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October 8, 2018

AJ Hinch

Cleveland, Ohio - pregame 3

THE MODERATOR: First question for AJ.

Q. How has Kemp emerged from a guy who wasn't really in the picture in the beginning of the year. He's had to really forge his way into what he's doing. He's starting a playoff game for you.
AJ HINCH: One of the most disappointing parts of the spring is having to tell him he didn't make our team. All he did was go down and out-perform the league in Triple-A and wait for his opportunity. When his opportunity came, it was the first time that he had a legit chance to play and play pretty regularly. Maybe not every single day, maybe not every single opportunity, but there was something.

What he did was come in and convince me and the coaching staff that he could be an available part of a really good team. Really proud of the mindset that he took, for the patience that he showed and ultimately for the production.

I mean, this guy came in and I don't know how many games this season he became a spark plug for us or lead off an inning we were coming back from or get up and get a big pinch-hit and move them around the field a little bit.

Great attitude, great approach. Really valuable player.

Q. Marwin's started in left field like all the playoffs last year. He's an infielder but plays a pretty good outfield. What makes him a guy who can play left field and play really well? What are his strengths out there?
AJ HINCH: When I first got here in 2015, he was an early conversation that I had, because he wanted to know where he fit in. The emergence -- Carlos Correa was coming, and Jose Altuve was entrenched. We'd signed some infielders and it didn't look like he could play. Put a first base glove on and play a little more first base.

If you remember, he started playing first base a ton. We signed Yuli and Bregman starts to come and his infield time started to shrink a little bit. So hey, man, you better put an outfield glove in your bag. It became a running joke, he had an outfield glove, an infield glove, a first base glove. We had him catch a couple bullpens. I told him all that mattered was he'd get an opportunity somewhere.

Last season, he became our left fielder down the stretch, and this season he's played every game in left field. It speaks to his baseball acumen and his athleticism, his value to us. He's the answer. It's no disrespect to him that he's not the primary reason that you play a position. But when Correa went down early in his career, Marwin can play short. When Jose went on the DL for the first time this season, Marwin can play second. When we needed him at first or third or left, I put him in center this year, I think I may have even played him in right field. He's a fantasy baseball dream and also a manager's dream. He's the answer for everything.

We don't win the World Series last year without his contribution. We don't function as a team without his contribution. And it's not easy to do what he makes look very, very easy.

Q. AJ, you had to do some pretty creative things in the bullpen a year ago at this time to keep going. How different is your -- it's only two games in, but how different is your toolbox this year, basically?
AJ HINCH: It's different for a lot of reasons. One, there's such confidence that I have going into a game because of our starting rotation. In an era where it's shifting a little bit in people's belief in starting pitching, I think our guys are showing you can have great belief in great starting pitching.

The second part of it is the back end of our pen is very stable. And the additions of Osuna and Pressly have not only strengthened that part of the game, but it's also shifted some guys to different areas. Collin McHugh has had a great season as a right-handed weapon out of the pen.

Guys we left off the roster in Rondon and Smith and Devenski, Peacock, it doesn't just change what inning those guys pitch. It changes what I can do with this bullpen, primarily in the middle innings.

While that game squeezes the other side very, very early in the game, and so it -- you know, we have weapons for different style hitters and different handedness. Tony Sipp's reemergence as a left-handed reliever.

I think when you look down my card, I'm like, man, I've got something for everybody in different areas of the game. It's comfortable. These games aren't comfortable, but it's a comfortable feeling, knowing I've got a couple cards to play when the time matters the most.

One thing that I appreciate that I probably don't tell them enough is they are selfless. They don't care who gets the 27th out. They don't care who gets the 24th out. The starting rotation has a lot of pride in staying in the game.

But this bullpen has built a culture down there that is really second to none, where there's not a lot of egos, there's not a lot of tension. There's a ton of support for each other, and that's not easy when they're all fighting for the same inning and the same opportunity.

Q. AJ, the mentality your guys have, when did you detect that it was special because some guys can hang out and have a good time, but they won't be laser focused like your guys are? Like yesterday, they're relaxed during the workout. They'll be laser focused again today. When did you sense that?
AJ HINCH: I was proud of the guys in the spring. For the guys that are here, we have a little bit different team this season. Every team's different.

But in the spring, there was a great humility in how we were going about our work. That helped kick start the year with if we're going to do something special, we're going to need to attack it differently than we did. It wasn't just we were going to copy and paste from the year before.

That helped. When we got pushed this season, to defend our guys, I don't think our guys got enough credit for winning when people expected us to win. To win a franchise record number of games, the approach these guys brought every day.

I know we expect it at this level. We expect it with really good teams. Everybody had us in first place from the very beginning. When we got pushed, we fought back. And we won the division in a really good division that wasn't talked about enough as far as being how difficult it was.

So throughout the year, when we were tested, it was reminded at the resolve of these guys, the determination to win.

We had a couple days off, we go into Game 1 and Game 2. I was so impressed with what our guys did to prepare for this series and I hope it continues, obviously, today.

Q. AJ, last year, you guys were up 2-0 against the Red Sox. Went to Fenway and lost the third game. The fourth game was a tough battle. You ended up winning. Indians last year were up 2-0 against the Yankees, ended up losing that series 3-2. Do you enter -- I'm sure it's obvious with this game, this part, knowing that this thing can still swing, there can't be any letup at all obviously?
AJ HINCH: No doubt, there will be no letup. Our guys understand you have to win three games. Two games is not a series-defining outcome. You have to win three games. The third game can sometimes be the hardest game, especially when you match up with a guy like Clevinger who has been really good all year.

We come into the ballpark, they'll feed off the momentum of the crowd, the intros. They play very well in this ballpark.

It's not over. We know how difficult series can swing. The short history of playoff baseball with this team, dating back to 2015, when the Royals series shifted. 2016, we don't make the playoffs. 2017, that experience in Fenway to Yankee Stadium to, you know, how the World Series ended.

We are a very experienced team when it comes to playing a game-by-game basis. You hear me say that all the time. Just play today's game. When the outcome happens, whatever that is, we'll adjust to the next game.

There's no expectation in there that it's going to be easy or that the Indians consider this a series that's over.

Q. Pressly had already made some adjustments going into this year. Had some success with it in Minnesota, and then they joins you guys. More adjustments. How receptive was he to what you guys had to offer him? How do achieve that buy-in on the fly?
AJ HINCH: The beauty of what we have going on right now is there's an immediate buy-in when guys come over, because of some previous success stories. Also, sharpening our process. Our front office, our analytics team, our coaching staff, me, the players, I don't know what the it factor is, but when you have it, when you have that buy-in, you know you have it when you have it.

Then you have players like Dallas, who have been here for a long time, or Jose, who's been here for a long time. That's entrenched in the culture. You bring some new success stories with Colin McHugh getting traded over here and Pressly and Osuna and Verlander.

That builds this belief system that we're all in this together. We're trying to find small advantages to make you a little bit better. And then you win.

Once you win, that cycles over all over again, where players believe, coaches work a little bit harder, the front office is always trying to evolve. And we got it churning pretty good right now.

Now, the players have to go out and do it on the field and the players have to believe that this four-seam fastball that you work up, you've got to throw it to the right guys at a critical time and get some success with it.

But we are all in, and we're all in it together, and that fosters success, success fosters more then.

Q. I don't know how much you pay attention to other series, but I was wondering if you saw what Erik Kratz did. I know you had him, he was sort of a character when he was here. Looks like he's earned some spotlight.
AJ HINCH: I love Kratzy. I've texted back and forth with him like I do a lot of our players or ex-players. I still remember him running out for intros and falling down to win a bet. I'll always remember that, and got to get the video of that.

But I watch almost every pitch that I can. I'm a baseball enthusiast, a baseball fan. I'm happy with -- I've got a lot of friends in Milwaukee -- them advancing. A lot of people upset in Colorado. When you're on the game as long in the roles I've had, I've got relationships everywhere.

I remember Erik Kratz, when I told him he was off our team, he was a proud Astro, so I'm happy when guys succeed when they go elsewhere.


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