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December 10, 2019

Craig Counsell

San Diego, California

Q. We were asking Yasmani sort of for the outsider's view of the club so far and kind of the number of departures for a team that made the playoffs is interesting, shall we say, and he basically said: Give them time. They'll figure it out. Does it like strike you that there have been a lot more departures than maybe is typical for a team that is where you were at last year?
CRAIG COUNSELL: No, because I think we saw this coming probably in the second half of the season that this was going to happen. We knew it was going to be an off-season of significant turnover really.

So we're in a place of that process where it looks a little empty right now, but I assure you there will be players there when we start Spring Training, and more importantly when we get to opening day.

Q. David told us yesterday that his first starting pitching, he hasn't even begun to think about what the starting rotation will be. Obviously, he needs to add somebody, but as manager, have you started thinking about it, Craig? Or do you also wait?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I think what David is saying there is there's -- you know, I think, you look at guys like Woodruff and Houser and you're fairly certain those guys are going to be there. I think with the other -- a bunch of the other names, who it's going to be, we're going to figure that out as we go, and we're also going to add names that are going to be in that mix for starting games.

So I just think figuring out -- and then again, I think the starting rotation of like saying it's these five guys, it's kind of a little bit of an old concept. Starting staff is eight, nine guys now. There's other names we're going to have to figure out. Then I think who we acquire throughout the rest of the off-season kind of impacts what we think of some of these guys going into Spring Training.

Q. Because he did so well (indiscernible) are you most likely to keep Suter in relief? Because he (indiscernible) a lot of games for you.
CRAIG COUNSELL: I don't think we know. He's a great example of I don't have the answer for you. I don't think we need to have the answer right now. I think there's -- from guys like Freddy and Corbin Burnes, I think the same thing applies. We don't have an answer right now. As we get closer and figure out who else we've added, I think we'll have a better idea going into Spring Training, and even then, we'll get into the season, and needs will arise, and these guys have pitched in different roles, and that's really helped us.

Q. So it kind of depends on who else you fill in your roster with what the need is?
CRAIG COUNSELL: That's exactly right, yeah.

Q. Understanding it will almost certainly change between now and then, when you look at the corner infield positions, do you have guys that you sort of think about as like these guys could play there if nothing else happens the rest of the winter? Like do you have leading candidates on your internal guys that could play those spots?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Well, something will happen, yeah.

Q. So it will be (indiscernible) --
CRAIG COUNSELL: I guess that would be something that I think about, no.

Q. Do you think Ryan will play over there at first base this year?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I think he's a candidate to play there, yeah. But I think these are the things that give David some flexibility as we make decisions, is that that's a possibility, but if an opportunity arises, then we go a different direction.

So you're not going to put somebody in there -- I don't think -- you know, what I don't think is going to happen is I don't think Ryan will be the permanent first baseman. That's not going to happen.

Q. That's not happening?

Q. So if he plays, it will kind of be like two years ago where you put him over there occasionally?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, I think that's more of the likely scenario.

Q. When you acquired Urias, was there a conversation with Orlando Arcia about that deal?

Q. What do you think that deal -- what should Orlando Arcia think when he sees that?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Look, it's what every Major League Baseball player is faced with competition, and this is competition. You have to prove it, and when it's for Orlando, I think what we said is we just haven't got the offensive production at that position that we've needed. We've been close to the bottom of the league for a couple years now, and we're trying to do better.

So it could be Orlando. We think Urias has got a good chance to do it as well.

Q. What do you like about what you've heard of him so far?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Well, he's been a very good offensive player at a really young age throughout his professional career. And it's a really solid foundation of lots of contact, low strikeouts. Extra base hits have started to come as he's aged a little bit and gotten stronger and learned himself as a hitter. So as much as anything, it's just a very good foundation as a player.

Q. How much work do you think it will take to get Keston Hiura the way you'd like to see him play defense in the Major Leagues? And with Carlos Subero gone, will you be the lead infield instructor now?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, some of the lead responsibilities will fall on myself and Pat Murphy. Look, the focus will be to improve Keston, just improvement. You try to take steps forward. That's what we'll work on with Keston, is taking steps forward as a defender. He's still young into his defensive career, like younger than as a hitter.

Look, he's a little behind defensively. So it's not going to be an overnight change, but we're going to work and practice and prepare at just making ourself better.

Q. Do you think he'll stay at second?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, he's going to play at second base.

Q. Craig, with the proposed addition of the 26th man roster spot, what are your thoughts on how that changes your current roster and how you see your off-season plans?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, it's going to be a position player that's added. That looks like -- I don't know if this is finalized, but it looks like, if it goes through, it will be a position player. If it's not -- it doesn't have to be a position player, that changes things considerably, but it looks like it's going to have to be a position player.

So I think teams are going to attack it all a little differently, and basically they're going to answer a weakness that they might have, I think, with that roster spot, and that's, I think, what we'll probably attempt to do also.

So at this stage for us with really this many holes, especially in our position player group, I don't think we have a good answer as to where that's going to come from, but I think we're open to it. It could come -- I think some teams it could come a catcher, but it also could come as a right-handed hitter that can play third base and first base or something like that, which would be theoretically a need for us, or a left-handed hitting outfielder. So it could come from lots of different places.

I think how two-way players are assessed is an interesting part of this. What -- how much do you have to play in the field as a pitcher to qualify? Interesting question. I'm sure teams will try to take advantage of that. You can bet on that.

Q. Do you like the idea of the two-way player, and do you have guys in mind in your organization that you think could fill it?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I mean, I think -- it really depends on what are the rules around the two-way player that I think we're going to have to figure out? But I think -- you know, I do think the advent of this and with some of the rules that look like they're going to be implemented may make -- you might see players more often, more two-way players I think you'll see.

Q. Have you gotten information since you've been here about the three-batter rule?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I have not, no. I think there's some breaking news on it, but I don't know -- it hasn't been confirmed to me, so I'm not sure.

Q. With Claudio re-signing -- he's a guy that will be impacted by that. How do you think that would change -- how much do you think that would change the way you think about employing him?
CRAIG COUNSELL: It means I'll have to leave him in for three batters. (Laughter.)

Q. On the topic of --
CRAIG COUNSELL: I mean, I don't -- that was not a very nice answer. That's what it does. A player that you use for less, Alex we use for less hitters, that option is taken away. So, look, you know how it works. If you're on an active staff, like you have to pitch. You're going to pitch.

And so it's just Alex is going to have to get right-handed hitters out, or we'll have to find spots that -- but I think always when you put -- generally, I would say, when you put a pitcher in the game, there was times that you take -- I did take Alex out after one appearance or one-hitter, I should say, but most often -- it didn't happen as much as you think, and most often, you're planning on him facing three hitters if that makes -- I would say two hitters for sure, but you're planning on him facing more than one-hitter.

Q. On the subject of rule changes, in that MLB Network Manager of the Year show, Tom Verducci had that great quote about you saying giving you extra players is like giving Jackson Pollock more paint, which made a lot of people look up Jackson Pollock, who are not as old as me.
CRAIG COUNSELL: I know who Jackson Pollock is. He threw all the paint on the -- his art was very famous.

Q. If they take a lot of the paint away from you next September, how will that change your style?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I haven't thought about that too much. I think, if you give us three extra players, three extra pitchers, that's pretty significant, and I think every year is a little different also. I think our personnel, who knows where we get to? We're hoping we get to a point where a guy like Brandon Woodruff, who can really change things, like who we really think is a pitcher, when he was healthy this year, was going deep into games, and that changes everything for us. When you have one or we can develop another pitcher who can get deeper into games, that really reduces the need for us to do some of those things.

So that's a long ways off is what I'd say mostly, is that, man, that's like 130 baseball games away for us. So I hope we get to that spot and we have to make some tough decisions about competing for games and winning every night, and then we'll figure out a way to do it.

Q. Craig, do you know at this point in time whether Corey Knebel will be somewhat into the season before he's available to you?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, we don't have a final answer. Probably our best guess is not ready for Opening Day, is what I would say. And I think that's the way to do it so that you don't put that on the player coming into Spring Training, right? My guess is probably we get into May before we count on Corey Knebel.

Q. Is another injury wild card in your bullpen Bobby Wahl?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I don't -- I expect him healthy for Spring Training, yeah.

Q. And fully competing for a spot in your roster?

Q. I mean, he could be like a huge addition, right? You didn't have him all year.
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, he's another -- I think we have a lot of interesting young relievers that we're going to need to step up. I don't know if we need every one of them to step up, but if you talk about -- the names that come to mind, Devin Williams, Ray Black, Bobby Wahl. Like you need those guys -- we're going to need a group of those players to step up.

Q. Will Angel Perdomo be in the picture, or is he maybe not that ready?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I would say to Perdomo, he hasn't been in the Big Leagues, but those other guys have some Big League experience. I think Angel will compete for Big League innings this year for sure, but I don't know if I'd put the expectation of a need to step up as much and get Big League outs as I would for that other group.

Q. Just because they've done it?
CRAIG COUNSELL: They've done it, exactly. Counted on to do it last year. We counted on some -- and Bobby didn't pitch last year, but he has pitched Big League innings, and I think at times last year we counted on Devin and Ray to get some big outs.

Q. The way you guys use the bullpen has been interesting, and kind of across the league, it seems like there have been a lot more different ways to use the bullpen. Do you see that as an area where teams can find creative ways to maybe differentiate themselves for other teams and potentially use creative means to create some separation?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, it's a good question. I think we did reach a little tipping point with performance last year if you saw that the relievers' and starters' kind of numbers started to -- the relievers' numbers have always been -- performance has always been better. It got pretty darn close last year. Which may be a sign of we were kind of at a tipping point of how much we can push these guys. Really it's kind of about recovery for them as much as anything.

And every manager will tell you still the best friend is a starter getting outs 19, 20, 21 in a game, getting through that seventh inning. Getting a starter through that inning and the sixth inning is really, really impactful in the game. That's never going to change, and it's still what the great starting pitchers -- it's still the value that they bring.

But getting outs in a game, different ways to do it, we're always going to challenge ourselves to find the best way for our team, with our personnel, to get through a game and get 27 outs.

Q. And you talk about the tipping point, is there a quantity versus quality argument, that you can't just necessarily throw numbers at it?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, I think -- but it's really about what your team's strength is, I think, and using your team's strengths in their best way. Every team's a little bit different that way, and that's why every team, I think, attacks the problem a little differently. Yeah, the puzzle maybe is the better way to say it.

So you have to make sure you're doing that, I think, and that's what you try to do more than anything. It's like setting out on and saying, hey, my starter is going to get X number of outs or throw X number of pitches, to me that's not the right way to think about a game. It's who's available tonight? What do they have in the tank? What's the score? Those are the things that are more important in deciding about how to make a decision.

Q. What kind of player are the Padres getting in Grisham?
CRAIG COUNSELL: They're getting -- the players that I think we traded for are really very similar players as far as the stage of the career they're in. There are young players, prospects, highly thought of prospects at different times in their career that are Big League-ready players. That's what Trent is. He had a fabulous season last year coming off of a couple of disappointing seasons and injury-plagued seasons. He got a taste of the Big Leagues and ended up playing a pretty significant role, due to some injuries, for us down the stretch, and I think he got -- I think he succeeded in his Big League time, I guess is what I'd say more than anything.

I think that test for young players is significant. It's an important confidence time in their careers, and I think he passed it.

Q. What do you think of the makeup of that trade in terms of balance? I think a bunch of those trades, particularly for a Minor Leaguer, it seems like --
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, to me, it's really two teams that traded similar players with just different positional needs and wants, and then we traded, I think, a more established pitcher for a pitcher that we felt we could have longer, and that's what the starting pitcher trade was.

So it was a good trade. I think it fit needs for both teams. We were hoping to extend our time with a starting pitcher a little longer, and we got more years with Lauer than with Zack, and then we traded two positions that we felt like we were more covered in the outfield than we were in the infield.

Q. At Lorenzo's age and with some of the injuries, do you think he's still a 150-game player for you, or is it just hard to know that now?
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, I don't know if I came into his first year here shooting for 150. I think days off are important for players, period, of his age specifically, and we'll do our best to get it.

What you hope to avoid is something like last year. It's one of those baseball injuries that you can never get -- you have a hard time getting right, you know what I mean? So you try to play with something, and it just -- by playing with it -- and even, frankly, we took some time off with it. We couldn't find a way to get it better. We finally found a solution, we thought, but I think it probably created some habits for him that weren't great for a period of time.

I also think he was an unlucky hitter last year, but, look, our goal is to get him on the field and in as good of health as we can, and that's probably -- it's always easier to do at a lower number of games. I think that's logical. But there's a right number of games, and we'll try to seek that, but we'll also try to read it kind of on a daily basis, and you take it over kind of a ten-game stretch, to me, and look at what he's doing and get the proper amount of rest.

Q. If Keon makes your team, that will help, won't it? You've got another great defensive centerfielder.
CRAIG COUNSELL: Yeah, and I think Ben Gamel did a very serviceable job last year filling in there.

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