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December 10, 2019
San Diego, California
Q. Mike, the new staff was announced last week. Obviously, we didn't get a chance to really talk to you about it. Kind of go through what everyone brings to the table, and specifically what does John Mabry bring for you too?
MIKE MATHENY: Specifically, with John, the flexibility to do a lot of different things. I don't think you very often see a guy who's played in the infield both corners in the Major Leagues, be able to play in the outfield, and then has the ability to help out on the hitting side obviously too with his recent experience.
John's one of those guys you know and I know firsthand the impact he can have and how he's driven to just be there to fill whatever role. So he'll obviously be able to help Terry on the hitting side but also jump in kind of wherever.
But the rest of the staff, very excited about. Obviously, I know Kansas City is excited about Rusty and having him back. Just what a treat this whole summer to be able to travel with Rusty, to be there with him in instructs, pick his brain.
To me, it comes down to coaches that just have a passion for the game, have a growth mindset of never taking the throttle off of learning what's new. Those stand out. The guys see it. Rusty probably exemplifies that as good as any coach I've ever seen. So being able to bring him in.
Then Larry Carter is that last addition that has done a great job through the organization, has terrific rapport, has the tactical knowledge too, really understands the mechanics.
I think it's going to be a great asset for Cal now that Vance will be moving over to third base. And then Vance and Pedro both, I just see them as special coaches and try to continue to present them with some challenges and how can we help grow them and to be the kind of coach they want to be, expose them to as much managing as possible too. Both of them should be in those considerations as we move further down the line.
Q. And Trevor Rosenthal is obviously someone you've had a long relationship with, and he's been to your house a couple of times this off-season. Were you campaigning pretty hard for him? I know you actually had interest in him all last year too.
MIKE MATHENY: We're looking at a guy that's closing out games as good as anybody for a while. Going through arm surgery, you just never know how quickly or how many road blocks are going to get in the way or how that process goes.
But knowing Trevor and his makeup and the way he works and the way he competes, and then his stuff kind of speaks for itself. I think last year I know he was still trying to get the feel of the ball back, which I don't think is that abnormal. To us, it's a great opportunity for Trevor, great opportunity for us to bolster our pen with a little bit of experience, especially with a guy who's been in the back end of the game.
Q. Where's his mindset right now? Obviously, he had struggles last year with (indiscernible) like you mentioned, and just the command right now, trying to get that back, the confidence?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I think it's the confidence as much as anything. He walked into a tough situation that seemed to snowball a little bit in Washington. I think he's excited -- obviously, being a Kansas City kid too -- being able to put on the royal blue is very important to Trevor, but just to get back into the game and to prove to himself. I know, once again, it's an opportunity, an opportunity in a very special place for Trevor and for us.
Once again, I don't know if we could have a better fit if he's able to get that feel back for the strike zone again.
Q. Mike, you have a lot of success in your first manager gig with the Cardinals. What did you learn along the way with that job that you think can help you as you move on to your new opportunity?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, too much to list and too little time here to do it. If you're not learning every single day, and the list started the very first day on the job, Winter Meetings really all those years ago, but it was a great run of being able to be surrounded by people who are always watching and teaching, and it was one of those that I do believe that the evolution and the change should be happening as you go.
So if you see something today that you realize isn't working and it's brought to your attention, that adjustment needs to happen on the fly. So to say that there's this long list of things I wish I would have done, trying to get those done as we went, but there's always things you need to improve on. Just as I was mentioning to Jeff about having that mindset of just getting better. So that was part of the game plan.
As soon as I was let go, I started figuring out, hey, this is something I love to do. What are some of the blind spots that I have? What are the things that I need to get better at? And then started being proactive in doing those.
Q. You envisioned Rusty back (indiscernible) opening press conference. As far as him being on the staff, is that something you reached out to him or he reached out about possibly rejoining?
MIKE MATHENY: I think a lot of it is just we were together a lot and challenging each other ways we thought about the game. Obviously, I think anybody that's been around a baseball field when Rusty's there, you notice him. You notice how he interacts. You notice how he's thinking.
I always use this example with the young players. You have a guy who's coached at this level for a long time, and I think overall, 40 years plus in this game, and still sits down and will write and keep track of things that he hasn't seen before. That just shows the kind of mentality that I believe needs to be contagious throughout the organization.
To find somebody that has a willingness to share what he has, and he was going to do it inside the organization, and just to kind of have that conversation early, like, hey, would you ever have a desire to get back on the field? Those are natural conversations you have.
I know that he has missed being on the field at the Big League level on a consistent basis, and going back through his archives and seeing what a big impact he was in '14 and '15 and being able to instruct guys at the highest level on a day in, day out, I think it just becomes a part of who you are. Fortunately, Rusty and his family saw that it was a fit to come back and help us out.
Q. I think Rusty drove a truck around. Did you drive with him at all in the truck?
MIKE MATHENY: In the truck.
Q. From place to place?
MIKE MATHENY: No, but we seemed to meet up a lot where we were.
Q. Mike, Dave mentioned to us yesterday that you were very high on Ryan O'Hearn. Where exactly did that belief or faith come from? I know that you didn't probably see him a whole lot. Is it from talking to other people, seeing film, scouts?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, all of the above. And the data. I mean, the data, looking over what Ryan has done so far in his career, some of the projections that they saw that probably put him so high on everybody's list are things that you can't really turn your head to, and even what you saw this year. There's plenty of information to provide that this guy was having some bad luck at times.
We don't look away from things that guys can control, which is hard hit rate, and realize there's always something we can do, little adjustments that can be made along the way to hopefully open up that door. You watched Hunter Dozier and Ryan O'Hearn kind of go neck and neck through the system where you can see what may translate for somebody like Hunter could absolutely translate the same way for Ryan.
So I don't think you have to dig very deep to see the potential that's there, and hopefully be able to continue to create tools and an atmosphere for Ryan O'Hearn to flourish.
Q. Have you seen players like him before that you were able to maybe untap that potential and get the most out of him?
MIKE MATHENY: I've seen players like him that are so hard on themselves, myself being one of them, so I can have a little empathy on just the grind that you put and the high expectations, and sometimes even forgiving yourself for failure in a game of failure, that's something that can sometimes smother a young player.
So I think it's just continuing those conversations, but also being realistic and not trying to fool anybody here. When you've seen the talent, you've seen the success that a guy's had at multiple levels, at some point, what's the key? I think that's the whole trick to coaching is finding multiple keys, multiple voices, maybe something that he's heard before, but say it a different way that allow him and free him up, as well as a number of other players and guys that have had success. You can go through a number of pitchers, same thing. The stuff's there, but has it translated? How can we maybe say it in a different way or present an opportunity for them to improve that they haven't had before.
Q. How do you see that corner situation shaking out going into Spring Training? Do you see anybody maybe a platoon at first base with McBroom? Dayton mentioned a little bit that Hunter Dozier might float around a little bit and use his versatility. How do you envision early in December how that might work out?
MIKE MATHENY: Not trying to get too married to anything until we figure out what our club is going to look like. There's still conversations I know there's stuff happening. I know what Dayton deferred to also, and I'll take the same out, the fact that we've got versatility. When you have a guy like Hunter who can play the outfield, can play third base, we know can play first base, but I think that first base also is obviously a spot where you'd like to see Ryan get a great opportunity to go out and win it.
And then you could see a platoon. You could see, once again, we're going to have to be very creative with Salvy. First and foremost, we'll rely on the medical team to give us very clear instructions on how we can use them. Part of that -- and I know he was getting work last year on first base. Part of that could include first base.
Then we're talking about giving Soler days where he's not just DH and using him in the outfield. It's just going to be a little a bit of a balancing act. When you have players that are so versatile, like a Hunter Dozier, like a Whit Merrifield, I think ideally every team would love to be able to just put a guy in a spot and this is you, this is where you need to be. But right now we need to sit and see how the off-season works out.
Q. How did you hear about Monty's progress from the medical staff? Is he maybe on course for the first day?
MIKE MATHENY: Everything is pointing in the right direction. He's made a commitment to be in Kansas City, and they couldn't be any happier with how he's progressing right now. I couldn't be happier to watch this kid. Talk about a special player. He's a superstar that most of the baseball world doesn't know that much about yet, and I can't wait to have a really nice seat to watch him do it.
Q. Mike, I read that you took an analytics class over the course of the winter.
MIKE MATHENY: I did.
Q. I assume that's accurate.
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah.
Q. Can you give examples of things you learned that are going to impact how you manage going forward?
MIKE MATHENY: I think it's just continuing to improve in every area. I think it's trying to stay ahead of kind of what some of the norms are, some of the expectations. A lot of it was really myself connecting with people like Ari Kaplan, who is heading up the course, and asking them to evaluate me, and what are some of the trends, some of the tendencies, some of the things that are weaknesses that need to be worked on.
But just getting introduced to more of what is a major part of our game right now, and it's understanding the information so then we can pass it on. That's the whole purpose. It's not for a personal collection. It's how can I take the information and then pass it on to the guys in a way that, one, this is how you're being evaluated and, two, these are some areas of growth for you. It was a great course.
Q. What about in game management? And set can other lineups, pitcher usage. Were you impacted that way?
MIKE MATHENY: Same thing. Just more information to see how the rest of the game is being viewed, but also see how it's being viewed from the outside from analytical data, and where are the trends? Where are -- where's the game going? And then, once again, just trying to have that information so I can then -- I want to make educated decisions and try to make them on short notice.
As far as lineup construction and as far as a lot of the implementation to the information that we'll have on the bench, we have a really impressive team. I think the Kansas City Royals maybe have downplayed a little bit the amount of analytic involvement they have and the decision-making. I don't think it's an organization that runs around waving a banner that tells everybody how data driven they are.
I've been extremely impressed and excited about some of the information we have to help us make decisions. It never has been a dictatorship. We bring in the information. We use all the tools and the purposes, and how do we put our team in the best possible position to win today? That hasn't changed, and it's not going to. How do we take the resources we have to maybe find some sort of competitive edge?
Q. Similar to Monty, how excited are you to get around Jorge Soler every day?
MIKE MATHENY: Jorge is special. To watch what he did last year -- we have a lot of special guys. Salvy, to watch that energy. Monde, to watch the athleticism. Whit, to watch one of the best bats you're going to see in baseball right now. All the way through the development of some of these people we're talking about, like an O'Hearn, the development of a Nicky Lopez. To watch how Hunter Dozier backs up such a great season, and then you start talking about these pitchers, the ones that are here right now, and all of them kind of getting through that sophomore season and looking forward to build on that.
It's a team, once again, I don't think has been maybe on the forefront of everybody's minds, but as you look at the individual pieces, you can't help but be excited.
Q. When you talk about taking over sort of a younger and developing team like you are, what are some of the challenges that come from that that are maybe different from what you faced in years past?
MIKE MATHENY: It's been great, first of all, that Dayton Moore would open up the door early on and I'd be able to get the backstage view of what was going on and to figure out how they think and how they're developing. This has been a system that they had done before, building from 2006 to a championship team in '14 and a World Series in '15. There's a process there, but with a different long-term goal of sustained success. So that has to involve young players and evaluating.
I'm very grateful to have a voice, "What do you see?" and be able to say, "This is what I see. Tell me what you know." It's been more learning. I kind of committed from the first day that I got invited to be a part of the Royals organization I was going to do a whole lot more listening and asking questions than anything else and trying to learn. It was a great learning experience. Now it's time to kind of take some of those ideas, bounce them off a very smart group of people making decisions from up above, and try to know how to push some of these young players.
We've got a great crop coming. Nobody wants to hear us talk about necessarily all the players that are in the system, but it is part of what we're doing as an organization. So it's going to be a balance of the core talent that we have, which is really impressive. Looking forward to some of the challenges of taking that younger group to the next level.
Q. Mike, I know, again, it's only December 10, but are there positions that you're interested in seeing in terms of competition come Spring Training? Maybe in the outfield, you've got Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling. We don't quite know about Alex yet, but you've got right field is kind of an open spot. And, of course, the pitching staff too is fairly wide open other than Carter.
MIKE MATHENY: I truly think the greatest atmosphere we can set is one of competition, period. Regardless -- obviously, I'm not going to sit up here and try to tell you that Salvy is coming in to compete for some playing time. That's just not the truth. But I think having that mentality, there's nothing wrong with a guy like Salvy to do. The culture here is really amazing, right from day one, and you guys have heard me talk about it, but I can't say it enough.
I think part of that culture also is trying to figure out how to get those top tier players to be your hardest working players, and the guys that are coming out and trying to learn it and are competing every day for that spot and for that time and for their relevance on a lineup. I think that's the healthiest atmosphere we can have.
So we'll be honest with guys, where we see things kind of as we sit right now, but once again, we have some other moves that are bound to happen between now and by the time we get to Surprise. But in the meanwhile, I want guys thinking about their personal improvement. Let's clear a really nice, very clear path about what the expectations are, what are areas of improvement, what we can do to take their game to another level, and then get to spring and compete, and let us pull the reins back: You go; we'll let you know when you need to back off and just kind of prepare.
Q. Some other ex-Cardinals on their way to Kansas City?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah.
MIKE MATHENY: I don't think anything's off the table, but if you've got something to tell me, I'm all ears.
Q. Mike, with Salvy and him coming back, does that put more of an emphasis on the backup spot Viloria (indiscernible) Cam going into last year as the clear number 2?
MIKE MATHENY: I think it definitely makes it a little bit different than what it would normally be. If you saw a guy who might get a start a week, or maybe two, it's going to look a little different from that at the outset at least.
Knowing what our trainers are talking about now, we're going to have to be very careful and watch his arm as best as possible. We'll follow that, and that creates opportunity. At that point, we have to start weighing, what does it mean? If we have enough offense, do we have somebody that's going to present an opportunity to really call a good game, to work with the staff.
I tend to put a lot of weight on that, and I kind of watch that position pretty close and realize that I know Viloria is growing, but I also know that Cam Gallagher has won the confidence of a number of his teammates, especially the pitchers.
So I think he brings something unique to the table. We're always trying to figure out how this team can be better, and there's going to be significant opportunity, especially you talk in the first month at least of this season that typically a guy like Salvy would just kind of take the reins and go.
Q. Do you feel like it's -- this is going back a little bit -- feasible for guys like Whit, Dozier, where they might be everyday guys but play multiple positions throughout the season?
MIKE MATHENY: I think probably any player would tell you there are very few that are comfortable bouncing around. It's just different demands on the body, and you're actually working twice as hard. It's almost the amount of work that a switch hitter would have to do, where you're taking just as many swings on each side of the plate, you'd have to have the reps in the outfield and realize mid-game and possibly the last third of the game: I need to be very sharp at another completely different spot, not just moving in the outfield, but moving from the out to in. I think that's a demand.
These guys are talented enough. They're athletic enough to make that happen. In a perfect world, you could say: This is your spot. Here's where we really want you to work. But I also think that takes maybe away from some of our strengths.
Once again, a lot of this is going to be determined by how the rest of this winter finishes up and what kind of additions are going to be able to be made. At that point, I think we'll have a better idea to direct the guys in a certain direction.
But I know it's hard. It is very hard for those guys to be as sharp as they can be and as good a defenders all over the field than to just focus on one spot.
Q. How much is it to have a guy like Ian Kennedy, that's a veteran closer like that, with a bullpen that wasn't that secure last year, at least to have those guys secure when you go into the ninth?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, a fantastic season. Just the idea of him being so willing to do what he did and then to learn how to come into big situations, but also kind of take over that bullpen and lead from within, that's such a valuable piece, and to do that and to have the success that he had, it's a huge place to start.
I'll never forget, Tony La Russa said it this way, and I've heard other managers say the same way, Red Schoendienst said the same, would love to build that bullpen from the back and move forward and obviously having a guy that can finish a game.
But we're also having very clear conversations how do we maximize the assets we have? How do we maximize the ability for Ian to come in and say it's not a three-run lead in the ninth, and at that most pivotal point at a different spot in the game, how can we be creative to keep him sharp so we don't have a really close game and end up waiting to have our best pitcher still sitting after he's well rested, and then you're pitching him maybe in a game that's lopsided one way or the other. I know those conversations are already happening and just try to do what's right for this team.
I think you go back to the ideal situation, you'd have a seven, eight, nine, they're locked down, it didn't matter if left, right, whatever the lineup looks like, that's everybody's wish. But right now being able to take advantage of an experienced, a very successful pitcher like Ian and knowing his team-first mentality, you couldn't ask for anything better in that bullpen.
Q. Mike, for you, how fun is it for you to be back here, slash, is it fun for you?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, it is fun. Kind of a family reunion. I see a lot of familiar faces and people that have been able to have some great relationships with, so it's always good to kind of get everybody under the same roof to catch up a little bit, but also there's business to be done, so we try to stay available.
Dayton does a terrific job of keeping everybody involved and keeping you on your toes too. He's going to ask pretty pointed questions. What do you see with this? This is something. What do you think about this? So you're trying to do a little research and trying to stay on top and be ready when the opportunity presents itself.
I've had a long, long off-season. It's not just months. It's a year and a half. There's a lot of guys who are still licking wounds after a long season. I'm not one of them. I'm ready to go. So for me to say baseball kind of begins here at the Winter Meetings, the guys are going to get tired of hearing of me. They're going to be tired of hearing from me because I'm ready for Spring Training right now. I've got to pull myself back a little bit and kind of tame my excitement. We've still got some time.
These guys need to -- they need to enjoy their families. They need to relax. They need to recoup. And then we need to start working to get better. I've been really impressed with the guys I met with, the guys I talked with. They're getting after it. They're ready to take their game to another level. We need to see that team taken to another level.
Q. Not a Royals question, but you had Carlos Beltran for a couple years in St. Louis. Do you see any stories from those two years that suggested he was a future Major League manager?
MIKE MATHENY: One of the most special people that I've encountered in this game. As a player, playing against him, I watched Carlos. I'd come up even before he got to the Big Leagues. We were on the same winter ball team and watched him follow Bernie Williams around all winter long in Puerto Rico, just watching and being mentored, and I remember thinking at the time that's probably the makings of somebody pretty special.
I certainly wasn't let down by the way he went about his business on the field, and then to be able to be a manager on a team where he was playing, very, very unique. He's somebody that I was hopeful that someday I'd be able to find a way to put him on a staff with myself. Not surprised at all and extremely excited for him.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports