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AL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES: YANKEES VS ASTROS


October 12, 2017


A.J. Hinch


Houston, Texas - Workout Day

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for A.J. Hinch, please.

Q. Now that you know the matchup, any roster clarifications or anything you can tell us that this clears up for you, decisions you'll have to make?
A.J. HINCH: No, the next few hours we'll get to the finish line with the roster. It's always hard, it's the same names, the same debates.

I will tell you, we're going to carry a third catcher. So Centeno is here, as he was on the previous roster. And we're more likely to carry an extra pitcher than we are an extra position player. The three games in a row, potential in New York next week, the seven-game series, the belief that it's always good to have multiple options and be able to matchup accordingly has led us to most likely having an extra pitcher.

So I think guys like Collin McHugh and Tyler Clippard and Francis Martes, Michael Feliz, James Hoyt, those are the guys that are all under consideration.

Q. The luxury of having Dallas go Game 1, especially knowing Justin pitched in Game 4 and you can use him in Game 2.
A.J. HINCH: Right. Well, Dallas is really good so I'm not the least bit hesitant on starting him. When we made the move to pitch Verlander in Game 4 out of relief we had the backdrop that Dallas was going to start Game 5. So I have all the confidence in the world.

Dallas Keuchel has been remarkable as an Astros, he's been remarkable in my three years here. We hand him the ball and the entire room knows we have a chance to win.

So we're well aware he's had success against the Yankees, we're very confident in this ballpark. He's pitched extraordinarily.

So, look, having Verlander and Keuchel in the decision that goes one, two, the fact that we have both is a huge advantage for us.

Q. Whenever Keuchel pitches the Yankees a lot has been made about his past success against them in the Wild Card game a couple years ago. Given the roster turnover they have had the last year and a half, just in general all the information teams have on each other, how much do you think that actually matters?
A.J. HINCH: Well, I think when he looks out there and sees the Yankee uniform, maybe we can make him feel a little bit better. But I don't think that stuff matters.

I know there's a confidence level. And to be honest with you, when Dallas is right, he's confident against anybody. I don't think who the names are or who the jersey is, he knows he can get anybody out in the league.

So there's a small history with some of these guys, but a lot of these young guys that are new to the Yankees over the last year or so don't have a ton of at-bats against him. So in this setting, in this ballpark, Dallas can get his outs regardless of who he's facing.

Q. He detailed to us last time out his initial plan just didn't work and he was struggling. What kind of next-level stuff is that even for someone as accomplished as him to adjust on the fly and then go out and pitch?
A.J. HINCH: He's got multiple ways to get guys out. He doesn't have to rely on one mode or one game plan. He's tremendous at reading bats and reading hitters and what they're looking for and what they're trying to do. One of the good parts about being Dallas Keuchel is he has the ability to combat that. If a guy wants to lean out over the plate long looking for his sinker, he's got a really good cutter. If a guy wants to try to ambush him, he has a tremendous changeup. He's got the breaking ball for the punch-out whenever he wants it.

So I think being Dallas Keuchel and having -- there's an artistry to how he pitches, there's a competitiveness between him and the hitter. Some people will call it a cat-and-mouse game. He's a tremendous competitor, he's very smart on the mound, he's very under control while intense. And with any game plan he can adjust on the fly and continue to get outs.

Q. To get to this point you had to beat Boston in Fenway, to get to the World Series you'll have to beat the Yankees, two of the most storied teams in all of baseball. Does that speak to how difficult it is to get to this point and then to take the next step with this franchise?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah. No, I mean, I think our number one goal is to win the Division, we check marked that box. We wanted to win the playoff series, we check marked that box. We want to get to the World Series, we've got to go through New York to get there because they earned the right to play us.

We watched last night not knowing if we were going to be sitting in this room or were we going to be traveling and working out and sitting in Cleveland.

So this organization has come a long way. We're very proud of that. It's a very proud organization that a lot of people before me have helped pave the way to get this franchise to where we're at. And we have a tremendous opportunity with a good team. I think our guys embrace that. We play in a great city, a great fan base. There's a lot of positive mojo going on around here with this team.

So it doesn't help us get more wins right now, we have got to figure out a way to handle their bullpen, to avoid their home run power and get to some of their swing and miss. But to think of being in this situation, having this opportunity, while we have earned it, we have also got to embrace how fortunate we are to be healthy going into this series and feel good about it.

Q. What impact do you think Verlander has had on Dallas positively and are you a believer in sort of having a power righty and a finesse lefty back-to-back and maybe that that's a nice arrangement?
A.J. HINCH: On this team it's a great arrangement because I have them. But I don't necessarily have an opinion on what we need -- we need good pitchers, and both of them are exceptional. So what Verlander has done for our team and for Dallas in particular is just raise the standard and the sideline of where the goals are.

Verlander is a lot about competitiveness, a lot about preparation, it's a lot about being excellent. He blended in perfectly with his personality. And his credentials when he walks through the room just immediately raised the bar for a team that already had a pretty high bar.

Dallas in particular, having someone who has got some hardware behind him, this guy's pitched in the World Series, he's got some Cy Young's, he's got an MVP or at least MVP votes. He's got so much accomplishment in this game that Dallas can draw from, it's impossible not to get a little bit better.

He's got a partner in crime, he's got a-one-two punch. Dallas was very outspoken in July, in case you missed it. He wanted a partner. All of that I think was positive energy towards where we're at today.

Q. Beyond his stats, what does Beltran bring you and does having someone who knows a lot about the Yankees help?
A.J. HINCH: We're going to find out because we got a seven-game series against his former team and McCann, we're going to double down a little bit on the Yankee info with he and McCann.

And for us Beltran has been every bit the poised veteran that was needed in that room. He's an experienced, high-level, high-intellect, highly-respected player who young players, old players, coaches are immediately drawn to.

So for him, whether it's the subtleties of what he's learned over a 20-year career, whether it's -- we're rooting for him to be a World Series champion. Now, some of that is for him, but most of it is for us; we want to be champions.

But his demeanor and his presence and his calmness has been a staple in our clubhouse. When things come up during the year or situations arise or there's debates, most everybody to a man will go in there and say, What does Carlos think? And that kind of respect shows you where his place in our hierarchy is.

Q. How big a benefit is it opening at home? And part two, you've seen what this place can be like. What do you expect for the environment on Friday?
A.J. HINCH: I expect it to be loud and I expect it to be pretty pro-Astros. So those are both really good things for us. I love the fact that we're opening up at home. And again, other than the Indians in the American League, nobody had more wins. So it took a lot to get us to have this right. But to sleep in our own beds a couple times, to play in front of our home fans, we hope to get off to a hot start in a seven-game series.

Sure, sign me up for four home games and three road games if it takes seven games. The environment's going to be crazy. The people here are hungry for baseball. They have been passionate about this team. This is an easy team to fall in love with, it's been that way since the beginning of the season. Roof closed can be pretty hot, that's a nice temperature outside to where you can close this roof and get pretty loud. So bring your earplugs, be ready, it's a pretty loud environment.

Q. Jose Altuve was already a star player when you took over as manager. Is there something you learned about him since you took over that surprised you the most or that's interested you the most?
A.J. HINCH: I don't know if anything's surprised me as much as I've been able to have a front row seat to his growth and his evolution into a really good player who is a really good player on some rough teams to an exceptional player on a great team. To watch him grow and mature, I've seen him become a father for the first time, I've seen him speak out in meetings for the first time and be a leader vocally. And probably most importantly, I've just seen him be the most consistent player in baseball at his craft, at being a good hitter, good defender, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, All Star, hits leader, batting titles, you name it, he's done it.

I know what's high on his list is getting to and winning the World Series. So for me to be able the last three years to watch him grow, develop a relationship with him, see how he's impacted his teammates, hopefully he can add an MVP to that trophy case here this season. But, he's exceptional in every way and a lot of the reasons behind why we have been able to elevate things is how he goes about it and how he impacts this city.

Q. Does a shift from a five-game to a seven-game series alter how you use your pitchers in game?
A.J. HINCH: Not so much in game. I think if you learn anything from watching playoff baseball or being in playoff baseball, you have to try to win today. You can't save anything for tomorrow, if you have guys available. That's how I felt in Game 4 when using Verlander, it's how I'll feel in Game 1 tomorrow. I won't use Verlander, he's going to pitch Game 2, in case you guys wondered.

But I think you have to really have a center focus on today because the series can shift so quickly. I've seen it in other series, a guy hits a home run all of a sudden and, bam, they're heading back to Washington and they're playing Game 5, anything can happen. Same thing happened in the Yankees-Indian series.

So I think the sense of urgency is huge in the playoffs. The seven games is it's harder to get four wins and you have to play three in a row, which is not something you have to do in a five-game series. So you've got to keep guys ready.

But if you have a chance to win today's game, that's a huge boost, you have to use your guys accordingly, whether that means Ken Giles for multiple innings or maybe a starter that you're considering in Game 3 or Game 4, he needs to be used in Game 1 or Game 2, those things matter.

Q. Given the September that the Indians had, how surprised are you to be seeing the Yankees in this series?
A.J. HINCH: I'm not very surprised. You just never know in the playoffs. These short -- I say short series, it's only five games -- but it shows to you there's a lot of resolve on other side for them to be down 2-0, especially with the stress that came with it and how they got there, these guys have been fighting.

The Wild Card team that wins, that goes on and then gets down 2-0 and then all of a sudden fights their way back against one of the best teams in baseball and ends up in the American League Championship Series, there's something right going on over there.

So I'm not surprised. I think that anything can happen, there's a small, small margin among these teams, including ourselves, where if you don't play well, if you don't play well at the right time, you can get beat.

The Yankees, with their strengths of their bullpen and their home run power, couple big home runs and a locked-down bullpen got them a few wins and a couple high-end starting pitching outings won them the series. And that should be no surprise to anybody.

But I haven't been following the Yankees every year, all year, but when the series started if you would have told me we were playing the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, that wouldn't have really shocked me.

Q. How much does the depth of the Yankees' bullpen increase the importance for your guys to get off to an early lead?
A.J. HINCH: It does all the time. You don't get to this point without having a pretty strong group of players. So getting the lead's always important in the playoffs. We saw that firsthand the last series and the momentum that can impact decisions on both sides, the urgency that's created by the playoffs. And you count outs a little bit faster in the postseason than you do even in the regular season. And this bullpen can match up with you, they're predominantly right-hander to the back end. They've got high-end velocity, probably don't throw a ball under 95. There's a lot of weapons down there for Joe to use, and our players know that and we know that.

But you ask any manager in the postseason, you're a little bit more mapped out if you can have the lead. We have been a quick strike offense early so far this playoff season, so if we can do that again, I'll be a little happier.

THE MODERATOR: All right, thanks, A.J. appreciate it.

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