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December 10, 2019

Mike Shildt

San Diego, California

Q. Hi, Mike. Can you shed any light on Matt Carpenter's off life season plan, what you guys laid out for him?
MIKE SHILDT: Yeah, so question about Matt Carpenter's off-season play, and I spoke to Carp recently and he's go a really good place. I think Mo alluded to yesterday some of the things physically that he's working on. To elaborate on that, to paraphrase Carp, he spent some inconsistencies physically a couple of years ago, so he went through a process of trying to make sure he could do everything he could to stay on the field, which he has done. He's stayed healthy.

But maybe a little bit of the sacrifice of just physical strength. So now understanding what that process looks like, our performance group has done a fantastic job, and our medical staff, of keeping the guys on field all last year. He has a good program where he's adding strength. The good news about what we do now is measurable in our game, so there is a baseline.

When we looked at the baselines and what they started to reflect over the last couple of years, yeah, he had some decreased strength in some areas. So now he's working on that and paying attention to that and still making sure he's doing everything he can to allow him to stay on the field.

So that's the physical part of it. The other side is he searched a little bit admittedly. He can answer this better than I, but searched a little bit last year of what kind of hitter he needed to be. I think everybody saw that for the most part during the course of the season.

And then he started to figure it out through rehab assignments and got back and had a good September for us. He's building on that. I feel like there is synergy in what he's doing and what his off-season is like. He's been in contact with Jeff, our hitting coach. Most importantly, Carp is aware of what that looks like and he's driving it. So really optimistic. He's in a good place mental and physically and he's working on it, so he's in a good spot.

Q. Was there a time last year where he complained that he didn't feel himself in terms of strength, or was that something you guys identified as you were trying to help him through?
MIKE SHILDT: No, it wasn't anything relative to strength. He didn't feel like I can't perform or anything like that. He was on the field performing and moving pretty well, reflective of his base running improving and defense improving, his range was good. So there was benefit to how he trained. And I want to appreciate that about Carp. You know, look, he's a guy that -- the game is very offensive driven, but if you look at it like we do, holistically, pleased about Carp in the sense that his base running improved dramatically.

That's the eye test. That's the analytics. His defense improved dramatically. His range improved. Again, eye test and then the measurables. You know, listen, this is a guy that stayed with us all year in a tough offensive year and stayed mentally as ready to contribute in a different role, especially toward the end, and had a huge home run in that game 1 series in Chicago in the 10th that set the tone for that series and allowed us to prepare.

Carp did contribute for us. And to answer your question, Jim, there wasn't anything during the course of the year where we thought he was physically weak or anything like that, or did he have any complaints about it.

Q. He handled it well.
MIKE SHILDT: Handled it like a pro. Came at a point of reference that all our guys some with, but it's easier said than done. It's always a challenge when it presents itself, and that's are you a team player? Are you in it for the greater good and for us to win or now?

Everybody can say it, but when it happens and you have to prove to do it, and you say, you know what, I may not like the role I'm given, but I'll accept it and I'll contribute in any way I can to allow us to win a division and move forward, and Carp did that. Very impressive.

Q. The talk last year was about base running and defense. What were the traits of the team that you came to appreciate? Like the identity. Was there an identity of this team that developed?
MIKE SHILDT: Yes, and that's exactly the word I would use, Derrick. We have a high IQ baseball fan base, which is great, and it established an identity of where they can see some method to the madness. Clearly the game can dictate where it doesn't work out, but to know there is an anchor - we use that term a fair amount - what we're anchored to. What's our -- where do we draw our core from?

So the identity defensively base running, and it takes time. And that identity is understandable. When it works at its best is when everybody has clarity to it. Regardless of the circumstance, there is an understanding of what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, time put in individually, and collectively what that looks like.

If things get a little sideways, we go back to what we know works and we've worked on. Still an openness to know that we can evolve it as well. I saw that identity be established in the last off-season. Carried into Spring Training, and then depending on groups, defense, base running, offense, pitching, so forth, I felt like, you know, a lot of those continued to strengthen and we were able to take those next steps of what they looked like and involve the identity.

Q. Do you think that means you're a year ahead? Because last year was your first spring, so does that put you ahead in the game in having that, or give you a source code for what to do?
MIKE SHILDT: It gives us a stronger reference point. It does put us -- it put us ahead of where we were. It creates -- there is more clarity, more continuity to it. That being said, we can't rest on it and say "we have it."

It's building on it and looking at the next layers there are to it, and there is a hunger to that of how we improve forward.

Q. Dylan Carlson made a big impression and had a tremendous season. What role do you see him playing for you guys next year?
MIKE SHILDT: He did a great job in Big League camp and took full advantage of it obviously in every facet. Dylan was very intentional about what you would want a young player, anybody to do really, regardless of their time in the game. That's always to look to improve and be aware of what's going on, but you definitely want a guy that's coming into a clubhouse with the experience of the Yadis and Carps, and of course Goldy was added and Dexter and Ozuna, and so forth. Bolton. He did that. The eyes were open, the ears were open, and the mouth was used to ask questions or clarify something, which I appreciated that willingness to integrate it. He took advantage of that. Then he went out and played. I loved the fact that he didn't make the game bigger than it was, the environment bigger than it the it is. He just went out and played his game and showed his ability, and he did that really well and consistently well.

And then he sprung that into having a nice season Double A and finishing strong in Triple A, and sets him up for another Big League play and give us him an opportunity to participate in our Big League club. And ultimately our players tell us what's going on. They're not in a silo. Sometimes guys are "ready"; sometimes need more seasoning, more at-bats, more innings. They get that opportunity if they're ready, and sometimes they're ready and there is still no room at the inn type thing.

So more factors, but he's doing everything he needs to do to put himself in a the right position.

Q. (Regarding Cabrera.) What is the plan?
MIKE SHILDT: Yeah, we will bring 12 starters into camp. It makes sense for a variety of reasons. We are going to have five to start the season, and then some guys will need to be built up for Triple A and protection if something happens. Hopefully not, but ready in case it does.

Then we can transition those starters into a reliever to know that they can go multiple innings and check that box. It ultimately comes down to the composition of the club and what it looks like.

Q. Last year you were starting eight. At this point it's a little less certain with Marcell going free agent. How much does that change what you're doing at this point in the winter?
MIKE SHILDT: Not a lot. We have what we have. You will hear this from me always, and hopefully somebody can correct me if I get away from it hopefully internally. That is, listen, we have these players. We're always going to coach, manage, develop, inspire hopefully, but really we're going to work with what we have. We're going to try to get everybody individually to be the best version of themselves from every facet that we have and the tentacles that we have and the resources, and then we will see how that looks collectively.

Our off-season has hopefully evolved. To answer Derrick's question earlier, to make everything go faster and make the wheel go quicker, realize where the wheels maybe got us not on as straight a track as we would have liked potentially, and just continue to evolve. That's what ultimately it looks like.

Q. I know you were there yesterday talking to Mo about what left-handed bats might look like.

Q. Where did you feel like you were missing that component where you might see that now?
MIKE SHILDT: You know, there were times, I think probably that you said, okay, we would like to have a lefty here, a lefty off the bench or in the lineup. But candidly, at least from my mindset, I think it's a trap for me to escape to what I don't have, what we don't have.

I think you're setting yourself up for failure and you're setting yourself up to potentially lose that competitive moment. We have right-handed hitters a lot. We have a lot of right-handed pitchers. Would it balance some things out? Would it make the competitive strategy different in some situations? Yeah.

But that's what we have, so we work to do the best with what we have. You figure out within the splittiness, and the one thing about -- you know, we gotta figure out a way for our right-handed pitchers to make sure we're getting righty and lefties out. Gallegos is a good example of that. He gets righties and lefties out. He can do different things. Positionally, yeah, sometimes there is a guy that's tough on righties. We gotta figure out the best match-up we can to hit against that guy and have the best approach we can to have a quality at-bat.

Q. Is it that much more important to have the flexibility with the three-batter rule coming in?
MIKE SHILDT: I think it's more of a pitcher's standpoint. It's going to require us to do our job, bottom line of our job, put the guys in the right positions. That being said, the more flexibility for our guys that can understand how to be not overly handy one way or the other, that's going to be important.

How do you get your lefties out, get your righties out, and then figuring out how we mesh that up and how you use them.

Q. How much do you think that will change your strategy?
MIKE SHILDT: It will clearly change it in the fact that you now have to have a different lens of when you bring a guy in and what that looks like. The thing that, you know, you had some freedom -- I'm okay with the rule. You give me the rule, we will play by the rules. Listen, it's not my rules to come up with.

It's my job to manage within the rules that exist. So I got no problem with the rule. If I did, who cares? I wasn't asked. So we will do the rule.

But as far as the strategy how to manage it, I, we, because I've got to make the final call, but you look at it and say, Where does that look like to say, I'm going to get this guy to finish this inning, because then it doesn't matter? All right? Where does it say if he doesn't get that guy where is our risk factor on the next guy or the third guy, and know how you balance that risk factor versus other guys that you have in the bullpen, and then managing that into situations that aren't present that you know are coming up.

That's how the job looks, what it looks like.

So just going to require that little bit of a deeper dive, you know, and a little bit of much different thinking, because sometimes you come in and you go, Hey, this guy has this guy and he's ready for him and then he's ready for him and we're going to pinch hit and we're going to do this. In some cases it makes the decision easier, but in some cases it makes it more residual based on how guys are used.

The other residual component to it is not only in that moment of that game, but the next day. The only thing, the only exception I have with the rule -- and, again, I don't have a problem with it -- but is the guy that comes in and says, I got a hitter today and that's real. I can get you out of an inning.

That's one of the things that I'm responsible for even at the Big Leagues. We know they're there to pitch and be professionals, and our guys take the ball, but I still have the responsibility of taking care of these guys' arms and careers and livelihoods, and bridging and being able to have that communication, which we do have, but maybe even more, to say to this pitcher, Hey, I got an out in me. I got a hitter.

Well, you got three? And knowing that we're going to try to get him in there to get the last out of the inning, something happens, he makes a great pitch, gets it done, he's got to pitch the next guy. The guy is a 12-pitch at-bat and he's got one hitter. Guy does one into right, and now he's exposed not only competitively, he's exposed physically.

I've got to make that decision whether to expose that guy or not. So that residual affect says, okay, this guy's got to pitch, and now I know he's down tomorrow if he gets extended or I give him that blow.

But now it puts other guys top, which with a 26-man -- so that's the game now.

Q. How do you replace, if Marcell is doing a long-term deal elsewhere, how do you replace a clean-up hitter, and maybe even advancing, which I think you guys are bullish about that possibility.
MIKE SHILDT: Well clearly we need to advance offensively consistently. I thought we had, and numbers will tell, you we were a little bit a tale of two offenses last year. I will say we were more consistent toward the second half of the season. There was more of that identity we talked about earlier, method to the madness, so to speak.

I hesitate talking about Ozu being gone, because in my mind he's not gone. I know he's a free agent, but he's still to me with us until he's not. Of course, I would love to have him back with that presence and what he did, and he continues to grow and be a big part of what we have done in the culture and the mentality.

I do understand that there is a possibility that he won't be back. So to answer your question, I hate to answer it if he's not because I hope he is, but the reality is he may not be and what that looks like, again, that's more of a front office answer to that question.

Whatever we have we will figure out a way to make it the best we possibly can and maximize what we have.

Q. How much could the progression of Carlos' status impact the way you view your starting pitching group going forward?
MIKE SHILDT: Carlos is going to be one of the 12 that comes in, and he's got a great chance at securing the spot in the rotation. Two-time all-star, so we would love for him to have the season he's had. His off-season is going well. Candidly, our guys are going to have to come in and there are guys that are secure in what they do and how they do it. We've got them in pen or heavy pencil what they're going to do.

But the fact of the matter is the hunger for each player to come in and keep and move forward with their job is important. Our hope for Carlos is he's doing just that. He's winning his off-season and building up the capacity to handle the load of 32 plus starts, and being able to go deep in a game and recover and maintain the quality of pitches that he has.

Q. Do you subscribe to the theory it gets harder for Goldschmidt if he does not have a hitter? I don't want to say Ozuna, but a hitter of Ozuna's potential in the lineup with him? Is that insurance that you are thinking about when you are building a lineup? Because without somebody in there who poses that threat, I could see things being more difficult for him.
MIKE SHILDT: Yeah, just in general terms if you look at a lineup and you have -- the fewer guys you have to game plan for, you know, the easier it is to navigate a game on the other side.

People can do that for us, as well. The teams that are the best offensively have the longer lineups. So, you know, I don't know that we have to have the traditional 4-0 hitter. Don't get me wrong. I would love to have that presence that Ozu brings, a guy that can do danger and elicits a little bit of like holy crap. I don't necessarily want to pitch to that guy, and I don't want to minimize that because it's a real, real thing and I would love to have all of it.

However it looks that we can lengthen the lineup with quality guys and quality at-bats is going to be important, but protection is important, you know, for that. That only makes a three-hole hitter better, but that makes a the six-hole hitter better, the five-hole hitter, the seven-hole hitter better. We've all seen it in various forms. You add that one hitter or take that one hitter out, it makes a huge difference in the lineup.

It's usually more noticeable when you add that guy and everybody goes, Whoa! And it puts everybody in a slot. We have a talented group of guys. I don't want to minimize that at all. The fact of the matter is we achieve to our capabilities in a lot of levels, and we didn't achieve collectively in some cases offensively like we feel like we are confident in. We are very optimistic about what it looks like.

Huge confidence in the group that we have, but the ability to lengthen our lineup is only going to help the greater good.

Q. Is it tougher to ask a guy who hasn't done that before, that role, to come in and do it for the first time?
MIKE SHILDT: If you look at him -- if you're asking him to be a 4-hole hitter and have the presence of somebody who historically represents that role, yeah, that can be daunting. If you approach it and say, This is your spot in the batting order and we're going to look at it maybe differently -- and I'm not saying this is the way we're doing it, but as a method. You look and you say, You happen to be hitting fourth. For example, Yadi. And please hear what I'm saying, guys. I'm not saying he's going to hit fourth. Don't get lineup crazy.

Q. I already tweeted it.
MIKE SHILDT: At least let me talk to him first.

Q. He's going to be thrilled. We checked Instagram!
MIKE SHILDT: But Yadi can hit anywhere. Hit second for us, third, fourth, fifth. He can hit anywhere because Yadi has an approach, and so he's going to be productive.

But he's also a veteran player with the right mindset to handle the situation as it comes. As the game progresses, every situation is a situation. If we have a collective group that understands that, really we have the right mindset as a collective offense on how to execute based on what they're seeing.

Q. The starting pitching last year, and like you touched on with Ozuna, Michael Wacha, where do you see him coming into this off-season, how he helps you guys in the rotation?
MIKE SHILDT: I'm glad you asked that about Michael. Wacha had his first year in 2012 right out of the draft in Double A, and immediately was impressed by his collective togetherness.

This guy was emotionally, physically, and competitively elite. It was like, Whoa, this guy is different. It was no surprise to me or us in 2013 he's the National League championship series MVP. I'm not in a position to say he won't be back. It doesn't look favorable for Michael to be back, which I understand from a business standpoint, opportunity standpoint, for other guys that we have.

Again, it's not an individual Michael Wacha decision, but I will say this: if he's not back, Michael Wacha is an absolute gladiator, and Wano gets a lot of credit. Jack has grown himself, Dakota has grown. But Michael Wacha is that quiet guy that just gets it done and in the clubhouse has had a really positive impact on the growth, and he has a lot of residual value.

I'm a big believer in the money you get, X, but your value beyond what you're doing to help grow others around you in the clubhouse is important, and Michael Wacha does that in spades. He does it in a professional setting. He's a manager's dream. The one thing, because he's in free agent, somebody is going to get a steal with this guy. This guy is a good pitcher.

Towards the end of the year we were cautious about, you know, his health. He had a little feeling in Arizona, and went out and just made sure he was okay. Maybe to help clarify if there are any lingering doubts, I'm sure people do their homework in this game, but Michael was eligible from a medical standpoint to pitch for us in the playoffs.

That was a decision ultimately our staff in the front office made, and it was reflective of the fact that we just didn't need an extra starter. We felt good about our bullpen pieces. A lot of people put that fourth, fifth starter in the bullpen.

We didn't feel like we had to based on the strength of our bullpen. Michael Wacha was healthy and able to pitch. I can't say enough about Michael. Love to have him back. I understand what the math looks like. Doesn't work in his favor likely for us. But this is a guy that has real value on and off the field, and is a winning guy.

Q. Carlos is your starter. How do you look at your closer spot?
MIKE SHILDT: That's another good question. Right now we look at what we have, and we have potential candidates. Clearly names are pretty obvious, but Gallegos did a nice job; Miller has done it; Hels is coming into camp as a starter, but who knows how that unfolds. Cabrera is coming in as a starter. Has that kind of stuff. Can throw strikes; we can trust him.

Right now it's definitely not a definitive this is the guy. Off-season is not over clearly either. So we could make an addition there that could crystalize that for us. And we mentioned Carlos. Based on how he comes into camp and takes that starter job or how he comes into camp and other people perform, and it looks like our best fit for him is to go back to the bullpen, then we may go that route. We have options and we will explore them.

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