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October 4, 2019

Rocco Baldelli

New York, New York - pregame 1

Q. Rocco, if you're able to do this, can you give us an idea what went into the decision to leave Martin Perez off the playoff roster? And what do you expect out of Kyle Gibson performing in a role that he wasn't in at the beginning of the year?
ROCCO BALDELLI: These are -- in a time where it's very exciting, we're having a lot of fun, and you're getting ready to play big games, you do end up having to make some very, very challenging decisions. These are some of the more challenging decisions that I personally have had to deal with in this role.

Martin has been extremely important for us this year. He's taken the ball. He's put us in spots to win games from April until now, and having to have that conversation with him wasn't fun in any way. He's been dominant against left-handed hitters, and we're facing -- in a situation where you're in a series against one team, you're going to do everything you can to match up with that team as best you can, and because of that, this team, the Yankees here are about as heavy of a right-handed hitting group as you're going to find. Because of that, we opted to not carry him.

That also doesn't mean that we keep playing and winning games, that he's not an option for us going forward. He could be a very, very important piece as this thing keeps going, potentially.

Q. My job to ask the questions you don't want to answer. Do you have any more you can say about your Game 2 pitching plans or the factors that might lead into your decisions on your Game 2 pitching plans?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Basically, it comes down to we're going to see how Game 1 goes, how our usage plays out, and that could potentially affect our Game 2 plan. Will it probably affect it? No, but it's possible, and because it's possible, we're going to wait until after the game to announce anything. That being said, we're not waiting until tomorrow. As soon as the game ends, we know exactly who's going to be pitching, and we'll be able to just make a call.

Q. Rocco, can you give some examples of Nelson's leadership for you this year? And in a series like this, in a postseason series, how important is it to have someone like him?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Nelly's about as special of a player and person as I've ever been around. He has a magnetism about him, regardless if you're a fan, if you're a manager or coach, or if you're a player, he's a guy that you're drawn to in a lot of ways, a guy that you want to be around, a guy that you want to talk to. He brings it on the field. He's obviously one of the more talented guys we've seen in a long time, one of the best hitters to come along in a while.

He leads in a lot of different ways. He leads by example. He's got that something special that, when he walks in the clubhouse every day, he's got a big smile on his face. Guys are drawn to him. Like I said, he brings it on the field, but he brings it everywhere else, too. He's a wonderful human being. Guys want to be like him. I believe that.

And what he's done for our team, it's been wonderful being around him. We've seen him set milestones. We've seen him do things, like in our first hitters meeting of the year, when we got our position players together, he just wanted a quick second, and he basically just said a few words. Couldn't even tell you what those words were exactly, but he said a few words, and we all walked out of the room -- I didn't have much to say that particular meeting. I was just observing. But everyone walks out of the room, no matter who you are, and you feel like you're capable of pretty much anything. That, only a few players have, and he has that.

Q. Rocco, what did Luis need to do to prove to you guys that he would be healthy and ready to go for today?
ROCCO BALDELLI: A lot. A lot, actually. When he was taken off the field in KC, we didn't really know what we were dealing with. Didn't look good at the time. We found out very quickly that he was dealing with an ankle sprain, and we were hoping that that was it. He responded really well. He responded well to initial treatments. He went from not being weight-bearing on the first day to essentially walking around without a limp within a couple of days, and another day or two after that, running. You're looking at it, and you're going, well, I would say the odds probably aren't likely right now that he's going to be ready to go, but we'll see. We'll wait and see.

Our medical staff was on this from the very beginning, morning, noon, and night. They deserve a lot of credit, as well as Luis, for everything they got done.

We also had some rain this week, which didn't allow us to get outside very much, which made it tough because we needed to evaluate him and see what he could do baseball-wise. When we got here, the tarp was on the field, and we were able to get the tarp off and get him to take some ground balls, run the bases, turn some double plays, and not just watch him do it, not just say, hey, he did it, but how did he do? How did he look? He looked really good. I really don't know any other way to say it. He looked -- it didn't look like he was in any kind of discomfort. He was swinging the bat fine. He's been swinging it for a few days perfectly fine. He's ready to play.

Q. Rocco, are you a speech guy? Are you going to give a nice speech or an inspirational message to your team? Or did you already?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Really, I'm not. I don't think our group really is either. One thing that we've tried to do is stay just as normal, as relaxed as if this were a typical game. We want our guys' routines to be just as they were every other game this year. I've never, just on a personal level, just the whole rah-rah thing, I don't think does a ton for our group. Occasionally, we have things that we celebrate, and we want to take the time to recognize certain guys and talk about certain things, but even when that happens, it's generally pretty quick.

Our guys have kind of embraced the relaxed atmosphere. The environment is a very comfortable place to be. It's not -- no one has to pretend to be anyone that they're not. That's something we've talked about since early Spring Training, and I hope all of our guys would agree that we've kind of embraced it and carried this on through September and now October.

Q. Rocco, the Twins have had the best road record in baseball this entire season. How challenging is that for a rookie manager to kind of keep that attitude up the entire season? Is it amped up at all now that it's the postseason, or do you just kind of look at it the same way?
ROCCO BALDELLI: I would actually credit our players for this. This is something that just kind of happened. It's not something -- we didn't have some sort of plan on the road or implement all of these new things on the road to help our guys out. Our guys have conducted themselves very, very well.

When we've taken a flight and headed out for a road trip, it hasn't affected our guys in any way. I will say, too -- I'll take a step back. This is something that is really impressive to me. I didn't know our road record was that good. Had no idea. I was told, probably the last week or two of the season, what our road record was and how impressive it was. I sat there and I'm thinking about it, and I'm saying to myself, that's not easy to do. That's really impressive.

Again, nothing specific was ever talked about. That's just our players handling their business really well -- staying focused, coming in, conducting themselves well, just being ready to play when they show up in a different city, and our guys have done it all year.

Q. In an era where postseason pitching leashes are getting shorter and shorter, are there any of the managers the last few years you've studied what different moves they make in the postseason versus the regular season, or what you went through in your first year, was that enough training to know your gut instinct on when to make moves?
ROCCO BALDELLI: You probably never have enough experience or see enough to feel like you have everything figured out. I think -- I hope I'm personally continuing to learn as time goes on and never stop. So when it comes to postseason pitching usage, we've seen -- we have seen elements of this that have changed a lot throughout the years, and more recently, even more so.

There are situations where I can personally see our starters pitching into the middle of the game and potentially deeper in the game. There are situations where I could see our starters pitching us into a spot where we have a chance to win a game and then we go to our bullpen. I think the fluidity of the way we've operated all year will allow us to be perfectly fine regardless of which direction we go in. That was something that we did talk about with a lot of our relievers and even our late inning relievers, going back to Spring Training, which was be ready to pitch. We're not going to have an inning where a particular guy is going to pitch that particular inning every time out or even close to it.

Some of our best guys that have been -- they've been lights out for us all year long -- have pitched in several different spots. That's a challenge. I think it took time for it to kind of sort itself out, but once it did, our guys really did come to the table every day ready to go, and it's helped us win games. I think we're a better team because of that fluidity, and I think that the way that we operate is something that can potentially work well in a playoff series.

Q. Any managers the last few years whose moves in the postseason you've particularly studied?
ROCCO BALDELLI: I wouldn't say that. I come from -- it's not postseason baseball because we weren't playing in the postseason, but I come from the Tampa Bay organization, and I've learned a lot from my experiences there. Kevin Cash, who I got a chance to sit next to, and Charlie Montoyo, who I had a chance to sit next to, and Kyle Snyder and these guys, I've just tried to watch as best I could and just pay attention. Really just started there, and, again, I hope I continue to learn.

Q. Rocco, when you have a player as young as Luis is who hasn't been in the postseason before, do you feel like you need to say anything to him about what to expect in this environment, or do you just sort of trust him to know how to handle that?
ROCCO BALDELLI: I think it would be different for every player. I think Luis is extremely, not just mature, but he has great awareness. He has great feel for everything going on. He's played in winter ball games that are probably a little more, even potentially more exciting than some of the games going on over here in Major League Baseball. So I think that experience probably really helps him.

But he's a pretty special young player, where I don't think -- I could probably privately poll our staff. I don't think there's one staff member that has any concern about Luis. I think he's going to be perfectly great and ready to go.

Q. My question kind of expands on that one. In addition to Arraez, you have five guys on the postseason roster who made their major league debut during the season. The other four are pitchers. What does that say about how your roster had to evolve during the season, and how do you feel about going into battle with so many guys that started the year at Pensacola?
ROCCO BALDELLI: One, our organization player development group did a great job sending us some really good young players. How do I feel about sending inexperienced players out in playoff games? I feel really good about it. I really don't believe in guys being behind the eight ball just because they haven't done something before. I've seen a lot of really, really good performances from guys that have never been in these positions. I've experienced them myself. I've watched other guys do it.

I think, as long as you have your guys in a good frame of mind when they're taking the field, the best players are going to make plays, and whoever plays the best and the best out there will win the game and win the series. Sometimes it's the guy that has the experience, and a lot of the times it's not.

Q. How close was the 13-man pitching staff to being reality?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Everything's close this time of the year. We talk about everything. We get into those discussions. Ultimately, we can go back and forth all day long. You just have to make a call. Truthfully, all of our guys, all of our guys that have missed time -- because we have several guys that have not played recently. They're all 100 percent and ready to go, but I really do like having the coverage of the extra position player right now because of that, where we don't have to have any of that in the back of our head at all going forward.

Q. Rocco, a few of the pitchers, Tyler Duffey, for instance, have talked about changing pitch usage, that the coaches and analysts approached him. How do you manage that communication so you can get by them?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Well, Wes and Hef, our pitching coaches, handle most of the specifics as far as what goes on, the usage, all the particulars. They do a great job. They do a great job in every way, including being very, very good communicators. Both of those guys have adapted to their roles very quickly and at a very high level.

It's guys just like Tyler Duffey and guys that have taken the next step in their career where you end up in a spot giving this interview. You end up in a spot playing the playoffs. You need guys to continue to develop. It's not all about developing superstars who step into the league and are MVP candidates right off the bat. That's great. You need some guys that are really talented to win. You need to continue to help players in every possible way.

Tyler Duffey's been one of the best relievers in baseball for a while now. Earlier in the year, he wasn't throwing the ball in the exact same way, and now he is. He should feel really good about what he's doing, and I think our staff should feel really good about helping him get where he is, but it takes a group to get there, and in the end, it goes and becomes a real pat on the back for the player because the player is the one that has to actually make those adjustments.

The part of your question about the usage, these are really interesting conversations, and usually the kind of conversation that stays relatively close to the vest of each particular team because we think there are benefits to being good at those things.

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