Obviously I?m excited to get back to the playoffs myself, but it?s also exciting to see a lot of our young guys get to experience the game at this level. Guys like Huston Street and Nick Swisher, they?re in for a really cool ride. And the fact that we?ve also got great veterans like Frank Thomas and Jason Kendall and Mark Kotsay, it feels like we?ve got a lot of fuel behind this effort.
On a personal note, it?s good to be able to start Game 1. I?ve been to the playoffs four times, and I?ve never pitched that first game of a series. I?ve pitched Game 2 and Game 5, and I pitched Game 3 a couple times, but it?s all on me right now to set the tone for the series, and going up against Johan Santana, you couldn?t ask for a better matchup.
I only faced the Twins once this year, but I feel good about where I am. They?re at home and they?re gonna be comfortable, and the Metrodome is going to be unreal loud, but no matter where you are, if you make your pitches, you?re going to have success.
Their home-field advantage is the best in the game, no doubt about it. And it?s mainly because that dome keeps all the sound in, and it just pours over you from every direction. I pitched Game 3 there in the 2002 ALDS, and before that game I actually warmed up with earplugs in, and I threw my pre-game bullpen with earplugs in, too. I took them out at the last minute, though. It was just too weird to have my first earplug experience in a playoff game. But we won 4-3, so I?m looking forward to going back in there and being a little more comfortable with everything.
Facing a guy like Santana in the postseason is what it?s all about. He?s a Cy Young candidate this year, and when I pitched against them in 2002 I was a Cy Young guy, and if you?re a fan, you can?t ask for anything more than to see us go head-to-head in the playoffs. That?s why the playoffs are so great: You get the No. 1 guys matched back up with each other. During the course of the season, rotations get changed and you don?t see those guys face each other as much as you?d like, but the playoffs brings them back together, and that?s definitely cool.
Being one of the veterans with a few playoff experiences under my belt, I might call a meeting together before the game on Tuesday. Maybe I?ll talk to Big Frank about it first, because he?s the ultimate vet, but I think it?d be good for some guys to hear from us. You don?t want anybody to feel like they need to try to be over and above anything they were in the regular season. Just be what you are right now. The great players in the game are the ones who execute the fundamentals consistently, and if we execute fundamentals, we?ll be as good as we?ve been all year.
I think you?re always confident going into the playoffs. That?s another thing that?s great about it. There?s always this restored sense of optimism; kind of like going into the start of Spring Training every year. It doesn?t matter what?s gone on in the recent past. Anything that?s bad that happened during the season is behind you, and now it?s just going out and trying to win one game, one series.
I love what this team has become. We overcame a lot of injuries to win our division, and that in itself gives us a lot of confidence. We?ve got a great bullpen, great starting pitching, great defense, and our offense was great in the second half of the season, so we?re feeling pretty good about ourselves.
Any team that gets to this point is a great team, and we?re no exception. Now it?s time to show that on the big stage of October, and I get to kick it off for us, so I?m way psyched. This is gonna be a blast, and I hope the fans have as much fun as we plan to have.
I?ll check in again after Game 1.