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December 9, 2019

Joe Girardi

San Diego, California

Q. With the Wheeler deal being official now, outside of the basics that we know, what do you think he's bringing to this rotation and what part of his upside do you like the most?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, I think you're going to have a 1 and a 1A with him and Nolan. When you look at what he's done the last few years and really throughout his career, he's continued to get better and better. This is a power guy with four pitches where I think he's just starting to reach his potential. I think there is more in the tank there. I think this guy can be more dominant than he's been and we're looking forward to seeing the top of our rotation.

Q. Is there anything in particular that makes you think he can be more dominant than what we have seen?
JOE GIRARDI: I think working with Bryan Price, and not to take away anything from anyone else, I think those two are going to work great together. I think the catcher the quality of the J.T. has a chance to help any pitcher, and I just think as he learns who he is he will continue to get better.

Q. What do you feel like -- you got Zach. What do you feel like your greatest need is beyond starting pitching? Do you feel like you still need a starting pitcher or infielder?
JOE GIRARDI: I think infield is probably -- you lose Franco and Hernandez, I think infield is probably your number one priority right now. Zach was our huge spot, and we're going to continue to tweak this roster and continue to try to get better and look at every avenue to get better. That's who our ownership group believes in and that's what Matt believes in, and that's one of the reasons I came here, their desire to win and how they're willing to do things. I think infield is probably our priority now.

Q. You said Zach is your huge spot. You don't anticipate a bigger deal than that coming in here?
JOE GIRARDI: I don't know. That's probably more of a question for Matt, but that's a pretty big deal, right?

You start looking, and yeah, there are three really huge deals out there. One of them has been taken off the table. But, again, I think there are areas that we're trying to address the infield bull pen, and when you look at -- when you add a starter you have the ability to take one of the starters that you had and make him a bull pen piece, and I think their stuff is going to have it ticked off. The big thing for me is keeping our bull pen healthy. The bull pen was not healthy last year and that's a big thing.

Q. Bull pen sounds like it could be a quantity approach in terms of trying out different options, whether it's from the minor league levels to the guys that were hurt last year, coming back. What are the challenges from a managing perspective of maybe not having the back end completely solidified and having question marks going into Spring Training?
JOE GIRARDI: I think the number one priority to me is to understand the type of stuff that they have, and then after that understanding how they react in certain situations. How comfortable they are in back-to-back days or three out of four, or if they throw two innings and throw 30 pitches, how many days off do they need?

Just the process of learning how I get the best out of each guy is going to be really important, and you can see some of that in Spring Training, but you really see it once the season starts.

Q. Do you subscribe to the idea that any guy can pitch in the eighth and ninth innings, or do you have to have a certain temperament?
JOE GIRARDI: I think it's more about the "stuff" and the "stuff" matching up against the hitter's weaknesses is the real important thing. I think the one guy the temperament is most important is the ninth inning guy because you kinda got the feeling there is nobody behind you.

If you're pitching in the seventh, somebody can help you out of that, the eighth inning. But the ninth inning guy has the pressure of closing out the game. The big thing is matching "stuff" up against weakness.

Q. With Stephen Strasburg signing, what do you think that does to the division and how you guys stack up right now against Washington?
JOE GIRARDI: I think the division is very strong throughout. The Mets played very well the second half of the year and they've had a lot of young kids that have come along and played pretty well.

Atlanta is obviously really talented. Washington won the World Series. That's one of the reasons we went out and got a Zach Wheeler, so we could compete against the teams in our division and get to the postseason.

But Strausburg showed what he's about being throughout the playoffs being 5-0 in the playoffs. You look at the top of the rotation it's really good, but I feel really good about the top of our rotation.

Q. Joe, question about the Cubs process. There was a lot of talk about Ross was going to be their guy for more than a year now. You had a lengthy interview there and you've been involved in job openings there before. How serious was that process for you going in and how serious do you think they were taking yourself and other candidates for that job?
JOE GIRARDI: I think anytime you interview for a job the process is serious for the person interviewing for the job. Obviously I made it known that I wanted to get back into managing and I didn't know where the opportunities might come, or if the opportunities would come. So I took it very seriously. I was in between broadcasting games, game 4 and game 5. They had kinda groomed David Ross, but I was still interested and I went and did the interview.

Q. Did you get the impression that it was a wide-open process at that point?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, I think that any job that you go into, I think a group has their idea of what their guys are. But if you're not the number one guy it's your job to change their mind in the interview room.

Q. Joe, what do you think you learned about managing from your time being in the media last year, being on television? What did that teach you about the job you're in now?
JOE GIRARDI: I think there are a number of things that you learn. Number one, I realized how much I missed it, right? How much sometimes you take for granted that you go to the ballpark every day and that you have a job and you're doing what you love to do.

I've always been -- I felt pretty in tune with the importance of the media behind our game, but I even learned more, you know, because you're really the voice of growing this game in so many ways. The importance of that, you see it in player contracts, you see it in teams where the payrolls go up and all those different things. I had a chance to step back and kinda catch my breath a little bit and regroup.

I think it was healthy for me. It was difficult, but I think it was healthy for me to take a couple years off and spend time with my wife of almost 30 years coming up here shortly and my three kids. You learn a lot about yourself, too, adjustments that you need to make. And you know what? I took a lot from those two years and I hope to implement it all in this upcoming job.

Q. Joe, we're going into the first season where there is going to be a three-batter minimum.
JOE GIRARDI: Has that passed for sure yet?

Q. Pretty sure.
JOE GIRARDI: Has it passed for sure?

Q. Pretty sure.
JOE GIRARDI: Not pretty sure -- no, if it is, I think it changed for a lot of pitchers. You have specialty pitchers, not as many as we used to, but you do, and I think the game has kinda went to multiple inning pitchers anyway. In a sense, guys that can give you more than three outs. I don't know if that's your question, but it will change the game.

Q. How does that affect how you approach putting pitchers in the game but how you put together your lineup?
JOE GIRARDI: I think it can affect how you put a lineup together in a sense. Depending how many left handers they have, maybe you spread your left handers out. So if they have a guy that is efficient in getting left-handed hitters out, you surround him with two beasts that are right-handed hitters. So I think it does change.

I'm curious to see if it actually goes through, goes through. The thing that concerned me about it is you're in a game where you don't want to maybe use your eighth inning guy or your closer, and you bring in someone that he is not used to pitching in the eighth or ninth inning and they walk the first two hitters and you can't change? The importance of winning that game is obviously important as we see how many divisions are determined by one game, how many Wild Card spots are determined by one game.

So that's the concern of mine.

So I worry about people possibly using their better relievers too much, because of, you know, because there are youth in bull pens and guys that aren't ready for the eighth and ninth inning and sometimes you may want to use them to give those eighth and ninth inning guys a day off, and that's a concern of mine.

Q. Your last year with the Yankees you lost a tough series to the Astros. What was your reaction when you saw the stuff that has come out about the Astros in 2017 in particular?
JOE GIRARDI: I wasn't shocked. We had put in a lot of things to try to combat certain things. You know, word gets around.

That's a suspicion of mine every ballpark that you go to. Wherever you go you worry about people trying to steal your signs, changing signs over and over, having mechanisms where the catcher doesn't have to worry about running to the mound. We went through other things in 2017 and we tried to guard against it and to do certain things. I know people are going to say, Look at the Astros home and road splits that season, right?

Look at the Yankees home and road splits during the playoffs; it's the same. I thought we did a pretty good job of combatting it. I don't know how great of a job we did, but I thought we did a pretty great job.

Q. Is there a different element added to signs when you see something as rudimentary as banging on a garbage can?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, because that's not coming from the players on the field. The players on the field, it's their job to guard against the players on the field. You can't guard against technology and players off the field.

Now, you do have guys that are really good at picking up things from pitchers where they tip. To me, that's still on the field, in a sense.

So that is bothersome to me, and it's been a big proponent of why I've been like a headset guy proponent to where it can't be done. Then the only thing you have to worry about is if a pitcher is tipping and people talk about headphones, and I think it's the technology behind it.

My point is: Look at players, look at people today. When do they not have headphones?

Q. Joe, (No microphone.) Does that include (indiscernible) and Gregorius?
JOE GIRARDI: We are looking at everybody, George, and obviously every team has fiscal restraints that they have to stick to and have an idea of what they think their salary should be during the course of the next near. That's for ownership and Matt to determine. We're looking at everybody, George.

Q. You managed Carlos Belltran. What attributes does he bring to the manager's chair with the Mets?
JOE GIRARDI: He was a very smart player, and now he can share the knowledge he has with the players that he's going to manage. Carlos was always well respected, well received, and I know he will be there, as well.

Q. Especially after two years away from the game as a manager, do you have any advise for a rookie manager?
JOE GIRARDI: Be yourself. Be who you are. You can't try to be someone that you're not. When I took over from the Yankees in 2008, Joe Torre said, Be yourself. Don't try to be me. Be yourself. And I've never forgotten that.

Q. What were your impressions of Bryce externally and what have your conversations with him been like?
JOE GIRARDI: You know, when I looked at Bryce, and really didn't manage a lot against him. Saw four or five games of the Phillies as a broadcaster. A player that really cares and plays extremely hard and wants to win on a daily basis. To me those are the type of players that you want. He's very talented. Bryce has been on covers of magazines since he was 15, 16 years old, and there have always been huge expectations. I'm not so sure he can ever meet all the expectations that people have for him.

When you have superstars, no matter what you do, sometimes it's not enough. So for me it's the important thing that Bryce be Bryce and play to the best of his capabilities, and that will please me and I know he will have a great year.

Q. There has been talk about speeding up the game, the pace of play next year, that three-batter minimum. The way the game is right now, does it need to be sped up?
JOE GIRARDI: I think the game is pretty healthy. I look at indicators, and I look at players salaries. The game is pretty healthy, and we would all like to see certain things speed up. We've gotten to the day and age guys throw 98 to 100. It's not easy to put the ball in play. There are more strikeouts than we like. So to me, it's treating our players to combat the type of pitchers that we have to have more action. When they talk about pace of play, it's not necessarily the time limit of the game. It's the amount of action.

So it should be the pace of action in the game. There is not enough because there are all the strikeouts and the pitching that we have today. So it's our job and responsibility to teach the hitters to put the ball in play. And if you look at the teams that have won the World Series lately, it's teams that do that, that don't strikeout a lot and still walk and hit the ball out of the ballpark. It's our job to teach our players to handle this type of pitching so there is more action.

Q. And when the three-batter minimum comes in?
JOE GIRARDI: You do a little bit. Maybe you set your lineup a little different. Maybe you have to make sure that there is more leash for certain guys in a sense that maybe if they struggled against a left hander and they're right hander and you got right, left, right you have to be prepared and vice versa. It will change a little bit.

Q. Have you spoken to (indiscernible) and Velasquez? Is there anything you can pinpoint to say, hey, I think if they can do this I think they can reach their potential?
JOE GIRARDI: I think they're both talented, and I'll leave more of that to Bryan Price. I will work on the mentality more with them. So much of it is having success and making sure that to me, that they leave situations where they're successful so they can build off of those and get on a roll.

It's important that we try to get all our players on a roll, and I know it's impossible because it seems like from a manager's standpoint when you get one group going well another starts struggling and you're always trying to fix something. But the good thing is you want them feeling good about themselves every day, and it's our job to do that.

Q. Do you think you can count on McCutchen to be the version he was before the injury, or do you have to account for him going through major surgery and what safeguards do you plan for?
JOE GIRARDI: I think you do a little bit, but I think you have to watch with your eyes, what your eyes are telling you about how he's performing and bouncing back. Saying that, he should be fresh. He's had a year off! Kidding. I think you have to watch and see how his body reacts.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.

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