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December 10, 2019
San Diego, California
Q. I know you're going to say that you guys have your own set of expectations every year, but when you win 101 games in your first year, that sets a standard for fans and people to watch year two. How do you deal with all that?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Well, we set expectations for ourselves. It's easy to think about it in terms of wins and losses; that's not the way that we do it. So we're going to try to continue to better ourselves in every way. Everything that we laid out, attempted to execute last year, we're going to relook at everything that we do. That's called just looking at a process and trying to figure out better ways to do things. It's our goal to do it better than we did it last year; that's ultimately our goal. I think we can.
Q. In terms of doing it better than you did last year, are there specific areas that you've identified so far, areas for improvement?
ROCCO BALDELLI: I think there are ways to look at that and kind of like a big picture view and I think there are a lot of details that we can dig into, spend time on and improve on. I think in some ways it comes down to working with your players and trying to find better ways to connect with them and reach them and help them become even better than they were previously. Luckily we have the type of staff that does this in a very impressive way, but we have players that are open-minded and want to get better.
When you have guys willing to try new things, that are willing to have a conversation and listen and even though they're already really good at what they do, when you have guys that are willing to do something to get better, it helps. You need both sides of it, and we have that.
Q. How involved have you been this off-season in terms of reaching out to potential targets, talking to them, that type of thing?
ROCCO BALDELLI: It's something that I have done. It's something -- it has to be the right time situationally when you are talking about a player, whether it's your player or someone that potentially can come play for you.
I think there are some very helpful conversations that can happen. Some of them don't end up coming to fruition and don't go anywhere, but that's okay, too. Then maybe you have a relationship with a player going forward that might be somewhere else now, but you might work with later, and all those conversations are helpful. When we are looking to bring somebody over, and you want to give them a feel for what's going on, there is no better way to do that than actually connecting with them.
Q. Given where you are right now as a team, what do you think is compelling about the pitch that you guys are making to these free agents right now?
ROCCO BALDELLI: I think every guy looks for different things in their situation, but I think everyone likes to win and be competitive. I don't know many ball players that I've either been around, played with or met that aspire to not compete. They want to go out there and win. That's a pretty universal thing. I think we can offer that, but I think we can offer them a situation with fantastic people to work with, a wonderful clubhouse, you know, all of our local guys, the guys that are here every day, get a chance to spend time around all our players. It's a great place to show up to every day and they make it like that.
One thing I have done is encouraged any players that we've spoken to to connect with our players like, please, reach out to our guys, talk to them, ask anything you want. I think they will like what they hear. All that being said, the players that we have, our roster, I think it's a very competitive roster as is. I think we have a team that can go out there and win a bunch of games.
Like I said, I have talked to you about how our guys are willing to improve and get better, but I love our team, and it's our job as a staff to work with the players that we have, and I think we have an exceptional group already.
Q. How does the three-batter minimum proposed rule impact your strategy as a manager?
ROCCO BALDELLI: That's a really good question that I don't know exactly how to answer yet, specifically, because these are the types of things that I personally haven't spent a ton of time on.
I bet there are really specific things to really dig into and spend time on. That's coming. Actually since the season ended, we have been focusing our attention on a lot of other things, and that's something we haven't touched on yet.
It's been more kind of just conversational at this point, without digging into many of the actual specifics and looking at it objectively. But I think it's certainly coming, and it's going to be interesting -- I think there are going to be some things that pop up that are a little more in depth and we will see them more occasionally instead of regularly.
But they're going to be interesting and there are going to be quirky situations that come into play, and there are going to be rules associated with those things that probably many of us probably don't know at this point. I'm looking forward to looking at it I just haven't done it yet.
Q. Does it add to the strategy or takeaway? I think guys have been opposed to it, and I think it creates different strategy.
ROCCO BALDELLI: It creates different strategy. I would say some things are certainly going to change, but it's going to change in a way that it's going to make you think differently. I don't think it means it's taking away anything from the game it's just a change to the game.
Q. Going into your second year now what was the best advice you received before last year and which is the best advice you could give to a rookie manager heading into a season?
ROCCO BALDELLI: We could talk about that for a little while. I would say surround yourself with the best people, people you trust, and rely on and let them help you and ask questions and such. I think being able to do that and not trying to shoulder the load in every way I think is very important. When you actually do feel that deep trust for the people around you, you end up going to bed and feeling good, you know, when you lay down and put your head on the pillow, you feel good about what's going on.
I think in short that's pretty much the first and most important thing I could really say to anybody.
Q. What type of expectations can you put on Bryon Buxton for 2020?
ROCCO BALDELLI: You know, we can take that question and run with it and go in a lot of different ways, because I think the world of Buck. I think the world of him as a player, as an athlete, and as a person.
So the expectations for him, they're no different than the expectations I have for the rest of our group, and you know how we talk about this.
He competes exceptionally well. He gives it everything that you could possibly ask a guy to give. He's an easy guy to talk to. All of those things mean that I just want him to be able to go out there and relax and try to just be himself. We've talked about that a ton.
I think we got a chance to see a good glimpse of what he's capable of last year. He was phenomenal. His first half was -- he was extremely, extremely productive, defensively, offensively, on the bases. There are very few players in baseball as dynamic as him.
I think first and foremost making sure that we get the rehab process done, taken care of and eventually wrapped up in the best possible fashion, which we're in the process of doing. Once he feels good and has that confidence that he's ready to hit the field again, I think we're going to see a guy that's ready to go and pick up right where he left off last year. Obviously we always talk about doing everything we can to keep him be healthy and happy and playing well.
I always find those discussions really interesting, but there is never really a hard answer to those things, and I think many of us who have watched the game for a very long time, we want to pretend like there is one answer to that. There is not one answer.
I think it's a combination of feel on his end, it's a combination of advice in coaching and different things he's going to get from different people, and I think the issues he's dealt with have been extraordinarily unlucky that he's had to deal with these things.
He plays at a speed that very few people can play at, and because of that, he's doing things that other people physically can't do, and they don't do them, and some of the issues that have come up have been because of that.
We can talk about playing under control, I think he's going to find ways as he gets older and figures some things out to play more under control, but never take his ability away from him. We want him to be the player that he is.
Q. Have you been in touch with him?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Yeah, and he says he's feeling great. I think he's spending a lot of time -- he's going back and forth. He's in Atlanta, doing his rehab. He likes Tampa, too, been down in Tampa a decent amount, Bucs fan, having some fun.
It's also important for guys -- working hard is not an issue for Buck. Buck works exceptionally hard. I think it's important for guys to enjoy their off-season and take a mental break because if you continually go from season to dealing with something to rehabbing directly back into the season you never really reset in any way. I'm glad to see that he's doing both. He takes his rehab seriously, but he's resetting and getting home, too.
Q. This time last year you were talking about him and SanĂ³ and the time you guys as an organization were putting into helping them get back to work. Now that they have had that season, is there a level of focus on them to help them maintain that going into next year now?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Yeah. I think, again, we got a chance to see both those guys succeed at a very, very high level. We know what they can do. They know what they can do. It's about, -- and I don't want to get greedy. I don't think it's just about maintaining. I think it's continually bettering themselves. I think both these guys are up for that.
They're excited for that, and I think the both at different points in their career tasted greatness. I think extending that greatness out over the course of the season and many seasons is what they want, and I think they're both working hard to get there.
Q. Is Bryon on track to be ready by Spring Training?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Yes, in short, yeah. He's doing well, everything has gone well. At this point in the off-season I think it's really hard to get into specifics. I think the closer we get to Opening Day we will know more but he seemed upbeat on the phone, and everything we have gotten medically has been good, so we're happy.
Q. How much growth did you see out of your relievers down the stretch last season, and how does that set up your bullpen for 2020?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Our bullpen is a strength of ours. It's a group that we relied on in a ton of ways and we even communicated that to them. These are guys that we feel very comfortable handing a game over to, and it's not just one or two or three guys. It's a group that went out there. Yes, they were anchored throughout the whole year by Rog, but you look up and down that group, guys we brought in, guys we developed, and it's a full group of talented guys that you can call on in basically any situation and feel good about it.
I think for us to continue doing what we're doing at the level we want to do it at, we're going to have to continue to rely on these guys, but I think they like it. I think they like being, you know, an important group that we're going to go to all the time. When things get tough they want the phone to ring and they want to be coming into the game.
I like making those calls because those guys can really do their thing.
Q. A decision has to be made during Spring Training about Graterol, but if he's good enough to be in that pitching staff, how much of a game changer is that?
ROCCO BALDELLI: He's got a high-end arm that you don't see very often. He doesn't work very hard to throw 100 miles an hour. He gets exceptional movement on his -- it's really a sinker, it's a 100-mile-an-hour sinker. What we're going to do moving forward is -- yes, we want to put him in the best spot to succeed, but also we want to take into account his health and make sure we are taking care of him in every way. As he continues to grow and get older and mature, I think he's going to fall into one of these roles very capably.
I think he's capable of both. I can't sit here and tell you I know exactly what is in the cards. We have some thoughts and some ideas. We're going to talk to him about them in depth, obviously before we would talk about them publicly, but this is a talented kid.
One thing I will say about him, too, is he was able to focus very well toward the end of the year and deal with some fairly difficult situations. Emotional games, meaningful games in September and October. None of that noise really bothered him at all. Literally you could go and talk to him and he was just a cool cat and very relaxed in the dugout, and whatever you asked him to do, he would do it, basically is the mentality he has. That's impressive, and you don't know until you send a guy out there, and we saw really good things from him in those situations.
Q. How big of a challenge is that for you? He kind of dropped in your lap September first, and you got a month to feel his pulse.
ROCCO BALDELLI: That's interesting. That's a learning experience for me, too. I'm happy about the way that we handled it. Really it's something we talk about a lot internally, among the coaches and the guys in the front office, then eventually those conversations get to the player. This is a very talented guy. He's an important part of our organization, and really we want to do what's best for him but, again, when you have limited time and you're trying to figure out what a guy can do and how he can help you, you do it thoughtfully.
So every appearance was thought out in a way where we're having several conversations about just him to make sure that it all made sense, and it seemed to make sense pretty well.
Q. You talk about windows of contention and stuff like that. How excited are you building off last year and going into 2020 in terms of whatever window you might be in right now?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Well, I'm obviously -- I enjoy working with our players. I think we have a very talented group and like I said earlier, we have a group that's fun to work with. They're a fun group personality-wise. We've got some charisma. We have some veteran guys that have been around for a while, guys that are just coming into their own in a lot of ways.
Really the goal here is to try to build something that sustains itself. It's not a situation where we're thinking about, Hey, we're going to do whatever we can to win this year or for the next two years or three years, yeah, we want to do that. But we also want to make sure we're set up to compete going forward.
There are ways to do that. They're not always easily talked about. They're kind of all-encompassing. They're bigger-picture discussions. But there are ways to do that. You have to be patient and nimble and take opportunities when you can. That's the goal. The goal is to build a self-sustaining situation where hopefully we can win going forward.
Q. When you look at mid to smaller markets, you guys, the Rays, the A's, is there flexibility there if you wanted to maximize that in a given year, you have the flexibility to do so?
ROCCO BALDELLI: It's a pretty cool conversation. Truthfully I'm probably not the best guy to have it. I would say that the guys that are making the decisions are probably the guys that could kind of give you some really good insight on that. I'm a part of that, but I kind of watch it and observe it more than anything else.
Different teams approach things differently. We have to. We all do, depending on our circumstances. There are fun ways to talk about it, but you do what you have to do. You do what you have to do to win, build a team.
Like you said, teams like the Twins and teams like the teams that you mentioned are going to have to operate differently than other teams, and we know that. It's just -- I would say that sometimes the flexibility is a strength.
I think that's actually a word that gets thrown around a lot, but in actuality, it helps you to compete. It helps you not to bog yourself down in any way at times. There are always positives and negatives to both sides of the conversation.
Q. When you look back, did the Twins overachieve this year?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Truthfully I think we earned everything that we were able to accomplish. Looking at the kinds of players that we have, I don't think we overachieved. I think we had a lot of guys take advantage of all that ability that they have and put it to good use. I would expect our guys to go out there and have similar, if not better, seasons going forward.
We believe in our players. We wouldn't have them, send them out on the field, let them get all those at-bats, if we didn't think they could play. I think our group came together really well. Once things got rolling there was a good energy along with the wins, as they came, early in the year.
I would say overall did we overachieve? I don't think so. I think we achieved exactly what we earned. Again, it was fun to watch. At no point did I think, I'm looking at it going, I can't believe this guy is doing what he's doing. I never at any point said that or think that.
What I'm thinking is this guy has a ton of ability. Watch out when he puts it together and figures things out. We had several guys do that.
Q. When you start looking at projection systems and percentiles of what guys are capable of, maybe you don't like the word "overachieved, but did most of your players come close to maximizing their talent this year?
ROCCO BALDELLI: Well they produced, so I think we're picking different words but maybe talking about something similar. I think when you put guys in a good position to succeed, we say that all the time, but I think other things matter. I think there are softer factors that matter a ton.
When you show up to the ball field every day and when you have guys that you believe in and they feel that and you have a clubhouse that guys love showing up to and they enjoy their teammates and they're pulling for the guys next to them, things start to happen that might not otherwise.
I don't know how you ever value it, put a number on it, but I think they all matter. When you combine all those other things, I think that's what putting people in that position -- let 'em play when it makes the most sense. Put 'em in positions when they're going to have success. There are no guarantees, but I think all those things matter.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports