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October 5, 2018

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas - pregame 1

Q. We haven't heard a whole lot about Springer sort of leading up to this series. Obviously, he was the World Series MVP. How do you assess the last few weeks? He was getting hits, not hitting for a lot of power. Is that something you think he has to step up and do more in these playoffs?
A.J. HINCH: The ball in Baltimore went pretty far. I think he's capable of doing just about anything. He's a great tone setter for us, and he's battled a lot of different things this season health-wise and performance-wise. And he's very symbolic of a lot of our guys where the spotlight was on him a little bit more this season.

But, you know, I assess him as the guy I want to come up to bat first. He'll get the most at-bats of our team, and I think, when the lights turn on today, the playoff baseball starts. I think he's very capable of setting a perfect tone for what we hope to be a productive postseason.

Q. How do you think McCann will be worked into this series?
A.J. HINCH: It's a different setup for him this year than last year. I expect him to catch Game 3 with Dallas. Potentially close out some games as a catcher for us. If I end up needing a run or hit for Martin, then B. Mack is more than capable of coming in and finishing the game.

He provides a left-handed bat off the bench against their right-handed bullpen. I don't have a script for what I'm going to do or how I'm going to use him, but for someone who led us to the World Series Championship last year, caught every inning, he lays everybody out there. He's certainly prepared at a moment's notice to come in the game.

It will be a different experience for him because I know what his expectations are and his want to play every inning, but I'm really happy that we have that stability if we need him.

Q. Do you anticipate having to be a little bit more aggressive on the bases to augment your offense? Or is that a risk because there's a high strikeout --
A.J. HINCH: I think it's a question for both of us. I think both teams have that curiosity. There's two philosophies: You go in against good pitching, you can sit back and try to slug, and it's hard to do that against this kind of pitching staff, so you've got to be opportunistic when you can; but you can't be too greedy, and you can't give away outs.

So I think it's a tough balance. If we get the opportunity and they're not paying attention to our runners, then we'll be aggressive. I think that's going to be part of the kind of inside-the-game reaction that both teams are going to have to have. How many runners do you start? How much do you try to steal bases? Where are the soft spots on the pitching staffs that don't control the running game? How much pressure can you put on in two-strike counts? Like things that we'll look back on and figure out how good we were at it.

Q. With a five-game series, is it three days rest, you have that in mind? Depending on the starting pitching that you have.
A.J. HINCH: For J.V.?

Q. Or Cole.
A.J. HINCH: Or Cole. Honestly, we're just getting through Game 1. If I'm thinking about Game 4, I've got problems. I don't know. I'll have to see how the series plays out before I think about games that aren't on the schedule yet.

Q. A.J., just going back to when you guys acquired Gerrit Cole in the off-season, were you curious, especially to get to see him in Spring Training, just maybe why the performance didn't match the stuff kind of in his last days in Pittsburgh?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah. That might be a little unfair to say that performance didn't match his stuff. I say we set the bar extraordinarily high for high-profile players. He was still pretty good. He had eclipsed 200 innings. He had pitched in a playoff game. He had some really good stretches in his career.

My curiosity around Gerrit was just how open he was going to be to some subtle things that could make him a little bit better. What I learned quickly from him is he's all in on trying to find a little edge and get a little bit better. Obviously, a smart guy, a very cerebral pitcher with a game plan, elite stuff across the board, an opinion because of the work and research that he does.

He was a perfect fit for us and certainly one of the best additions imaginable for our team. I'm so impressed with how he goes about it. I think that -- and you guys don't get to see it because you get to see the performance on the field. We get to see the study. We get to see the talks, the conversation, the work on the subtle adjustment to the shape of a breaking ball, a location of a fastball that's so precise that you would think that -- he has the mind of someone who wants to be perfect with his pitches, and I love that about someone who doesn't just throw brain-dead pitches. He throws a pitch for a reason, and he holds himself to a high standard on execution.

I don't care whether you throw 90, whether you throw 100, whether you throw primarily fastballs, primarily breaking balls, that's an elite mindset, and that's impressed me the most since acquiring him.

Q. You were hesitant to throw your starters much beyond 100 pitches, I guess mostly in the second half, but how much now in the playoffs do you think you will push them more to go maybe a little bit deeper than they did?
A.J. HINCH: I don't know. What I've learned in my short time managing is I think going in with any preconceived philosophy is flat wrong. I think we have to read the game. Last season I think I took J.V. up to upper 120s. I didn't expect to do that the first day of the series. I also didn't expect to pull guys in the 60s and 70s like I did last year as well in the postseason.

What I've learned is I need to read the game, read the situation, read the pitchers, who's available, what matchups we have coming forward, how am I going to get the 27 outs to help us win. If I get too philosophical or too stubborn in my thought process, then I'm going to miss the window of opportunity to put people in a position to be successful.

If J.V. wants to throw nine innings a day, I don't care how many pitches it is, if he's elite, he can do that. If he has to come out in a short start and we've got to piece it together with the pen, I'm cool with that too as long as we win.

Q. A.J., as Tony Sipp kind of demonstrated through the year that he was kind of a different version of himself, you were more privy to let him face some right-handed hitters after putting him in. With the Indians being so left-handed, does he revert back to a one-batter specialist in this series?
A.J. HINCH: Not necessarily. Obviously, everyone will look at Brantley and Alonso and Kipnis as their left-handed hitters. They've got some switch hitters that some we want to be right-handed, some we don't want to be right-handed.

I know Tito well enough, he's not just going to hand me a left-on-left matchup with Tony Sipp. If he wants to pinch-hit, he's got Guyer or guys on the bench that can come off that can handle left-handed pitching.

Chances are more in the favor he's going to have to face a righty more than a lefty. I doubt they hit for Brantley, but that's about it. Tito's been willing to do just about anything.

One of Tony's strengths is there's some ways for him to escape a right-handed at-bat. There's even some righties they have that haven't hit lefties as well. I don't know how the game's going to play out. It's not going to be perfectly lined up for us. Tony will have to adjust with whoever he faces. The good news is that he's been very, very good, and that splits back. His command's very good, and we feel like we know where to exploit these guys.

Q. A.J., I know you're focused on here and now, but you have some pretty good weapons that didn't make the roster. What are your plans for keeping them ready in case you want to use them if you advance?
A.J. HINCH: We'll have some practice sessions with them. We have a couple of off-days. I'm sure there will be sim games and stuff like that. We'll have a program in place. We have a couple of hitters, a couple of pitchers, and we've got a five-game series to win. We'll prioritize it as we can and get guys as much work as we can when we can.

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