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October 3, 2019

Rocco Baldelli

New York, New York - Workout Day

Q. Rocco, how much information are you going to give out today? Are you going to tell us about the rotation, the lineup, and Arraez's injury? Are you ready to talk about those things?
ROCCO BALDELLI: For everyone who hasn't been with us the entire year, it's probably the perfect question. I can save everybody some time and energy. Maybe I can come up with something interesting to say, but we're probably not going to announce a ton roster-wise today. We are going to announce that Jose Berrios is going to start Game 1. So we do have that. We're excited to watch him go out there and pitch. I think he's been waiting for this opportunity, and I think he's very excited.

It will be fun to see him out there. He works very hard. He's a wonderful young man, and he's certainly earned it.

Q. Rocco, a lot of people are saying that the bullpen will be the key to this series. Are you one of those who believes that that's the biggest thing in this series?
ROCCO BALDELLI: I think it will certainly be key one way or the other. I think we have -- I think I said this the other day. We have an excellent bullpen. We have a bullpen that we're going to rely on. We're going to call upon them in a lot of different situations. We know that playoff baseball -- you've still got to go out there. You've got to play the game. But the way that some of the situations are handled could be a little different than regular season action.

That being said, I would anticipate our bullpen being a very important part of this series and everything that we see from this point on.

Q. I'd like to ask you about Nelson Cruz. What has he done to leave a great impression on you guys, and do you want him back for next year?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Can I sign up for that now? I think we hold an option of some kind. The experience -- the Nelson Cruz experience could not have been more perfect for us. He's a phenomenal person, teammate. He hit his 400th home run amid another great year.

The only thing I could think of, when we were talking about it in the clubhouse, is everyone this guy has ever been around, everyone that he's ever played with or even met probably wishes they were standing right there and able to congratulate him and say extraordinarily nice things to him. He is a guy that changes an atmosphere single handedly, both on the field during the game and every single day that he shows up to the clubhouse. He's been a joy to be around.

Q. Why Berrios Game 1? How difficult was that decision to come to? And since you're in a giving mood, are we talking Jake probably Game 2? I'll push my luck.
ROCCO BALDELLI: I feel like I'm a nice person, but I'm not a giving person.

Q. That's probably accurate.
ROCCO BALDELLI: Thanks. There's not one reason for it. I think there are a number of reasons for it. Jose's had a very, very nice year. He's thrown the ball very well. I think the way that our pitching lines up, we can talk about performance. We can talk about matchups. We can talk about the ballpark that we're playing in. We can talk about a lot of different things. There's not one reason for it. I thought Jose fit very well in this spot.

It gives us an opportunity to -- who knows where the series is going to go. We have a chance to bring him back and have him ready to go again, but I don't have a way to put a bow on it and tell you why. I just thought he was the right guy.

Q. Rocco, how much confidence does it bring to a manager in a postseason setting to have a lineup that is capable of changing a game with one swing with the power that you guys bring? I guess, how does Nelson fit into that? You talked a lot about his clubhouse presence, obviously, but that seems like a giant bat to have in there to change the game in the postseason.
ROCCO BALDELLI: Nelly in particular, he brings an incredible amount of strength, not just performance, but in his attitude and in the general energy of what goes on in our clubhouse and out on the field. A lot revolves around him. We have a number of other star quality players in our lineup, but I think he leads in many ways.

The way that our team has responded to everything this year -- the successes, any failures -- it really hasn't affected our group very much at all. Our group has been very stable. No matter what is happening, we just continue to do what we've been doing, and we expect it to work out because we think that what we've been doing, we've had a good plan, we've prepared well, and we're ready to go.

The ability to change the game with one swing -- I think this is going to be a fun series in that way because the two teams that are playing probably have that quality, unlike any two teams maybe that have ever played the game. Numbers-wise, it's hard to really doubt. There have been some wonderful teams that have played throughout the course of baseball history, but we've never seen more home runs than we've seen this year between these two teams.

So we've seen it many times over. We've been in situations where things weren't where we wanted, but that does change, and it changes very quickly, and sometimes it is one swing. Sometimes it's a couple of at-bats. But that's been a fun part of our season. Our team has continually picked each other up and done big things just over and over again, and it's a good feeling for a staff and where we are sitting.

Q. Two more questions about Nelson. He was announced today as your finalist for the Hank Aaron award. To be able to do that at his age, what do you think has allowed him to perform at that level? And, two, his influence on Miguel Sano; how much do you credit him for what Miguel has been able to do this season?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Nelly is obviously a very gifted guy. He's very skilled. He's also a guy that takes phenomenal care of himself. He's regimented. He's extremely disciplined. It's probably a combination of those two things. It's the physical gifts, but every day when he shows up, he has a plan.

Relating that to the second part of your question, I think that's probably been one of the best parts for Miggy and for the rest of our players. They have a guy who leads in many different ways, but one of those is by example. The way that Nelly conducts himself at the field, away from the field, everything that he does, things he does in the community, the way he handles his successes and failures. Everything that Nelly does, I think we have a lot of players that have watched, observed, and admired and probably are trying to mimic in some ways.

That imitation, it's a wonderful form of flattery, and I think he has the respect of every single person that he spent any time around with us.

Q. Rocco, what's the roster debate been like with two of your more versatile guys kind of up in the air at this point health-wise?
ROCCO BALDELLI: If you guys pay attention, you can probably find scraps of paper from Minnesota all the way to the clubhouse here at Yankee Stadium because we've scratched and thrown ideas around and opinions around. It's been challenging because one thing that we've seen -- anyone that's followed our club knows that we've had so many guys contribute in major ways. To limit the roster to this playoff roster that we're going to go with is very difficult; very, very difficult.

It's fun in a lot of ways. This is all a good time and we're enjoying ourselves, but when it comes down to it, we have a lot of guys that could help us win this series and go out there and do good things.

The injury part of it, has it complicated things in some ways? For sure, obviously, it has. We're still figuring out exactly what some of our guys are capable of doing, where they're going to be, not just today and tomorrow, but over the course of the next week, what they're going to be capable of is a question. Our guys have made a lot of progress, and I talk about them as a group, but probably talking about some more than others, and Arraez having the ankle sprain most recently is probably the guy that's most discussed and something we'll have to figure out by tomorrow.

Is it challenging? Sure. It's a good problem to have, though, because he's healed really well, probably faster than anyone anticipated, and he's put himself in a spot where we're taking this question very seriously. If you asked a few days ago -- I could say this now. I wasn't going to give you any of these Nuggets a couple days ago, but I can help you now. We were probably sitting around a few days ago saying we're not sure this guy is going to be able to play, just flat out. He's healed very well. He's moving around very well, and now we have a good discussion to have.

Q. What you referred to before with the home runs and the power, how does that change it for you as a manager from some of the managers you saw who were more reliant on base-to-base run production? And are there some days where the reliance on home runs ever edges toward dependence?
ROCCO BALDELLI: I think the home runs are more of a product of good quality at-bats and good swings from guys that have some strength. I mean, if we're really boiling it down. This isn't a situation where all of our players go up there swinging at every pitch they see, swinging before the pitcher releases the ball because they're trying to go deep. They're just talented guys that have good at-bats. Pick a player, any player, but when Jonathan Schoop is swinging and he connects on the barrel, the ball is going to go a long way. We have a lot of guys like that. We have a lot of guys that fit into that category.

What does our team do well? Our team hits homers. That's what we do really well. Whatever your team and whatever players you have, I think that group has a different skill set. Every team has different positive traits and things you want to rely upon. We want to give our guys every opportunity to swing the bat, every opportunity to do damage. Hopefully, there's a few base runners on when it happens, but we're going to rely on our strengths. We're not going to try to be anybody who we're not.

I think, if you take guys and you try to put them in the best position to succeed, you're going to have a chance.

Q. Obviously, this is a different team, but is there any extra motivation given the franchise's history against the Yankees in the playoffs?
ROCCO BALDELLI: I don't think we need any more motivation. I think our guys are very happy to be here and very excited to be playing the Yankees. I think we've had to answer a lot of questions from people that are worried about what has happened in the past. I've said earlier this week, and I'll say it again, I don't care about what's happened here in the past. I don't care about anything except what goes on with our guys, starting this Friday, and this series is really all that matters. Nothing that's ever happened here before or in Minnesota or anywhere else previously is going to affect any of our players in any way.

For people that are sitting at home, grab a drink and put your feet up and enjoy. It's going to be a fun series, and our players are just waiting for the first pitch. I mean, they're ready to go.

Q. Rocco, you had such success in September with bullpen games, three pretty important wins without a real starting pitcher. I'm guessing you probably won't have 15 bullpen arms available, though, like you did this month. Do you think you have enough bullpen arms to risk a bullpen game in the playoffs? And along those lines, could there be a risk to starting a rookie in the playoffs?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Those are good questions, Phil. Those are really good questions. I might be able to answer them after the fact and talk about them, but as of right now, what we're capable of doing, like I said, we're going to rely on our relievers in a lot of different ways. We're going to rely on our starters, too. As far as who we're going to throw, what the makeup of that group is going to be, I just think it makes the most sense to kind of hold off on getting into those specifics.

Could there be a bullpen day? Sure, there could be a bullpen day. Or we could start the guys that have started numerous games for us. Actually, after Game 1, Game 2 could potentially be affected by Game 1. There are scenarios where that could play out in that fashion, as well. We'll probably just kind of stay in a holding pattern as far as going beyond Game 1 right now, but believe me, we're going to get a heavy dose of all of those good quality relievers that we have that have done a great job for us.

Q. Rocco, this team has been unfazed through so many things, and you touched on this a little bit, too. Can you sort of describe the vibe of this team as we sit one day before Game 1 of the ALDS and maybe where that comes from?
ROCCO BALDELLI: All of our guys are in the clubhouse probably laughing at someone and watching a little TV and walking around with their shower shoes on and probably enjoying themselves and grabbing some food. That's really where we're at. We have not operated in a stringent, rules-oriented situation. We've operated in a pretty relaxed place. Our guys show up every day when they think they need to show up. Our guys have good discussions with our staff members and kind of line up what they need or what they don't need, and we work pretty well as a group. We enjoy each other.

I don't think anything playoff related is going to change one thing we've done this year. Our guys have responded very, very well when challenged, when left by themselves, when -- we have a group that can pretty much go with the flow, and our guys know what they need to get ready for a game.

I'll change gears just a little bit on that. We've also played a lot of really good, competitive baseball this year against some really good teams. We played great series against this Yankees team already. You know, playoff caliber games. We know that playoff baseball is different than regular season baseball. It's very intense from the first pitch of the game. The atmosphere is generally different. When you leave those games, you generally sit in your locker or in your chair, you're spent. You gave it everything you have out on the field.

We know that. We played a lot of games like that this year. You walk into the locker room after the game, and you know your guys have left everything out on the field. We've done it against the Yankees. I could probably list some other really good teams we've done it against. We know what we're expecting. I think our guys are ready. But as far as a routine or the way we're handling everything, our goal is to try to keep everything the same as it's been all year long as best as we can.

Q. Talking about Jose Berrios starting this game, we all know he has the physical tools, but the mental side of how he's approached things. I know you haven't been around here through his development, but it seems like he's changed that this year. Does that give you confidence that he's ready for a big stage like this?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Yeah, I have complete confidence in Jose. Getting a chance to know him even going back into this off-season, the one thing that stood out was his maturity level for being a guy who's still pretty young, he's at the early stages of his career. This is a guy who does have, not everything -- none of us have everything figured out, but he has some things figured out. He's going to be okay. I feel really good with him being okay in any situation and in any particular spot we throw him in.

That's really probably as good of a compliment as you can give someone. We can talk about specific situations, but when you have guys where you go, this guy's going to be fine. He's going to respond really well to no matter what happens. He can handle anything. Again, for a guy that's at this point in his career, to feel that level of confidence in him -- and I know I'm not alone in that clubhouse -- it's a great feeling being us and knowing that we have him.

Q. Rocco, this is the Bomba Squad versus the Bronx Bombers. We've seen within the name how this team has really embraced the Latino culture. Can you talk about that in that clubhouse, as well?
ROCCO BALDELLI: This is a really interesting question, and I think a discussion that I wish we had more time to really get into. We have players from all over the world on our team, and throughout Major League Baseball, there are tremendous players from everywhere. We're in the United States playing a professional sport. What I wanted to do is create an environment with our staff. Again, I'm just a very small part of it, but in our organization where everyone is about as comfortable as they can be, and nobody has to adhere to anything except for we respect each other. We all compete as a group. We all want to get better, and that applies to everyone.

No matter where you're from or what you're doing or where you go in the off-season, it doesn't matter. Our Latino players have created a wonderful identity for our team, and we have a group that the best part about it is we don't think about it in terms of we have our players who are from Latin America, we have our American born players -- we just have a team. Our guys enjoy themselves. Our guys have a wonderful time every single day with everyone, and we've come together as a really good group.

When I open the staff door and walk into the clubhouse and you see guys interacting together and having a great time, I think they love each other, and I think they appreciate each other. It doesn't matter where you're from. We're all here for one reason, and it's actually been a very -- it's been a very beautiful thing. There's really -- I enjoy showing up every day because of all of our players, and truthfully, I think all of our players feel the same way. I think they all enjoy showing up every day. It all comes down to environment, how you treat people, and I think we have that in spades.

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