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December 9, 2019

Chris Woodward

San Diego, California

Q. What is the importance of getting third base resolved for you this off-season?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I would like to get it done sooner than later. Obviously it's out of my hands. It's important. It's obviously a need for us. We need obviously that position filled, and preferably with a right-handed bat. Doesn't have to be, but I would like to get that done and I know John Daniels would like to get it done as well as just to focus on things that we could address. Hopefully we do get it done soon.

Q. Since last we talked they've signed a couple of starting pitchers. How important was that to get that done?
CHRIS WOODWARD: It's important.

Q. To get your rotation where it feels like it's supposed to?
CHRIS WOODWARD: Anytime you can fill those spots with legitimate guys who have track records, we feel like both those guys have a lot more than they have done in their career. Not that they haven't done well. Jordan Lyles was a guy that we identified that he found something last year we saw at the same time that we faced him and we said, okay, he has made some really good adjustments to how he's using his pitches, how his ball is spinning, how he's using his curveball. We thought he could be sustainable with that going forward and that was really intriguing for me going forward. This is a real guys and he's always had good stuff, but now we feel like he can sustain the quality that he did for the second half of last year.

With Kyle, with Gibson, he's got more of a track record with success. It's nice to have guys -- you have four quality guys with that fifth spot still being open. We can fill it with another guy or we can have our younger guys compete for that spot, which we're going to get the best guy out of our group in that spot if we choose to do that.

It gives us more options to move forward and we don't really have to -- it's not hanging over our heads that we have to have a starter, because we have four legitimate guys. If we choose to get another guy then we have five and the rest of them are depth, which is a great thing.

Q. With Lyles I tried to figure out what was the difference; his pitch selection changed.
CHRIS WOODWARD: He elevated his fastball. Uses four-seam more; he was a two-seam guy. I know in Pittsburgh used the two-seam a lot. Colorado he tried to use his two-seam. So he started mixing up his four-seam with his two-seam and then throwing a tighter breaking ball, which was kind of the big difference. He could throw that breaker ball at any count, any time, and he did. He did it against us and he had a lot of success with it.

Once he started elevating that four-seamer we felt like with Lance Lynn the mix, he uses the four-seamer with the two-seamer. Lyles has a better curveball, a really good curveball, so we feel like that mixed with Lance there he can talk him through some of that.

Honestly I think Jordan is scratching the surface on finding out how good he can be, and that was intriguing for me to get him around the guys and talk to our pitching staff and talk to the other pitchers, and we can make him sustainably good.

Q. Did you hear that Lyles has greatly benefited by Yasmani Grandal, who helped him out?
CHRIS WOODWARD: He talked about that, yes. Openly talked about how the pitch calling, you know. He was -- we value obviously the catching position with Jeff Mathis and Jose Trevino. We value it probably more than anybody as far as that pitcher-catcher relationship, trusting that catcher. And that goes obviously to our group who kind of -- they talk to our pitchers and catchers, and the conviction that Jordan said he had in Yasmani when he called a high fastball or curveball he said he felt confident when he was releasing that pitch. That's something that I talk a lot about, staff talks a lot about. When those pitchers have conviction with what they're throwing, it tends to work out better than not. It's really big for us. And Jordan, you know, one of the things that our team, you know, with Jeff and with Jose having the reputation they have of building that communication with the pitchers, he was really excited about it.

Q. For a guy that was with the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series and competing with the Astros 19 times last year, did you have a feeling that something funny was going on with their signs?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I think we're all paranoid. I think -- I just know that I challenged all the teams that I was on. I came up in an era where the team I played on in Toronto, we were aware of signs and tips on pitchers, and we tried to find every advantage we could obviously without crossing that line into the cheating realm. But anything you can take advantage of you do.

So when I got to LA, we had a lot of heady players that could decipher signs at second base, whether it's to steal a base or as a hitter seeing what the pitcher is doing with -- tipping his pitches or something like that. We knew the Astros were good at decoding things, so we tried to be as proactive as we could going into every World Series. We knew the World Series was going to be tough. The pitcher, the catcher, I think that's why they put the six minimum rule in mound visits. I think because of that series. I told our team in Texas the same things. These guys are really good. If you think you're going to go out there with second signs as a pitcher, you better think twice.

As far as crossing the line, we didn't know if they were doing anything illegally. But, yeah.

Q. With the addition of the 26-man roster spot, how does that change how you view your roster and approach this off-season?
CHRIS WOODWARD: It changes it a lot. One spot on your roster, I wish I would have had that a few times last year. It helps from a pitching standpoint or even just an extra bad to have available. I think it's going to change a lot of teams. To be honest with you, I think the Rule V is going to be different. Teams are going to be able to hold guys. Maybe keeping that extra bat on the bench provides a little bit more versatility for a manager to go to at times, or having that extra pitcher, especially with the three-batter minimum type thing. It's going to be a little different, and I want that extra guy, as every manager does.

Q. Do you think it's going to be used more for a hitter or a pitcher?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I would say probably a pitcher. If I'm just thinking, I'm guessing that would be the case. But certain times I'm guessing, National League teams, might use it as an extra guy on the bench. If you have a lot of platoon players it helps you. If you're an American League platoon team you have three or four guys you want to platoon, you can do that with that extra guy. I think it depends on the make-up of the team so.

Q. You guys talked about the need for internal improvements, shortstop, second base, first base maybe center. Do you feel like that message has been received by those players, the need to improve? And if not, they may e seeing their playing time reduced?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I think so, yeah. It's just the nature of the game, honestly. I definitely don't want to create a sense of entitlement along any -- especially for younger guys. I want our guys to feel like they need to earn every at-bat they get. It's important for our team to understand we need to compete every pitch of every game.

You're not always going to go 4-4, and we're going to be able to support guys through failure. But at the same time, I just need to know that they're constantly doing the things they need to do to prepare to be successful every day. I felt like at the end of the season last year we made a lot of progress in that.

Guys really understood my expectations, our staff's expectations. We supported a lot of guys through failures. I think at the end they appreciated it, they knew we cared. But at the same time, it is a performance-based industry. They have to produce. Sometimes the production doesn't always show up in the stat line. It shows up in their preparation and some of their less notable stats that we keep track of that show progress as opposed to just looking at their OPS. I hope it's a healthy competition in Spring Training. I hope everybody comes in ready to go and it's something. I look forward to it, and I hope it brings out the best in all of our guys. I don't want to put anybody's back against the wall, but at the same time, they need to earn their spots.

Q. To that end, have you thought about how you will use Danny Santana?
CHRIS WOODWARD: Where won't I use him I guess is the question. I can't really answer that until we get closer, until our roster is a little more solidified and we know who is where. If we sign a third baseman, if we don't. Depends on what spots we fill. The good thing is Danny can kind of play anywhere and he's good anywhere. I would say him and Delino in center makes a lot of sense. I like his skill set in center field, but I know he can play second, the corners. I know he doesn't love playing first base. I hope he doesn't have to play it as much as he did last year, but the fact that he's versatile helps.

Q. Who is better at third, Danny or Solak?
CHRIS WOODWARD: Good question. I guess they both have their positives and negatives over there. I don't think either one suits the position. That's not their best position, either one of them.

I would say probably Danny has the edge a little bit because Solak has never really played there, and Danny's skill set is kind of better for that position. He's handsy. Has got a better arm. Hopefully we don't have to use either one of them long term if we sign somebody to solidify the position.

Q. Chris, in getting back involved with more high-profile free agents, how do you sell this organization to other clubs the mix that have won more recently?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I'm pretty honest. Our organization, and I'm biased because I'm here, but I was hired because of the integrity of the organization. They hired me as a certain type of person, and this is what I've seen representatives of this organization, from the top down. If you're interested in a place where you can go, call home, the organization is going to wrap their arms around you. They're going to support you. They're going to push. They're going to be driven. They can come here. We're trying everything we can to gain every advantage we can to win a championship in Texas for the first time. It's something that's dear to us, so we treat people the right way.

I'm not going to sell any high-profile guy on anything that's false. I tell them that. I'm honest with them. I tell them exactly who I am, what we are, and what the organization is trying to do, what's the vision here, how are we going to create a sustainable championship caliber team year in and year out.

We're in the process of doing that. But we're not going to give in to the integrity of who we are.

Q. We saw Gallo take BP the other day.
CHRIS WOODWARD: He looked good. That was fun to watch.

Q. There are no concerns?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I guess that was the first time he's hit. He looked pretty good. He missed a few, which he laughed at. But, yeah, he looked good. He said physically he feels good. No pain. Body feels good. That was a good sign because I've been looking forward to seeing that.

Q. When he got hurt he was one of the best players in the league. He hasn't played 70 games. Is there a concern certain that it's going to be hard for him to pick up where left off?
CHRIS WOODWARD: No, I don't think it will be hard for him to pick up where he left off. The concern is staying healthy. It's a big body. Creates a ton of torque. That injury, I don't think will come back, because he got it fixed. I think the side injury, those are the more concerning things, just keeping him healthy all year. I think that's going to be on me to make sure he's either DHing or getting some days off or whatever the answer may be.

I know he feels like last year was a fluke as far as injury stuff. He wants to prove to the world that he can play 160 games. I don't think he's going to play 160 games, but he wants to. He wants to prove to everybody I need to be out on the field for my team. It is a little bit concerning, but I think that's the way it is with anybody that has had injuries.

Q. You've been consistent. Any extended time in center field is not an option for him?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I don't see it. Obviously we have two options right now. I don't see it. Now, like I said, until our roster is -- in Spring Training, we go into Spring Training and we have our ideas kind of outlined, and at the end of Spring Training we know what our roster is. I could probably answer that better, but I don't see it right now.

Q. (No microphone.)
CHRIS WOODWARD: He's good. He's been swinging. I don't think he's hit live yet. He's hit off the tee. He says he feels good. Everything is healthy.

Q. So no problem? Ready for Spring Training?
CHRIS WOODWARD: No, I don't think so. I think he will be 100%. We may limit early on, make sure he's healthy, and after he plays games make sure he's healthy. But I think he will be fine.

Q. Do you need another starting pitcher?
CHRIS WOODWARD: We don't need another starting pitcher, but I think I will always invite another starting pitcher. Anytime you can have five solidified guys, I do love our guys, I'm biased with our own guys that we have, the younger guys. I feel like a lot of them have upside that could take that next step and really help us, but if we go out and sign another pitcher, obviously I think it will only help us because it will put the rest of the guys' depth and allow us to -- somebody is going to go down at some point. I don't think any team has gone all 5 starters all year, it's only happened a few times in the history of the game. We're going to need all of those nine, ten guys at some point.

Q. Spendingwise starting pitcher is your priority?
CHRIS WOODWARD: Not right at the moment. I think that would be more toward the end, before Spring Training, obviously J.D. would probably be better to answer that but we have other priorities right now. I think getting those two guys was huge so we got 'em off of the table, it helps us to know that we have those four guys, because if we didn't sign Jordan Lyles we would only have three, we get into Jan, February, we haven't signed a guy, that puts us in a bind so now that we have four it puts all our mine at ease at least we have four legitimate starters with our younger guys competing for the fifth spot.

Q. Right now the scenario doesn't have Joey in center. It leaves you right now with a roster that's got four left-handed-hitting outfielders for two corner pots spots and the DH. How viable is that?
CHRIS WOODWARD: It's too many guys. That's obviously an issue. I don't want any of those guys -- some of those guys are priority guys. You want to get them consistent at-bats.

I'm not saying somebody's gotta go but it does put us in a tough spot if we go into spraining training with all those guys I'm going to have to have tough conversations with guys that aren't going to get to play as much as they would like to. Ideally I wouldn't like that, but if that's the case, then that's what I'll have to do.

Q. With the new outfield dimensions, how long of a period of time the outfielders get used to the warning track and --
CHRIS WOODWARD: It's a little different than our old stadium, it's got some jagged edges around the outfield. It's going to take some time.

Q. Average player?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I would say a third of the season, probably, but 30, 40 games probably would be -- you get a quarter of the way into the season, maybe that's enough, just depends honestly. Some guys get it right away. We're going to do a lot of work there, our pregame stuff we're going to make sure we got those dimensions nailed down, guys playing those positions every day are going to get out there and take balls off the wall and around the wall just to get used to it but until we get there, we don't really know.

Q. How do you think it will affect your replacements in games, eventually?
CHRIS WOODWARD: I think the corners is actually going to be -- I wouldn't say short but it's going to play fairly -- it's not deep, I guess, center is pretty deep. I feel comfortable with our guys at center they can run the ball down, either Danny or Delino, both those guys so I don't know how it's going to affect it. I know left field at the old stadium played big, and it seemed like it was bigger than it was. I don't know how our new stadium is going to be. I think it's going to be pretty neutral down the lines.

Q. When we were over there looking at the stadium the one thing that stood out to me was the left center power alley. There is a significant difference. It's about 18 feet compared to the old ballpark. Do you feel like it's going to play better for right-handed hitters?
CHRIS WOODWARD: Yeah, I think so. I'm not basing it off of one BP, but some of those balls that our righties were hitting were going out pretty far. I don't think right field is going to carry as well as our old ballpark, and I don't think left field is going to be as bad for the righties as our old ballpark. Like I said, I think it's going to be neutral to both sides but I think the ball will carry, seems like.

Q. You mentioned the 3-batter minimum. I wonder how you think that will be for a player and manager?
CHRIS WOODWARD: It's different. There's gonna be some tricky situations. You bring in a guy with two outs, you're hoping this guy gets out, guy gets a flare for a hit, next guy is a lefty, okay, I can get through that guy, but the guy after that, significant right-handed hitter, do you bring in that -- it's a tough call. I don't think it's going to affect anything to start our innings, because we typically didn't -- our bullpen isn't made up of just lefty or righty dominant, which helps us a lot, but other teams there are going to be significant advantages right or left.

So it allows us to -- okay this guy has to pitch for three hitters. We know we can set our lineup the way we want it after that first hitter, or even the first hitter on. Like I said, 26-man will help us a lot because we will be able to, late in innings, be able to put guys in there that we feel like can give us our best chance.

Q. There's some first-year managers coming in. Any advice you have for them?
CHRIS WOODWARD: Enjoy it. Honestly, it's stuff you gotta go through. I got a lot of advice from friends of mine. Kevin Cash, he's one of them. Something you gotta go through.

Q. What was the best advice you got?
CHRIS WOODWARD: Don't be surprised by everything, expect everything you can imagine. I loved it, every bit of it, the struggle, the good times, the bad times, I enjoyed the process of trying to get an organization to better itself every day. Still love it now.

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