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October 12, 2018

AJ Hinch

Boston, Massachusetts - Workout Day

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for A.J.

Q. Any roster changes?
A.J. HINCH: I knew that was going to be the first one. (Laughter).

Yes, I've let the players know today, you know, what our plan is. And it's changed a little bit from our division series roster.

We're going to add a pitcher and subtract a position player. So Myles Straw will not be on the roster. And we're going to add Héctor Rondón and Joe Smith. And Will Harris will not be on the roster.

So if you look at our roster from last series, copy/paste every other name.

Q. What was the thinking? Straw was the guy you didn't use as much as a DH?
A.J. HINCH: It's hard. You piece together -- I should make my plea for a 26-man roster for the playoffs because he would have been a nice weapon to have. Him and Marisnick are similar. Jake has a ton of history in this ballpark. And certainly on the defensive side I could run Tony Kemp as well.

So the extra runner versus -- Evan Gattis is a guy on the bench. The extra pitcher, getting through this lineup is really hard. And I want to give -- I guess we want to give myself as much opportunity to mix and match and create some different looks for these hitters that we're about to face.

So extra pitcher in a seven-game series. Having a bench of most likely a McCann, Gattis, Kemp and Marisnick is a good look.

Q. What made Will Harris kind of the odd guy out? You like Joe against righties, but what made Will --
A.J. HINCH: It's not really Will -- Will is the odd man out by numbers not by skill. I think Josh James came in and became a viable weapon. He's got length. He's got a hundred miles in his back pocket. He's got a good breaking ball, a good changeup.

Héctor and Joe, both very valuable relievers, very high end relievers for us. It's a little bit of just you have to pick the group of guys. And we're going with the guys that we feel best matchups for different looks for different parts of their batting order and not an easy exercise.

There's a great argument that Will should be on this roster. There's a great argument that Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock should be on this roster, but surprises me to say that I can say those guys are left off a playoff roster but it's the way it is.

Q. In your 20-plus years in the big lesion regardless of the roles, where would you put Justin Verlander if you were ranking starting pitchers you've seen over that time?
A.J. HINCH: No. 1, right now, he's my No. 1 starter. I think he is a pitcher that transcends a lot of different generations. He's stood the test of time. He's stood the test of the evolution of the game. He's evolved as a pitcher himself with how he uses his pitches, what he believes in.

I think he's a future Hall of Famer. I think he's someone that has done everything in the game from being a big-time pitcher in the postseason to his personal struggles where people were writing him off as nearly ending his career to now being a Cy Young contender.

It's been incredible to watch him grow and mature. I was with the Tigers as a player when they drafted him. And he was in the minor leagues when I was ending my career, but you heard a lot about him. And I guess rarely do you get someone who performs above the threshold that we put on these players nowadays that are drafted high or that are first overall or that are in the top five picks.

It's hard to exceed expectations nowadays. And he's doing it every step along the way at an age where he's been written off multiple times and responded with his best season ever.

Q. You guys obviously have a deep bullpen based solely on the names that you mentioned that aren't on the roster. Given that, why was it important for you guys at the trade deadline to move and upgrade in the bullpen, and what were the kind of factors that drove you in that direction?
A.J. HINCH: You know, I think you always add a reliever. That's what you feel like you need to do and answer any questions that you have. We've had a good bullpen for a couple of years now. And I know last postseason I sat at tables like this and had to defend our bullpen quite a bit because we were moving our starters into the relief side.

And I just think you can never have too many pitchers. You can never have too many weapons. You can never address every single part of dynamic lineups like we're about to face.

So when the guys became available, our front office did a good job of vetting through the options and really like the additions of Osuna and Pressly, specifically. We addressed it in the offseason with Smith and Rondón. We challenged our guys to always find different ways and find different avenues to get guys out. And we wound up with a healthy group of really good performers that we have to choose from when you limit yourself in the postseason.

So it's nice to have that and then you sprinkle in a McCullers in the back end, it makes it even deeper.

Q. Justin is one of a series of pitchers who came to Houston and seem to show immediate improvement, striking out more guys, walking fewer guys. Where should the credit go for that change for him, for Cole, for Morton, for Pressly, all these guys?
A.J. HINCH: I think credit always starts with the players. Their talent is their talent. Their work ethic, their opened mindedness, their ability to implement is critical in this. Brent Strom has been a terrific pioneer of a lot of different things with the pitching department. C.B. over here to Doug White in the bullpen now, guys that have touched these guys' careers.

Our analytics team, our front office does a great job of providing information, providing thoughts, ideas. But it circles back to the player. I always credit the player, because he has to be the guy -- he is the guy with the ball in his hand.

And that collection of people that I just mentioned that provide information, push, pull, tug, applaud and impact players' careers is, it's a true team effort.

Q. How has Alex's personality in the clubhouse and the way he carries himself changed with all the success he's had over the year?
A.J. HINCH: Bregman or Cora? Or Cintron I should say too.

Q. Bregman.
A.J. HINCH: Bregman is really everything you want in a baseball player. His personality is enormous. He's comfortable in his own skin. He's obviously very entertaining. I don't know his handle on Twitter or I would give it to you.

He's just somebody that people gravitate to. He doesn't ever have a bad day. He gets frustrated with himself when he's not perfect. He wants to be the best baseball player he's ever been around. And I applaud him for his approach in always trying to find ways to get better.

But when you walk into a Major League clubhouse as a young player, and he's still a young player, and you're able to, you get positive reactions out of the pitching side, the Latino side, the American side, the position-player side, there just aren't that many players in the game that kind of transcend an entire Major League clubhouse. He's one of them.

You never know what to expect with him. I didn't know the stairs were coming. I didn't know the Tiger-to-Floyd Mayweather comparison. That was pretty unique. He brings it every day.

Q. How would you describe the connection between Verlander and Cole? Do you think that Cole could have had the season he's had without it? And do you think that he's had an impact on Justin?
A.J. HINCH: I think he could have had this season, because Cole's very gifted and tremendously intellectually curious on how to get better.

But I think JV's helped. I think elite pushes elite. They have a nice brotherhood between the two of them. You add Keuchel into the mix and the McCullers and Charlie Morton and our entire rotation fed off of wanting to kind of get their slice of attention.

And JV does a great job of setting the tone at the top of the rotation. And Gerrit, who is masterful at grabbing one little thing from everybody that he comes across -- JV to Dallas to Lance to Strommy -- he's intellectually curious, he asks a lot of questions -- and that and being thrust behind Verlander every single time along the way, there had to have been a little bit of positive impact there.

So I see them talking all the time. They're always talking pitching, debating. They don't always agree. But I think Gerrit's demeanor, makeup and the ability to gravitate to people that can help him get better help that relationship from the get-go.


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