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10/14/11 10:50 PM ET

Practice day interview with Jim Leyland

Q. Hey, Jim, with the off day today, do you think that really helps your club, or would you like to just play the next day based on how well you guys were hitting yesterday?

Jim Leyland: I'm glad we got an off day to give the wounded a better chance to heal up a little bit better and Benoit and Valverde a couple of days rest. Hopefully that works to our advantage.

Q. Hey, Jim, could you talk a little about Brandon Inge's value to the team and how he has weathered his --

Jim Leyland: He showed me a lot. To go down like he did, he has been a Tiger all his life. He wants to stay a Tiger. To go down and do what he's done is remarkable.

He's swinging the bat as well as he's swinging right now. If he's swinging the bat well, that's a good asset for us. We know what a great defensive third baseman he is.

Right now he'll be in the lineup tomorrow night. You have a left hand pitcher. He'll be in the lineup tomorrow night.

Q. You sent him down to Toledo, was it better than you expected?

Jim Leyland: I didn't know what to expect. I knew that was a real blow. He handled it so well, he did what you're supposed to do. When you go down there, you're supposed to go down and get your nose to the grindstone and work hard. That's what he did. He was rewarded for it and he deserves to be back and he's playing well.

Q. You talked a lot this week about even on nights when it didn't go your way. Was there a point in your career where it was easier to reflect on that even in the middle of the series?

Jim Leyland: I just think it's been a great series. I was talking about it doesn't get any easier. We're playing a great team. We think we're an outstanding team.

We're slugging it out. It never gets easy, but it always gets exciting. We're excited about going down to Texas. We got a shot. Their shot is better than ours. They're one up on us. We think we have a shot.

I could not be prouder of my team. I don't know that I've ever been prouder of a team than this one. The way they're playing hurt and playing so hard. They're playing their hearts out right now. Are they good enough, we'll find out in a few days.

Q. Speaking of those injuries, anybody in the lineup yesterday good to go for tomorrow as well?

Jim Leyland: I think so. Unless they trip on the plane or something I guess they'll be all right. Playing tomorrow, I haven't heard anything. I haven't gotten any negative feedback from our trainers. I assume all systems are a go.

Q. Can you talk about the series that Ryan Raburn has had? A lot of injuries. He's had a real big series for you guys.

Jim Leyland: He's done a tremendous job for us. He started off slow as he normally does. He's really picked us up, hit an opposite field home run yesterday. He's had another good year. He's a very underrated player. He can do many things.

Every once in a while he looks bad at the plate like everyone else. This is not an easy game to play. We're thrilled to have Ryan Raburn on our club. He's a very versatile player. Hits the ball out of the ballpark. He has an outstanding arm. He'll be in the lineup as well tomorrow night.

Q. Jim, what did Phil Coke show you yesterday in terms of being able to handle a really huge situation in the post season?

Jim Leyland: Well, Coke is always ready to go. He's a little hyper at times. You can't worry about him. He wants it so bad, he's like a bull in a China shop sometimes. You have to be careful of that. I thought he kept his composure pretty good yesterday. He was certainly pumped up afterwards.

I had said earlier in the series he could be a big guy for us in the series. He certainly was yesterday.

Q. Jim, you guys got to reevaluate how you're pitching Nelson Cruz?

Jim Leyland: I think that would be a good idea. If anybody on this call has any suggestions, I'll be willing to take it. He's a threat. His average hasn't been that good in the series, really, but he's a threat to hit the ball out of the ballpark at any time.

We have not done a very good job of pitching him. We've had him actually set up for some situations where we thought we could make the right pitch and get him out, but we really haven't done that.

To his credit, he's up there to hit the ball out of the ballpark. He's done it five or six times in the postseason, I believe.

Q. And two years in a row, Jim, can you remember a guy that's taken it to such a high level in the postseason like he has?

Jim Leyland: No, but I got guys doing pretty good too in Delmon Young. He's got a few home runs in the postseason as well.

So it's just exciting. That's what it is. It was obviously as exciting for the Ranger fans and Delmon has been exciting for the Tiger fans. These are the best players in the world. We're in the final four. You're seeing the best of the best. And that's what they do.

Q. Jim, you've seen Ogando six times this year. Three as a starter, three as a reliever. Is his stuff--

Jim Leyland: Do you have to remind me?

Q. Is his stuff the same as a relief or a starter. Is he different coming out of the bullpen?

Jim Leyland: Well, I think really all guys pace themselves a little different when they start than when they come in for two or three innings.

He's a power guy whether he starts or relieves. Certainly he's a real concern when he comes out of that bullpen, as well as he was when he was starting.

When he's starting, you figure if you can if your pitcher can hold Texas down for a few innings, maybe by the sixth or seventh inning you get him a little bit tired, you might be able to get him.

He's been fantastic, particularly against us. He's really a good looking pitcher. We've really been impressed with him. He's done a tremendous, tremendous job in the postseason.

I give Ron Washington, Mike Maddux, whoever's idea it was to put him in the bullpen, I thought that was brilliant. He's come up huge for him in several of these games.

Q. Jim, I'm wondering, Max Scherzer was talking last night about how he found his rhythm late in the season, he thought, and carried it into the postseason. What have you seen from Scherzer in the last week or so?

Jim Leyland: I would agree with that. I would tend to agree with that. Last year he found it right after the break pretty much. Second half he really started pitching the baseball. This year he was a little more inconsistent until late in the season.

All of sudden it looks like he has a good groove. He's pitching with confidence right now. I don't know if he's quite as good as the last half of last season, but he's pretty darn good right now.

Q. Have you guys had a chance to catch up and recap on a daily basis on all the days going, I know there's some overlap. Have you been able to catch up with Tony (LaRussa) a lot?

Jim Leyland: Yes, I watched the game last night. I got to see most of it. It was another good game. Wolf pitched good. Looked like he kept them off balance a little bit. Cardinals didn't pitch bad.

So it was a close game. It was a good ballgame. I've been watching. I talk to Tony on a daily basis. I spoke to him this morning already. It's nice because we'll be in Dallas tonight. We haven't left yet, but we're leaving later this afternoon.

I'll be in Dallas in time to watch that game tonight. It's nice on an off day you can sit around and watch your buddy in a big game as well. That's a great series. We have a great series going. That's what the final four is all about.

Q. Jim, I've got a question on the quality of baseball in this series. I know we're accustomed to very good baseball in the playoffs. It looks like you and the Rangers have crafted and may continue to craft here what could be a classic playoff series. Do you share that view in any respect?

Jim Leyland: I sure do. I hate to say this, because we lost the game. I was very sincere the other night when I said Game 4 I believe it was one of the best games I've ever been involved in.

We were making plays. They were making plays. They were making pitches. Cruz made the great throw. James sent the guy which he actually should have. He made the guy make the play because the catch was the second out and the guy made the play. Santiago, Peralta, Inge, Delmon Young, plays all over the field. This has been a great series. I just hope it doesn't get lost because of the fact that they extended a bigger lead with a couple of late home runs.

These games have been absolutely phenomenal. Major League Baseball at its best.

Q. Follow up: How did Delmon Young hitting home runs when he was that close to being lost for the whole series?

Jim Leyland: Well, obviously they thought that they were a little concerned about it when it first happened. Well, we got to make sure it's right if we can get by this series. The doctors kept working on him. The doctors were on the road with him. Our team doctors travel with us all the time. Working with him and working with him.

Met Delmon in Dallas the other night. He was feeling better. I really don't have a perfect answer for you. It's just that it was one of those things that fortunately didn't turn out to be as serious as we thought, and he is really producing right now.

Q. With the way Scherzer and Fister have been pitching and with your bullpen now with Valverde and Benoit rested, I imagine you like the way your pitching sets up to are this weekend?

Jim Leyland: I couldn't ask for anything more. We were absolutely against the wall as everybody knows down 3 1. And yes, Verlander, Scherzer and Fister, if that's not good enough, you take your hats off to the Texas Rangers.

This is not going to be easy, but at the same time I'm pretty proud of the way we have had our pitchers set up. I think it's been set up right the whole time.

Lost in this whole thing is how good Rick Porcello pitched the other night. Yeah, they're feeling good. Let's face it. They're up 3 2. They're going home to their crowd. They like their pitchers too.

But we feel confident that we have a shot. That's all you can ask for.

Q. Will Porcello be available in the bullpen tomorrow night?

Jim Leyland: Probably not, but he will be available in Game 7 if we take it to 7.

Practice day interview with Max Scherzer

Q. Max, I'm just wondering when you pitched in New York in that elimination game that closed out the Yankees, can nerves even be an issue in a game this big on Saturday?

Max Scherzer: No, when I pitched in that game, it was more just about the intensity of the moment. I really wasn't nervous about pitching in the game or being in the situation like that.

Nothing is going to change for Game 6. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and for me, it's the most exciting challenge I've ever had to face.

Q. Max, psychology is always an interesting aspect of the playoff series. Where do you think the Tigers' heads are right now going into Dallas here?

Max Scherzer: I think we feel good. The series is still alive. We're still playing baseball. I think we all believe in each other that if we can win Game 6 that anything can happen in Game 7.

We're pretty relaxed as a whole. We're not really fazed by any of the situations that's have been presented to us. We're approaching it one game at a time.

Q. If you can expand on that a little bit, what happens when you go into an opposing arena as it were here in the ballpark in Arlington and you have the crowd to contend with, you have the magic with the national stage? Is there any, way, shape or form that you would perceive that as more pressure on one team or another?

Max Scherzer: Not at all. It's an awesome atmosphere pitching there in Arlington. It's such an electric stadium. The fans are tremendous, and it just makes it so much exciting to play in this type of moment. I think we're all chomping at the bit to be able to play Game 6.

Q. Max, without giving too much away, do you think you'll end up approaching Nelson Cruz any differently in this game than you did in your prior start?

Max Scherzer: No, not really. I realize he's a good hitter and he's hot. Given that, you can't fear him. You have to go right after him. The moment you start fearing a hitter or fearing what he can do, you're losing the battle. I have to be aggressive right back towards him.

Even though he's hot, if the situation arises, you might have to be more careful. My game plan, I guarantee you, going forward will be to be aggressive with him.

Q. Max, second half last year you really came on and Leyland said one of the best pitchers in baseball, of course. You found something seemingly you talked about late in this season. What has happened late in seasons that you sort of discovered something about yourself?

Max Scherzer: I think it was just tweaking everything to get it just right, being able to pitch with all three pitches, slider, change, fastball. It really has allowed me to pitch both to right handers and left handers and have success against them.

I really felt like kind of late there in the season I kind of got a grasp of get some consistency from start to start with all three of my pitches. And regardless of the results, I always felt great about how I was pitching.

So it's just a matter of kind of putting it all together and being able to execute throughout the whole game. And I feel like at this point in time I'm ready to face that type of challenge.

Q. Max, with Alex Avila and knowing what he's going through with the knee, how much respect do you think the pitching staff has for him that he's back there working with you guys given all the physical stuff he's going through right now?

Max Scherzer: It wasn't me that gave him all the distractions. It was the constant grinding he went through this year of playing probably 130 games and how many days straight and all the heat he played through.

We realize he's battle tested, doesn't matter what the situation or what problems he has, he's always going to arise to the challenge and go out there and battle for us. That's so important as a pitching staff to have somebody back there kind of be the captain of the staff, to be able to direct everybody.

And for him to be able to step up and even in an injury like this, where he's going to gut it out no matter what, it's just kind of shows his type of character.

Q. Late in the season, how do you feel physically?

Max Scherzer: Physically I feel great. This is the strongest my arm has felt all year. I haven't decreased one bit. If anything, I'm getting stronger throughout the year. From a health standpoint, physical standpoint, this is as good as I felt the whole year.

Q. I want to ask you about Brandon Inge. How much was the fact the way he handled himself going down to Toledo and coming back and being so successful?

Max Scherzer: That's Brandon Inge. That's his character. You didn't expect much less from him because that's how he is in the clubhouse. He's one of our clubhouse leaders. This year he is struggling, and I think we all know that.

Everybody struggles at some point. We've all been there. For him to be able to bounce through it and just kind of put everything behind him and realize we have an opportunity here to do something special. He can be a big part of the reasons why we get there.

For him to be able to step up in this situation and come through for us in any situation we ask him is just a tribute to his character.

Q. Kind of a tale of rooting for the good guys to get some success?

Max Scherzer: He's one of our leaders. For him to have success in the postseason is a great feeling for him and a great feeling for our team.

Q. A lot has been made about Miguel Cabrera's bouncer off the bag yesterday. Looking back on this series, which has really been pretty extraordinary, do you see that they've gone both ways, there's been a case made that Detroit actually figures it probably had this thing won about four times already. How do you reflect here on the way the baseball gods have sort of looked at both teams here during the course of this again very special playoff?

Max Scherzer: When you're looking at a seven game series, each team is going to catch breaks. That's just the way baseball is. There's nothing you can really say about it. This game there's always something that's kind of a one in a million that happens every day.

So that's just the way it is sometimes. For us, yeah, we caught a break yesterday. But at the same time, you have to look at the talent. The talent at the end of the series is going to prevail and the better team is going to win. I don't think a team is going to win by just a break.

So given that, is it nice to get one, yeah, of course. But at the same time, at the end of the day, I think the better team will win.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.