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October 15, 2019

AJ Hinch

New York, New York - pregame 3

Q. I'm opening with a nongame question. Obviously you guys don't look outside of your own organization that much because of all the work you do. But from the periphery what do you think of the job Boone has done with the Yankees this year considering all the injuries and all the manipulation of players he's had to use?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, you know, one of the things you learn in this job is the appreciation for what all of us go through. There's 30 of us. I know Booney personally so I'm in touch with him and there's banter back and forth throughout the year. And I think he's done a tremendous us job of keeping his balance.

I think it's one thing to perform in this job and to be good at this job and to get as many wins as he has. But he's been able to maintain the balance that's needed to get through all the peaks and valleys; whether it's injuries, whether it's a bad three-game stretch, whether it's a blown game here or there. And he's done a really good job of getting his guys all on the same page.

I applaud all managers for how they get through the adversity throughout the season or the 162 grind. Most of what we do behind the scenes nobody really gets to know. So when you're in the job you have great appreciation for the other side and what they have to endure on their side.

Q. If the first few games of the ALCS are any indication, the Yankees are going to lean very heavily on their bullpen, something they've obviously done this postseason. How much of a comfort for you is it knowing that your guys can get a little bit more familiar? What does that do for hitters?
AJ HINCH: I think the more you see a guy the better. It's kind of the easy answer. But I don't know that it's ever comfortable facing the elite pitching. When they have as many arms as they have and they can go different ways. They can still give you different looks, they don't have to bring in the same guy against the same guy every time.

There is somewhat of a familiarity that comes over a seven-game series. But you have to keep winning in order for that to lengthen out a little bit. I think the hitters will tell you that facing a different guy every time is the biggest challenge that you have when a team goes to a bullpen or a game by committee or constantly going to the pen.

But when a starter is out there rolling it's not that much easier. It's not easy to face Gerrit Cole a third time no matter what the numbers say, because when he's locked in or Severino lasts deep into the game. We never figured out Tanaka, and we saw him a ton the other night. It kind of comes and goes with how the execution on the mound is happening.

But when the bullpen comes in game after game after game, you get a little bit more of a fatigue version of that reliever or you get a little bit more of the same sequence. The hitters can get a little bit better idea how they're going to be attacked.

Q. Do you sort of agree with the idea that the downside of a bullpen game or a bullpen-heavy strategy is the one guy might have a bad game? Like we saw Ottavino hung a slider the other day, that happens. Whereas if you use a starter more and he's on, he's on. Do you think there are potholes there?
AJ HINCH: I think the potholes come when -- once you start that you can't stop. I've said that a couple of times over the last few series with Tampa. Once you start the matchup-friendly approach, you run into a bad matchup eventually. If you have a right-handed specialist, there's going to be lefties in the lineup. If you have a lefty that you don't want to face a righty, you're going to run into a righty and you start rifling through your pitching a little bit.

It is hard to get everybody perfectly lined up and perfectly matched up. The game often changes. It's way easier to do it on paper than it is in practice, actual practical in the games.

But I think the mental grind that it takes on the hitters to give them always different looks, it takes great discipline to just stay with it. What do you do when guys get hot from a pitching standpoint and they look like they've got their best stuff?

It's no different than the same decision I have every time Gerrit Cole pitches. When do you ever say it's enough? Because it doesn't look any different at 100, 115, or 118 pitches as it does in pitch 1 through 40.

When the bullpen -- when you're deploying a bullpen strategy it can get a little tricky with making sure you read the game as well as read the kind of pregame approach that you're going to have with the matchups that you're trying to exploit.

Q. If you end up doing that tomorrow if it doesn't rain and they do it, would that be kind of strange seeing two teams doing it from the first pitch in a playoff game?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, this is the ALCS, it would be very unique for one team, let alone two teams to throw that many pitchers, that would be expected in that setting.

I may say I'm doing a bullpen game, and Urquidy goes out there at some point during the game and I give him five or six innings. I'm not sure that would really apply. The same I hope is I wouldn't have to use nine pitchers. That's not often ideal, because what if the game goes 10, 11, 12, 13 innings. Unexpected things happen in regular games let alone bullpen games.

Q. Lastly, Pressly has been an important guy for you. His second half was chopped up. What have you seen from him lately?
AJ HINCH: He's had some pitches that have been electric. He's had some pitches that have been misfires, and the misfires have been hit, which is unusual for him. And I talked to him a little bit to make sure that he realizes that I'm not going to lose confidence in him. This guy has got really good stuff. He's one pitch and at-bat away from being the shutdown reliever that got him to the All-Star Game. And the shutdown reliever that was barely giving up any contact or any hits.

So this time of the year the mistakes feel grand, and when you go in and you give up a hit or you give up a run or mechanically you're a little bit off or you're on for the first couple of pitches and then the third pitch you just -- his mechanics get off and he doesn't execute a pitch, these teams that play in the ALCS or NLCS, they don't miss those pitches like they do during the season.

But I'm going to get him back in there. He's going to get some big outs in this stretch here at Yankee Stadium.

Q. You talked during the year about how Alvarez for a young player makes tremendous adjustments. It looks like the game sped up on him in Houston. What do you see in him as he processes this?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, that was one of the first frustrating moments for him where I saw it outwardly on the field when he broke his bat. All I was really interested in was what was he mad about. Because if he was mad about getting out, that's sort of life in the big leagues against really good pitching. If he's mad about changing his plan or chasing, which has been the major issue for him in the last couple of weeks, then we can help him along the way.

He's such an impactful player on our team and in our lineup, and you've got to keep encouraging him and our players are encouraging him. He's one swing away from changing the game. And in a perfect world, if we can just get him back in the strike zone he's super dangerous.

He's missed a couple of pitches that he's hit over the course of the season. As you know, I'm the last guy that's going to jump off that train. This guy is going to be really big for us. And coming into this stadium, I'll probably remind him that he hit the ball in the upper deck last time he was here, and that usually brings a smile to his face.

Q. Yuli had his best season this year at age 35, to what do you attribute that? When you look at the success he's had as a veteran is it hard not to wonder what might have been had he been able to come to the big leagues sooner?
AJ HINCH: He's been really, really good for us and a stable part of the team. We faced our own set of injuries and he and Bregman were really two of the most consistent performers and consistent players in our lineup day-in and day-out. His defense is underrated. I think his base running is underrated. And his overall game is very mature because he's been playing for such a long time at such an elite level.

We've had to remind some of our younger players how good Yuli was as an amateur and back in Cuba. He was one of the world's best players, and not getting the opportunity to play here. So if he had come over to the U.S. and gotten to the big leagues at an early age, the sky was the limit for him. He's a star. And to watch him adapt and grow and continue to evolve at the Major League level, I think the acclimation process getting from international baseball to Major League baseball, from Cuba to the U.S. It's been a great transition for him. Our culture in our clubhouse has a lot of support for him.

He's one of the center figures on our team that we love having around. So I think his production this season is not surprising given his ability. But his ability to maintain it, stay on the field at his age and changing positions when he first got here is a real cool story.

Q. A lot has been made about how great your pitching is, but can you talk a little bit how great a defensive unit you have?
AJ HINCH: I'm proud of our defense and I think certainly when we're sync'd up and Carlos is healthy and he's playing shortstop and it shifts Bregman to third, our infield defense is really, really good. We work hard. Joe Espada is a terrific infield coach. We have a good routine where it's very important for us. We have a couple of guys at the top of our rotation that are high strikeout guys. We have other areas of our pitching staff that are more contact driven. So it's really important to play good defense. Firsthand we know when other teams give us extra at-bats or extra opportunities or extra bases how much of an advantage that is for us. So we preach heavily to not give up 90 feet, 90 feet matters. We're not going to allow extra baserunners. The out filed does a really good job of not allowing extra bases, certainly in our ballpark with all the different configurations. So I think defense and pitching go together, they always have. And our guys take great pride in the run prevention side and it's just as important as our offense.

Q. There was a public conversation about pitch tipping that happened in the middle of Game 2 and it seemed to come out of there was a clip of Bregman when he got to first base, looked like he mouthed the word "glove" to the dugout. I'm not asking about the pitch tipping, but it seems like over the years we've seen a lot more guys in conversations, whether it's on the dugout or on the field, are doing more covering their mouths, trying to be more conscious about what television cameras might pick up. What is your level of concern or caution about that situation becoming a story and what you can do addressing that with players, if anything?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, the pitch tipping stuff has grown to a level unlike any other era of baseball I've ever been a part of. It's been around forever. If pitchers are going to tip pitches, then hitters are going to pick up on those tendencies.

There's no difference than usage. If you throw the same pitch 2-2 every time against a right-handed hitter, you're going to have guys that look for that.

The gamesmanship that comes with saying something on the field or trying to alter someone's view or -- it's just grown. I think it's kind of funny to see how paranoid the entire industry is on giving away their pitches. And if they don't want to tip their pitches then they should take consideration into doing the same thing over and over again.

Human behavior is really hard. But I don't worry too much about it. We take great precaution in changing signs, talking to our pitchers, looking at video, making sure that we're not giving anything away. It shouldn't overshadow the quality of play or the players or what's going on on the field. The paranoia is real, though. And it's real across 30 teams.

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