Pat Hentgen Interview: Part Three

Part three of or talk with Pat Hentgen. Part one is here and part two is there

What I hope comes across in the interview is how articulate and knowledgeable Pat is. There are two more parts that I'll post next week.

In 96 and 97 you pitched an amazing number of innings, 260+ each year. What do you think of pitch counts and inning limits that are used now, would it have changed your career?

You know I don't think I ever really threw over 120 pitches. I did it a couple of times maybe when the bullpen was really bagged.  But for the most part I didn't throw a lot of 135-140 pitch games. I was a guy that was pretty efficient with my pitches and tried to throw a lot of strikes. Guys put the ball in play. I didn't strikeout a ton of guys in my career. I just tried to take the sting out of the bat. And that leads to more balls in play and quicker games and less pitch counts. Would it change my career? I don't think so, I think today they may be a little more cautious because teams have so much money invested in these starting pitchers, with the size of the contracts. I mean I know it is all relative to when I played, but I think that you have got starting pitchers that make more of a percentage of the teams payroll than they ever have.  Like CC Sabathia and Halladay that are making into the $20 million range. You know what I'm getting at. I think the payroll was shared more on the 25 man roster.  Today I think it is a bit more of a, you got your star players that are making the big big money then you have guys that are making close to the minimum or just above the minimum.

I don't know if it would have changed my career at all. I think that it would have stayed the same because I never threw over 125 pitches now.

You don't see pitchers throw 260 some innings anymore.

No, I'd like to see if anybody could surpass that. I wonder. I wonder. I know Roger and I tied the one year in 97, I think we tied.

What was it like having Cito as a manager?

I love Cito, shoot I mean I played 7 seasons for him, 6 to 7 and I don't see how you could have an issue with him personally. I thought he was great. I mean he had 2 rules. Be on time and play hard. Those were easy to follow. I lived by those two rules and I tried to complete every 5th day. Every time he gave me the ball, I wanted to give our team a chance to win so. Cito I think always liked me, I felt the same. I just went to the whole  reunion thing, or not the reunion but the farewell.  I got great chance to talk to him in his office. I think our relationship is better, stronger now than it was in 97.

He seems like such a good guy from a distance.

He's a great guy, shoot, very classy and nice and consistent. Just had a presence about him. He has two World Series rings he walks around with. Pretty cool. Can't do better than that.

What was Roger Clemens like as a teammate?

He was a good teammate, I didn't have any issues with him. He was phenomenal every fifth day. On the days in between he was on his own program, he worked out apparently. I didn't see him work out a lot. I don't know when he did it but he did workout, obviously  He is known for his work habits. He was a good teammate, he was a guy that took the ball and was durable. And had back to back Cy Youngs there. I mean another guy had the presences when he walked into a room. That being said he was overall a good teammate, that's about all I could say. That's how I remember it.

How much of a shock was it to be traded to the Cardinals in 1999?

I wasn't really that shocked because the last road trip in Cleveland, Gord Ash the GM at the time came up at the time and said they may pursue moving me and that if I do get traded I'll be the first to know, type of thing.  I said ok. Then the winter meetings came and I remember when  the phone rang and I looked at the area code and I realized it was, I don't remember where they were, maybe Arizona, I remember, I looked at my wife and said I just got traded. She goes ‘no way'.  'Yep the winter meetings are right now. This is coming from that city.' I don't know anyone from that city. Sure enough it was Gord Ash and he goes 'I traded you to the Cardinals. He said I just wanted to thank you and all that.'  I said 'Ok, thanks a lot, blab blab blab' and that was it. I was disappointed. Heck I grew up with Toronto and I lived 3.5 hours from Toronto. I still do. My family loved Toronto for the 9-10 years that I played there. And the fans are great. The city was great. I have two World Series rings. I'm so proud to be affiliated with the Blue Jays. To this day I'm still proud. I wouldn't say I was hurt. I had some neat experiences because I got to play for Tony La Russa, I got to meet Mark McGwire. I got to play with Jim Edmunds instead of trying to get him out all those years in Anaheim. It was a  good experience for me to be there. It was fun to be in first place again. I hadn't been in first place since 93. So that part of it was great. The downside was I just loved Toronto. I wanted to stay and finish my career there. So that part of it was hurtful.

You did get to finish your career in Toronto.

Yep I sure did.

And you got to bat for awhile. What was it like batting?

I didn't particularly like it a whole lot. A lot of times it was just pretty much, if anyone was on base I bunted. If anyone was no on base I took a lot, tryed to work a walk. But I ended up getting 9 singles. I batted .170, no RBI. I got the bunts down. I led the pitchers in bunts. That part of it was good. The downside is it does throw you out of your game a little bit, when you are used to pitching in the American League, not having to bat and worry about gloves and helmets and where's this at. I guess I had come up in that league I would have preferred that league, but because I came up in the AL East I liked the AL East better.

It must be tough with batting taking your focus off pitching for a time.

Right, it does. It's tough. Like I said, 9 out of 10 times I didn't get a third at bat. Usually just pinch hit for me and then go to a reliever. Even if the score really....even if I was pitching well, most times he did that. So I didn't, I was caught in the more strategy and all that. But you know what, there isn't that much more strategy over there. I mean, I watched La Russa for a year and he is supposed to be a great strategist. The thing about it is, you know, you just ask yourself ‘do I pinch hit here and bring in a reliever, what's the best move for the team.' I think that's what La Russa was so good at, he didn't care about personal feeling or favouritism, he did what he thought was best for the team, whether you were the best player or the worst. I thought that was great.

That would be the hard part about being a manager, keeping your personal feelings about a player out of the equation during a game.

Right, the hardest thing about being a manager is that the starting players love ya, because you play every day. And the five starters and the closer and setup guy, they love you too. It is all the other guys in the mix that usually cause the havoc for the manager and the clubhouse. The guys aren't playing every day think they are being screwed.  The relievers not pitching in close games feel like they are mopping up and they are bummed about it. So those are the guys that usually you have to target as a manager or staff member, to keep these guys focused, keep these guys positive, keep them sharp so they are ready to go in and play. The starting players take care of themselves, they police themselves. The rotation polices themselves. The closer and the setup guy know exactly what they are doing and what their roles are. It is all the other roles that really is a challenge for the staff including the manager.

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