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October 2, 2018

Liam Hendriks

Blake Treinen

New York, New York

Q. Liam, I'm assuming you're the one starting tomorrow?
LIAM HENDRIKS: I'm the one opening. Yeah, we like the term "opener". We're going to start with that one. I'm the one opening.

Q. You've done it obviously several times this month. How do you feel about doing it on this type of stage and about the process of going through with a game like this?
LIAM HENDRIKS: Yeah, so it's been my ninth time opening. Same as any other game. I'm taking it the same way, warming up the same as I do, trying to keep it as much as a relief appearance as I can. All it means is I'm relieving in the first inning.

There's no difference in the game. Obviously it's a do or die, but to everybody out there, it's the same strike zone, same guys in the box, just going to go out there and do it and see how it goes.

Q. Blake, as a reliever yourself, what have you thought of this strategy when you guys have employed it with using essentially either all relievers or opening with a reliever?
BLAKE TREINEN: Well, kind of how Liam touched, I think it's important just to focus on when your name is called, to go out and do your job. You get hung up on the things you can't control, it can tend you drive you a little bit one way or the other and you maybe get caught up in a situation that you're not used to.

You know, our job in the bullpen as players, as starters or whatever the role may be, is to get outs. That's what we get paid to do. That's what we've worked our whole lives to do. The whole season we've been doing it. If you get caught up in anything more than that, I think it's kind of silly. So just focus on what we're here to accomplish, to win a ballgame. No matter how it has to get done, it has to get done.

I think we all have faith in everybody out here to go out there and compete. We've got a great staff, and our offense is good, so it'll be fun. It's a really good team over there.

Q. Liam, after what you've been through this season, getting designated for assignment a couple months ago, now starting the Wild Card game or opening the Wild Card game, what's the feeling in your mind? How exciting is this?
LIAM HENDRIKS: I'm just happy to be a part of it. I'm just happy to be on the team, to be honest. Obviously it was a trying year regardless of everything else. But it's one of those things where I've had to adapt, I've had to overcome some things this year, and I think it's made me better. It's definitely humbled me, it's definitely brought me back down to earth, and it's definitely brought out that little animosity about everything, just trying to go out there and prove that I can do this. I mean, in September I did it a little bit, and this will be another test. Just one step at a time; we'll see how it goes.

Q. When were you told you were going to open, and what was that conversation like?
LIAM HENDRIKS: I got told at 10:58 through a text message. So the conversation was brief. But I had kind of thought about it a little bit. It was one of those things, it's like, there had been a bunch of stuff alluding to it. So it's one of those things where I was preparing to be it, but I was also preparing not to be it. I wasn't setting myself up. I wasn't trying to do anything any different. I did the same thing I would normally do if I was relieving yesterday. Walked around the city, went to the Met. That's about it. It's the same as every other game to me. Just going out there, I'm relieving in the first inning instead of sixth, seventh or eighth or taking over for him in the ninth.

Q. Blake, you've gone more than one inning on numerous occasions this year. How many innings do you think you could work, if need be, in a Wild Card game?
BLAKE TREINEN: Well, I mean, the season comes down to tomorrow. If I feel fresh and they want to call me whatever inning it may be, I'll be ready. I can't say how long I can go because you never know what situations are going to be dictated. But I think in a perfect world, we've got plenty of capable arms that are going to be able to give us multiple innings, multiple outs. You know, we'll cross that bridge when we get there, but I do know that the season runs on tomorrow, so whatever is needed, I'll be ready for it.

Q. You had the chance to open against the Yankees last month; does that give you any type of -- that experience help you out at all? I know back in Oakland, it was only a month ago, only one inning.
LIAM HENDRIKS: That'll be interesting because I'm not sure who they're going to throw out there. They had some injuries then. Their lineup is going to be a little different. I mean, it's just the same as any other team, we'll face their guys and whoever comes up comes up, and they're the guys I have to get. It doesn't really bother me too much who's going to be up, whether I did it against him before because every game is different, obviously new ballpark, different settings and everything like this. But it's the same, I've got to get as many outs as I can. I'm trying to go for six innings, get a quality start out there, send it over to the bullpen, but we'll see how it goes.

Q. Liam, could you explain how the throwing program was put in your lap down in Triple-A and why that was able to put you in a situation where you got a couple more ticks of velocity and got things back on track?
LIAM HENDRIKS: So pretty much just went down there and said, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it my way, scrapped everything, and went and -- while I was lucky enough to be with Bobby Wahl, who was long tossing every day. I remember doing it in '15 with a guy named Mark Lowe, who had some success in the Big Leagues, as well. We just long tossed every day. I was like, if this was going to be what I am going to do, I am going to long toss every day. Did that, and as I kept doing it, I continued to see a little uptick in velocity and everything.

It's one of those things that I've kept. I've maintained that program of just long tossing every day. I've got a good guy here who I throw with, Fernando Rodney every, day, who goes back pretty far every day.

Yeah, it's just maintaining that program. Pretty just myself going in, what made me successful in '15, what made me feel the best arm-wise, body-wise, everything like this. And it was pretty much I go there, I get into my locker, I sit there, read my book, I go out and throw it as far as I can, and then I go back down and read my book again. It seems to be working (laughing). So I'm going to stick with what's working and see if I can ride it out.

Q. When you were first told before the Seattle game at the start of September that they wanted you in this opening role, who explained it to you? Was it Bob or a pitching coach? What was your reaction and what were some of your questions?
LIAM HENDRIKS: The first time I found out about it, I was checking into the hotel in Oakland after I flew in from Nashville. It was Scott Emerson, the pitching coach, who called me up and was like, "By the way you're going to start today. Obviously we don't expect you to go deep into the game but you'll probably go an inning, maybe plus. We'll see how it goes." And that was pretty much the conversation then, and then I got to the field about an hour later, and it was kind of, "Yep, we're going to try this opening thing, see how it goes."

We've had some success with it. Obviously it's still a new thing to us a little bit, but we've had enough success with it over the last month or so that we're going to give it a whirl. We've got enough guys whether whoever comes in after me or if it's a -- whatever is going to happen, we're just going to see how it goes and take it from there. We've got definitely capable arms, and then we're going to mix and match, and we'll see how it goes.

Q. What was your reaction then and what were your questions?
LIAM HENDRIKS: Mainly the question was, how long am I going? But at the same time, I'm a reliever, so if I come into a game, I don't know how long I'm going. It's one of those things, I'm going to take it, I'm going to throw as hard as I can for as long as I can and see how it goes. Obviously that was the -- that probably wasn't the best experience -- like, time for me to do it. Just out of the eight times I've done it, that was probably the worst one I've done. I think like everything it was trying to find a groove of me warming up normally, getting into the game normally, and just going about it.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow, but it's the same as the other eight times I've done it, and the 34 times before that, and the couple times in Triple-A.

Q. What has Jonathan Lucroy meant to you guys as a staff, and you personally this year, having him back there?
BLAKE TREINEN: Jonathan is a very prepared individual. I think his attention to detail when he comes into a game is pretty elite, so it always helps when you have somebody, whether it be young staff members coming in. It helps having somebody like Jonathan back there that has a game plan. I think it takes the pressure off of certain pitchers, and as we develop as players, we learn to take a little bit into our own hands, too, and he's taught me that to not only rely on him but also have my own game plans.

I think we work well together, bounce ideas off. He's been able to shoot some stuff my way, because he's taught some established and some really successful closers in the past. I think for us, it's just been a very -- like a mutual respect, and it's been great to work with somebody who is so dedicated back there.

It's not easy doing what he's had to do this year. I don't even know the numbers of starters that we've gone through with unfortunate injuries. And then the amount of arms that we had in the bullpen through September, trying to keep hitters off balance, knowing what everybody has, trying to read their stuff on that day. He's been pretty solid to say the least for us back there, and it's a good luxury to have.

And let's not forget about Phegley, also. He's been awesome in the games he's been able to come in. In fact, pretty sure his record has been pretty solid. We're pretty blessed to have two phenomenal catchers back there, each carrying their own strengths, and I just don't think you can say enough about what they've done for us.

Q. What do you guys think about this bullpen concept? And what does it tell you that this is the way management feels, it's the best way to win the biggest game of the year?
LIAM HENDRIKS: I think obviously as you can attest to the last couple years, the starters have been going shorter. The bullpen has been throwing a lot more, and it's just another concept of that. Instead of the starter going six and handing it over to the bullpen or going five and handing it over to the bullpen, now we're just reversing it and the guy is going to throw the first three, so maybe the starter can go that sixth inning and put him in in the seventh.

It's one of those things. It's one of little bit of a variation on using the bullpen a little bit more. I think it's one of those things where if you're not constantly striving to be -- like get that first foot in, get something in the door just to move forward, I think you're going to stand still, and we're trying some different ways. If there's any other team to do it, it's the A's. We've been ahead of the curve on a whole lot of things, so it's just another way that hopefully we're ahead of the curve, and we'll see how many teams do it next year.

BLAKE TREINEN: I'll just touch on something: I feel like in today's game, I think there's been a struggle between old-school mentality and sabermetrics, and this is a way to kind of incorporate sabermetrics with effectiveness. We have guys in the front office that do a lot of research to put us in the best situations for success, and I think it's our job to put some faith in them. We've got the arms to make this make sense.

You know, I don't want to sit here and hoo-rah one way or another because I feel like our starters have been monumental for us this year, and I don't think they get enough credit, having to jump into different roles, having to step up when other guys go down, having to bite longer innings because sometimes when starters get hurt and you have to rely on the bullpen, there's certain guys that have to be down. So they have to go out and battle for us through seven innings and give us opportunities.

But this is a must-win situation for us, and we all know that, and I think we're all just willing to do whatever it takes to win. You can't say going a starter for seven innings is the best way. You can't say that going an opener is the best way. But this is what's going to work for us, and we're going to ride it out, and we have full faith in whoever makes the decisions. I'm excited to see what this game does because it's kind of a first of its kind, and I think we all fully embrace that.

Q. Liam, I believe this makes you the first Australian-born pitcher to start a Major League playoff game; does that mean anything to you?
LIAM HENDRIKS: Yeah, it sounds about right because I think we've had some Australians in the postseason, we've had all this. The other only guy that comes to mind would be Travis Blackley but I'm not sure if he was ever starting at that point. Obviously Graeme Lloyd won a couple rings here with the Yankees, and he was the lefty specialist out of the pen.

It's definitely an honor. Obviously I'm the 31st Australian to make it to the Big Leagues. We've had, I think, 33 now, and so it's -- any time you get a chance to put baseball in the forefront in Australia, it's a good thing. I mean, we're in the top ten world rankings, and it's pretty cool to see how baseball has advanced through Australia into over here. The more success guys like me, Warwick or Peter Moylan have had this year it's definitely kind of helped push that agenda a little bit more in Australia.

I may be the first, but I'm hoping I won't be the last. We've got a bunch of young guys coming up, and hopefully they get a chance to do it. But for right now, it's not weighing on my mind or anything like that. I'm more worried about going out there and putting up a one, two, three inning in the first and we'll see where it takes us, and hopefully we advance and take it over to Boston.

Q. Was there ever a moment in the season when you guys had the injuries and then you get on this crazy hot streak, was there a moment you said to yourself, what the hell is happening, either good or bad?
LIAM HENDRIKS: Well, they went on a winning streak as soon as I left. It was kind of a little bit -- apparently I'm a pariah. But no, watching these guys when I was down in Nashville, it was impressive. Every time you come in from a game, all of a sudden you might go outside and it's 4-0, and you come inside and they're up 5-4 or whatever it is, and they're just -- you go in there and there was never a thought that, okay, they're going to slow down. It was like, no, they're just continually just chugging along.

I think we've outpaced a lot of people. I think it helps a lot of people have counted us out because it's given us that little chip on our shoulder that said, okay, we weren't meant to be here, we've got pretty much nothing to lose, we're going to go out there and do what we can to prove to all of these people that no matter what talent you've go on paper, there's a whole lot more that goes on into a clubhouse with character with everything like that than there is on paper. That's why the team has been able to do what we've done.

BLAKE TREINEN: Yeah, I think you look at it, and we feel for our teammates because a lot of guys had ambitions to help us be where we are today, and from a personal standpoint, being our friends, our brothers, you know, it sucks to see that stuff happen. You never want anybody to go down. But the mentality for us was to dog-pile last year. Whenever I came over and had a chance to be with this organization with the young talent, it didn't take long for me to see that there was potential within at least the next couple years and then the way we played down the stretch last year. We definitely felt like we had some opportunities.

So when stuff like that happens, it's a gut check because those are guys we were hoping to rely on, and unfortunately things happen. It's a violent game. Your body goes through quite a bit, especially as a starter. I think that's where most of our hits have been this year. But we kind of rallied around each other. There was a point in time where I think we all looked each other in the eyes and realized that we had to start doing something or there was potential for the team to get broken up. It's just the business of it all.

Our young guys truly bought into what they were capable of doing probably well ahead of what most people in the baseball industry expected. They won together in the minor leagues. They brought that young, winning mentality up here, and we just had the right blend of veteran presence and young talent that every day is just so much fun. I mean, every day isn't work for us. We truly buy into a team aspect.

I think when the baseball world saw us making that transition is when it became prevalent that we had something special and we could continue to push the games how we were. Success breeds success; it's contagious, and now it's not just contagious, it's a reality. We know how good we are. We respect our opponent. Everybody who's here is here for a reason, and that's a really good team across the field from us.

It's an honor to be here. I think all of us feel very privileged, and it's a tribute to how much work we've put in, and I think we're just here to enjoy this moment and leave it all on the line. To go back to that point, you said there was a point in time where it was kind of like we were 31-32. That's probably when our season started to turn. It's pretty incredible to look back. It's been quite the blessing.

Q. Liam, how was your visit to the Met? And for both of you, what's it like to pitch when you've got somebody like Matt Chapman playing defense over at third base?
LIAM HENDRIKS: Well, the Met was great. My wife wanted to go see the Heavenly Bodies exhibit, which was incredible, and I was super ecstatic all the medieval armor because that's what I love. I am reading a book now about the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. So it's all about medieval French and English and all of that. But yeah, the Met was great. I think I ended up walking 10 and a half miles yesterday, so I got my exercise in.

But with the defense behind you, it's incredible. Like I remember in '15 I had with the Jays, it was Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Ryan Goins and Justin Smoak in the infield, and you just throw it up, like hit a ground ball, it's an out. It's the same thing here. We've got between Chapman, Semien, Jed and then Matt Olson over at first base, it's the same deal. Just get a ground ball and you've got an out. It's pretty much almost guaranteed with the guys we've got over there.

They've been amazing. I've never played behind a team that focuses on defense as well as they have this year as opposed to the last couple years, and it hasn't been our strength. But we've got guys now that not only can they hit but they can play defense, and that's how you make winning teams.

BLAKE TREINEN: Yeah, I think as a ground ball pitcher myself --

LIAM HENDRIKS: Sitting there with 100 strikeouts?

BLAKE TREINEN: I feel like it takes pressure off you as a pitcher to know you can rely on your team behind you. I've been pretty fortunate to have good defenses behind me in my career, and what Chapman has been able to do at third is pretty impressive. I played with a really good one in D.C. in Anthony Rendon, and it's been a luxury to have. Semien has played phenomenal this year, Jed obviously an All-Star, you can't speak enough to what he does, and I don't know if Olson gets enough credit at first for his ability.

You talk about the infield, but our outfielders have made really, really good reads, and Laureano has been huge for us down the stretch. I think his outfield assist per game rate is probably through the roof right now. Yeah, when you have a good defense, it makes it easier on the pitcher. It takes the pressure off, you don't have to try to be too fine, force the issue, and usually good things happen. You get hitters on the defense. It helps things out down the road if you're trying to get a big strikeout, get ahead in the count, or if you're behind in the count, you're trying to pitch to contact because you know you've got seven guys behind you that are going to compete and get outs for you.

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