Wednesday, November 21, 2007

joe somebody

Joe DePastino was recently named the new Manager for the Midwest League Champion West Michigan Whitecaps, replacing Tom Brookens who was promoted to AA-Erie. Joe was a 7th round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1992, and played 13 seasons in the minors with a .266 career average and 470 RBI in 952 games played with six organizations. He made his Major League debut with the New York Mets in 2003.

TigsTown: Joe, congratulations on being named the Manager in West Michigan! I have to imagine you are quite excited about the opportunity; how did it go over when it came down from the Tigers?

Joe DePastino: It was awesome! You know, I'm still like a little kid. It feels weird; I'm more excited now than I was when I was playing, to go to spring training. I can't wait for the season to start. I wish it would start tomorrow.

TT: Had you been speaking with the Tigers for long about joining the organization, or did things really start to ramp up after Matt Walbeck took the job with the Rangers?

JD: Actually, I want to say about two weeks ago. Andy Barkett, the Florida State League Manager, he called me up � because I've played against him forever, and we're pretty good friends � he called me up and asked me if I was interested in getting back into pro ball; if I would be interested in managing. I said 'Definitely!' A little over two years ago I had back surgery, so I wanted to make sure that I was good to go, ready to go before I even started to look into coaching. Andy and I talk frequently, so he called me up and I said 'Yeah, definitely, I'd love to get into managing.' He had me send my resume in, and I want to say probably three days later they called me back for an interview. I went over for the interview and had probably a two-hour long interview, and basically they hired me on the spot.

TT: Wow! That's phenomenal! That's not the typical story you would expect to hear from somebody coming in to manage a minor league club.

JD: You know what, it was a great interview. Not only for me talking, but the way they went about everything; it made it more of just like a conversation. When you go into something like that � playing as long as I did � now that I'm on the other side, you're not used to interviews and stuff like that. I was a little nervous going in there, and before it even started they told me 'We're just going to talk. Don't think of this as an interview.' It made me relax a little bit, and it worked out perfect.

TT: Who was sitting in on the interview with you?

JD: EZ (Tigers Director of Player Development Glenn Ezell), (Tigers Director of Minor League Operations Dan) Lunetta, and (Mel) Rojas were in there. All three of those guys made it a great interview!

TT: Three pretty good baseball minds to be sitting and chatting with for a while, huh?

JD: You're exactly right. You go in there, and we just hit it off perfect. It was like we knew each other for a long time.

TT: Now you mentioned Andy giving you a call to see if you were interested in jumping back in and managing; had you been looking to just get into the coaching ranks or was there any chance you were looking to get into the scouting arena, or some other avenue of baseball?

JD: Actually, last year I went for an interview with scouting. I went for the interview, had a really good interview, and they wanted me to move to the other coast; so I didn't do it, and I didn't really pursue it too much. My ultimate dream was to get into coaching. I just wanted to make sure that I was ready to get into coaching before I did, and that's why I waited a couple of years. Plus, just when I was done playing, my son was born, so I wanted to be home for a little bit with him.

TT: There always seems to be a lot of catchers coming back in and working as managers or coaches at the minor league and Major League level. What is it with catchers that they seem to fit so well as managerial prospects?

JD: I really think it's because being a catcher at the higher levels and such, you're a leader. I was always the leader in the clubhouse, leader on the field, and so on. I took care of stuff, certain things so that the manager didn't have to know about them, and stuff like that. I think catchers, they have to know everything that's going on when it comes to bunt plays; just every aspect about the game. Catchers are involved in everything. Even if you're not in that play, you're involved and you know what's going on. A lot of times too, if there was a night I didn't play, I always sat down near the end with the coaches just to listen to what they say and see how they do things. I think just because catchers are more into the game all the time, and we're always doing scouting reports on the opposing hitters and other pitchers. Before a series would start, I'd go in there with the pitching coaches and go over all the stuff with them, and then I'd bring the pitchers over and go over it all; what was going on, what hitters were hot. We're in that every day.

TT: You've spent some recent time working with high school players in Sarasota, do you think that experience with younger players will help you relate to the generally younger players in Class-A, or is there some aprehension about how that transition is going to go from the amateur to the pro ranks?

JD: I think it is. A lot of times at the high school level, it can be difficult. I was honored to even be at Sarasota High with the coaching tradition they have there. They've won three national championships and eight state championships since '95. Clyde Metcalf has been there for 28 years. He's a high school legend. To be able to go and work under him and see the way he organizes things, the way he runs practices, and just being at that level. A lot of those kids, they don't know what its like to go to that next level. I was basically trying to prepare those guys, and talking about certain things they'll see when they get to college or pro ball.

There were always guys on our team getting drafted or going to Division I colleges, and just showing them how to play the game, talking to them about doing it the right way, how to be a leader, and I think that's a very big part of working with the kids at a younger age in pro ball. When they're at a certain age, a lot of guys just don't understand. Let's say catching; kids don't understand when they're 20 or 21-years old that your job is behind the plate. Yes it's good to be a hitter too, and hitting is a plus, but catchers have to understand that if you're 0-for-4, you don't worry about that. You might have a pitcher on the mound throwing a gem out there, and the last thing they need is you having your head down, taking forever bringing the calls in. Now that's going to bring everybody down, and your pitcher is going to get out of that rhythm, and probably end up giving up the game, just because of the way you're acting behind the plate.

TT: Once you start to get a feel for which players will be assigned to West Michigan next year, how do you think you will approach relating to them and establishing that bond that players and managers have?

JD: There's a fine line when it comes to coaches and players. I'm still one of those guys that I'm still a big time player's manager. I've been there and done that. I know when guys are struggling and they might need a day off, or a day off from BP. I've been there and done that. There is nothing those guys are ever going to do that I haven't done and experienced. At that age and that level, being a mentor to those guys, letting them know that this stuff goes away. Just talking about certain situations.

Sometimes certain things happen on the field, or off the field, and just talking to them. They don't want somebody yelling at them. I'm not a yeller. I don't scream at kids. I'm a very hands on, kind of one-on-one guy. If you make a mistake on the field, I'm not a believer in yelling, because kids won't respond to you when you yell at them. If you bring them over to the side and discuss what happened, or why he should have thrown the ball to second base instead of throwing home when you have a two run lead late in the game. Just talking to them like that, and when you talk to them the way we want to be talked to, they respond to you. I've played the game, they're playing the game, I'm not better than them. Everybody's on the same level.

TT: Your hitting coach, Benny Distefano, will be the most experienced member of your staff; with you and pitching coach Alan Mills working your first gig at the professional level. What do you think will be your biggest challenges as a rookie manager, and can you rely on Benny's experience to help you through the initial transition?

JD: Without a doubt! I'm not one of those guys that says 'Hey, I'm the Manager.' We're a coaching staff. We're going to go over things, and we're going to agree on things, and that's what I'm very big on. As a coaching staff, we have a team coaching staff. It doesn't matter that I have the label as the Manager. He's got experience. This is my first year, and there are going to be certain situations where I'm going to have to lean on him, and discuss certain things with him. I'm very big on listening to what he says, and I'm not big on saying 'I'm the Manager, we're doing it this way,' I'm not big on that at all. I'm not like that at all, and I'll never be like that.

TT: Speaking of your coaches in West Michigan, do you have any prior experience working with either Benny or Alan?

JD: No, I don't. I remember watching Alan pitch. That's about it. I hear they are two great guys though.

TT: Have you chatted with them at all since you took the job?

JD: No. Actually, I was going to get Alan's phone number because he lives in Lakeland and see if we can't meet one day for lunch somewhere just to talk about certain things. I hear Benny is a great guy, and Alan's a great guy too. There's nothing better than having a great coaching staff around you.

TT: Often times, Managers are labeled under a certain style, whether that be aggressive, an 'AL style,' or maybe an NL-style manager. How would you describe your style or approach to the game from the dugout?

JD: First of all, I'm an energetic kind of guy. If you get the runner over, I'll be the first guy at the end of the dugout giving you a little high five. Even if it's a situation where we need the runner over to third, and you're trying to move him over, go the other way, and in your first two pitches I can tell you're going the other way, maybe you foul them off; but you don't get them over, but I can still see the way you were trying to get them over, I'm still there. If I know you're trying to do the job, giving a good effort, I'm very positive with everything. I'm an old school kind of guy too. I'm very positive. I like to have fun with the guys, but I'm very old school. If you don't run a ball out, and if you're not hustling, I'll be the person to take you out of the game. But I don't have a dog house. If that happens; if I have to take you out of the game, when that game is over with, it's over with. Tomorrow, you're back in the lineup and you're playing hard.

TT: You mention the energetic style, and you go watch Matt Walbeck, or Tom Brookens, or even Andy Barkett when I had the opportunity to see him at Oneonta this year; they're all energetic guys. They all have that real zest for the game, and it carries over to their players. When you did your interview with the Tigers, did that really come out in the discussion? Did it come out that they were really looking for a high energy guy?

JD: It didn't come out, but I brought it up. I let them know I'm an old school manager, that I'm very energetic � like I just told you, when they do something right, I'm there to high five them, but when they do something wrong, I'm still there anyway. I don't treat somebody different just because they're going bad, not at all. This is part of the game. I've been there and done that plenty of times.

TT: While you probably won't have a great amount of time with him during spring training, do you have plans to try and glean some little tidbits from Jim Leyland while you are down there in Lakeland? JD: Yeah, I'm going to try to. I'm going to go early to mini-camp. Gene Lamont lives down the street from my, so I see him in the offseason. I'm going to talk with him a little bit, and see if I can definitely get some pointers from him, and definitely see if I can get some from Leyland.

TT: With Matt Walbeck and Tom Brookens at the helm the last three years, West Michigan has been quite a force, including two straight Midwest League Championships. What kind of pressure does that put on you to come in and lead the 'Caps to a successful season right off the bat?

JD: I tell you what; those are big shoes I've got to fill. I'll have to make sure I thank those guys when I see them in spring training for winning so much three years in a row! I'm just going to manage the way I manage the game. That's all I can look for, is to make sure that these guys are prepared to go out there day in and day out. We're going to have an exciting team on the field. We're going to have fun, and we're going to win. I'm big time on development. These guys are going to be ready, and there's not going to be a game that they won't be ready to go out there and play. I love to win, and I hope to follow in those shoes, but I'm just going to go manage the way I know how to manage.

TT: Starting to wrap things up here, Joe; can you identify a couple of personal goals you think you might set for yourself during your first campaign at the helm?

JD: Honestly, I would like to get these players to learn the game, understand the game, and develop them. That's one of the main reasons I got into coaching. I didn't get into managing just to have a job. I had great people � I had Bob Geren, I had Gary Carter, and I had Joe Girardi as my catching instructors. I'm one of those guys; I want to teach these guys. My personal goals, I don't look at that right now. I look at getting these guys ready to move up to the next level and hope these guys get to the big leagues. That's really what I'm looking to do.

TT: I always like to give those that I interview the chance to leave our readers with some parting thoughts. Do you have anything you want to tell our readers that we haven't covered throughout this discussion?

JD: We're going to have an exciting season! We're going to have fun! I'm very � I don't know if I should be saying this � but I'm very open to everybody. I'm a very friendly guy. If the media comes in and wants to talk to me; come on in, ask me about my golf game, this and that, then ask me some questions. I'm not a guy to come out and say 'Hey, just ask me some questions, or talk about the game.' I'm friends with everybody. It doesn't matter if its media or fans. I'm a very friendly guy, and that's just the way I am.

TT: That will go over real well in Grand Rapids, Joe. They've got a great

Spanish star Javier Bardem is one of those serious actors whose name is frequently bandied about when Oscar season hits, and for good reason. The 39-year-old stars as ruthless killer Anton Chigurh in
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Joel and Ethan Coen's latest film, No Country for Old Men, a modern-day Western, adapted from the mesmerizing novel by Cormac McCarthy. By all reports, he's excellent in the role, but that's no surprise: He's outstanding in everything he's been in, from his start in Pedro Almodovar's Jamon Jamon to his breakout role in Julian Schnabel's Before Night Falls. He'll also appear in Love in the Time of Cholera, the adaptation of the renowned Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, and will play Pablo Escobar in the upcoming biopic of the Colombian kingpin, Killing Pablo. We caught up with him to talk about the brothers Coen, his hairstyle in the film, and how awards season is exhausting.

VH1: How did you arrive at your portrayal of your character?
Javier Bardem: I saw him more like an icon of what violence should represent. I see him like a reaction, a logical reaction, a logical violent reaction to a violent action. So I have to try to perform as somebody that's totally numb, somebody that has to do a duty that doesn't have anything to do with him or with his personal goals or needs. There isn't any wish to do what he does, but he has to do it. In the book, he just appears. He creates misery, pain; he's like a hurricane. I was [thinking to myself], just stay tight to what the author [wrote].

VH1: How was it working with two directors?
JB: They truly are like one guy. They really complement each other. The funny thing is, you never feel that you have to really pay attention to two people, or be scared of being in the middle of something. It's like you are talking to one person, which is amazing, because they agree on everything.

VH1: What about the signature hairstyle of your character?
JB: The hair came . . . from Tommy Lee Jones. He brought a book about dark places -- like dark bars, whorehouses -- in Texas and New Mexico back in the 1960s. There were some amazing photographs apparently that I haven't seen. Some of the customers in these places were wearing that hair. The Coens said, "Wouldn't that be great!" So, thanks to Tommy Lee, I had to spend three months with that hair.

VH1: Your next film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, is directed by Woody Allen. How is it working really quintessential American directors?
JB: There are a serious numbers of masters in the filmmaking industry. But on the top of that [list], for me, are the Coens. So when this thing happened, I was pinching myself. This is one of a few dreams coming true in my professional life, to be able to be in one of the Coen brothers' movies. Truly. When I saw Blood Simple or Fargo, being a Spanish actor, [I knew] how deeply American their movies are, all of them. [I thought] it was impossible [for me to be in their films]. But can you believe it, it happened.

VH1: Every since Cannes, there have been talks of an Oscar for you.
JB: I went through the experience of being nominated [for Before Night Falls, his first movie in English]. I only prepared [for that film] for a month and then the whole thing vanished. And the whole thing was the outside world telling [me that I'll] be nominated. You find yourself becoming aware of that, and it doesn't happen. There was a time, when I felt logically disappointed . . . . We all want to be applauded, but the point [is not to put] energy in getting [an award]. That is an extra effort, a huge effort, but it's not worth it to even spend energy thinking about it.

With No Country for Old Men, Joel and Ethan Coen have crafted an exquisite return to form. Based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, the story concerns a hapless Joe Blow (Josh Brolin), who's being hunted down by an imposing gunslinger (Javier Bardem), after he happens upon and makes off with a satchel full of drug money. From the get go, the film's more Blood Simple than Ladykillers, a statement of style and airtight suspense. The Coen brothers spoke to us about why Cormac McCarthy is their spiritual comrade.

VH1: Everyone talks about the shock of losing the main character (Brolin) in the film.
Ethan Coen: Yeah, it's unusual in movies, but it's unusual in that kind of book, too, when he dies offstage. But right, the convention is even more ingrained in movies -- the good guy's going to meet the bad guy and they're going to confront each other. [The Brolin character] doesn't even meet the bad guy, but gets killed by some schmooze off-screen. We were aware of how it was sort of . . .
Joel Coen: Unusual.
EC: Yeah, unusual that is. And we talked about it with Scott Rudin, the producer. We didn't want to do the movie if we got the idea that he was asking us to do a kind of Hollywood-ized version of the book, and he was very much not. He said, yeah, he liked the book, too, and wanted to see the book made, as opposed to turning it into something else.

VH1: Did you see McCarthy's book as related to Fargo, story-wise?
JC: At one point I sort of realized there are sort of superficial resemblances to Fargo, in the very specific regionalism of the story and in the fact that they are about sheriffs in small towns, or law officers in small towns, confronting crimes. But no, to be quite honest, we were presented with the book and took it on as an interesting book. Its conception comes from someone else's imagination, and it was our job to take that and adapt it into a movie.

VH1: Isn't the Tommy Lee Jones character somewhat like the Marge Gunderson character in Fargo?
JC: What they share is explicitly is a certain amount of bafflement, a certain amount of being baffled . . . by the world.
EC: In Marge's case, it's in a kind of na�e way. In the case of Cormac's character, it's in a more sophisticated way.

VH1: Can you talk a little about casting Javier Bardem?
JC: Javier is somebody that we've always wanted to work with. But there are a lot of actors that we want to work with, and it's all about finding the right marriage of the person that you want to work with and a part that's going to be right for them. One of the interesting things about this character is that he's described so little in the book, but one of the things that you do get in the book is that he is the one character that is not of the region, and that there's something exotic about him, something foreign about him. That gave us a certain amount of license to think outside of American actors and Javier is one of those actors, [who] has [an] extremely charismatic screen presence that we knew is necessary for that part. We really didn't know what Javier would do in that part, but we were utterly convinced that whatever he did, it wouldn't be what we were most afraid of, which is to make the character into a clich? into this implacable Terminator killer.

VH1: Please talk about the balance of suspense and suspense -- how do you work with actors on individual scenes and in general?
JC: It comes down to a scene in a story thing, and even when we are consciously doing a comedy, we are not asking the actor to sort of acknowledge the comedy in their performances. It's kind of the same thing here. There may be humor in it, but when it comes to what we were looking for in a performance, you are not directing the actor towards a sort of self-conscious awareness of that. NEW YORK -- If Joe Girardi's reasoning is correct, Andy Pettitte may be getting to a point where the baseball bug is biting, where thoughts of retirement can be put off for one more World Series pursuit.
If that's true, the Yankees could hear from the 35-year-old left-hander sometime in the near future. Just to be sure, the Yankees manager plans to check in on Pettitte after the Thanksgiving holiday, just to find out where his hopes and feelings are.

"I think it's very important that he comes back," Girardi said on Tuesday. "I think that he knows the Yankee way, and he was a big plus in the clubhouse, as well as on the field. I know what Andy Pettitte's all about, and I would love to have him back."

Pettitte was 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 36 games (34 starts) for the Yankees in 2007, serving as one of the key workhorses of the club's rotation. Though he is currently a free agent, there appears to be no danger of Pettitte pitching elsewhere.

When Pettitte declined his $16 million player option earlier this offseason, it was with the understanding that he would not play for another club in 2008 -- Pettitte plans to either pitch for the Yankees or retire.

Girardi, who has already spoken to Pettitte once since being named as the Yankees' 32nd field manager on Oct. 30, said that he does not yet have a sense on which way the lefty might be leaning.

"I think it's too early to tell," Girardi said. "I think you can ask any player right after the season how they're feeling, and everyone's ready for a short break. To me, it's about when you get away from the game for a month and a half -- all of a sudden you start missing it. We're getting to that point in time."

In a late-season interview with, Pettitte said that he would need to return home in Houston and figure out what would be right for him to do "as a husband and as a father."

Pettitte was talked out of retirement by several Yankees at Joe Torre's charity dinner before the 2007 season, and agent Randy Hendricks has said that he does not expect Pettitte to make a decision anytime soon.

"I think it's a family situation," Girardi said. "I think Andy needs to decide what he feels is best for his family. None of us can make that decision for him."

Even without Pettitte back in the fold, the Yankees have accomplished plenty in the weeks since the American League Division Series ended New York's postseason hopes. The club appears to have retained free agents Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, while also picking up a $16 million option on Bobby Abreu.

"I think everyone feels better," Girardi said. "When you talk about losing your starting catcher, your starting third baseman and your closer, that's a big concern. It's not like we were losing average players -- we were losing players that were at the top of their profession. Whenever you have a chance to bring them back, it's very exciting."

Rotation station: If the Yankees' offseason progresses according to plans, Joba Chamberlain will report to Spring Training as a starter, picking back up where he left his progression in July, when an S.O.S. call came out from the Major League club for a reliever.

The 22-year-old Chamberlain was a dominant force in relief for the Yankees, going 2-0 with one save and a 0.38 ERA in 19 relief appearances, before his season came unhinged by a swarm of Lake Erie midges during Game 2 of the ALDS.

As effective as Chamberlain was in relief, doing so largely on the strength of his high-90s fastball and biting slider, new pitching coach Dave Eiland believes the organization is in agreement that Chamberlain should be in the rotation going forward.

"He's a four-pitch guy," Eiland said. "Right now, three of those four pitches are above-average Major League pitches -- his fastball, his slider, his curveball. His changeup was in the development process when he got converted to the bullpen late in the summer, but it was coming along very quickly and very nicely. I'd say it's an average Major League changeup right now, and it's going to be above average."

While saying that Chamberlain as a member of the rotation is not etched in stone, Eiland said that members of the organization are "all leaning that way."

"It's going to be an adjustment, more mental than anything," Eiland said. "I think Joba's not that far removed from starting. There was an adjustment for him going from starting to relieving, but as we all know, that was a very smooth adjustment.

"I think starting is going to be the same way, because he's very familiar with that. It'll be another thing to get him back and stretched out again. He's been coming in and letting it fly for one inning or two at the most, but Joba is a very smart kid and talented."

Speaking about potential pitchers who could fill roles similar to Chamberlain's setup presence, Eiland had positive words about prospect Steven White, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League and spent most of 2007 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 6-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 16 games (15 starts).

"His arm is very resilient," Eiland said. "I think he can fit that role as a middle guy, long reliever, spot starter. I think he's somebody you're going to see and hear some things from in '08 at some point."

Five alive: If the Yankees' season started today, Girardi speculated, the club's starting rotation would feature -- in some order -- Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.

At this early point in the offseason, players can be subtracted and added from that arrangement, and certainly, the Yankees hope Pettitte will be in the mix, as well. But if there are questions about what Mussina -- to turn 39 by Opening Day, coming off an 11-10, 5.15 ERA season that saw him shuttled to long relief in August -- may be able to offer, they are not being posed by Girardi.

"Mike Mussina had a bunch of good months last year," Girardi said. "Yeah, he went through a month period where he really struggled, but that's not unusual for players. ... I think Mike Mussina has a lot to offer."

Girardi also ran down the club's arrangement at first base, saying that he feels comfortable with figuring out playing time amongst his current roster contenders of Jason Giambi, Shelley Duncan and Andy Phillips. How much playing time Giambi receives in the field will depend on his health and on discussions as Spring Training nears, but Girardi did not rule out Giambi seeing time at first base.

"I think we will work that spot out very well," Girardi said. "I think we have plenty there."

Roster additions: The Yankees signed right-hander Scott Patterson to a Major League contract on Tuesday, while adding catcher Francisco Cervelli and right-handed pitchers Jeffrey Marquez and White to the 40-man roster.

Patterson, 28, was 4-2 with two saves and a 1.05 ERA in 44 combined games (three starts) at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2007. The Yankees' roster now stands at 39 players.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball


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