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March 13, 2006

Buck Martinez


THE MODERATOR: Start questions for United States team manager, Buck Martinez.
Q. Buck, Chong is one of the Korean relievers. He's the guy with the submarine delivery. He K'd all three of Mexicans that he faced last night. He had two monstrous games against the United States back in the 2000 Olympics. What do you have in the scouting report about a guy like that, and what are you telling your guys when he's up there on the mound with that delivery?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: Well, it's a little bit of a departure from what we normally see. You have to change your sidelines trying to pick up his release point.
At the same time, we got some pretty good hitters they faced Chad Bradford. They've seen that in the past. It's an adjustment. You have to be patient more than anything, just to pick up the ball again.
And just understand that he's a little bit firmer than, you know, than Bradford might be. But we recognize he's got great stuff and that's the benefit of having switch hitters in the line up today.
Q. Quick follow up. Do you think he has (inaudible.)
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: Yeah, it looks like it. I mean, I've not seen him personally. But he certainly looks like a guy that would be a very interesting pitcher in anybody's bullpen.
Q. (inaudible) Last night. What were you thinking?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: You know, I honestly haven't seen it. Not because I've chosen not to see it, but I haven't had the opportunity to see it. And from what I understand, it was very close and, you know, some very mixed opinions about whether he was safe or out.
But I felt like, at the time, when I saw it with my naked eye, I thought he left early, and that's why I made the appeal.
Q. Buck, what is your lineup today?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: Wells, Jeter, Griffey, Rodriguez, Jones, Veritek, Teixeira, Holliday, Utley. Jones will be the DH. Teixeira, of course, is at first base. Wells is in right, and Holliday is in left.
Q. Buck, I wonder if you could explain how you're balancing giving guys at-bats, keeping them fresh with winning, and at what point are we going to see Jeff Francoeur in the starting lineup?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: I have made a promise that I would get everybody to start, and I think Jeff understands what the challenges here is now obviously.
I think the tone kind of changed for the entire 30-man roster when we lost to Canada. And I intend to start him. Hopefully that will happen very soon, but I think he's capable of helping us at the plate in the field.
And, you know, I hope he understands he's a younger guy that's going to have many opportunities to play and things like this, but I certainly want to give him a start.
I think that he is committed to us, and I've committed to him, and it's not for any other reasoning than the competitive nature of this entire tournament, which I think has surprised everybody a little bit. This has been a very well-balanced tournament and field, and the games have been tightly contested all throughout all four pools.
So, I hope Jeff continues to work as hard as he has up to point and keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to start him.
Q. Buck, along the same lines, has it been difficult at all with the bullpen using them the way you wanted to give them enough work? I've heard some general managers say: Hey, I'm worried about my guy not pitching enough. Not specifically US pitchers, but in general, how much have you had to kind of finesse that?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: Well, we had a very good plan in place for the third game of the first round. Of course, the game ended quickly because of the mercy rule and that kind of threw us off a little bit with our pitchers, but I still feel like we're going to give all the pitchers enough work to have them ready.
I think if you notice the way Joe Nathan and Brad Lidge pitched in yesterday's game that might serve as having the affect of two or three outings given the intensity and the work and the quality pitches they threw.
And I think that that has been kind of the unanimous theme. We're aware that there are guys that have to throw, and we're going to make sure they get in there. And we feel confident everybody on the staff can help us and help us in all of these situations.
Q. Technically speaking, are you satisfied with what your team is doing?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: I am more than satisfied. I am very pleased with the effort that we have gotten from each and every one of our players. Their preparation from March 3rd on has been remarkable. Their commitment to the team has been phenomenal. The support of their teammates has been consistent throughout this whole tournament.
These are star players, and these are players that have accomplished a lot as individuals, and I don't know that we have seen a team come together as quickly as it has, but certainly some of the key players on this team have made sure that this team comes together.
They have done it with their off-the-field socializing. They made sure they've included everybody in their groups, and they have come together as a team.
If you see the spirit in the locker room, it's pretty impressive. It doesn't happen too often with this many stars on one team, but it's truly a team, and I'm very satisfied with everything that this team has done.
Q. Thank you.
Q. Buck, I know you're locked in on trying to win this thing, but I just wondered looking at that picture on television yesterday, the Babe Ruth of Japanese baseball is on the top step of the other dugout behind you and about 15 or 20 guys. They're going to be in that alcove of black shirts in Cooperstown eventually. I know in your job as a baseball manager, you can reflect on that, but I mean is there a voice in the back of your head kind of reminding you about how truly remarkable this whole thing is?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: You know, that's one thing that I was very aware of. Without looking ahead too far, I told several friends about the possibility of playing against the Japanese team with Sadaharu Oh managing. It meant an awful lot to think about that.
And then for the baseball fans of the United States to have a chance to see Mr. Oh in person and manage such a very talented Japanese team was truly an exceptional baseball moment. And I thought about that a lot, and it was an honor to be on the same field with him.
Q. Buck, have you had discussions with Damon about his playing time in recent days?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: Yes, I have. And, you know, Johnny is scuffling a little bit at the plate right now, but he understands what's going on.
And, you know, there's some other guys. Certainly, Matt Holliday is a guy that I think can help us and run into a ball here or there, but with the possibility of a left-hander on Thursday and Oliver Perez for Mexico, I thought it was important to give Matt a few at-bats under his belt before he had an opportunity to face a left-hander.
Something Bobby Cox always did with his teams is if he was in a platoon situation and a guy hadn't played for a while, he made sure that he had that guy play before he faced the respective pitcher that he normally played against.
So I'm aware of that. Johnny Damon is cool with everything. He understands what's going on here and the challenges of winning this tournament. We'll use his bat, and I'm sure he will be very important to us before all is said and done.
Q. (Inaudible.)
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: I don't know that, but there's a left-hander pitching Thursday.
Q. Buck, we've seen so much of the Caribbean players, the Dominicans, and the Mexican players. You see them a lot in the major leagues. Now that you're playing Korea and Japan, teams with players that we don't see lot of, have you noted any traits or their approaches at the plate? Do they differ from what you were accustomed to seeing?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: Yes. I think one thing that we certainly saw is the discipline and the approach of the Japanese team, how well they covered pitches. Jake Peavy and Brian Schneider, each and every inning would come back to the bench shaking their heads as to how in the world they got to those pitches. They're trying to throw pitches six and seven inches off the plate inside and still squaring up on the ball. And the plate coverage was remarkable. You bust them inside. They were able to fight it off and cover the outside half.
I think their discipline and the way that they maintain a very aggressive approach at the plate was remarkable. We think that the Korean team has the same type of discipline as the Japanese team, but I think more than anything, we were amazed at how they were able to cover pitches on both sides of the plate.
THE MODERATOR: Couple more for Buck.
Q. The way the format is set up, if you advance to San Diego, you will be playing a team from this pool instead of from the other. Do you think that's appropriate, and do you think there is a hidden motive perhaps to keep the Latin American teams from facing each other in the final?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: Well, I'm not involved obviously in the schedule making, but I think even though you have faced a team before in this pool, we saw a dramatically different team in Mexico and the team we played them and basically shut them down two to nothing, and then they went off against Canada.
The same thing would be true in situations like this. If you take the first two teams out of this pool and they meet again on Saturday in San Diego, everybody has more information. And everybody has a little bit better feeling about who you're playing.
So I don't think there would be an advantage either way. But certainly, you know, the teams that are in Puerto Rico right now, I guess the one team we don't know an awful lot about would be Cuba. We would have to do some scrambling right there. But having the ability to face the team that you have faced at least once in this pool I think is just kind of neutralized because both teams are aware of what the other teams have to offer.
Q. Buck, the first baseman for Korea, his aspirations to play in the big leagues, he's had a tremendous tournament so far. Your impressions of him?
MANAGER BUCK MARTINEZ: We know he's very disciplined. We know he has the ability to do things dramatically at the plate. He's got a powerful swing, and obviously already he's had an interesting tournament.
There's no reason to think that he might not be a guy that can play in the major leagues. You see his discipline at the plate, his plate coverage, and you see the power he has. Everybody understands this is a guy that is going to attract a lot of attention.
Obviously, major leagues scouts are at every venue of this tournament. They're going to be some guys, and certainly the back end of the Japanese bullpen I would say has drawn a lot of attention because they had great arms, good command, outstanding off-speed pitches, and I think those guys are going to catch the attention of major league scouts as well.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, folks, very much.

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