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October 3, 2018

Bob Melvin

New York, New York

Q. Bob, can you tell us yet who you have in mind to go in second after Liam?
BOB MELVIN: Not yet. It's all going to be play-it-by-ear. We have a semi script. But it just depends on what the situation will be. So it's a bit of a play-it-by-ear.

Q. Do you notice a difference in confidence level heading into this Wild Card game as opposed to 2014, just given how strong you finished the season this year?
BOB MELVIN: You know, two completely different situations. I mean, in '14 we were fighting for our lives. We were struggling at the end and had to win the last game. Here, it's completely the opposite. We had a good run from the middle of June and we clinched a playoff spot early.

So it's just a little bit different. There's a little bit more relief in '14 when we won the last game. And it's a different team on top of it. So it's tough to compare that.

Q. Could you go into the decision you guys made on picking Jackson as the lone starter as opposed to any of your other guys?
BOB MELVIN: We just felt like he would be the best guy to be able to come out of the bullpen.

Q. Do you think you would have done this with an opener a year or two ago, or has the game evolved that quickly? And in your baseball career, what are the inflection points of changing your view of the use of relievers?
BOB MELVIN: Well, you know, for us to do this now, it's more about who we have and how our bullpen was built up. So from the middle of June on we've been fortifying our bullpen. You have to go with what you think is the best mix. And here recently we've been experimenting, so to speak, with an opener and then a starter.

We've had games where it's been a complete bullpen day. So leading up to this we were trying to look at how things were going and we felt like we have a deep enough bullpen to be able to cover the whole game. And the one dynamic that didn't work very well for us, at least several games, was bringing in the starter for the second to try to eat up some innings there.

So we're just trying to do what we think is best for this particular game. And our bullpen is our strength.

This year, it started with Tampa, and everybody seemed to try to take a look at it and see what their benefits would be from it. Certainly our bullpen is our strength. So we're a team that looked hard at it and started to make some changes.

Before this year, probably not. I think it takes that first look to someone to do it and then see how you think it will go for you. And like I said, we've been experimenting here for a little bit the last month.

Q. Can you just tell us about the quality of the work that Matt Chapman has done to become such an elite defender?
BOB MELVIN: He's had this ability for quite a while. I think it's the offense that really, for us, has come pretty quickly since he's gotten to the big league level.

His defense, from the time he got here, was off the charts and continues to trend in that direction. So he's just one of those special guys defensively that has the arm strength to play deep; has the first step quickness; is very, very confident in what he does. He can play back. You bunt on him, it's tough to get a bunt down on him because he's so quick coming in. It's all the above.

I haven't seen this many qualities in a third baseman really ever since I've been watching this stuff. And I've had some pretty good third basemen -- and our third base coach is pretty good one in Matt Williams, and he'll tell you the same.

Q. Buck Showalter was let go by the Orioles and you know Buck well. As a veteran manager, how much attention do you pay to the pretty dramatic turnover the past couple of years, and do you have any thoughts about the evolution of the role?
BOB MELVIN: It has. There's no doubt about it. I think in any industry right now you have to look at how change is coming quickly. And if you want to stick around for a while you probably have to embrace that.

So I don't think Buck was a guy that ignored analytics. I think it was probably a combination of how they did this year and maybe some relationships.

But it has been changing, there's no doubt. More teams are going to analytics. More teams are doing the type of stuff that we're doing and Tampa's doing right now. So if you want some longevity in this game you better understand you can't be too hard headed.

Q. Maybe in a similar vein, but putting aside the opener, putting that idea to the side, relievers now get more innings than ever before. Starters don't go long. You came up when starters were valued a little more. Why has there been this change and why are relievers maybe more important than ever?
BOB MELVIN: It's numbers. The third time around the lineup gets pretty significant. You look at Houston; they've probably got the best rotation in baseball, and their guys are coming out after the sixth inning a lot. And it's based on numbers after the sixth inning and the impact relievers can have, especially power relievers which you're seeing more and more of, and especially the first time that they're facing somebody. It's just a big change from the third time around to seeing a power reliever for the first time. It's the numbers.

Q. Do you like that style (indiscernible)?
BOB MELVIN: I do. I think there are times where you have to identify with a dominant starter, whether or not the other team is pretty happy about him coming out of the game. But you're seeing less and less of that now.

So as far as we go right now, we have dominant bullpen guys. And our starters have done a nice job. These are guys that we basically, in Spring Training, have called in late and a little later on in their careers. And they've had to acclimate to this type of style, too, but they've done it. But the bullpen has definitely been our strength.

Q. Your team doesn't seem to mind, A, road games or, B, hostile environments. Any reasons for those two?
BOB MELVIN: You know, this is going to be about as hostile an environment they'll ever see tonight. But you know what, they're just going out and playing and trying to win. I don't think they'd look too much into it. I don't think they're watching too much and listening to -- there might be more pressure in this game.

They'll feel it when they go out there. But offensively we've done better on the road. And I think that's one of the reasons our position players are kind of looking forward to hitting in this ballpark because it's a home run-hitting ballpark and the ball carries. And our place sometimes can frustrate you, especially at night.

Q. There's only three players in your lineup tonight with any kind of postseason experience. Do you have a feeling they're not overwhelmed by the moment, and what of their mindset, personality, at this point?
BOB MELVIN: I think if you've had postseason experience and you've struggled, then that can be worse on you than going in for the first time. They're just excited about playing.

And until you go in, certainly there's some unknowns. But they're just excited about the venue. Yankee Stadium is a terrific place to play. They know it's going to be loud. They know it's going to be exciting. And I think they're looking forward to that and really not taking it any farther out than that.

Q. Given the uncertainty at the beginning of the season, not knowing if you were actually going to get to this point, can you speak to the impact that Billy Beane had, the relationship you had with him throughout the season as they kept adding and putting you in position to get here?
BOB MELVIN: No, that's one of the biggest reasons we are where we are, is not only do you look to how can you strengthen your team but there were some hurdles in front of us based on we don't -- our payroll isn't the highest. So how do you go about it the best.

And at that point in time in the season relievers are just cheaper. And for the most part you're paying -- two-thirds of their salary has already been paid down. So I think it was smart that we continued to try to fortify the bullpen, which had gotten better and better as the season went along. So the more winning we've done, the more they've gone out and tried to strengthen our team, even bringing in Fiers was key for us, too, after Kelley and Familia and Rodney.

So they continue to try to make our team better. We felt really good about the position player end of it. We didn't want to mess with that too much. But bringing in these guys and showing this team and for the most part a younger group until recently really told them, look, we feel like you can win and that gives them more confidence.

Q. [Inaudible]?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, he's been doing this for a while. And along with David and Dan Feinstein, we have a group that's around a lot. So they have a really good pool. So we're always talking. They're always communicating with me and the coaching staff, so forth. So they're very understanding where we are.

Q. You've talked all season long about how loose your team is. From what you've seen today, have they been able to kind of maintain that looseness?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, we still have to go out and take batting practice and play and everything. For the most part they came in the same, music is loud, unbearable at times. It's a good thing in the fact it's keeping them loose and they haven't shown any different personality traits today up to this point, no.

Q. Along the lines of the atmosphere you're describing and anticipating tonight, do you prepare your team in any way, do you focus on it at all for them for what they might expect here in the Bronx?
BOB MELVIN: We talked about it a little bit yesterday. Today we'll treat like a normal day. There won't be any meetings other than the advanced stuff we're doing. They know what to expect.

Until you get out there, you're not really sure. But I think they're excited about the prospects of playing in a place that's going to be loud and a very exciting place to play.

Q. How would you describe the impact or the boost that Laureano has given you guys since he came up, and could you have envisioned he would be your starting center fielder?
BOB MELVIN: He's been fantastic. And you're not talking about one dimension either. You're talking about a plus center field, certainly the arm strength has been shown off very quickly. His ability to let balls travel, hit him the other way, have power, have some speed. We're not a real speed dynamic team, he's added to that.

I can't remember a guy that's come in that's been this unexpected to do as well as he has to this point and put himself in a position where he's playing every day. It's been pretty special.


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