobby Abreu stroked that double to center, which put two guys in scoring position. I got something I liked and drove it past Derek Jeter for two runs. That’s a good feeling, us getting off to a good start like that. Then Vladimir Guerrero and Kendry Morales came through with hits, and we’re up 4-0. I’m sure John Lackey liked that.

But we knew four runs weren’t safe, not against that team. Lackey pitched great, man. I had a good view of that 3-2 pitch to Jorge Posada that was called a ball. It was a good pitch, man. People are asking about Lackey reacting the way he did, but if you don’t react on a call like that, you shouldn’t be here. It’s a natural reaction, nothing bad or hostile about it. He thought he threw a strike and didn’t get the call, and it was big. I don’t blame John for reacting like he did. Any competitor would have done that.

That was a fight, a battle to the finish. Those guys never give up, and neither do we. That’s why this is such a great matchup. There’s a lot of mutual respect here, I think.

We know they’ve got Mariano Rivera in the bullpen, so it’s important to get early leads and hold onto them. That’s what we need to do against Andy Pettitte in Game 6 on Saturday. We’re looking for another good effort by Joe Saunders, who really pitched well in Game 2 against Burnett in New York.

Joe is cool, and he likes the weather cold, being from Virginia. I’m pretty sure he’ll get that kind of weather again. I don’t think it’ll be in the 70s, like it is in Southern California this time of year. But let’s not get started about the weather again. The cold didn’t beat us those first two games. We didn’t make plays we usually make. We didn’t play like the Angels.

Tonight, when we had to — we were the Angels, the team we’ve been all year. We’ve been on a mission to win this for Nick Adenhart’s family, and that mission continues.

We got what we were after, a return trip to New York. Now we plan to make the best of it and force a Game 7. But it’s one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time.

I’ve got a headache right now. This excitement is getting to me. I can use a day to relax and get ready for another battle in the Bronx.

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Looking for some love from our fans

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We played a good game; a great game, really, in many ways — an awesome game. It’s deflating, sure, but we battled and battled and battled, and it just didn’t happen for us. They took advantage of a mistake, and we didn’t take advantage of enough scoring chances.

Now we have to go home to L.A. and play a little better. It’s not over by a long shot. We’re not playing up to our capabilities. We need to do a little better, come through a little more.

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We had the lead when Chone Figgins got that big hit in the 11th, but Alex Rodriguez is a great hitter, and he saved them when he went deep. That’s what he does. He’s definitely one of the best hitters in baseball, and you know you have to pitch him tough.

Man, these games have been hard on the nerves. If I let my hair grow out, I’d have gray everywhere.

It’s loud and crazy here, people screaming for their team. And the Yankees respond to that. They got a lot of energy from their crowd in these two games, and now it’s our turn to go home and get that energy from our fans.

We need to get busy and take it one pitch at a time, one inning at a time. There’s a lot of baseball left to play, and we’re going to show we’re better than we’ve played in these first two games.

I’ve got a feeling we’re going to go home and it’s going to be a whole different scene in our place, with our fans, the Rally Monkey, all that Southern California energy working for us.

We’re all a little drained and frustrated now, but we’ll be ready on Monday. We’ll just check ourselves going home and take care of business. Nobody’s going to use the cold weather or the conditions for an excuse. We battled, they battled, and they took two games.

That’s done. Time to move on and make good things happen in our house. Gotta get going now. We’re out of here. See you all in Angel Stadium, and get ready to rock.

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Too much CC, simple as that

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We had a bad night. Some crazy things happened, and CC Sabathia was on his game, and we got our butts beat. That’s all there is to it.

I don’t want to hear about the cold weather. That had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t that cold. When you get that adrenaline flowing, the cold weather is not a factor. In April, it’s a different kind of cold. This is the playoffs. I don’t believe in cold weather in the playoffs. This was fun.

We made some plays that were out of character. We play the game right. That’s not us, but it happens in this game.

We had a miscommunication on the popup that fell at the feet of two great defensive players, Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins. I had a ball hit something and jump me when I was charging Derek Jeter’s single in the sixth inning. Things happen, you go home, think about what you need to do, and come back with a good attitude.

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What we need to do now is get Game 2 and go home 1-1. That’s what our mind-set is now. There’s nothing we can do about this one. It’s over. I’ve always said you’ve got to have amnesia in this game. I’ve been saying that my whole career. Let it go, move on, make adjustments and get after it next game.

CC was good, man. That’s why he makes all that money. He’s one of the best in the game, and he was dealing tonight. He was ahead of everybody. He had his offspeed working, his fastball working, everything.

We got four hits in eight innings, so that’s pretty much the story there. He was coming after us and throwing strikes.

I tried to put a bunt down in the sixth to get something started, and CC showed his athletic ability, his basketball skills, to make the play he did. As for whether I was safe or out, it doesn’t matter what I saw. The umpire called me out, so I’m out. I can sit here and cry all I want, and I’m still out.

The Yankees played good, aggressive baseball. I’ve been saying that all season. They go first to third, make things happen. They’re not just all about power. They play the game hard, and they play it right. They’re a good team, but so are we.

This is a seven-game series. This is just one game. I think we’re going to come back. Get Game 2, and everything changes.

Our manager, Mike Scioscia, is so positive. He knows it was out of character, the way we played tonight. He talked to guys, told us we’ll come back. That’s what I like about him. I love him, actually.

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Even wet, just happy to be here

We’re just happy to be here in the Big Apple, rain or shine. It’s been coming down all day, and a little chill in the air. Hopefully, we’ll get enough decent weather to play some baseball and get back home in good shape.

Facing the Yankees, the favorites, is kind of like facing the Red Sox. People said we weren’t supposed to win that series, but we had other ideas.

We were happy to play the Red Sox. We never said one word that we didn’t want to play the Red Sox. That all came from the media. We wanted to play anybody. We’re just happy to still be playing with a shot at the ring.

When I was younger and with the Twins, it was awesome going out and playing center field at Yankee Stadium in the postseason. They beat us in 2003 and 2004, but we were all minimum wage guys.

This team is a little different. We’ve got an owner, Arte Moreno, who wants to win as much as we do. When we went out and got Mark Teixeira last year at the Trade Deadline, I screamed, I was so happy.

Teixeira is the enemy, of course, but he’s a good dude. I really liked him when we were teammates, and I think he helped guys with his approach. Bobby Abreu has been doing that for us this year, helping not just the young guys but everybody. He has great at-bats. You don’t want to go up and swing at the first pitch after he’s had a seven-pitch at-bat. It trickles down, the domino effect.

We have a lot of leaders on this team, veterans who have been around, guys like Chone Figgins, Vladdy “Mula” Guerrero, John Lackey, Brian Fuentes. And Bobby is one of them. He’s a great leader.

People think he’s quiet, but Bobby’s not as mellow as you think. He is funny. He has everybody cracking up in the clubhouse. He’s so much fun off the field, but when he steps between those lines, he’s focused, man.

As for the Yankees, what can you say that hasn’t already been said? They always have one of the best lineups. It’s nothing different than in the past. You look at my old buddy CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Tex . . . so many great players. Those guys are impressive over there. I like them as a team. They play the game right, the way we do.

As for the Angels beating the Yankees in the playoffs twice before, in 2002 and 2005, I wasn’t here, so I don’t have a lot to offer about that. We played them even this year, five wins apiece. There was a lot of scoring, a lot of yelling, and some quiet times. Yankee Stadium, old or new, it’s always exciting to play here.

As a kid, you grow up watching games at Yankee Stadium, and how here you are, in the postseason. The regular season doesn’t matter now. It’s all about what you do now.

I’m sure I’ll be as excited as ever running out to center field in Game 1, all that adrenaline pumping. It’s a dream come true, playing on this field, in the ALCS, with a chance to beat the Yankees. I think we can do. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and we can go out and see what happens.

How sweet it is!

I’ve never been a part of a game that felt any better than this. The way we came back, the way we just refused to go down, it was just amazing to be in the middle of something like that.

I can’t tell you how good I feel for Vladimir Guerrero. This has been a very rough season for him, with all the injuries he’s had to overcome. To see him deliver like he did, driving that game-winning hit against Jonathan Papelbon, was unbelievable.

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This guy Vladdy is a Hall of Famer in my book. He’s an all-time great hitter, and a great teammate. I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone was so thrilled to see him get that big, big hit. Because he’s been so great for so long, and people were starting to doubt him. Who’s doubting Vladdy now? Who’s saying he can’t hit a good fastball?

There were so many big moments. Erick Aybar got it started with his two-out hit, then Chone Figgins worked a huge walk against Papelbon. Bobby Abreu comes up, and he’s a guy you want hitting in that situation, cool as can be. He drives one off the monster, and now we’re only one run down.

I was ready to hit, looking forward to it, but they walked me intentionally. Was I surprised? I can’t really say. Their manager, Terry Francona, knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy.

So is my man, Mike Scioscia – manager of the year! No doubt.

I’m happy they did walk me now, because of the way it turned out, but I really wanted to hit in that situation. It’s what you live for as an athlete, and that’s why we’re all so happy for Vlad.

The big man came through in a big way. Hits don’t get any bigger than that one. He’s not a guy who shows much emotion, but he was smiling over there at first base like you rarely see him. I was pointing over to him from second base, and I could just feel his joy. It was one of those magical moments.

This team has so much character, I can’t say enough about the heart of these guys. We have been playing for Nick Adenhart all season, and I know he’s proud of us now. Nick loved the game, everything about it, and this was as good as it gets, beating the Red Sox in Boston. I’ve got a lot of respect for that team over there, how good those guys are. That’s what makes this so gratifying.

No more talk about curses!

We beat the Red Sox in their house!

As for Nick, I like what our hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher, said. If Nick’s up there writing the script, it’s a masterpiece.

We’re going to celebrate this, but we know we’ve still got work to do. We don’t want this to end. 

The Twins, my old team, are still alive. I’m not going to lie. I’m pulling for those guys against the Yankees. Hey, I raised some of those guys on the Twins team. How could I not be pulling for them?

Whoever we play, we’re going to be ready. We’ve got everything we need on this team, young guys with energy, smart veterans, pitching, hitting, defense, speed. And athletes. Man, we’ve got some athletes. We just have to go out and keep doing what we do.

We got the first three wins. Now we need four more to get to where we want to be, the Fall Classic.

Enjoy the ride, everybody. I guarantee you we are. I just need to find some goggles that keep the champagne out of my eyes.

A night to dream about

I couldn’t sleep the night before the series started. You just want the game to be here. Then it’s finally here, and you go out and play, get a big win, and it’s just an incredible feeling.

What you do after a game like this is you go home, dream about it, get up tomorrow, and come back and do it again.

Sure, it’s a big win, and my home run felt great. But it’s just one game, and we know how good these Red Sox are. Nobody has to tell us.

The first thing I want to mention is the crowd. Man, it was loud. I’ve never heard Angel Stadium get that loud. That was exciting.

It was a great duel starting out between two of the best, John Lackey and Jon Lester. Lackey was Lackey. He came through big with his A game when we needed it. And Lester, man, he’s tough — one of the best lefties in the game. He throws hard, and he brings that slider down at your feet.

In my second at-bat, when I walked, he actually hit me on the back foot with a pitch. I looked back at the umpire, Joe West, but he didn’t see it. So I stayed up there. Right now, my big toenail is sore.

When I came up in the fifth, we had runners on first and third. It was a good hitting situation. Erick Aybar doubled, and Chone Figgins bunted him to third. Then Bobby Abreu walked. Four walks in one game – can you believe that? That man is too much.

I took a pitch from Lester and then he threw a two-seam fastball. Bobby was running, and I saw him going. I hit a mistake, I guess. I usually pop it up. Truth is, I didn’t know where the ball was. I closed my eyes and swung.

Running the bases, the crowd going crazy, the adrenaline was pumping so hard, it was unbelievable. I wish everyone could know what that feels like. It’s hard to describe. Just an unbelievable experience. I was running the bases and talking to myself, kind of like when I played football in high school. `Do what you do,’ that kind of thing.

When I got in the dugout, I was so excited I spiked my helmet. It was just one of those moments, a tremendous release.

This is special. I rank it way up there. But it’s just the start.

We played the way I know we can play in this first game. Now we have to keep it going. I try to lead by example. I don’t know if I’m going to hit a home run – you can’t just tell yourself to do it. You just react and play the game, have faith and confidence that you’re going to get it done.

What I like about our team is that the guys brought the dog with them. You can’t be scared, or you’re never going to make it happen.

We have to keep believing in ourselves and keep playing the game with passion and playing smart. If we do that, I like our chances.

 

This is what we play for — a shot at the ring

This is my sixth postseason, and it’s a whole new season. It doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season. It’s all about who wants it more. You see guys who hit 30, 40 homers, drive in 100 runs, and they don’t do a thing in postseason. You’ve got pitchers who dominate in the regular season and don’t win in the postseason. It’s the same game, but different. 

I think guys here learned from last year, losing in four games to Boston. I’m not saying any names, but I can hear it in their voices, see it in their eyes. It’s totally different. The younger guys have that bulldog in them now. It’s what I was waiting to see, and I’m seeing it now.

I love this time of year. It takes me back to high school football in Pine Bluff, Ark., when I just wanted to go out and hit guys. I still want to hit — just a different kind of hitting.

Even though it’s the same game, the adrenaline and hype of it take you up to another level. You’ve got to block it out, go out and have fun. I don’t think anything needs to be said. We finished off on a good note, winning seven of the last eight, and we’re carrying that momentum into the postseason.

One thing about the playoffs – you don’t need any coffee. You don’t want to get too boosted up. I hurt my knee jumping up and down on a play last year against the Red Sox where I thought I was safe – and I wasn’t. The adrenaline was going crazy on me. I’m drinking straight water. Pure adrenaline is going to take over for you.

My whole focus is on the Red Sox, of course, but I’ve got to say, that Twins-Tigers playoff game was awesome. I watched it at home, and I caught myself every once in a while cheering for the guys I used to play with in Minnesota. They battled through it and got it done, and to do it without Justin Morneau, one of the best pure hitters in the game, and Joe Crede, that was impressive. But I know those guys, how much heart they have, how they battle.

Now they go on to New York. In 2003 and 2004, the Yankees put it on us. Hopefully, they can get it done. I texted most of the guys after it was over and told them how happy I was for them. It was a roller-coaster ride, and I was really excited for Alexi Casilla, getting the big hit, and of course for Joe Mauer and the rest of the guys.

Now they just go on straight adrenaline. The Twins probably have momentum, coming off a playoff game, a great win, but that’s a good team they’re playing.

The Twins are probably the closest team to us in their style. They’ve got a batting champion in Mauer, and they always play hard. I think we might have a couple more athletes. Put us on a football field, and we’d win. We have some old quarterbacks on this team – John Lackey, Jeff Mathis, Scott Kazmir, myself. Mathis would be our QB. He was a division I recruit, by Florida State.

I’ve got a lot of confidence in Lackey in Game 1.  John’s a bulldog who wants the ball every fifth day. He’s not afraid to throw strikes. The passion he has on the mound, when he comes into the dugout, either he’s upset or excited. I always like our chances when he’s out there.

As for our offense, you can’t say enough about what Bobby Abreu has brought to this team. Bobby’s whole thing is swing at strikes – whether it’s the first pitch or the last pitch you see. It’s simple, but it’s hard, especially for young guys and a hitter like Vladimir Guerrero, who’s always been so aggressive. Vladdy’s Vladdy. He’s been playing and doing it his way for a long time. And he’s a Hall of Famer.

Bobby definitely had a positive impact on me. I’ve been playing for years, but I’m getting better. Besides his approach on the field, another thing Bobby brings is the way he prepares himself. He gets here early, does his running, lifts his weights. Guys see that, and they want to be like Bobby. They know he’s always on the field.

The way Bobby carries himself, that’s another thing he brings to the clubhouse. He’s always relaxed, always singing. He’s a bad singer, but that’s OK. He’s suave. One of a kind.

I really like the way we set up with Chone Figgins and Bobby up top, then the rest of us. Those two guys know how to get on base and run the bases. Guys like Vlad, Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales, we’ve got some bangers in the middle. We have a lot of weapons.

I think we’re ready. Now it’s time to go out and get it done.

 

 

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