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October 7, 2017

AJ Hinch

Boston, Massachusetts - Workout Day

THE MODERATOR: Take questions, please.

Q. Beltran comes off the bench and gets the hit yesterday. Just with the way Gattis is swinging it, just what do you see his role is? Has it evolved and changed than you thought it would maybe at the start of this series?
A.J. HINCH: Not really. I think it's going exactly how we expected. Gattis is going to DH against the left-handed starter as he did against Sale and Pomeranz. Then tomorrow, Beltran will DH against Fister, and Gattis will be available off the bench. So it's mapped out exactly how we expected. Both guys are swinging the bat well in their areas that they're strengths are. It was good to get Beltran an at-bat, more so because of the distance in time that we have had where he hasn't played. The way the games have played out in Games 1 and 2, it was hard to get him in there with Gattis swinging the bat well and then predominantly throwing left-handed pitching. So Beltran will DH tomorrow.

Q. When you look at Peacock's season, just how much he evolved. Was there a turning point for you, something that really sticks out?
A.J. HINCH: I think the biggest thing for Brad has been where he's come from spring training to where he is now, because breaking camp, he just wanted to make the team. So to go from just wanting to make the team to pitching in Game 3 of the division series is an incredible step for him. But the breakthrough for him I think came midseason when he got on this roll out of the rotation. He started realizing how many swings and misses he could get with his breaking ball. His fastball's always been good, and the confidence level for him to go up against any lineup, right- or left-handed, and have his pitches be effective just built confidence in him. I think deep down inside he wants to be a starter. I think part of the problem when you have a guy like him is it's easy to move him around in the path of least resistance, just put him back in the bullpen, and we never really wanted to do that. And even though he's a team-oriented guy, I think deep down inside he wants to start, like every pitcher. But as he built these win after win after win, you start being the starting pitcher of games that you win, that belief system is real. And he never waivers, he never panics, the moment's never too big for him, and it's going to come up key tomorrow when's pitching in Fenway for the second time in a week.

Q. Your top four hitters, obviously that young core you guys have had for a couple years have really started to flourish this year. How critical can it be for any type of franchise to have two, three, four young players you can build around, stack in that lineup, and really know what you have every day?
A.J. HINCH: It's great when they play well. It's easy to ride them write them in the lineup and watch them play. These guys prepare like none other. I think that's a tribute to some of the older players that have shown them the way in how to prepare for every series and every pitcher. So I'm proud of these guys. I really do believe that the batting order is always a topic of conversation with managers, I never go to a city where I don't get asked about it. I don't care about it near as much as it seems. I use a lot of different lineups. But the consistent names are what they are. Where Bregman hits tomorrow and where Carlos is going to hit fourth, and Jose is going to hit third, and George is going to hit the top of the order. We just need to keep throwing really good at-bats together like we have in Game 1 and Game 2. The strength of this team will continue to be not just those big names and that core you're talking about, but the depth of this lineup, to where most likely Yuli's going to hit towards the bottom of the order, Brian McCann is going to hit at the bottom of the order tomorrow. Those are incredibly productive players, hitting out of the 7, 8 and 9 hole that most teams don't have. The youth, exuberance, the energy, the core that you're talking about is certainly the energy, but they're not the only reason we are here.

Q. Thinking back to spring training, do you think Brad Peacock would have made your team had Collin McHugh not started the season on the disabled list?
A.J. HINCH: I do. We have always valued Brad in the sense that he had a role on our team. It probably would have impacted that last bullpen job, but we wanted to give ourselves as much time to see how effective he could become as any source, whether that the Swiss army knife reliever that's become popular or -- you can never have too much starting pitching. We found that out this year within the first couple months. We needed upwards of 10, 11 starting pitchers just to get through our rotation. So I think he would have made our team, our. Guys have always liked him. We have always felt like he's effective. I think the big question was always what is the best use of him. How do we get the most out of him, whether that be every day as a reliever or in the role that he's in now, which is a starting pitcher. So his pitch effectiveness has always been really good and I think that's been the appeal of Brad Peacock. We're lucky we hung on to him because had he not been in our rotation, no doubt he would have been on someone's pitching staff throwing important innings.

Q. The journey from spring training to here, all you guys have put into this, you're a long way from winning Game 3 before you celebrate, but you're in a position now you got margin for error, you control your own destiny. Some thoughts about where you're at now.
A.J. HINCH: Well, we're happy with where we're at because we're in the best position possible coming into this series where we won both games. But we have pretty good perspective on this team. I don't see any sense of entitlement. I don't see a team that's starting to look forward to the next series. We're not there yet. That mentality will be entrenched in this team and our guys will respond accordingly. So you want to draw up a 2-0 lead in any five-game series, sign me up. I'm in. It's a tremendous opportunity, but it's only an opportunity that you can move on to the next game and get to the finish line. We do need to play well to beat these guys. We're at their home stadium, it is a tough place to play. Our guys are keeping all that in perspective and go into Game 3 as hungry as ever.

Q. How is your recent look at Fister differ, if at all, stylistically from when he was with you last year?
A.J. HINCH: His velocity is up. Jose came off the field after his first at-bat and said, I stood behind that guy for six months and he didn't throw that hard. Just the movement and velocity and conviction in his pitches. I know he made a couple of adjustments with his delivery, with Carl Willis over here and Bannister over here. So I think he's a touch different stylistically because he's got a ton of conviction coming down the hill and going towards the hitter. Familiarity, we saw him last week, some our guys did, Reddick was out, I don't think McCann caught that game, I think Gattis did. So some guys in the lineup that didn't see him last week that will be in this week. But we have got to get him over the middle part of the plate. When he pitches to the margins and either gets the calls or if he's executing his pitches, he's just as tough as ever because he can make the ball move both ways. We know that. We knew that last year when he was good for us, and even more last week when the velocity came a little bit. He's not afraid of the big moments, the postseason, the history that he's had. So we know we'll get his best and we need to beat his best.

Q. Obviously your team had a tremendous regular season, but sometimes even though it's a matter of less than a week going from the regular season into the postseason can just be a completely different animal. What has surprised you or impressed you most about the way your team has handled that transition?
A.J. HINCH: Probably just our overall balance. We haven't gotten too ahead of ourselves in any one game or any, or the fact that we're up 2-0. I'm proud of that perspective. I think that's hard. Much of this season we were told we were a playoff team. We talked about the playoffs as early as April, which was probably a touch unfair to us in that we had a long schedule to play. Now we played it out, it worked out like a lot of people expected it to. We played well for six months, or five months, a little rough August. But we kept going after and churning and doing the things that made us successful. You get to the postseason, there's a small tendency to want to do more, and we haven't. We have just been ourselves. We have been loose. We have been putting up good at-bats. Our pitchers have been very convicted in their pitches. We have been executing a lot of different things. And that balance that we have been able to keep has been the big difference for us. We're not as excitable as maybe I feared. With the excitement of the postseason coming and the expectations and the notoriety that comes with playing in these big games, you can swing out of the zone a little bit more. Nope, we haven't done that. We didn't do against Sale. We didn't do it against Pomeranz. We didn't do it against Price. You can want to have a little extra on your pitches, and our guys have been very, very meticulous in being themselves. So I love that as a manager because it means our players are locked in where they need to be up to this point, so I would expect to us continue that.

Q. How much do you think having the four games here at the end of the season helped them to make that transition?
A.J. HINCH: Well, I think the first couple were like playoff games for us. Not so much about being at Fenway and now that we're back at Fenway, but just playing intense baseball the last week, given that we had clinched with so much time, I think gave us a little bit in a preview of intense baseball. I'll clinch as early as we can every given year. I would take the agony of trying to get your team ready at the end of the season. It was really nice to clinch as early as we did. But the fear in that, if there is fear, is that you're going to play this sort of methodical boring baseball for a couple weeks, and then jump right into the inferno of playoff baseball. We had an opportunity here last week when the Red Sox were trying to clinch the East. We were chasing the best record. The intensity of the baseball was exactly how it was at Minute Made in Game 1 and Game 2. The last game at Fenway was more of an exhibition game. They had clinched. We already had our seeding, but those games were really important from an intensity level when you're trying to get a team ready it play.

Q. Obviously a reliever with a dominant platoon split, the way Devenski has against lefties this year here is valuable, is there any extra value when it's a reverse split like that and the way it kind of complicates pinch hitting decisions the way it did in Game 2?
A.J. HINCH: When you only have one left-handed reliever, it helps. Will Harris has been good against lefties for his career and obviously Devenski's a weapon out there and the opposite handedness of your bullpen, the ability to get out the opposite hand is critical, because you can't control what, for me, what John's going to do, or even the way the order works out, we are so good as an industry at making it really difficult to have a pocket of at-bats that's comfortable. There's always going to be a righty into between the two lefties, there's always going to be a lefty in between righties, that's how balanced teams are built. So having the ability to get the off-handed hitter out is critical. For me, with a guy like Devenski, to be candid, I don't really care right-handed or left-handed, obviously I'm comfortable if they want to throw some left-handers up there, he's got pitches for them. But he's an elite reliever, elite relievers you don't care too much about what the other side does and I would be perfectly fine with Chris Devenski facing anybody in baseball with the game on the line, which is why he's been good.

Q. With your rotation mapped out the next two games, is there a better idea of where you might want to use McCullers or is there like pockets you might want to try to use him?
A.J. HINCH: I think Lance -- I'm not going to be too careful with him, I feel like he can come in and get outs whenever we want. We haven't gotten him up in Game 1 and Game 2, the game hasn't really dictated it. He got up to almost simulate getting ready and just keep himself ready in case we needed him later in the game. So I wish I could tell you that we have mapped out everything perfectly, we try to map out as much as we can, but the game's going to have to dictate that. I'm well aware of Brad's third time through the order what his numbers are like and how -- so you can envision a middle part of the game being available to him and just when I say that Peacock's going to go out and potentially get the third time through the order and be fine. So if we need to use him I have no problem any time of the game. If I go to our bullpen early and I need help late in the game, he'll be available. If something happens early, he certainly can provide length. But he's a weapon more than I need to make it perfect for him. Because he's not, he's not too far removed from being a dominant starter and someone that we considered for one of these starts, so if I was going to start him any of these games why would I be that concerned about using him out of the pen? He's a real weapon when we can get him in there.

Q. How critical has with Peacock's development even going back to spring training, Strom working and his belief in him, working with him, and really getting the best out of him as a pitcher?
A.J. HINCH: Well, so first off, as far as back end pitchers go, I'm as impressed as I can be as how Brent Strom has the backs of the pitchers he works with and really tries to maximize what they do well and bring that to the forefront. He's tremendous at developing rapport with guys and pushing guys to be better. I don't care if that's a young kid coming up first time, like a couple years ago with McCullers, all the way to when we traded for Verlander, he attacked right away with ways that he felt like he could get him better. I love that about Strommy. So when it comes to Peacock, he's been his biggest advocate since my time here for three years, he's always had belief in this breaking ball, this slider that's really come on strong as the years have come on, and then the high fastball, which is very popular around the game now, Strommy does a good job of utilizing that with our pitchers when it's appropriate. I don't think you can just take certain weapons and not maximize them. So Strommy's belief in his players, specifically Brad, his conviction and tireless work in trying to make them better is a huge reason why we are here and why our pitching staff continues to churn out some pretty good performances.

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