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October 13, 2018

AJ Hinch

Boston, Massachusetts - pregame 1

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

Q. Evan Gattis didn't play much in the ALDS. Why is it important to keep him on the roster? And what kind of role might you use him in this series?
A.J. HINCH: Sure. He's a threat. I mean, if you look at the back of the baseball card, he does some damage. Whenever he gets the opportunity, and you can't ever predict what spot that will be, but he's one of the few guys on either bench that can change a scoreboard with one swing.

So that's not lost on me or on the other dugout -- when he comes up to bat, the pitcher has to deal with a lot. He's one swing away from a big impact.

Q. There's been a lot made of Gerrit Cole's makeover this year, just a little tweak in his approach. I was wondering, when and how did you guys first present that to him and how receptive was he?
A.J. HINCH: First, please don't call it a makeover. He was really good on the front end. He's had some really good seasons. I think his open mindedness and ability to navigate through a lot of information and trying to find a small edge was very apparent from the very beginning.

When he had his press conference in Houston, you know, I met with him in my office and I said, listen, there's a few things along the way but you're good from the very beginning and we're going to try to make you better.

And he was completely open to meeting with Strommy and our front office and gather all the information. Now, he doesn't accept it on face value. He's going to dive pretty deep into his own analysis and how he applies it to the field. But it's remarkable how good he is at absorbing information and then taking it out to the field.

Those subtle changes can make big dividends. And he's proof positive of that.

Q. Reboot instead of makeover?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, maybe that's better. You can call it whatever you want; you're writing the article. (Laughter).

Q. You said after the division series, this team has sort of an extra gear this time of year, certain guys can just turn it on. What do you think that gear is really about? How much is it physical? How much is it mental?
A.J. HINCH: A little bit of both. It's hard to have a physical burst at this time of the year because it's been such a long year and there's a lot of wear and tear on these guys.

But, you know, there's great energy in our club. I think the mental side of this, this is why we play. And we got to experience that. And it's built over time for the core group of our guys. In '15 we made the playoff, '16 we didn't and '17 was special and now we're in '18.

I think knowing and what's at stake and having experienced it, I think there's just a great boost of adrenalin that kicks in at this time. If you're not kind of at your peak interest level at playing the game then something's wrong with you.

This is such a good opportunity for these guys to showcase against the best teams in the league and on the biggest stage and in front of millions and millions of people.

That will make everybody sit up straight and feel a little better and kick it in gear.

Q. A little bit about Correa and what you're seeing even though it didn't show up in the stats in the ALCS. He said he had some good at-bats. What have you seen?
A.J. HINCH: He did. And I've had to talk a lot about Carlos, and it starts and stops with he's a really good player. He can help us win. He's a winning player. His back is bothering him for much of the season. But he's gotten through that.

The 3-0 swing, oppo homer was a big boost for our dugout and a big boost for him. His defense has been very good through this whole time.

So I like his swings. We expect perfection in players now, and if they don't -- if they're not perfect -- there's always the question of why. And most of it's about the competition's hard at this level. But he's a difference maker, and he's kind of hiding down in that 6, 7 hole now, which is a huge potential to have at that part of the order.

Q. How stretched out is Lance McCullers? Can you go multiple innings and would you be comfortable pitching him in back-to-back games?
A.J. HINCH: Yes and yes. I think he's stretched out to do whatever. This time of year I think you can push guys beyond their comfort level.

What he probably will say he can do versus what I'm willing to do is a little bit different. Because these guys, you never take the ball away from these guys. They never hand it to me gracefully. They'd throw it at me if they could when I take them out of games.

But one-plus not a problem, two-plus, not a problem. And if you ask some guys to do some things they haven't done a ton of in recent weeks, they'll give it their all.

So back-to-back days, we've already done that. We did it right when he came off the DL. The last week of the season. That adrenalin kick I was talking about earlier will be just fine in these games.

Q. We're seeing the success that Craig Counsell is having in Milwaukee and other managers who come right from the front office. Do you feel like you laid the ground work in a way -- even though the time in Arizona was short -- was that the start of that kind of managerial architect?
A.J. HINCH: I don't know. It probably helps. I may have taken a few bullets along the way doing that for the group. But I don't know. There's so many different ways to get into a leadership position.

I think while it wasn't that accepted from the get-go and you start to see guys be a little bit more successful and start to understand the why it happened or why there's a belief that some guys can get some training in the front office, it doesn't take away from your traditional route of trying -- to learn how to be a leader through the field, through A ball and Double-A and Triple-A.

And it's not the answer key that everybody can just go to the front office and learn the inner workings of an office and be good at the manager position. But it is a route. And it's proven to be something that there's valuable lessons to be learned that way just as there's valuable lessons to be learned on-the-job training leading a team.

I'm not sure there's a perfect way either way. I'm happy with the route I took. I'm happy to see Craig and others have good success. But I also -- I also applaud Brian Snitker, who did it in a different way. And you applaud Dave Roberts who did it a little different way, had a little bit of both, had front office experience and some on-field first base coaching and bench coaching.

So Alex did it a little different across the way here. So I think, if anything, that might have proven that there's just more than one way to reach the manager position.

Q. When you guys first acquired Ryan Pressly, mostly used him when you were behind, losing situations. Could you envision this kind of upside where he's become one of your key relievers?
A.J. HINCH: We did. I may have just broken him into our team that way. It wasn't an intent to use him in down games. I want our guys to get comfortable. And one of the worst ways to enter a team is if you enter with the lead and blow the lead; that's not a great way to enter the team. I tried to gracefully use that with Pressly or Osuna.

We had a really good bullpen at the time it wasn't like we had a huge void trying to cover up. We acquired Pressly with the idea that he might do anything from high leverage innings to close games to be a workhorse. He threw a ton of innings in Minnesota. So we thought we could work him in as a weapon.

And we don't care when we pitch guys or what inning it is or trying to label guys, what they are. We want to have a collection of relievers that can come in at any time and I can rest anybody at any time. I can pitch anybody at any time. There's different angles, different strengths. It's the best bullpen I've ever been around.

Q. Granted every starting pitcher is different, but when you take into account how many postseason starts Justin Verlander has made, has he ever said anything to you about how he approaches it or told you anything that you think has made you a better manager of not only him but the whole pitching staff?
A.J. HINCH: He doesn't talk on his start day, so he didn't tell me anything today. But, no, his preparation is off-the-chart good. And so you don't have to really listen to him as much as you just need to watch him. And he wants the ball. He wants the moment. He wants the big out, whether that's a game in May or a game in October.

But watching him prepare for a regular season game and a postseason game and a spring training game, you start to see why he produces the results that he does.

It's not by accident. It's not just by outstuffing the opponent or kind of guessing what pitches are -- not just by leaning on 98 miles an hour or power breaking balls. It's a process of getting himself ready to pitch every five days or every six days, or whatever it is, and applying what he knows against specific opponents and being huge at the right times.

Q. With Bregman, does his personality his makeup remind you of anybody you played with or against in your career?
A.J. HINCH: I don't know. It's hard to top his personality. He's got a little bit of everything. When I first met him, everybody immediately went to Dustin Pedroia. I've never been around Pedroia. I don't know him very well. I've shaken his hand before. But that edge that he has is very unique.

And he's got the preparation down to a T. The swagger, the fun-loving side, the showman in him, you know, you see that -- I played with Giambi in Oakland and he was a huge personality.

You end up, you see -- I wouldn't say that -- anybody quiet that I played against or played with would not qualify. Alex is going to be himself. He's comfortable in his own skin. He loves the camera, especially the one at the end of the dugout. (Laughter) And he loves the moment. And that's -- that kind of performance at the critical points of the game is starting to be legendary.

Q. Do you think he'll stay in baseball his whole life?
A.J. HINCH: Yeah, he's a baseball -- I think he's going to play for as long as he humanly can. This is a guy who loves the game. I've said this before: I've never been around someone who loves baseball more than Alex Bregman. And at this level when you're around so many different people, to me that's saying something.

Q. Josh James didn't pitch in the first series, but are you kind of curious to get him out there and what you'll get from him because he's so dynamic, but he's got this calmness about him when he's on the mound as well?
A.J. HINCH: No, I am anxious to get him out there if the moment calls for it. And he's cool and calm and under control. I know he's ready. Both series I've told him, pulled him in my office and said he's on the roster. All he said is "I'm ready." He threw a lot of BP yesterday.

I'm sure he's feeling extra adrenalin to get into a game. But he had weapons -- in this building is when he broke through as a legitimate candidate to make, to potentially a postseason roster; now he's made two because a hundred matters. Hundred miles an hour matters. The change-up matters. The good slider, the missing the bats -- not only in the minor leagues, but in the Major Leagues -- has been very impressive.

If the moment calls for him I have complete confidence that he'll come in and give me what he's got.


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