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December 11, 2018
Las Vegas, Nevada
Q. Your thoughts on the whole offseason, what you guys are dealing with her?
SCOTT SERVAIS: I guess one way to put it, Jerry has been shopping for the groceries, and I take the recipe and put the soup together. It's been an active offseason. People have followed us, what's going on, we made some decisions in the organization at the end of the year, we probably need to go a different direction, where we're at and what we were doing. Wasn't allowing us to get over the hump and get in the playoffs. We've been aggressive. We've moved some really good players. We've got some really good young players come back in those deals. It's a transition time for us, but it's a point and I thought we needed to make a move organizationally and we did.
Q. You're on board, a lot of managers would find this a step back, compared to the team that won 89 games?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Absolutely I'm on board, there's no question about it. When you talk about the season we had last year, and what we've done the last three years, the fifth best record in the American League, but it hasn't been good enough. We haven't been one of the best five teams in the season to get over the hump and get in the playoffs. It's about getting in the playoffs, getting to the World Series and winning it. We haven't been able to do it. Taking a step back, fully on board and looking forward to the challenge.
Q. The roster, I think outside Seattle, is this has been tore down completely, whereas if you get a bounce back year from a couple of guys, Gordon, Healey, Seager, along with the current pieces you have, this is still -- this isn't a bad clubhouse?
SCOTT SERVAIS: No, it isn't. We've given up a lot of great players, and the pitching staff in the middle of the lineup moving on. If we were to line up today with this club, I like our lineup. Maybe not as potent as last year. But we're not done in the offseason yet. But we're looking long-term, here. What's best for the organization and how do we put ourselves in that upper echelon. You look at the American League right now, and what the Red Sox were able to do, we see Houston a lot, where the Yankees are at, what Oakland has done. Us taking a step back, helps us catch up.
Q. Do you think the player development background allows this transition, step back to take two steps forward, makes it more digestible for you?
SCOTT SERVAIS: No doubt. I went through something similar to this, my days back in Texas, we were floundering, made a big trade and followed that up with draft choices, bringing in Latin players, supplementing the system, and creating desirable young players and allowing them to grow together.
Seeing how that all came together and how fun it is to be a part of that, excites me. Not going to be easy, understand that. Going to be some growing pains with younger players, less experienced guys. It's a challenge we're willing to take on.
Q. We haven't talked to you since the accusations. Were you taken aback how it went down?
SCOTT SERVAIS: I've been in the game a long time, 31 years, as a player, and in the front office working with players, doing a number of different things. And my name means a ton to me and the relationships you build. I think that's all that really needs to be said at this point. MLB is doing an investigation on some of the things that were brought out. I feel confident the truth will come out. The focus now is getting ready for 2019. That's what we're spending our time and energy on.
Q. I've asked some of the other managers, I asked A.J. Hinch, empathy in this game, how important is it for a manager, for the ball players, not just the Latino players, knowing you understand where they came from? With your travels as a manager, how did that prepare you for this job and how surprising were these accusations?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Well, very surprising, no question. But, again, knowing what my background in the game, as a player, for a long time, some of the guys I've played with and their background and where they're coming in. And going into the scouting part of things and player development, probably made 35 to 40 visits to the Dominican Republic, help put an academy together down there, I think people know me and how I'm wired understand what's important to me and understand the -- what players come from. And trying to help them get over the hump, that's what it's about. How to be productive Major League players, be good citizens, good people. It's something I take a lot of pride in.
Q. Empathy for managers, you can't help but understand where these guys come from, how does that help you?
SCOTT SERVAIS: It helps me a lot. I spent a lot of time there. Our focus will be on 2019 and let MLB take care of the other things.
SCOTT SERVAIS: I'm excited for Manny to get the opportunity to interview with the Orioles. Certainly he's managed before in the Big Leagues, he'd like to get a shot again. Like to see how it plays out. For all of our guys, coaching staff, especially, you want those guys to get opportunities. And I'm excited, hopefully he will get the opportunity, I hear rumors they're close to making the decision. I hate to lose him. He's meant a lot to me and our team, entire coaching staff. But I want what's best for Manny.
Q. A lot of changes with the coaching staff, Bochy is retiring, Eggers is walking away, there's quite a bit of change?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Yeah, we made some changes, certainly the pitching coach, Paul Davis comes on board. On the hitting side we've hired Tim Laker to come in, and not just our team, many, many teams. Guys get opportunities elsewhere. It doesn't work out for them in a particular spot. But we're kind of out ahead of it, had a number of meetings with our guys, making sure everybody is on the same page. As you go through the interview process you learn so much, different ways of doing it, how to get the most out of guys, and it's been a good process for us.
Q. Are you going to approach the clubhouse different? So many younger guys, does that change your approach at all?
SCOTT SERVAIS: It does, no doubt. I think we do have new bodies coming in, people that have not had the Mariner uniform on. Getting those guys to understand what we're about. I have to be myself. That doesn't really change if you've got veteran players or younger players. But to be a little more patient and more educated, I guess as much as anything, letting guys understand why we do what we do. And showing them how we can help them get the most out of themselves, to help us win a few more games.
Q. Have you talked to some of the veterans, their reaction to deal with this change, as well?
SCOTT SERVAIS: No doubt. And I have. I've talked to a lot of our guys, Dee Gordon frequently, he's going to check in every three or four days. Talking to Mitch, to Marco, a number of guys. Obviously Kyle and Felix are the two guys that are still on our roster from when we were originally here. I try to get everybody to understand where we're headed and why. That's part of the job. And you've got to be honest with people and let them know what the expectations are, and we'll do that going into camp.
Q. What are those expectations?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Be a very competitive team in the 2019. I'm the manager of the team, I want to win every game we can. But where the organization is at, I want to do everything I can to move this thing into in the right direction. It's to get in the playoffs and win the World Series. It's not to come in 6th or 7th or 8th place. Sometimes you have to take a step back.
Q. Felix tried a lot of things last year, where are you at?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Felix has gone through a lot in the last three years, since we've been here. You haven't seen the vintage Felix Hernandez, for a number of reasons. Injuries, lack of focus or just not producing like we've seen in the past. It's a big year for Felix, he's going to get the ball and be in our rotation. It's a contract year. He's really, really competitive. He'll be ready to go and we'll give him an opportunity to go out there.
Q. Crawford is a guy you brought in to play shortstop and he's pretty young, how do you weigh that, he is young and what you're expecting him?
SCOTT SERVAIS: I'm excited. I remember when J.P. came out in the draft, I was a little more involved in the amateur side and looking at players, and understanding how he's progressed through the Minor Leagues, and like a lot of young players, to get to the Big Leagues, there's not instant success all the time, there's a learning curve.
I've had a chance to talk with him, see where he's at in his career. I'm excited to have him. He's young, there's room for growth. But we have to be patient. There's going to be some struggles with the bat once in a while, struggle in the field. But with young players you've got to give them opportunity, support them, pat them on the back and keep them going. I think it's a really nice pick up for us moving forward and a big part of what we're trying to do here.
Q. The catcher had a tough season, you've got a young guy coming in?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Like I said, we traded some very good players, guys you build relationships with. Probably as close to Mike as any of the players that we traded. He's got plenty of baseball. On the flip side we bring in Omar, he's got things to work on defensively that we've already talked about with him. Trying to get him up and going, improving on the receiving and defensive part of things. But, again, young player, I know he's a Venezuelan guy, down in Miami, his wife is due any day with his first child. He's excited to get on board and hopefully everything goes okay with the birth of the child.
Q. In terms of your roster last year, I'm not sure there is a guy who maybe took as big a step forward in terms of developmentally as Marco Gonzales, what was the tipping point as you went through the season where you saw something that really led you to believe that we really have something here?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Good question. Marco, when we acquired him, understanding where he was at coming off Tommy John surgery, and struggled a little bit in the first month, month and a half, but last year, coming into camp, had an excellent Spring Training.
Once the season got going, he struggled getting over the hump the third time through the lineup. There were times I pulled him a little too early. He certainly got the message. And I think he took it and ran with it. He got on a nice roll May through June. Very consistent. Getting deeper in the ballgames, getting through the lineup the third time. Using all of his pitches. Big weapon for him last year was getting his cutter back into play, both sides of the plate. Having all four pitches, you could see the confidence grow. And especially, like I said, you get in that fourth, fifth inning, the lineup is coming around the third time. He saw it coming, here we go, and pushed the gas down and got after it. Really kind of a step out year for him, which was great to see. A big part of our success last year was driven by the starting pitching and he was a big part of it.
Q. You lost the best closer, how do you approach your closer's role, have you thought about that role?
SCOTT SERVAIS: I haven't. We've got work to do in the offseason, as far as bringing in bullpen pieces, not only losing Eddie, but the back end of our bullpen was outstanding last year. And it allowed us to win the games we did. It's a business. It's part of it. We're trying to reload a little bit. And you've got to give up good players to get them. Haven't really looked at how the closing thing is going to work out. Again, our offseason is not done yet.
Q. How would you describe Jerry's organizational philosophy and what kind of team you wanted. Some of the moves the last year with Gordon and Smith, Crawford, is it a defense thing or is that the players he acquired?
SCOTT SERVAIS: I think like I said we're going through a transition right now. When Jerry got the job and I came on board here, our core was pretty much defined who it was, based on the contract situation, the commitments that the organization had to certain players, and what we tried to do was supplement that group. And it was with Dee Gordon and a number of guys that we brought in to help get the group in the playoffs. It didn't happen.
Now pulling back, the type of players we've acquired, certainly younger, and in times they're more athletic, we have control of those players. It helps you build and gives you a lot of flexibility in building our roster. The type of player that we desired, a certain style of baseball we want to play, we want to control the strike zone. You've heard us talk about it a lot. What is that? It happens on the mound. It also happens in the batter's box. Controlling the strike zone, that is where the game is won. Some of the guys we've brought in do it very well. Some younger guys need to continue to work on that as part of their game. But the athleticism, kind of the young, the high energy type player we like, they're fun to watch. Because they are young and inexperienced we have to be patient with them. And that's what we will be this year.
Q. You mentioned Tampa Bay, what are they getting?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Mike's outstanding as a person. His work ethic, behind the plate, the time he puts in in the game preparation, and trying to get the most out of the pitching staff, really good. Tremendous. I put him at the top of the list of young players that I've been around. He's not that young anymore, he's starting to move up in experience. Receiving is very good. Accurate throwing arm. Defensively there's not much he can't do. Offensively we've seen the highs and lows of Mike. The power is real. Get it out any part of the ballpark. The strikeouts are another part of his game. The fans that have watched Mike play, that's part of what you get where Mike. Tremendous person, really good competitor, and he wants to win. We got a really good player back. And we start talking about Mallex Smith and his personality and excitement. If any of you had to listen to the interviews he did in Seattle, there's a lot of personality there, and I'm excited to have Mallex on board.
SCOTT SERVAIS: We'll find out. Vogey has always had a track record of hitting certainly at the Minor League area, not a full season at the Big League level. This could be the year he gets it. The offseason is not done yet. I like Vogey, really good in the clubhouse. He continues to work at his game. I think we've seen improvements defensively. That's a credit to him. But it's about the bat with Vogey. Right now is he going to get .400 at-bat, I don't know.
Q. We've seen some nontraditional coaching staff hires in the game and are driven by analytics. What are your thoughts on that and what can some of these people bring to the table that more traditional coaches cannot?
SCOTT SERVAIS: The shift, you see a lot of coaching movement this year. The shift is it's about people that can come in and connect and really teach. And it is driven, some of it, by the technology, whether it's TrackMan, it's the different tools that we have out there to help in player development. A lot of the people that are getting hired are savvy, they understand how to use the tools. And it's evidence-based coaching. They have evidence that can help the players. There are teams that have gone that direction. We're one of them. I think it's a good thing. Players nowadays different than when I played. They'll ask why. It's not because I told you so. They want numbers behind it, evidence. That's what these people are able to bring to the table. It's really changing the game I think in a good way, in the fact that there's real data behind it to understand why this is happening or why it's not happening for particular players. That's why you're seeing the change.
Q. Some of the coaches that have already been in place have had to get up to speed. So are some of the new people that much farther ahead?
SCOTT SERVAIS: They've just been exposed to it more. And a lot of them are coming from -- from the college level, the private sector. We've hired a number of those people, and they bring a skill set. They're just more familiar with the technology. It doesn't mean that other guys can't catch up. I'm catching up. It continues to change daily. We've seen a change in the past year and a half, two years. You started seeing in the Minor Leagues, and you're now seeing it into the Big Leagues.
Q. When you're in Arizona for 30 days, and have to fly to Japan, you have a lot of young guys trying to evaluate whether they're ready to go, but you're only getting a handful of games and then you have to go over there?
SCOTT SERVAIS: It is more challenging. I'm looking forward to the Japan trip. I think where we're at as a ballclub, sometimes when you take a trip like that the team bonding really happens quicker, you don't have to wait to get into the season. Even though those two games are regular season games. I'm looking forward to it.
On the evaluation side, it is a bit more challenging. We'll start Spring Training three or four days ahead of time, get our pitchers ramped up. That's why we're there, to get the pitchers get the pitch count built up. In Japan our pitchers may not be at the 90 to a hundred pitch level yet.
Q. How much do you say it helped the second baseman?
SCOTT SERVAIS: I think it helped him. Knowing he's going to be at one spot. He came in with an open mind, worked his tail off and give center field a really good shot because he knew it was best for the team. Obviously we had to make the change early in the season with Cano being out. But Dee handled it great. Going back into second. But when we flipped him back and forth, it's hard. Especially with the success he's had at second base. He was willing to do it for the betterment of the team. He's excited to go back, going into camp, knowing where he's going to play, and get back to being a typical Dee Gordon season.
Q. What do you talk about three or four times a week?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Last night he FaceTimed -- I think he knew I was -- I don't think he knew where I was. He moved into his new house and wanted to me to see the big screen TV. I love the energy. I think between he and Mallex Smith brings to the mix we'll have a lively clubhouse.
Q. You talk about your leadership group, two of those guys are gone?
SCOTT SERVAIS: I think Dee has talked about that and he wants to be more involved. Taking some of the young guys under his wing, so to speak. He actually called me one night, this is early in the offseason, and he says, looks like we're going younger. Very perceptive, Dee, you're on it (laughter). Maybe we should take a few guys under our wing. Be a mentor? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. He's on it. Certainly all players that have been in the league for a while, they had people help them along early in their career. I think it's important that the veteran players understand where they're at and give back a little bit more. When you give a little bit more it's amazing how much you get and Dee understands that.
SCOTT SERVAIS: Kikuchi you're talking about, the lefty. I've only seen him on video, obviously. I know it's a very interesting pitcher. Probably going to do pretty well when he gets over here with a Big League club. We have interest in him like many other teams do. You have to wait and see. I'd love to have him, for doubt. But it's contract and length and terms and all that other stuff. Very talented pitcher.
SCOTT SERVAIS: I know where he's from. He's where I'm from. He grew up in Wisconsin, as did I. I had a chance to meet with Jared before the draft. It was a thought he might slip through a spot in our draft. We were in the middle of the first round. We had him in for a workout, I had a chance to visit with him about 40, 50 minutes in my office. And then I had a chance to see him work out. He stood out. I've seen a lot of young players before the draft and he handled it great. I was hoping he might fall to us in the draft, it didn't happen. You make a connection, you follow him, and we're able to bring him back in the Cano and Diaz trade. I think he's a tremendous talent. He's a player with a lot of up side. He has a chance to be a star in the game. He's a left-handed bat, he runs, he's in center field, he likes to play, he's being got an edge to him. He wants to be great. Not just good, great. Again, young player, probably playing in A-ball this year, certainly you have to keep your eye on him.
Q. You're going to see Ohtani?
SCOTT SERVAIS: We saw him last year, he's pretty good.
Q. And your team kept him not on the base that much, pretty good. How you going to do it again next year?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Obviously he's a very talented player. And a year ago I think he just kind of announced he was headed to Anaheim. And getting a chance to meet him as he went through the recruitment process was interesting. It was quite an experience. Unfortunately when we didn't get him, you're going to have to lineup against him, especially in our division. He did have a very good year. We saw him pitch. Saw him hit a lot. We did okay against him. He certainly got a handful of hits against us. Talented, a lot of power. He's going to continue to get better and better, there's no question about that. One of the rising young stars in our game, no question request.
SCOTT SERVAIS: I've known Kaleb for a long time, when I was working with Anaheim. He had just been taken. He was in the system, see him move along through the different legals. He's had his struggles offensively. The one thing he always had in his pocket was a very good arm. He was a heck of a high school pitcher. There were some teams looking at drafting him as a pitcher. When we claimed him and bring him in, take a look at him on the mound, why not? Very good athlete. And he's had a great arm. We'll take a look at it and see how it plays out.
Q. You guys have a ways to go with your offseason moves still, with the way things are going, could you see you doing a bullpen day?
SCOTT SERVAIS: We could. We did it last year a few times. Certainly didn't do it as much as Tampa did and other teams. It's something, depending on how your roster is made up, it makes sense, trying to put guys in the best position, and sometimes use them in shorter stints, get through the lineup two or three times. It's definitely something we would look at.
Q. Seeing a team win 90 games that way and another team nearly win the NL pennant like the Brewers, will that change minds in the game?
SCOTT SERVAIS: You can't deny the success. I give those managers a ton of credit. I know what goes into planning that out and how you're going to use the bullpen and trying to keep guys fresh and make it work. I thought Tampa did a great job, and had the Cy Young Award winner, which helps. There's a lot of thought. And it's an organizational thing. The analytical people involved, the coaching staff, everybody in the front office, and everybody has to buy into it.
Q. So Felix last year struggled, you talked about that prior, could you potentially have him come out of the bullpen, have you talked to him any more? That was a difficult thing he went through?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Yeah, Felix made one outing out of the bullpen, and he ended about going five and a third and threw well. Right now Felix will be in the rotation. I think doing it a certain way, as far as the routine, and warming up, and getting loose and getting ready in the game, we'll stick with that with Felix right now. Could change, but right now he'll be in the rotation.
Q. Have you talked to him, did he seem open to that?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Felix is going to want to start. Most of the guys that have gone through that and had the career he's had, pretty good idea he's going to want to stay in the rotation, but we'll wait and see what happens.
SCOTT SERVAIS: You know, I do think Kyle will have a better year. Kyle was very frustrated last year, no question. He had a pretty good run of success. The last year and a half or two have been better. He's trying to get more looseness back to his game. He's one of the guys affected by the shift as anybody in the Big Leagues. Kyle is going well, he's pulling the ball in the air, a lot of times it's going out of the ballpark. You have to understand the strengths and not get too far away from that. He's got a ton of pride, he's working his tail off this offseason, be back and be back an integral part of the middle of the lineup for us.
Q. He's clearly a pull hitter, is he trying to work for more power?
SCOTT SERVAIS: Just trying to get his body in better positions is what he's trying to do. And again, all players go through that in their career. As you get older it's maybe not as easy as it was when you got in the Big Leagues at 25, 26, 27. And it's -- I think the players that have had very consistent throughout their career and have been in the league a long time, they do change their routines, and he's making an adjustment there.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports