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October 15, 2018
Houston, Texas - Workout Day
THE MODERATOR: Questions for A.J. Hinch.
Q. Josh James, what do you remember about when you first heard about him, when you first saw him? He kind of came on to the scene and none of us had ever heard of him. What do you remember about him?
A.J. HINCH: No, I was told about him, as one of our prospects that was starting to intrigue our front office and our scouts and development people have all been very positive about him. Then he just worked his way across the minor league development system by punching everybody out. He was just making you notice him by strikeout totals and his ability to carry his velocity. Obviously there was a little bit of a mini velocity spike when we sorted out his sleep stuff.
But this season we didn't have him in Spring Training. He never came over and backed up or anything. But there was always this intrigue of what he was doing in the minors.
So he became an option when he went from Double-A to Triple-A, and we started to talk about him as a potential fill-in, but our rotation was really tough to crack. And we started talking a little bit about what he could do maybe in the pen. And then we had a spot start available and he came up and did exactly what he had been doing in the minor. Struck out guys, calm demeanor, plus stuff across the board. And he stuck.
Q. Marwin said after the game yesterday that he was pretty sore after running into the wall. You had a chance to talk to him today?
A.J. HINCH: I have not. We don't have a report date for these guys. I hope they're still sleeping to be honest. We got in last night about 5.00 a.m., so I have not checked in with him. I've talked to our trainer, who I believe has checked in with our guys. So I think he's going to be fine for tomorrow.
Q. Obviously we saw Altuve bang his knee in Game 2. How is the knee holding up?
A.J. HINCH: He's doing his best. It's not comfortable for him. I know he's, what we call grinding and battling and doing everything that he can. I'm considering DHing him tomorrow, and we're going to play three days in a row here. So I talked to him about that yesterday and just for him to continue to give us what he's got. And he's fine, obviously didn't hurt his swing in the ninth inning last night. He's able to be a productive player. But he's battling a little bit.
Q. If you do DH him --
A.J. HINCH: Marwin will play second. So that's sort of correlating to your last question.
Q. Your offensive numbers at home in the regular season have been down the last two years. But they're extraordinary in the postseason. How do you explain it? Is it focus? And what is the problem in the regular season, if it's a problem?
A.J. HINCH: It's not a problem. We won 103 games, a lot of them at home. I know, again, we've talked about this at this podium a lot where there's times where we've been great. There's been times I've been questioned about it. There's been times we've been great on the road. There's times I'm questioned about it.
Baseball is hard and sometimes you get in these streaks or these unexplainable situations, where, I don't know. If we had it figured out I wouldn't let us struggle one bit. I'd just sprinkle that magic dust on these guys every time we come home. But we've put up some pretty explosive numbers in this ballpark, any number of games. So I don't look any further into it than that.
Q. The postseason?
A.J. HINCH: We're a good team. We play well in the postseason. I don't know. We lock in obviously. You see George Springer snap his fingers and all of a sudden has a crazy October thus far. You watch what Marwin Gonzalez is doing. You watch what different players do -- Alex Bregman. They're good players and they play well when it matters most.
Q. If you could, A.J., can you speak to the difference between managing this bullpen with a small deficit and does it change relative to being at home on the road?
A.J. HINCH: If we're down? Down 1 is tied, down 2 is down 1. You're always close enough, within striking distance in the postseason. So you'll use guys aggressively to try to win the game. This is a little bit -- it's not so much because it's at home. But there's a three days in a row -- we know we're playing three days in a row.
So maybe a little bit of an interesting dilemma for me or Alex when it comes to how we handle the bullpen in the first game depending on who is ahead and who is behind, knowing that that three-day in a row can be pretty taxing on guys. But you manage to win the game. So whether that means bringing in your, quote/unquote, closer or utilizing Lance and Pressly, guys that I've used in leverage -- this seven-game series or at least three games in a row during the seven-game series is going to tax the depth of your bullpen and your team if your starters don't carry it deep into the game. So I'm just going to manage to win it.
Q. I don't know if you were told Alex Bregman in his Instagram post the footage of back-to-back-to-back homers off Eovaldi, when he pitched here --
A.J. HINCH: I didn't see that part, I don't think.
Q. Just wondering, you know what baseball is trying to do, trying to get the young kids into a little more fun. Is there a line for you between friendly trolling and something that insights your opponent?
A.J. HINCH: That's the first question I've ever had in my career that had the word "trolling" in it.
Q. I'm honored.
A.J. HINCH: It's good. Welcome to the current generation. Obviously there's fun banter. You go back and you hear the New York/New York and the Boston, in the New York series. You get the different tweets and the different Instagram posts and it's all in good fun.
And we have a sport full of great personalities and there's a fine line. Is it disrespectful? No. If it crosses a line, if you have to question whether it crosses the line it probably does. And so I don't look any further into that.
We want guys to have their personalities, have their fun. Then go out and back it up. If you're going to put yourself out there you've got to back it up a little bit. But this is all in fun banter and competition. And we're playing a baseball game against a really good team in front of millions and millions of people. Let your personality shine a little bit.
Q. No trolling this question. But we see velocity climbing so much and strikeouts and strikeouts, but Keuchel has stayed with his strengths. How has he been able to still succeed doing it the way that not a lot of guys do anymore? And how did the season evolve after what was sort of a tough start the first 12 starts?
A.J. HINCH: You have to be your best self, whatever that is. You can have a philosophy I want to throw as hard as I can and you're only going to throw as hard as your body can. So for someone to be as mature enough to know himself and use his weapons to the best of his ability, I applaud, in a sport where we're shifting towards maybe a little bit more bravado, a little bit more high-end velocity and spin rates.
And you start to measure people and gauge -- or measure pitchers and gauge pitches a lot differently where there seems to be like a class being formed. If you're not in the 2300 and above club, like, you stink. And that's not the case. You can get outs in a lot of different ways in this sport.
Dallas' strengths are really good against virtually all hitters and he has the ability to move off of that. What I've seen with Dallas over the last year has been adjustments. You never talk about adjustments that great pitchers have to make in order to keep being great. We talk a little bit about Verlander and his pitch usage and Cole and getting away from the two-seamer, but Dallas has had to handle success when the league has tried to adjust to him, he's adjusted back and he's gone back to his strengths in the back half of this season where his two-seam fastball, his changeup, his occasional cutter is good against anyone.
He needed to figure out when to use it against certain hitters and not get away from that to try to appease anyone, just to try to make sure he keeps getting outs.
Q. When you were catching not all that long ago but when you were catching were there noticeably a lot more guys like him than there are now?
A.J. HINCH: A little bit. There was less velocity back then. You started talking about guys getting above 93, 94 and that started to be a firm fastball. That's now graduated to 96, 97. You get guys that routinely throw 98 now.
The specialization of pitching has allowed for guys to focus singularly on what their number one weapon is. I think we've limited a little bit the innings and the pitches and the way support has evolved, and specifically the left-handers a few more Mark Buehrles and a few more Kenny Rogers and a few more Tom Glavines than there are today, but it's just evolution.
Q. With games 1 and 2, errors, passed balls and huge hits and huge moments, do you feel like we've seen the best of both teams thus far, or is it maybe just going to be counter punching the whole time because they are so good?
A.J. HINCH: Bits and pieces, I think, we've seen the best of part of it. But I don't think we've played our best or it's just been the cleanest brand of baseball that both teams have played. But some of that's by the pressure that's applied by the other team. Some of it is just the nature of the sport. A mistake happens.
What I've noticed when a mistake happens, the other teams capitalized on it and gone on to win the game.
So I think the counter punch is going to happen. If anyone thought Boston was just going to lay down after a Game 1 loss you're crazy. If anybody thinks it we're just going to take a haymaker to the chin and lose Game 2 -- the series is now redefined, you're crazy. So this is going to be a really good series.
It may happen to swing a little bit on a mistake or two, but I think you've just got to play the games.
What I've learned from this series so far is 27 outs is hard to get. Even down to the 27th out they got against us last night, we were a fraction away from tying the game. And then you would have posted about it on Instagram (laughter).
Q. To be back off your discussion about Dallas Keuchel, how much success this year has been because he's been throwing more high fastballs?
A.J. HINCH: A little bit, to the right hitters. It's about throwing the right pitch to the right hitters. You don't want to put it in one single bucket. It's about throwing the right pitch at the right time to the right hitter. If he needs to do that he's been able to do that. If he doesn't, he doesn't.
So I think he's a true pitcher by definition. And he's going to attack the hitter weakness, but he's going to attack it his strengths first and he's very convicted in that. But, yeah, when he needs to go up to low ball hitters, then he's going to go get where the outs are.
Q. You talked a little bit about how guys on this team have the ability to flip that switch when it comes to October. Briefly touched on Springer, he seems especially adept at doing that. What is it about him and his personality that lends to him doing that?
A.J. HINCH: No, he's an explosive player which helps. And he takes it very personal that he's a tone setter in our lineup. He's the first setter we send up every day. He's got skills like crazy in the sport. He oozes confidence.
There is a calmness to him despite him being an energy provider and having him be a spark plug for us. So I don't know what it is. Part of it he's getting a little healthier day-by-day. He got the last week of the season mostly off because we had clinched, so maybe he freshened up a little bit. But the world slows down a little bit, for him, when everything around him speeds up.
And whether that's innate, whether that's just a calm presence, whether that's coming off successful seasons, he's got bat speed to match anybody's fastball. He controls the strike zone. He really wants to be a good hitter and an on-base machine at the top of the order. Maybe that shifts a little bit during the series -- not trying to put up numbers; he's trying to put up runs. And any combination of that will lead to a very productive player in the postseason.
Q. Obviously everyone sees what Altuve does in the field, but can you talk a little bit about what he means as a mentor and kind of as like a veteran presence and just an example to the rest of your guys?
A.J. HINCH: I'm really proud of what Jose does as a veteran mentor, which is funny to say because it feels like he's so young but he's been around forever, been in a ton of All-Star games and he's got hardware.
But there's a presence, I don't know how to define it or describe it other than to say that the team feels it. They know when he's in the middle of the order. If you look at our record, when he's in the lineup, regardless of whether he's playing MVP caliber or whether he's slightly below that, there's a presence to -- there's a calmness. He's a guy, he's a very stable part of our offense.
So behind the scenes I've watched him grow from a very quiet guy sitting at his locker to now someone in the hitters' meeting we'll call upon to give little words of wisdom or a little bit of motivation or a joke or anything. His personality is really big despite the reserved nature that he tends to be. He's one of the best guys in the league. I love being around him. And not just because of his production but the way he goes about it is pretty inspiring.
Q. Follow up on Altuve, with all that being said, has it been difficult or challenging or strange to have to sort of navigate around an injury? We're not used to seeing that?
A.J. HINCH: I feel bad for him because he cares so much and he wants to be there. I'll give you a good example. Last night after the game I go to him, I start talking to him about how he's feeling. And my thought that I might want to just take him off half the game of the defensive side and his first reaction is whatever you think is best for our guys.
Some guys have too much pride. Some guys would never admit to -- he won't want to talk about it. He's going to be so mad that I even brought that up until tomorrow.
But he gets it. And he understands. He's selfless. He's every bit about what's best for the bigger group.
Q. The Red Sox are pitching cautiously to Alex Bregman with six walks in the series.
A.J. HINCH: I noticed that.
Q. Does he adjust to that or is the challenge for him not to adjust?
A.J. HINCH: The challenge more is not to adjust. He's had a couple of pitches to hit that he's fouled off. You can tell they're going to pitch him carefully. I don't blame them. Their game plan is smart. He's a guy that can do a ton of damage.
And what we have to have confidence in is the guys behind him are going to be able to be productive. Yuli, very good with runners in scoring position. Marwin very good, specifically this postseason driving in runs. Whoever is going to hit 6 and 7.
You have to pick your poison a little bit in our order, similar to how we have to do with them. Alex swinging at bad pitches would feed right into their game plan. That's why they're doing it. They're going to make him stay patient. If he leads all the postseason teams in walks -- I want them to pitch to him a little more but if that's the case then somebody steps in behind him and we get a free pass.
Q. You mentioned trolling and there's video on the Internet --
A.J. HINCH: No, Ken mentioned trolling; I responded to it.
Q. There's video on the Internet going all over the place today of Barnes, the pitcher for the Red Sox, looking like he's touching his arm. And people are saying, oh, he's got something on his arm. But Maldonado got his mitt checked too. Is this the scrutiny the series is under is this baseball at this stage right now?
A.J. HINCH: There's a lot of attention on everything. There's an answer for everything. There's a lot of experts. There's a lot of curiosities. I think there are so many good storylines in this series that I hope that something like that doesn't even really get more than one click.
There's so much difference between doctoring a ball versus kind of what goes on nowadays. And we're living by the rules in which we live by. And honestly it's not even something that's crossed my mind.
Q. Going back to the subject of personalities, seems like Yuli brings a lot to his team with his experience with the big tournaments.
A.J. HINCH: Yuli is early in his Major League career but not his baseball career. Everybody loves Yuli. I think the rates to get his helmet off to check out his hair. He's got a cool nickname. He's a productive player. There is a calmness around him as well. And he fits right in with this team that -- who doesn't panic when the moment's the biggest.
So these guys truly love each other. And I know every team that wins says that. It's hard to have bad chemistry and win, or bad culture. But Yuli in specific, he kind of pushes Bregman's buttons, which is not hard to do. But that little bromance is really cool. The respect that he brings or demands from Jose and Carlos and Marwin and our Latin players is immense. And certainly everybody has a better day when they cross paths with Yuli.
Q. Bregman's videos about the home runs that they hit off Eovaldi going back to June, just what does that say about the confidence the Astros have specifically with him tomorrow?
A.J. HINCH: Well, confidence is pretty robust in our clubhouse. We feel really good about us. It's not overly confident; it just means we show up at the ballpark ready to play. And that edge, you can bring that edge to the ballpark every day. So I don't think we care who we face or what the situation is. Our guys are going to show up ready to play.
Now, on the homers with Eovaldi, I think the only hits we got were homers. We need to find a way to mix in a single or two or a couple doubles and if we leave the yard then all the better. But these guys love competing.
Q. I know you guys hit much better against lefties this season. Now that you're facing the two right-handed starters and plus all the righty relievers, how do you weigh getting Tony and Brian in the lineup. I know they started once in the DS?
A.J. HINCH: No, same thing. It was the opposite in the Cleveland series because they were all right-handed rotation. But they had a dominant left-handed -- bullpen. I mix and match a little bit. I'm not as much into the personal catcher as it looks with Brian McCann and Dallas Keuchel, but I'll have the combo together again. And he'll catch tomorrow.
And Tony is going to play either left field or DH. Getting guys in -- we are very matchup friendly; it's something, if it's a matchup we like then I'm going to play them. And when Tony is on the bench, the biggest dilemma I have is when to insert him as a pinch-hitter. He's pretty good. He missed a homer yesterday by a couple of feet. Always has a really good bat. I love when he leads off innings when he's not playing, cuz there's a great spark for the top of the order. So I think those two guys in specific I'll get them in against Eovaldi and Porcello, assuming that Porcello doesn't pitch tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports