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October 26, 2019

AJ Hinch

Washington, D.C. - pregame 4

Q. We've seen when Urquidy has pitched his change-up has been key for him. That pitch specifically, how crucial is it and how have you seen it develop?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, it's a big pitch for him and it's a big pitch for a lot of pitchers. When you can control rhythm and timing and disrupt it for the hitter, it's all the better. And especially if you haven't seen a guy, our hope is that a lot of these guys they haven't seen him. And that front-to-back game that you can play with the change-up is really critical. He's got a good arm. His velocity has been on the higher side while he's been with us recently. And that ability to slow the game down with an off-speed pitch, we see it effective across the board in the playoffs. The different type of weapon that can be.

He can control it for a strike, he can get some chases out of it. Guys don't generally center it up. We're hoping for much of the same moving forward.

Q. Urquidy had basically two separate stints for you during the regular season. How did he evolve between those two stints?
AJ HINCH: He went down -- it's ironic because when he got called up, we asked him to debut at Coors Field. That's kind of an unfair assignment. And he handled that well emotionally. We didn't know if he was going to be a spot star. We wanted to get him up there for a couple starts, but we weren't sure it going to be long-term, was he going to stay in a rotation. And then he showed flashes of yes, he was going to be that guy and then some struggles that no, he wasn't.

When we sent him back down, it was really just sort of a gap in time where we needed to work on a few things. The strike throwing, we needed him to continue to evolve with that. He got beat up little bit, and had one blowup game in Triple-A that was unlike him. He had a lot of homers and a lot of hits. And maybe took our advice to be in the strike zone a little bit too much.

Then when he came back, I noticed that that didn't really change him. That didn't shy him away from the strike zone, it didn't derail his confidence. He was able to handle the moment.

So I think he's learned a lot being around our pitching staff, our pitching program. It's like one of those things, he pitches up to the level when he comes to the big leagues and he can be creative and he can throw different pitches.

But emotionally he's evolved to being a very, very confident, very calm, very poised pitcher. And I noticed that during the Division Series in Tampa. We asked him to do something he had rarely done; come out of the bullpen, middle of an inning, kind of the high stakes of postseason baseball, and he was up for the challenge.

And then go to the Yankees game, which he was huge. I was going into the game maybe using him, maybe not using him. Ended up using him as the bridge in the middle of the game. And despite the pressure and the atmosphere at Minute Maid and the Yankees being the team across the way, he continued to stay poised, continued to get swing and misses.

Q. In a game where you're expecting to use several pitchers, how much does that increase the decision making and reduce the margin of error, especially on a stage like this one?
AJ HINCH: Well, I go into every postseason game sort of expecting to use a lot. I know we're lucky to have JV and Cole specifically, who kind of get me to realize these guys can get to seven or eight innings. That's rare, though.

And so I'm not sure it's too dissimilar today. I would love for Urquidy to go five, six innings, whatever he can do. And maybe we don't have to use as many pitchers.

I think the game in itself, I'm still going to trust myself to read the game. I'm still going to utilize as many guys as we need to. The fear of using so many predetermined pitchers is going to be the back end of the game.

We had this the last bullpen game we had -- and I don't even know if I want to call this a bullpen game because Urquidy is a starter. But the last bullpen game we had the Yankees tied the game up in the last inning and we stared down at the bullpen and I got two pitchers, both relievers; one was Rondon, a veteran pitcher who's generally a one-inning pitcher, and Abreu, who's had nine or ten career innings in the big leagues.

If you're too aggressive or you're too -- you make too many decisions very soon then you could run out of pitching, and I don't think anybody wants to see a position player pitch in the World Series.

Q. How do you determine when it's right to go with the starter, a really good starter, on three days' rest and maybe get a compromised version of him versus letting him pitch on regular rest? You did it with Verlander and that didn't really work out. Some teams do, some don't.
AJ HINCH: That's tough because the minute you decide to go a guy on three days' rest, you get bombarded with information on how it's a bad idea. Just over time it has not proven to be an effective philosophy.

Now, I say that, saying my first ever playoff game I ever managed was Dallas Keuchel on three days' rest. And he was exceptional getting through six innings at Yankee Stadium, and we beat the Yankees.

And we know the stories, the Bumgarners and Randy Johnsons and historic performances that came on short rest, that it's possible. But you have to know your personnel. You have to know where you're at in the series, you have to know what your backup plan is.

Specifically for the Verlander decision in the DS, Gerrit Cole as a backup plan in Game 5 was not the worse-case scenario for us. We had a positive fallback option. When I used JV on short rest in 2017 in Boston, in the series against them, we had Dallas Keuchel as a backup plan.

What's different is once you start that in a seven-game series you can't stop. In reference to Gerrit Cole today, if we started Gerrit Cole today, then what are you going to do tomorrow in a Game 5? It's easy, let's start JV. Now I've got two back-to-back three-day starts, and then we have a day off, which everybody assumes recharges everybody's battery to full. I'm going to tell you it does not; it's just one day. Now you have a Game 6.

So the series length often dictates whether or not you feel comfortable putting a guy on three days' rest.

I like the idea when it works. I hate it when it doesn't. And I don't get to know on the front end.

Q. Some thoughts on going with Jake today?
AJ HINCH: Marisnick? Jake is an impact defender, he's got some base running skills that we can utilize hitting in front of the pitcher. He's got a little bit of history with Corbin, having done pretty well with him.

I love his energy. In this ballpark, watching for a game, you should see all the action that's in the outfield. We talked about it with Alvarez versus Reddick yesterday. Reddick makes a great defensive play down the right field line, gets a base hit. All the plays that Soto and Brantley had to deal with in a tricky left field.

Having Jake in the center kind of realigns our outfield to being very, very strong up the middle. George goes to right, I'll have Brantley in left.

Obviously if we can take the lead today, that would be our optimal defense out there with Jake in center field anyway, as I showed when I put him in the game at the end of the game yesterday.

Q. Is there any way that Verlander would be an option in the bullpen tonight?
AJ HINCH: No, Justin won't pitch unless we go extra innings, and then all bets are off.

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