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December 11, 2019
San Diego, California
Q. What's this week been like for you just as far as getting to know everybody in the organization, having everybody under one roof, getting to know the roster and the front office?
DEREK SHELTON: It's been really good. I think anytime you can get everybody together, especially for a new group -- Ben and I are still getting to know the roster and getting to know the inner workings of people. So to be able to not only sit in a suite with them but also to go to dinner and have some social time with them, it's really nice. We had a nice staff dinner. Travis Williams is in town, so it's really nice when your president is here.
We've spent into the night in the rooms, and it's not so much with a lot of things going on, it's more of the fact of being able to just develop relationships.
Q. Have you gotten any good or particularly interesting advice?
DEREK SHELTON: The best advice I got was right when I got the job, when I flew into -- well, the best advice I feel I got was right when I flew into Pittsburgh the next morning. I had breakfast with Jim Leyland. So I got a car ride up and back to his country club and then breakfast with him.
I think the biggest thing was be yourself. Be who you are. Don't try to be anything you're not. Don't try to portray yourself. I think it was as much he was giving me advice about the press conference. You see press conferences, and people try to be something, and he's like: Be yourself. So that's probably the best.
Then we had some definite strategic advice. I talked to Joe Maddon a couple times about it. I talked to Kevin Cash, and I spent a ton of time talking to Rocco. I talk to Rocco every day. I think probably the "be yourself" comment from a guy that managed in Pittsburgh and is from Pittsburgh is probably the best stuff.
Q. Derek, he said you were going to reach out to him anyway. I guess he called you, and you said something about he must have ESP, "I was going to call you." Why was it important for you to connect with Jim other than his success --
DEREK SHELTON: Other than he's a Hall of Fame manager?
Q. Yes, but given his stance in Pittsburgh, clearly you must recognize that he's an important figure.
DEREK SHELTON: I think the people of Pittsburgh, it's important how they embrace you and how they view you. He's from Pittsburgh -- well, he lives there, and he's lived there since '85, and he's very proud of it, you hear him talking. And he's a guy whose career path is very similar to mine. We were in the Minor Leagues. I was a bad player. He said he was a bad player. I'm not saying that. But a Hall of Fame manager who embraced being in the organization, managing the organization, and embraced the city.
So it was important to me, when he called me the first night and I was at dinner with my wife, it was like a really surreal thing that Jim Leyland was going to call and spend the time talking to me. And then I asked him, hey, is it okay if I reach back out? And he said yes.
So just the fact of him being able to give me advice about the city, and honestly, we talked about Don Kelly a little bit, which was nice, and he gave me some advice there, and we ended up hiring him. It was just important to me that someone that was that important to the city and knew the city, to talk to him.
Q. Speaking of Don Kelly, what made you decide on him as your bench coach, and how important is the role for him as a bench coach?
DEREK SHELTON: The second part is really important. I think you have to have someone that's next to you that you trust and you're able to have conversations with. The first part of it, I did not know him. I met him for an hour. I watched him play for a lot of years across the field and really liked the way he approached the game, and I was fortunate, I talked to A.J. about him, and A.J. raved about him, and I talked to Jim about him.
It was more the fact of who he is as a person and how bright he is and the fact that he wants to learn and he wants to grow. To his credit, I told him, like I'm coming out here this week, and we're going to talk every day, and I've talked to him probably three of the four days. He's sending me texts.
He's helping me vet guys for staff positions, and he's just a very good person, and I think that even stands even above it.
Q. You had a bit of an expanded role as the bench coach in Minnesota. How do you view his role with the team?
DEREK SHELTON: I view his role very importantly. I mean, I was very fortunate the last two years with Molly and last year with Rocco in that they gave me a ton of leeway. Rocco and I have a very close friendship, is kind of where that relationship starts. But I've probably had as much, if not more leeway than most Major League bench coaches at the time.
I told Donny, and I told Ben, when we talked about him, I expect it to be the same way. I want to hear his voice. I want to hear his thoughts. I want him to be part of conversations we have with our informatics team and with our development team and with our medical team. Because if we can do that, and he's included, it takes away from 15 minutes of the day of me having to run him through what's going on, and he may have different thoughts than I do. He's four years away or three years away removed from playing, he's going to have some thoughts on rest and recovery that I don't have. So anything that he's part of that we can save time in the day, it's going to be helpful.
Q. You spent a lot of time as a Big League coach. Did you think the dream was going to be realized or not to get a chance to manage? As part of that, how did your time under Joe and Kevin shape your view of that job?
DEREK SHELTON: To the first part of that question, I never knew what was going to happen. I was very fortunate I got to the Big Leagues at a young age as a hitting coach, and that was kind of how it trended. I think at the end of my time in Tampa, it was kind of a transition period for me, and I talked to a bunch of people. Even though Kevin had let me go, I talked to Kevin. I talked to Erik Neander, I talked to some people outside the baseball world, and I talked to Alli a lot about it. And I think she was the one who finally said, you know: You want to manage. Let's go a different role.
And took the role in Toronto with people I knew and trusted and knew it would give me a little more leeway or ability to broaden my horizons. So that was important to me. So that's when I kind of thought about it.
But then when you start to go through interview processes -- and I'm very fortunate I only went through four of them, but when you don't get jobs, you kind of reflect. Why didn't I get this job? What happened? I think for every place it was a little bit different. But the one thing I was probably the most fortunate of is I didn't get the job in Minnesota. And at the time, I really didn't think that, but to spend a year not only with Rocco, who I trust and is my friend, but to see him come in, adjust to culture, build the coaching staff, do different things, there's a lot of things we went through last year that I was able to learn from and hopefully won't go through this year.
Q. Derek, a little bit surrounded the Twins last year, which obviously wasn't much, but all the players said the same thing. It seemed like everything gelled right from the start of Spring Training and just carried right over. How important will the Spring Training be for you and your staff to kind of put it all together and bond with guys?
DEREK SHELTON: I think it's very important. I think it's where we're going to start to hopefully continue to build relationships, because we're starting to build those relationships now. It's going to be very important for us because it's going to be a different Spring Training schedule than has been run in the past. It's going to be a different culture that's been run in the past. So it's going to be an important time.
From talking to the players and talking to the staff guys we have, they're excited about it. So we have to continue that excitement through, but those relationships are starting now in conversations, and we have to continue to build them.
Q. You, Ben, and even some of the players talk about making it a player-centered culture in Pittsburgh. What does that mean to you, and how do you go about setting that culture?
DEREK SHELTON: I think first and foremost it's the most important thing to us, and that's how relationships are built. Player centric means it's going to be about the player. I mean, very obviously, that's what the term means.
It's going to be about the player. We're going to have communication. We're going to have feedback. We're going to allow them to have feedback. We're going to allow them to tell us how they're feeling and what's going about it ultimately.
We'll have the say on how we're going to do things, but we're going to include them. I think any time you include players, especially in today's environment, you're going to get more out of them. The most important thing is them knowing where we stand and us knowing where they stand and kind of working forward.
Q. It's still a process. What's the learning curve as far as getting up to speed on the talent you have? Not relationships, but just what you have on your roster, talent-wise.
DEREK SHELTON: That's a good question, John. I think we're still doing it. And when I say "we," I think Ben and I are still doing it. To go back to Adam's first question, that's why the Winter Meetings are so important because we're still learning our roster, we're still learning strengths and weaknesses of guys. Being able to sit in a room with some of our scouts and some of our people in informatics that understand that information and are able to break it down, you can have questions of why did this guy do this or why did this guy not do that?
So this is probably the weekend in Pittsburgh, and then this week has been important in terms of learning about our club.
Q. I know you met some of the Pirates players last week and probably a couple more here. What have been your early impressions with the way they are prepared for this new regime and new culture change?
DEREK SHELTON: I think they're excited. I think part of the excitement is, when you hear how things are going to be adjusted or different, but the main part of my job is following through on that.
One of the main cruxes of every conversation is I realize, when we say like we're going to do something different or there's going to be a new culture, they're not going to trust that right away, and they shouldn't trust that right away because they don't know me and they don't know what we're going to do.
So a big part of that is establishing, okay, this is how we feel we're going to do things and moving forward for that trust factor because that's what a big part of Spring Training is going to be is getting them to believe, when we do say something, that that's what we mean.
Q. Derek, does it make it any easier or harder when you have new rules coming in, potentially a three batter minimum or the 26 man? Does it make it harder or easier being a first-year manager?
DEREK SHELTON: I don't know because I haven't done it the other way. The 26 man is great because, for a new manager, it's like, all right, here we go. I've got another guy -- I've got another toy to play with. So that makes it kind of cool.
The three batter thing will be interesting, and it's going to be interesting for a couple reasons for me. Never having managed in the National League, so it will be interesting to see how that works out with the pitcher.
So I think it's just one of those things we're going to toy with, and it may be different in how we create our roster, but going forward I think it's going to be a little fluid.
Q. Do you think there tends to be more reason to have a balanced lineup in that situation?
DEREK SHELTON: I think it's going to create how you build your lineup very differently. Yeah, I do think it's going to adjust how you build your lineup, and I think some people that felt strongly about going back and forth now may re-evaluate that, and honestly, it's a really good question because it's something we had started talking about, Rocco and I had started to talk about last year at the end of the year about our lineup construction. So it's something we'll continue to talk about, and we'll talk about with our group and scouts, probably with the players a little bit. Yeah, I think it's going to change how people look at it.
Q. Do you think it swings favor towards maybe platooning hitters at that point because you use them off the bench? Really a pitcher can't go back at that point.
DEREK SHELTON: I think it's going to matter who your personnel is, I really do. To answer that question blanket right now would be hard, but with who your personnel is, I think switch hitters are going to become gold in this market because of the ability to do a back and forth, but I think it's really going to matter who your personnel is.
Q. In pursuit of a pitching coach, what sort of traits are you looking for? What would you like that guy in that position to kind of look like and contribute?
DEREK SHELTON: That's a really good question. I think, first and foremost, he's going to have to be player centric, as we talked about. He's going to have to be a relationship builder. He's going to have to be someone who comes in with a group and establish not only a plan of what we're going to do starting in the off-season but going into Spring Training and into the season, someone that has advanced knowledge of how the game is played, and that's not just with data, but it's with tech and being able to use those things because the way that we can measure how things are done or how pitches are thrown or how our body is going to recover is a big part of it, and I think we have to stay ahead of that.
Q. It was at the time, but more teams have copied it here in the last year, a pretty unconventional pitching coach hire in Minnesota last year coming from the college ranks. Does that affect how you may go about this search as far as --
DEREK SHELTON: About it being unconventional? Yeah, I think it's funny that a lot of that was made unconventional because of the fact that Wes had never coached professionally. The one thing about Wes is he had coached for 25 years, and if you spend 15 minutes with him, you realize this guy really knows how to coach, and it really didn't matter the level.
So I think the one thing we have to be very cognizant of is where guys played or where they coached anymore is not as important because players in today's game, they want information. They want to get better. They want to know how they're going to get better, so we have to have somebody who's very well versed in all of these things, but first and foremost, why Wes was so good is because he developed relationships. He's really smart, and he knows probably biomechanics better than any human I've been around, but he developed relationships first and didn't go right to it.
So to go back to Jason's question, that's why it's at the forefront of who we hire for any staff position.
Q. This might be down the road a little bit, when you met with Josh Bell, one, what was that meeting like? And, two, do you see right field as an option for him? Is that something that intrigues you?
DEREK SHELTON: The first thing, the meeting was very good. Number one, he's really big. He walked in the office, and I was like, oh, my God. So first and foremost, it was just very informal getting to know him. Josh is somebody that's interesting to me because I had my time with the Rays, and then going to Toronto, I got to see him actually grow up, but just in Spring Training on the other side, so you got to see his development that way.
So to sit and listen to him talk and articulate his season last year and how he struggled late in the year and what he's going about doing to help it get better, it was very impressive. He's a very impressive player, but he's probably a more impressive young person or young man.
The second part, we haven't bridged any of that yet. We're just making sure he's healthy coming into the season. Like I said, we're rolling through our roster stuff and how we're going to do it, and we haven't gotten to him going out to right yet.
Q. You guys are lacking in catching depth right now, especially at the Big League level. What are you looking for from a catcher you acquire or sign? Does it have to be a veteran guy? Are you looking for a defense first guy?
DEREK SHELTON: I think we're looking for the best guy. I don't mean that as a copout, but it's definitely the best guy that's available, whether it's through a free agent signing or through making a deal. So I think it's a job of our group, our scouts, our information team, then Kevin, Steve, and myself to figure out, okay, there's a list of guys who are available, whether it's through trade or free agent, and we get the best guy. Then we make sure that that best guy fits not only our club right now, but how we're going to progress going forward.
Q. If you guys don't make a signing or an acquisition, are you Stallings' backup officially?
DEREK SHELTON: No, there will be zero chance of me -- I couldn't really do it in A ball, so I don't think I'm going to be able to roll out and -- I'd like that salary, though. That would be nice.
Q. Have you spoken with Starling Marte yet?
DEREK SHELTON: I have. I spoke to him a week ago, and fortunately, Joey was in the office that day. So I was able, because I didn't want there to be anything lost in translation, and it was a day Joey and I were sitting down going over some infield stuff. We called him and was able to talk to him. It was a really good conversation. I was excited to get him. So, yeah, it was good.
Q. He was a guy who had made it clear that he wants to win wherever that is. Is that something that -- you weren't even with the organization when he said it, but is that something you want to hear from a guy even if it is almost encouraging a trade?
DEREK SHELTON: No, I think 100 percent. I think you want to hear all of your players say, hey, we want to win. So don't look at that comment at all in any way that there should be anything made of it. He wants to win. That's good. I want to win too. We're on the same page there.
Q. Did you express that?
DEREK SHELTON: Yeah, it was kind of a welcome to him and how are you doing and who I am, just with everybody else. We want to be in a situation where we're competitive and we win. So, yeah, it was a good conversation.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports