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July 8, 2019
CHRIS ROSE: Good afternoon, everybody. I'm Chris Rose from MLB Network's Intentional Talk, and also proud to be a native Clevelander. I want to welcome you to the 90th Midsummer Classic. The hometown Cleveland Indians will be playing host for a record-setting sixth time. This afternoon we are going to introduce the managers, the starting pitchers and the starting lineups, as well.
As I said, I am from Cleveland, I hope you have a great time over the next 48 to 72 hours. If you do not for some reason, Jeff Passan is also from Cleveland and ready to accept complaints. He can be reached at area code 816 -- not the rest? Okay, you can see Jeff. You all know him.
The game is in a great place, certainly on the field. We have 36 first-time All-Stars. There are 19 All-Stars that are 25 years of age or younger. I can't wait to see all the talents on display, the Home Run Derby tonight and of course tomorrow at the Midsummer Classic. We'll turn this over to the managers. We will hear from the starting pitchers, as well. Then you'll get a chance to ask some questions.
Up here we've got Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros, who is starting his second Midsummer Classic, and Alex Cora of the defending World Series champions Boston Red Sox. Dave Roberts, manager for the National League team for the second straight year. He has selected his starting pitcher from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hyun-Jin Ryu. And we also have his interpreter with us.
I will turn it over to Alex Cora, who last year became the fifth first-year manager to win a World Series. So congratulations and tell us a little bit about your starting lineup.
ALEX CORA: First of all, it's an honor to be here. I want to thank the Red Sox organization, the players, the front office and obviously the Red Sox Nation for the support last year. It was a dream season. Great to be here, representing my country, too.
And also I think for me it's amazing to be here, but I think it's more satisfying to have my coaching staff here. What they did last year was amazing, just helping me out throughout the season. First year in the Big Leagues, and what they did was amazing. Although I'm having a great time, I think for them it's great for them to be recognized.
As far as our team, starting with Justin. I had the pleasure to coach him in 2017. What he did for us in Houston was amazing. He was the reason we won the World Series that year. And then what he's done with that team the last two and a half years has been amazing.
Also his career, so far so good, I think. He's been great. Little does he know, I was here for his first Big League start, which was here in Cleveland. He didn't have a good inning, it wasn't good, but now he's here. And what he's done this year has been amazing.
He's getting better. He's getting better, which sucks for us, but, you know, the work that he puts in, that you people don't see, you know, he got there to Houston and he bought into the concept and he's getting better. And it's a pleasure for me to give him the ball tomorrow and start everything is off.
As far as the lineup, I mean, it wasn't that hard, you know. Very talented players. Of course leading off is going to be George Springer. George has changed the concept of the leadoff hitter throughout the years, thanks to A.J. Hinch and the Houston Astros. So if he sees a fastball, he's going to try to hit it a mile.
Hitting second DJ LeMahieu, great story. People in the offseason thought that he wasn't going to be able to hit outside of Colorado. Well, he hits outside of Colorado and in New York, too.
After that, I think it's the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. He's been amazing and what he's done the last week for everything that has happened with that organization has been amazing.
After that Carlos Santana, everybody knows about him. Great season, hometown kid, here. And I think people are going to have a blast watching him.
Then after that we've got J.D. Martinez, he was one of the best hitters last year. A guy that everybody knows his story. He's been amazing.
Alex Bregman, one of the best players in baseball, and one of the best characters in baseball, too. Alex has been great the last two and a half years.
Then Gary SĂˇnchez, power-hitting catcher, who dominates the game on both sides. What he's doing defensively for the New York Yankees has been great.
Then Michael Brantley is coming back. Left-handed hitter, playing left field. Mr. Consistency.
And then Jorge Polanco, who is having a great year with the Minnesota Twins.
Andy Barkett, assistant head coach said, we can flip-flop the lineup and it still looks very good. It's great to have all these guys playing, and it's going to be a pleasure to be there tomorrow.
CHRIS ROSE: Justin, we'll hear from you momentarily. Very quickly, we'll turn it over to Dave Roberts for the National League starting lineup, and why you went with one of your own pitchers.
DAVE ROBERTS: First off, just to echo Alex, just very honored to be here in Cleveland to represent the Dodgers and Major League Baseball. For the players, their families, coaching staff and kind of on the heels of what Chris said, baseball is in a great place. And you look at the roster, the American League roster, the National League roster, there's a lot of talented, probably the youngest All-Star roster in history. So baseball is in a great position right now. Now and going forward.
Why I chose Hyun-Jin, for me he's been the epitome of consistency. He's been the best pitcher in the National League. Just his going through injuries throughout his career and to come back to where he's at right now, for me I'm very -- it's -- I'm very proud of him to overcome all this adversity. And then now you layer in the component of the game as we're trying to expand this game of baseball: First South Korean-born pitcher to start a Major League All-Star Game. So I think that's a big deal, not only for him, but his country. So it was a no-brainer for me.
Going through the lineup, Christian Yelich is going to lead off.
Javy Baez will hit second.
Freddie Freeman third.
Cody Bellinger fourth.
Nolan Arenado will hit fifth.
Josh Bell will hit sixth.
Wilson Contreras will hit seventh.
Ketel Marte will hit eighth.
And Ronald AcuĂ±a will hit ninth.
That's a pretty good lineup. He's the youngest on the roster. He's got to put in his time.
CHRIS ROSE: You have the youngest starting lineup in history, 26 years old on average. Pretty remarkable, pretty good.
JV, want to make a quick comment on starting your second All-Star Game.
JUSTIN VERLANDER: It's an honor. Alex called me after my last start, and anytime you get the opportunity to represent not only yourself but your organization, the American League, Major League Baseball, it's such an honor, and I don't take these games for granted. I had the opportunity to go a few years in a row when I was younger. And then I got hurt and missed a few years in a row, and I think it made me appreciate being an All-Star all the more.
So having the opportunity to start another one at 36 years old, and kind of what Alex touched on, and I don't want to dwell on it, but all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to have that come to fruition, and to be able to be out here and do this thing again means a lot to me.
CHRIS ROSE: Thank you. Hyun-Jin, talk about the importance of starting the All-Star Game and what it means to you to represent your country, too.
HYUN-JIN RYU: Just a great honor for me to start the All-Star Game, not only for myself but for my family and for all the fans in Korea. It's definitely a special day and I'd like to use this opportunity to show them what they want.
Q. Justin, when you started in Kansas City a few years ago, you got hit pretty hard and you said you basically were trying to rear back and entertain the fans and throw the highest velocity you could. Would you do that again or does what happened change your mind?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I think my mindset has changed a little bit. I kind of halfway blame it on Prince Fielder. He was at first base, and he kept whispering at me, "Ver, Ver, Ver, throw a hundred." "Okay, Prince, here we go." So that was back then.
I don't quite throw a hundred anymore, maybe I'll try tomorrow, I don't know (laughter).
But, I don't know, the goal is to get guys out. That's it. Thanks for bringing that up, by the way.
Q. Alex and Dave, there's a chance that fans will get a chance to see the new rule tomorrow: In extra innings, starting a runner on second base. Would you both be interested in seeing how it plays out? And could you envision ever seeing it in a regular-season game.
DAVE ROBERTS: You start.
ALEX CORA: You go. You're the veteran of the All-Star Game.
DAVE ROBERTS: I think the main thing for Alex and I is worrying about making sure we have enough pitching. There's a balance between trying to get the guys that want to pitch, whether it's their first All-Star Game, so you try to appreciate them, their families, their fan bases, and also running out of pitching.
So I think to that question, I'd rather not see it in play tomorrow. I'd rather see nine innings of baseball. And going forward as far as -- I don't know, probably the wrong thing to say, but I kind of like it the way it is right now.
ALEX CORA: You know, hopefully it's a nine-inning game. I've seen the rule play before internationally. And it's kind of like the coolest, more tougher thing ever in baseball, to be honest with you. With one pitch it changes the game. It is what it is.
I don't know, I'm with DR, I like the way the game is played now. And hopefully it stays that way.
CHRIS ROSE: Write down two votes for new rules in effect. Anybody else?
Q. Justin, you've only been with the Astros for a short time, but you've developed a strong connection there. How special is it for you to represent the organization, the fans, the city in this situation?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: It means a lot. It was kind of a Cinderella story. When I first got there, the city was just devastated by the hurricane. And being able to step in and help that city and organization win a championship was one of the most amazing things I've experienced in my career. Not only as a player, but just a person. I think it connected myself to that city almost immediately. So to be here now and be on the mound with the Houston Astros' logo on my chest, starting the game means a lot.
Q. You chose Josh Bell to start as a designated hitter in the NL. There are a lot of good NL players with offensive seasons this year, what led to your choice to go with Bell as the DH?
DAVE ROBERTS: There's been a lot of guys that have had great first halves. I think the switch bat is a great thing. Each guy has their own story, but I think the performance, just his trek. I like that presence in the middle of the lineup.
Q. Dave, two things, first a quick comment: I'm from New England. We all still thank you for that stolen base in 2004.
CHRIS ROSE: That's known as "Millar's walk."
DAVE ROBERTS: Couldn't have done it without 1-5.
Q. As an African American manager, you've managed the All-Star Game before, but doing it in Cleveland where Frank Robinson was the first black manager and having lost him before the season started, does it make it more significant for you?
DAVE ROBERTS: I know that Frank is definitely looking down on me. He was a good friend of mine, a mentor and shared a lot of thoughts and stories with me. My Major League career started in Cleveland. There's a lot of layers to this experience for me, whether it's my African American side, Japanese side, you know, our starting pitcher is from South Korea. So there's a lot of good things that people can kind of relate to our game, where it's at in this city of Cleveland.
But for me, for Frank, for his family, yeah, I definitely will have a moment where I'll look up and give him a little thumbs up.
Q. Just a quick question, you mentioned that consistency was the reason why Hyun-Jin was the starting pitcher. Would there be any different important factors for Hyun-Jin for being the starting pitcher for this event?
DAVE ROBERTS: Well, performance is No. 1 and he earned it because he performed. And the other stuff, you know, results -- all the other stuff, the hard work and adversity, the consistency, which led to the performance. And that's why for me I feel really confident in naming him the starting pitcher.
Q. Justin, you touched on this before, this is something you will never take for granted. What's your recollection as the first time as an All-Star. And what advice would you have for those All-Star rookies?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: It was a pretty incredible recollection, actually. It was in San Francisco, 2007. I stepped into the locker room with the guys I grew up with watching: Jeter, Big Papi, A-Rod, Ichiro, all these guys, and I kind of sat in my corner and took it all in. Felt like I didn't belong. And it's hard to explain what that moment felt like for me.
To where I'm at now, probably being one of the older statesman in the locker room, I think this game has the unique ability to put things in perspective for you, and that was one of those moments.
Q. Hyun-Jin, yesterday when we did an interview with you, you mentioned this feels surreal, it feels almost like a road trip rather than an All-Star Game. How do you feel like sitting here in front of all these reporters? And when you signed with the Dodgers did you envision yourself speaking in front of this crowd as an All-Star pitcher?
HYUN-JIN RYU: To be completely honest, it still feels surreal. It almost feels like a postseason game, where I'm speaking in front of you guys before my start. So that's the closest to what I'm feeling right now.
When I signed with the Dodgers all I wanted was to get a chance to compete with the best in Major League Baseball in the States, and getting that opportunity was the priority. I wasn't necessarily thinking about pitching in an All-Star Game. But like I said before, this is all surreal to me.
Q. Alex and Dave, if you already have a plan for the next pitchers after your starters or will you wait for matchups? Dave, why is Max not starting the game?
DAVE ROBERTS: So Alex, I'll start. I think for me I can see, not set in stone, but I can see Clayton Kershaw following Ryu. I can see Jacob deGrom following Kershaw. Outside of that we're trying to win a game against the American League. We've got a good team over there. I'll probably -- outside of that it's kind of seeing how the game plays out.
As far as Max, I think that I was lobbying all along for him to be an All-Star. But for him to be a replacement, which it's still no knock against him, it's well deserved. I just felt that Josh should get the nod. But Max will take a couple of at-bats.
ALEX CORA: I don't know if we're going to mix and match. But I think I can go from the back to the front. If we have the lead, Chapman will pitch the 9th, Hand will pitch the 8th, is Pressly the 7th. He's good, yeah? Most likely Tanaka will pitch second. And then after that we'll sit down with the guys today and go over it. But we've got the opener, we've got the closer, and the setup guys, it should be fun.
Q. Justin, you have 214 wins, in this day and age where you have bullpen games, you have openers, and you have still the five-inning rule for the starter to get the credit for the win, what would you do to upgrade the win rule to accommodate all of this?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: I mean, keep it the same. I think it's good the way it is. I think this game has 120-plus years of history and I think we're riding this little wave of things that are a little different right now, but I think it will come back around.
Q. Dave, you mentioned it briefly, you guys both spent time in an Indians uniform throughout your career. Talk about being back and being managers here in Cleveland.
ALEX CORA: I was here, what, three months? (Laughter). It was okay. Great organization when I was here. Mark was running it. And Eric Wedge was the manager, I was just here two and a half months. Always had respect for the organization. One of my favorite players -- well, my favorite player, Robbie Alomar, he played here, so just watching those teams dominate the AL Central and the way they did it and just watching Robbie do his thing here was fun to watch. I think, did Joey play here, too? Yeah, for a month.
But it's a great place. You remember the stadium being packed. And the energy that those teams had, it was amazing to watch. And they traded me to the Red Sox, so probably that trade set all this up. You never know how things happen.
I was very appreciative to the Indians to give me a chance to keep playing, and then just kept going after that.
DAVE ROBERTS: For me, parts of three years here. And I remember staying with a host family in Akron, playing in Double-A, the Buchanans that hosted me during the season. It's really where I understood Big League baseball, whether it's Robbie Alomar, whether it's Travis Fryman, Jim Thome, whomever, these guys taught me how to be a Big Leaguer. And the fan base, the Midwest, support the Indians to the end.
So to come back here, have my first Major League homer at this ballpark and to kind of see -- being a manager, representing the National League, to take a page from Hyun-Jin, it's surreal. I'm very grateful.
Q. Tonight is all about the long ball, but baseball is a game of change and cycles. Do you see the game ever moving away from where it is today with power and really going for the home run?
JUSTIN VERLANDER: Are you asking about the baseballs or the game? (Laughter).
Yeah, I think the game, like I said, I think the game goes in cycles. I think at a certain point I think analytics will catch up to things where it's hard right now, in my opinion it's hard to put a number on strikeouts and how negatively performing that is, and analytics have a hard time; if you can't put a number on it, they don't like it. They can easily put a number on home runs, walks, those type of things.
I think the ability to put the ball in play will come back in a big way and probably in the not too distant future.
ALEX CORA: If you go back, the last two World Series champions, they did a good job hitting for power, but at the same time putting the ball in play. If you look around the League, yeah, there's a lot of strikeouts, but those teams that put the ball in play with men in scoring position with less than two outs, they still are performing at a high level.
CHRIS ROSE: Thank you for joining us this afternoon. Enjoy your time in Cleveland, Ohio.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports