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October 10, 2015

Mike Matheny

St. Louis, Missouri - Pregame

THE MODERATOR: First question for Mike.

Q. Afternoon. How are you?
MIKE MATHENY: Good, thank you.

Q. Can you explain, having been a former catcher and now a manager and a successful one for a while, the politics of dealing with umpires, and from what you gathered when you first start playing until now, how they've changed as far as dealing with them?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, I think it's an art form for a catcher, how you're going to be able to get your point across, how you're going to be honest, because it'll come back and bite you, and help figure out what the zone is going to be that day because it does fluctuate a little bit day to day, but that's part of the dance that a catcher is required to do.

That's part of the enjoyment of the position, too, is to try to figure out how far you can push it, where you've got to make some concessions, how hard you gotta push on the umpire. And from a manager's perspective, the only thing that I have seen really change, I would say, is through the replay system. With that being said, you've got to figure there is -- usually in the past before this system you had the opportunity to go out and argue. You had an opportunity to defend or represent your team with one of the umpires out on the bases, and really that's kinda been eliminated with how we go through the replay process. So now you really have almost one target that's going to catch the brunt of this, and that's why I think you've seen so many managers thrown out and players thrown out on the ball-strikes, because you've really got -- you've got so much emotion, so much into this and you don't have ways to necessarily vent that, so I think it gets escalated with the balls-strike, but overall I think there is more accountability now, only because of there being that little box everybody is looking at. Those umpires are being graded on it; they're being rewarded. They're being penalized, and I think accountability makes us all better.

Q. Mike, a couple of subtle changes to your lineup today. Can you just talk about what you like match-up wise and how you moved it around a little bit?
MIKE MATHENY: We are going to be getting everybody involved. And I really like what Brandon Moss was doing there at the end of the season, the at-bats he took in Atlanta. We need to keep him hot; we think he can be a difference maker, and just trying to get some more hot bats and everybody feeling good about where they are at the plate.

Q. Mike, can you describe what first base has been like for you this season? You guys have kind of alternated through a lot of different options there, sort of tried to ride the hot hand for a while, and now you arrive in October with almost a defensive option who led the position in home runs and then other two options, just how you kind of manage three guys in one spot?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, just trying to go day to day and figure out what swing looks right, what might play best for this particular pitcher that we'll be facing. And then sometimes the defense does trump all, especially late in the game, and Mark Reynolds has been such a great option for us going on both sides. When he's been going real well at the plate, he's been able to carry us at times, and big RBIs and had a great season, but you look overall, I mean we've gotten almost 25 home runs produced from that first base position, guys that were getting consistent opportunities, and that's pretty good in the league right now.

I know that given more chances, Mark Reynolds probably would have hit 20 again for whatever year in a row this would be, and that's not including what Brandon Moss was able to do in the American League before he got here. And I think we have just been able to kind of piece some things together. Moss was a big pickup for us. We needed a shot in our offense and needed to bring in somebody with the ability to drive the ball and drive in runs and be able to put Piscotty over there and Matt Adams when he was able to go and healthy. And we had some good options and continue to kind of look at it that way. We're going to go each day, see what's going to give us our best chance and give these guys all an opportunity to come in and contribute.

Q. Michael Wacha had a really nice year for you guys, but kind of struggled that last month. What changed with him and what are you expecting from him in Game 3 and can he put that behind him like the last month?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, you're going to have ups and downs every season, and this is still a young pitcher. And we saw some times where it just looked like something was out of sync. We also saw a couple of starts where he looked really good. He'd make a couple of innings in a row that were right. He had the downhill plane; he had the good change-up. He had the breaking ball working, and then he would have one inning that might hurt him. But it was usually controlling the strike zone, and you could attribute it to a lot of things. There is just a demand on a long season. He has been around a little while, but maybe not as long as what most people think. I remember him coming up early on in '13 and being really special late in the year, and they just expect that to automatically translate in the next year, and that's not necessarily the case. There is a lot going on. The league is learning you; you're trying to figure out how to stay ahead of them. You're always fighting health issues, which Michael has done, but overall we like what he's been able to do all season, and when he's on, we put him up against anybody.

Q. How did Yadi respond the day after playing a full game?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, everything looked good. He's still doing his work and trying to safeguard himself, but he was fun to watch yesterday. I mean he was just -- he was the catalyst for our team, and that may sound odd when you didn't see him necessarily do anything. Nobody stole. We didn't see any big runs driven in, but he controlled the momentum of that game for us behind the plate with the way he commanded the attention of the team and how he and John worked together. That's something that a catcher can do, and when he's healthy, when he's right, I think he does it as well as anybody in the game.

Q. Mike, how do you look at this game? You have a lot of your hitters who have had some success against Hendricks, not a lot, but three or four have had success against Hendricks where a lot of their hitters have never even faced Jaime.
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I mean that can work for you and against you. Jaime hasn't seen them either, so it goes hand in hand and it's just a matter of making adjustments. And you never know what you're going to get day to day and Hendricks has been throwing the ball well lately, so we know he's feeling good about his game and our guys are going to have to go up with an approach to try to stay one step ahead. That's what it is; it's cat and mouse and who is able to stay one step ahead.

Jaime may have maybe some sort of advantage to the fact that he is just different, and until you've seen him a couple of times -- and even if you have seen him a couple of times, he might show up the third time and look completely different in the way the ball moves and the way he delivers. He does have that just that factor, that X-factor that makes him a little bit different, but we've seen guys come up who have never faced him before and also have real good at-bats.

So he's going to have to do what he's done all season long, control the counts, use his movement, trust his defense, and if he does that, I think we will be all right.

Q. Brandon has talked about how he felt that you were really patient with him when he got here. You know, he came here with some issues that he was trying to work through. Just from your perspective, what do you think turned it around for him as he progressed through the second half of the year with you?
MIKE MATHENY: I think he's an offensive weapon. He's been doing this for a while. Every one of these guys, whether it's Michael Wacha, who hasn't been around that long, or some of the guys who have been around for ten years, they're going to be through those periods where you just can't figure it out. We watched Matt Carpenter go through a period this year that everybody was scratching their head about, and that's just baseball.

Same thing with Brandon. He got to us, was swinging the bat really well right when he got here. I think Busch Stadium made him up on about four straight swings that would've been home runs in most parks, and that would have been so good for his confidence to be able to come in and make a statement like that, but then I think he tried to do a little bit more and got himself into a bad rut, like what happens with everybody else. And he was able to just stay the course, and we were able to get him some at-bats and get him opportunities and big, game-winning RBIs for us and a walk-off. And those sort of things just help build credibility and build confidence, and then you go out there feeling like you have a fighting chance. But he's a guy that has done it, and we know that he can do it and we just hope that he goes out there and trusts himself and trusts the progress that he's made because we like how his swing really looked at the end.

Q. Mike, we've talked a lot about the ninth inning through the years and often how you don't have somebody warming up, when Trevor or whoever it was in the closer role, last night you did have Adam warm up. Wondering, at what point do you go to him? Also, how much of that is having Adam being the guy who is warming up and not having another one of the relievers warming up?
MIKE MATHENY: That had a couple points to it. One of those points is getting Adam up and hot and his heart beatin', and I think part of it's also telling him what we think of him and how we may use him. And then the third part is the more realistic part, is if things didn't look right -- and what goes into that is an extended rest for Trevor Rosenthal, and sometimes that works out really well and theres other times it just gets you off kilter just a bit. When Trevor comes into a game, there is usually not a whole lot of room to be off kilter, and he's been able to right it normally when it would start to go wrong, but in these kind of games, we want to make sure that we're covered to bring somebody in, and we know that Adam Wainwright can perform in those situations, and we like him against anybody. So that was something I belive held a lot of value, even though he never came in. I think it sometimes can let that reliever know, too, I got somebody that's got my back if this just doesn't work out right. Even though none of them would ever admit that they want someone to come in and bail them out, I think most would be good with Adam Wainwright to come in to help close things out. But where exactly we were going to go, I don't know. I wanted to have him ready just in case it looked like we needed to.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike, appreciate it.

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