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December 7, 2005

Eric Wedge


Q. Still praying for a closer?
ERIC WEDGE: (We'll) see how today plays out.

Q. Have you guys gone to a third year -- obviously you've been instructed not to talk about the details about it, as I love to.
ERIC WEDGE: I just know we're still in active conversation going on so obviously I think we all know what today is datewise so hopefully we'll know more after this. Every time I feel a buzz on my hip I pick it up in a hurry, put it that way.

Q. With Wickman, do you think --
ERIC WEDGE: We've been talking to him, too.

Q. Pretty good indication if Hoffman doesn't sign he'll --
ERIC WEDGE: You know, I don't know. I hope so. I know Mark, we've been talking to them, you know, throughout this process as well so, you know, you've got the date right in the middle of winter meetings.
You've got to have a lot of balls up in the air at the same time. I think that's kind of what we've been trying to do.

Q. If it plays out where Hoffman doesn't go your way and Wickman does, putting him back in that slot, how much head shrinking might you have to do to soothe him a little?
ERIC WEDGE: Wicky, that's one of his strengths. I mean we've been real clear if we had an opportunity to get a multiple year guy we were going to try to pursue that and especially when you know you look at the closer market next year, so Wicky is a guy that goes out there and earns his respect. I mean he's tough-minded. He doesn't get too emotional about things. If anything, he'll make it work.

Q. What's it like now building gone from 69 wins to 93 wins, you're here this year trying to build a World Series year whereas the last couple of years you were trying to --
ERIC WEDGE: Trying to be more competitive, trying to get better.

Q. What's that like for the manager?
ERIC WEDGE: I think that, you know, third year a lot of times the toughest year because you really work hard to take the next step.
Now, I'm sitting here after the third year, it's going to be that much tougher in the fourth year. The first year you go out there, you win as many games as you can and you try to be as competitive as you can.
Second year, you work off that and try to go out there and up that total and be more competitive and hopefully contend. We kind of scratch the surface on that in '04. We fell a little short last year but you've got to feel proud of what they've accomplished and know that what we're doing is real.
Now, to work off that and still be in the market that we're in, it's going to be all the more difficult.
Raise the bar last year almost probably unfairly to themselves as far as how far they've come and, you know, so, it's not necessarily the number of wins, it's about getting in the playoffs. That's still going to be our focus.
I think that's something that, you know, will continue to be our focus from year to year. I'm not going to say how many wins we have getting into the playoffs. That's the next step for us, ultimately.

Q. You said the bar has been set and next it's for the fans and you, too. Do you feel more pressure?
ERIC WEDGE: No. The players are the ones that go out and play. It's my job to work off them and that's what I try to do from year to year. The team is going to evolve a little bit from year to year, and change from year to year. We try to put them in a position to succeed. I've got a tremendous amount of confidence on guys.
I feel strong about our players, the ability of our players, the way they go out and play the game, the way they appreciate each other and they're good teammates. There's nothing more important than that. They play the game in a respectful fashion, who they play or, you know, whether it be the game itself.
They're going to work hard to get back. Hopefully, we'll be able to add a few pieces that will help them do that, as well.

Q. Eric, what about White Sox? They haven't lost anybody. They've gotten better. How do you view them right now?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I mean obviously they're going to be the team to beat. They're World Series champions, division champions. They're the team that everybody is going to be looking to knock off.
They had a tremendous year. They're the best team in baseball this year in '05. Hopefully we'll be able to do a better job against them next year than last year.

Q. The second half, you made a great run, almost caught them. Is there much of a gap between them and the rest of the division?
ERIC WEDGE: I think our division as a whole has gotten better. I think there's an argument our division is as good as any division in baseball and I think you're going to see the division do a good job prior to this winter getting better, as well.
So I don't think it's just one team. Obviously the White Sox are the World Champions, the team to beat but I think the entire division continues to get better.

Q. Frank Thomas has been in the division forever. Is it going to be weird to see him in another uniform?
ERIC WEDGE: Yes, it will be. Frank and I were drafted the same year coming out of college. I've seen Frank for a lot of years. He's a great player. You know, probably Hall of Fame player, deservedly so. It will be -- it's not going to break my heart not to see him with Chicago, I can tell you that much.
Q. What was your take on the job Ozzie did?
ERIC WEDGE: Ozzie, you know, I obviously look at what they've accomplished and you can't argue with that. Ozzie and I are obviously different personality-wise but he's always been, you know, great to me. He's a nice guy. Works hard, cares.
He did a great job with that team last year. They had to make a great deal of adjustments along the way and it all worked out for them.

Q. Eric, a lot of things went right for you guys last year, you won 93 games. You came close to catching the White Sox. It didn't happen. What were you thinking as you were watching some of those games in October when they were playing and winning the World Series and you guys were home when you could have been --
ERIC WEDGE: I felt all the way down to that final day we were capable of doing it. I knew, too, that if we didn't get in the playoffs that, you know, these guys are capable of working through it.
They're a team that really works off each other well, they thrive off of each other. Ultimately it was just we weren't able to get anything going offensively and, you know, things just didn't work out so I don't think anybody expected the White Sox to only lose one game in the playoffs but I tell you this: When they're in there, I felt like, you know, that they had as good a chance if not maybe a better chance than anybody to take it all just because we had seen them play all year. We saw what type of momentum they had running into the post season and we knew as well as anybody.

Q. All the talk right now is about the closer. It's kind of pushing the fifth starter issue in the background a little bit. But if you don't end up bringing Elarton back, who do you look at as some of those young guys?
ERIC WEDGE: I think that if we go with the young guys you talk about Carmona, Davis. There may be some other options that we mix in there in terms of who we sign this winter.

Q. Where does Guthrie stand in this organization now?
ERIC WEDGE: I think he's a guy that gives us depth. He's a multiple role guy. He made some big strides for us last year. We can use him out of the bullpen or as a starter.
But I felt like last year he came as far as maybe any year that he's had with us in the Minor Leagues. It would be interesting to see how he works off of that.

Q. Ideal world, you're addressing the closing thing and everything else. If you're able to add a position player, where would you most want to improve, right field, first base?
ERIC WEDGE: We've got some flexibility because of the versatility of Casey. Say Casey is a guy can play left third, right field, third base. Probably play second base or shortstop if we've asked him too, he's that good an athlete. We've got some versatility there.

Q. Mark said earlier in the week he feels you guys are going to be better offensively.
ERIC WEDGE: I agree with that. I think that we'll be better offensively. You know, got off to a slow start last year. I think different individuals are in different situations in terms of what they're -- whether they're working too hard or trying too hard. League made adjustments.
Wasn't just at the beginning last year. It was the previous year at the end. The League made adjustments to our guys and we needed to work hard to make some adjustments back and it doesn't happen overnight.
It's a combination of the expectations coming out of Spring Training as a team, kind of a slow start but also offensively.
We just weren't able to make those adjustments until we worked our way into the season a little bit. Now it's just a matter of consistently making adjustments along the way like all Big League players do.
I think we're beyond that so that these guys are going to continue to get better and they still do have upside. I think when you put all that together, we've got a chance to be better offensively.

Q. As you look at these three years, what have you pointed to analyzing some of the reasons behind the slow starts and how might Spring Training differ this year?
ERIC WEDGE: I think every year it's been something different. I think that you never want to -- we need to do a better job coming out of Spring Training getting off to a better start.
I think that really the first year was more of a pitching problem, particularly the bullpen. In '04 it was more from an offensive standpoint to a certain degree and last year I think it was just overall expectations.
So -- but I've said this time and time again, you know, these guys have proven it to us. Once they go through something for the first time, whether it fundamentally or mentally or even physically, they do a good job of learning from that.
The next time they come around or go through that, whether it be a certain time of the year or something individually or different area of our team, they're much better prepared for it and do a better job.

Q. Do you have to change the way you prepare in Spring Training dramatically?
ERIC WEDGE: No. No. I feel strong about the work that we do in Spring Training. Every year we're going to adjust. I'm sure we're going to probably address bunting a little bit more. Thing about it is, we did that more last year but we're going to go about it a little bit different this year. You know, some of the other areas I feel like we need to continue to get better with.
Some of this is going to happen with additional experience with our young players and I think also we'll adjust from spring to spring as our players gets a little bit older, as they mature on the field, as well, and we have to do that.

Q. Cabrera - how do you see using him?
ERIC WEDGE: I feel strong about him. When you look at how he just continued to consistently come along last year to the point we're using him in meaningful situations late in the game. I think again we'll look at him to middle or late depending on what we have personnel-wise but I have enough confidence in him to use him later in the game.

Q. Can I ask you how you came away from your meeting with Trevor?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, we don't know how that's going to end up but Trevor is as impressive of an individual as I've met in the game. We put a high value on character in this game and in Cleveland and we put a high value on what it means to be a good teammate and respect in this game and how you handle yourself on and off the field because we believe it translates and he epitomizes that more so than anybody I've met.

Q. Did you come away with the idea that just how deeply he is with the team you're trying to get him?
ERIC WEDGE: I can only speak on what -- how I feel about him, how we feel about it, both on and off the field. We'll see how it plays out.

Q. Eric, you've had so many guys come through the system, who is the next guy you want to see in Spring Training have that kind of break through?
ERIC WEDGE: We're going to be working Ryan Garko hard at first base. You know, I want to see him some more. I'm anxious to see Brad Snyder and I'm anxious to see some of these young pitchers, Sowers, you know, and we're going to, you know, Perez and some of the young bullpen guys.
I'm sure I've missed a few guys but we'll always continue to give these guys good looks. There's nothing more important than our development and be able to plug people in in the market that we're in to stay competitive from year to year, you know. So, Spring Training is an important part of that.

Q. Sowers in your mind could be Big-League-ready this year?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I think there are other people. I've really never seen him outside of the video and whatnot. But there's some people that believe he could be. Says a lot about him, obviously.

Q. Garciaparra - is there still an interest in him?
ERIC WEDGE: Yeah, there's still an interest there. I know Nomar from Boston. Got a great deal of respect for him as a baseball player and what he's accomplished and what we believe he can accomplish in the future. It's still real early in the process there.

Q. Would you see him as a guy that kind of bounces around a little or would you like to --
ERIC WEDGE: I don't think so. I'm not sure exactly where he would ultimately end up but we wouldn't bounce him around. Kind of the way I felt about Casey last year. We're going to ask somebody --
Q. To make a position change?
ERIC WEDGE: Yeah. You need to ask initially.

Q. What do you think about his health at this point?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I mean obviously that's something we'll have to factor in but I can only talk to his work ethic and how he takes care of himself and the fact that he feels good and I think he's hungry.

Q. Is Victor Martinez any kind of throwback in terms of offensively especially, because, you know, went through the nature of catchers and what they can do? Now he seems to be offensively as good as any catcher?
ERIC WEDGE: I think he's a throwback for multiple reasons. He takes everything personal, I mean this game to him, the Cleveland Indians organization, city.
Cleveland, he takes that personal in terms of how he goes out and plays and us winning or lose the ballgame. That's a throwback from leadership position behind the plate as a catcher. He knows the most important job is to, you know, help that pitcher be the best that he could be, you know, at that time and he has a leadership personality, I mean with his emotion, with his consistency and obviously the way he can do it on both sides.
It's not just on the fundamental side. It's on the mental and emotional side as well.

Q. I mean for all the mental stuff it takes to call a game, like help the pitcher, how difficult is that offensively to put up?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I mean obviously he's got a great deal of ability. You look at his hands, the way he has the build to get the barrel on the ball. Along with that is the mental side. I mean what was he hitting first two months .216 at the break or something? Yeah. I mean but he was never a guy that ever doubted himself.

Q. Hit .232 in the first half.
ERIC WEDGE: He did that before. He's a guy that's just -- has a great deal of confidence in himself as a hitter but as a baseball player and as a teammate. I can't stress that enough.
When you talk about a group of guys getting together and trying to go out there and collectively accomplish something, there's got to be a lot of back and forth in the room and he's one of the leaders when it comes to that.

Q. What does losing Howry mean? Can you replace him?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I don't know if you can replace the year he had but we feel like we've got some people internally that could do a good job in the setup role. We're not ruling out going out and signing somebody. Again, that's something we've had consistent talks there, too.

Q. What's Arthur's status right now?
ERIC WEDGE: Feels good, working out, in great shape. I think that we're planning on him being back and pitching late in the game for us.

Q. Is his family situation any better?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I mean a little better. I think that, you know, there's still -- it's still going to take time, you know. Hopefully it's going to improve in that direction.

Q. What do you feel about the Baseball Classic?
ERIC WEDGE: Losing some of those guys in Spring Training. I think it's good for baseball.

Q. Is it good for managers?
ERIC WEDGE: You know, you have mixed feelings about losing your players for a couple days in Spring Training but I think you've got to look at the greater good. I think it's great, it's great publicity for the game.
It's great camaraderie for the different countries to be able do put their players on the field and it should be very competitive. I mean you hope that nobody gets hurt and you hope that nobody tries to push their -- you know, the timing on their bodies unto get ready to where it works against them. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Q. Speaking of other countries, what's up with the Japanese reliever?
ERIC WEDGE: I don't know right now. Actually, I'm really on the backburner, to be honest with you. I don't know.

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