Give Rick Knapp credit. He certainly didn’t sugarcoat his tenure with the Tigers during a compelling radio interview with The Huge Show this afternoon.
With the Tigers preparing for tomorrow night’s do-or-die Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, Knapp touched on several issues in his most revealing comments since his abrupt firing as Detroit’s pitching coach in July.
Knapp talked with host Bill Simonson from Arizona, where he’s working with Royals youngsters in his new job as Kansas City’s minor league pitching coordinator.
“After they get eliminated or after they win it, either way, I’m not going to be a Tigers fan anymore,” he said. “I got till the end of October, then I gotta root for the Royals.”
The Knapp interview, essentially, had two chapters. He gave his take on the Tigers’ chances of winning when they enter the house of horrors that is Yankee Stadium for Game 5, plus he provided some perspective on his dismissal from Detroit.
First, the highlights from Knapp’s thoughts on the Tigers-Yankees series:
* On the key for Detroit in Game 5: “This is gonna be a battle, and I think it’s gonna come down to the bullpens, quite frankly. … My fear is if (the Tigers) go to the ‘pen too early, it’s not going to fare too well.”
* On Yankees Game 5 starter Ivan Nova: “I think (the Tigers) have more of a chance, yeah, they will have seen him. … You’ve also got a y0ung pitcher for the Yankees that hasn’t really had this kind of experience or exposure where everything is on the line.”
* On Doug Fister starting Game 5: “The disadvantage I think the Tigers have now is (the Yankees) are gonna see Fister, which is a very similar-style pitcher to (Rick) Porcello, so they’re going to have an extended look at Rick.”
* On Porcello, who lost Game 4: “You’re just not sure what you’re going to get from Rick. You’re hoping that you’re gonna get five and maybe six (innings). The stuff he has really doesn’t play deep into the game unless his breaking ball is consistent and reliable when he’s behind in the count.”
Meanwhile, and perhaps more interesting, Knapp also sounded very much like a man bitter over his dumping from the Detroit organization.
Among the comments that showcased that:
* On watching the Tigers playoff run from afar: “It stings a lot knowing that. Good Lord, I had a Cy Young winner, I had probably the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, I had a couple All-Stars. … To get to the playoffs and (not) be a part of that, yeah, that bites, that bites a lot.”
* On the acquisition of Fister: “I wish we’d have gotten Fister in June, that’s what I think. We kind of new Phil (Coke) was a stretch to be a starter, we knew there was gonna be some inconsistencies with Rick (Porcello) as a young player.”
* On getting congratulatory calls from acquaintances unaware he’d been fired: “I think I deserve some congratulations, too. I still have a stake in these guys, quite honestly, and I’m rooting for them.”
* On his firing in July: “Man, oh man, how that all finished up, I’m still sitting here dumbfounded by what happened.”
Knapp, 49, was hired by the Tigers away from the Twins system following the 2008 season, replacing fired Chuck Hernandez.
In Knapp’s first year on the job, Verlander bounced back from his worst season as a major leaguer and Porcello finished third in the rookie of the year voting. And in Knapp’s second year on the job, Max Scherzer put together a three-month stretch of dominant performances.
But this July 3, Knapp was canned after a dismal week of outings by the pitching staff — including three games in a five-game stretch where it allowed 14 or more runs.
Bullpen coach Jeff Jones took over as pitching coach the rest of the year, and the team’s ERA was 3.67 under him — down from 4.39 under Knapp.