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October 8, 2019

AJ Hinch

Tampa Bay, Florida - pregame 4

Q. Correa just told us he lays down on the plane to help his back. What's it like just to see that? Are you aware of that? Do you have to walk over him?
AJ HINCH: No, no, he's in a little different part of the plane than I am.

It doesn't surprise me. He's trying to do everything he can to make sure that he's completely comfortable, that he's healthy, that he doesn't have another mishap with his back.

So I'm a "yes" on any of that that makes him feel better. I've not gone to the plane, to the part of the plane where he's sprawled out, but he can do whatever he wants, as long as he's healthy.

Q. Justin, like Gerrit this season, has been able to strike out a lot of guys. I know there's never been a bad time in baseball history to have guys who have that ability. Has that become even more valuable to you guys the last couple years, in your mind, just considering the way the ball's been flying out of the park around baseball?
AJ HINCH: There's nothing bad that happens on a strikeout, for the most part, except his 3000th when the guy got to first base.

It is nice. It's a nice weapon to have. There's a lot of escapability in pitchers that have swing-and-miss stuff. You can get out of a lot of jams, you can avoid a lot of issues. It's not just about the home run. Clearly it's to your advantage the less balls in play.

All around, I think it's important to go to areas of the strike zone where you can get the punch-out and save some runs and less action. You want to take care of it yourself and punch these guys out, all the better. We've been fortunate to have some high strikeout guys on the mound for us, specifically with Cole and JV this year.

But also, out of our pen, Josh James out of our pen, Ryan Pressly out of our pen, Osuna's been good. It's a nice weapon to have. In this era of baseball, it's nice to miss bats because bad things are happening when contact is happening.

So at the end of the day, you've got to find your outs any way you want. If he gets outs without getting punch-outs too, that's fine, too, but it is nice to have that.

Q. AJ, can you discuss just a little bit the lineup change today?
AJ HINCH: The order? Well, they're going into the game planning to use 6, 7, 10, 12 pitchers. Whatever they're going to do. They're very creative with that.

Our goal with the lineup tweak was to give them a little bit more dilemmas. There's no three righties in a row. There's no two out of three lefties. They have a very balanced pen. They can handle opposite platoons from time to time.

But, you know, it's just a subtle tweak to try to see how they're going to navigate the 27 outs they're going to try to get. If we can give them dilemmas with when to deploy their lefties, do you go after Mike, do you go after Alvarez, do you go after Reddick, or vice versa with Anderson and Pagán and Roe and the righties. They may want -- they don't have three guys in a row that they can come in and match up against.

A little bit of a matchup game, a little bit of a subtle tweak to see if we can kick-start our offense. But mostly, it's just playing the game in a way that we're not sure how it's going to map out. This is not a traditional game, the way they're going to go about it.

Q. You've been pretty steadfast that you were never overly concerned with Correa's back, even when he had the setback in Seattle. When you've seen the defensive plays he's made in the first three games, has that really kind of reinforced how healthy he claims he feels?
AJ HINCH: I think the freedom he's playing with on defense tells me more than his swings. Last year, when he had the issue with his rib, his oblique, you could tell in the swing a little bit more that it bothered him.

He's selling out for every play on defense. He's doing it at top speed. The dives, the pirouetting throws, the bouncing off the ground very quickly alleviates any concern that I have.

Now, there is a moment after the plays that you hold your breath that this isn't the one play that sets him back. It also is a game-changing style that he brings to that position. Some double plays that he makes up with with his arm. The range that he has with the long arms, the long body, and then now on top of that, being able to sell out and extend that range by putting his body on the ground.

That's a good sign for us and it's ultimately led to a lot of outs that a lot of short stops can't make.

Q. You mentioned in the past that you like to talk to your relievers when you can about when you're going to use them. Contrast that, in a regular season game, to what you're going through not only today but the entire postseason.
AJ HINCH: In a regular season game, it's a little bit different. There are few off days to look forward to. There's a little bit more now than it used to be. But you're mapping out series and mapping out weeks and mapping out stretches of games.

I mean, it's a little bit different, as opposed to the all-hands-on-deck that every playoff game is. Sometimes, we say that about teams that are on the brink of elimination, but it's all hands on deck when you're ahead too.

You can't simply assume that you can get away with not using, you know, your guys. So the unpredictability of playoff baseball and the rush and the adrenaline that happens at the beginning of the game is much different in the postseason than it is in the regular season, which is why you see a willingness to get guys up sooner, even if you're not going to use them.

You see, you know, Castillo was up last night late in the game and now he's starting today's game. That just doesn't happen as much. Maybe in Tampa it does, but it doesn't happen as much in the regular season.

That type of stuff, or when Pressly, Osuna, Harris, Smith, our kind of big guys at the end of the game, when they go down to the bullpen, as an example, they usually report in the middle part of the game, as opposed to they might need to be ready in the third inning in the playoffs. You never know when they're going to get used. That's a little different because the sense of urgency is different.

Everybody knows. I mean, it's kind of like the decisions to be made -- no one talks about availability. I don't even know if Charlie Morton is available. They might use him. I mean, they won't, but you have to assume that teams are willing to do anything, and you have to be prepared to use your guys at any point.

Q. AJ, your decision just about how long Justin can go today, is that purely situational, or do you have to take into account the short rest at all?
AJ HINCH: I don't really have to take into account the short rest until I see what he brings today. I'd be foolish to put limitations on him or any sort of -- or expectations the other way. I don't think I can just assume he's going to go nine innings, but why would I say no until I see.

He might come in and have the best stuff of the year. There's no telling what he's going to be able to bring to the table. I know he's going to be prepared. I know he's going to feel good. I know he's anxious to get out on the field, start the game.

It's the one day of the year we probably wish we played a 1:00 game to get going and get started. But for me, my recent memory of three days' rest is David Price going deep into the game last year against us in the ALCS.

I don't think you can really tell until you see what you see. If I see something I don't like or I see something out of character or if he reports fatigue faster, then I'll make a move accordingly. But we've asked him to go as hard as he can, as long as he can. He does that as well as anyone.

Who knows. Maybe it's a normal start for him. There's history that shows that people can do a lot in situations like this. And he's really good.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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