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December 7, 2005

Clint Hurdle


Q. Addressing the lead off spot, it looks like it's going to be internal but averages over the statistics in your post season, the remarkable stat, your lowest average, your lowest on base came from that spot; how do you increase that?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't believe that the answer is going to come from outside the organization at this point in time. I do believe that we've got people capable of handling that position and hitting in that position and setting up the rest of the alignment from that position. I think it will come with experience. If you're looking at numbers, you can look at any portion of numbers to make things work in your mind and the thing I'm holding onto is Corey Sullivan splits the last half of the season, just to have something to hold onto and, you know, I'm still flipping around, Barmes, Sullivan. I think with one of those guys we can set something up.

Q. With Barmes he goes over to the Dominican his average, his numbers don't look great. That's quality pitching over there with something on the line, guys trying to get jobs, get back in the game. What have you heard about reports on how he's done?
CLINT HURDLE: I played there but he went over there with intent and those kind of situations are all what you make of them. I've gone over there, I played four years. Had the time of my life all four years. I've been over with people that were miserable the two weeks they were there before they decided to leave. It's what you make of it. Barmes went over there to get something accomplished, to play more, to continue the rhythm for the game defensively. To get some more at-bats and I think right away he found out that the strike season was going to be something he was going to have to recreate in his -- in his offensive repertoire because things can get liberal over there at times.
They're not going to play four-hour games over there unless they're extra innings. Most of the time the ball is near the plate, they call it a strike. You need to be swinging and be aggressive. You need to start off slow and build up momentum as things went on. The fans loved him, the team embraced him. Nothing but good things to say from the people he played for. Our people went over there a number of different times and saw him play. He felt good. He's healthy. You know, whatever questions he might have still had in his mind at the end of the season he was able to eliminate with his time over there. He left on a very good terms.

Q. Dan, yesterday when we were talking to you guys, he used the analogy of an inchworm, and the turtle. Do you remember that?

Q. The philosophy you guys took to these winter meetings which he described, did the, let's say the last third of your season where you started playing better, winning some games on the road, et cetera, did that change at all your philosophy coming into this off-season or would it have been the same regardless?
CLINT HURDLE: I believe it would have been pretty much the same. I don't believe that we are going to fall into a knee-jerk type reaction as an organization about anything. We have slowed our pulse down. We have slowed our own heartbeat down. We're trying to make the right decisions at the right time. We're trying to show patience which takes courage. We're going to take our ridicule that comes with what we're trying to do. I mean we live in a society that's result-oriented and wants things now. Well, when you talk about an inchworm and a turtle that's not talking about now.
But I think we've shown our fan base and we've shown, as importantly to me, the League and our competitors that we're making progress. We have a plan in place and we're following it up.
Our goal to come in here was to isolate what we wanted to accomplish if we were able to accomplish it at these meetings. We're not in any hurry. We're not going to force the issue, we're not going to try to make something fit that we don't have a good feel about. We are very comfortable. If it came with a couple openings in it we're going to fill them with the free agents we signed and I think Cerda and Williams give us a left-hand option. Nate Field and Prinz give us right-handed options in the bullpen. We have tried to isolate a starting pitcher.
We've got a couple relievers in our sites. If that happens, it happens. We've talked about some trades. We've thrown things out there if they happen, they're going to be because we want them to happen and they're the right things to happen at this time.

Q. Do you feel, after seeing what Todd Helton went through to start the year, there's no trend to it because of the way he came on at the end of the year, it's not a trend; it was just a bad first half?
CLINT HURDLE: If he has a bad first half, one out of every eight years I think he's going to be okay. I don't anticipate us seeing those type of numbers from Todd Helton at the All-Star Break again. And then you think about the second half number. What other player in the major leagues could rebound from those first half numbers and end up the season with the numbers he ended up with?
And more importantly, along the way he never lost focus of team goals, of team wins, of playing good defense. Never took his bat on the field. Continued to pick off a player here or there and provide some challenges when needed. He didn't isolate himself. He wasn't in denial. He didn't run and hide, wait for this to get over. He went at it the only way he knows. Sometimes he goes harder, quicker, faster and sometimes he gets results from that, sometimes he doesn't. But he has the mentality of he's going to work his way through things. That work paid off the second half of the season. The nucleus of the young players I think gave him something to hold onto through the trying times that he had.
He looked around him and there weren't a lot of other places spinning off the poles.

Q. You still are attempting to address, is it in order, relief, catcher and perhaps outfield bat, right-handed batter? How would you characterize your needs at this point? It looks like you're going to get (Jose) Mesa, whatever.
CLINT HURDLE: Relief is number one. But catcher -- well, starting pitcher, somebody that fits in that mold to provide protection. We got Zach Day as a penciled starter. When Sun-Woo Kim comes to be a player ask him. Those are still question marks. You get opportunities but you know how far they go. We want to have some protection also. Two springs ago we lost three starters the last month of Spring Training. We had to create some things. Our biggest goal is coming out of the gates clean early in the season. We wanted to come out of the gates clean for a change. We have dug tremendous holes for ourselves the last couple of seasons coming out of the gates early. Then a catcher and probably the outfielder would be towards the bottom of the list.
You can't have it all. We can't have it all with our payroll. We're going to do what's right and what's smart. We're not going to complain whine about it. We're going to use it, utilize it and the other option we've got to fill once we hit that, we're going to look in-house. You know, push comes to shove we've got Bigbie, Freeman and (Ryan) Spilborghs as in-house possibilities for an outfield spot or too. We can get creative, spin the infield, loosen up (Luis) Gonzalez a day or two in the outfield if we wanted to do that. We've got options.

Q. Joe Fan back in Denver, casual Joe Rockies Fan back in Denver, he's paying a little bit of attention to the winter meetings, he sees something is happening with other teams, big or not and they don't see you guys coming out doing anything. What do you tell the average fan? Is that what you were talking about earlier where maybe you just have to have patience?
CLINT HURDLE: I think we have been telling the story throughout the season. There's no $55 million, five-year deals we're throwing at anybody. That not going to happen. How many years ago we spent over a hundred million dollars. Five years? We've been down that road. That's not an option for us anymore. I think Joe Fan, if he's an average fan and has -- probably paid a little attention there are a lot of pieces in place right now. We're trying to -- we're not a first-tier group right now. There will be a day when we're going to be there and be able to maybe go handpick one person but to do that we've got to start winning games first. We got to reestablish our fan base. That brings in the revenue, gives you opportunities to do some different things but first is to create an environment and a team that's competitive, it can win and fans are going to come out and watch them. That's the process we're involved in right now.

Q. What's the situation with B.K.? Is there still a chance -- because the deadline is tonight. It's not a hard deadline. It was one but --
CLINT HURDLE: I don't want to speak on Dan's behalf. I do think there's an opportunity for us to extend the conversation. It's more or less not extending a deadline, it's we want to talk to him personally and that provides some challenges.

Q. Where is he at in Korea?
CLINT HURDLE: Yeah. We're trying to make that happen right now personally.

Q. Today?
CLINT HURDLE: Not today. He's got to get a VISA.

Q. Bring him here to talk?
CLINT HURDLE: Yeah, talk to him.

Q. I'm sorry. Okay.
CLINT HURDLE: No, because this is a very important situation for us and we think it's an important situation for him. We want him to take the next step with us not so much us find a way to enable him to take another step if that makes sense.

Q. The way that Coors Field played this past year, obviously some of it has to do with the humidity but the lineup, is it less of a force when you're putting a team together now than it was a few years ago?
CLINT HURDLE: I believe so. My own gut feeling, my own opinion and I've comments, I'll ask other people from time to time that have some experience at our field and you know other managers, when I ask them, they'll be like (indicating) because they're just so used to saying it's hitter-friendly, it's a bandbox, whatever. It's not. I mean I think we finished 10th in the League as far as home runs. There are other reasons for that but one of them is the park is playing different. The park plays different in BP now. I've thrown enough BP. I've seen enough swings in batting practice. I can tell when a ball is well struck and usually kind of gauge distance. Now balls will be hit and I'll be like, oh, didn't quite go as far as I thought it would. It's playing different. I think it's level in the playing field for us.

Q. Good for the long-term health of the franchise. Major League pitching and defense you need to be able to count on it.
CLINT HURDLE: There's no doubt. I would never tell somebody that some of the original thoughts that we just got going to out slug people. Those are wrong. I do know that with that mentality, you get tired more quickly. You fatigue your ball club. You fatigue your staff, you fatigue your position players. It's almost like you like to carry a B-squad to go with them because you're never out of a game physically, mentally and that wears you down over the long haul.
We've seen some dramatic comebacks, both sides of the ball. 7-0 in the 5th, 28 ballparks, 27 ballparks in the big league, you're out of the game. You're done. Our ballpark it's like okay, we can do this. That's not quite the same.

Q. What did you tell him if you spoke to him in these terms, Jeff Francis, did you ever sit down with him and talk to him what you want him to be ready to do come spring?
CLINT HURDLE: You know what? We talked at the end of the season. I told him doing to go home and relax. He was going to get married. I told him I would talk to everybody before Christmas. So I wanted them all just to go home and have a couple months as private time. They don't have to worry about the manager calling them.

Q. I guess my point being, was there a message out that you would have given the roller coaster ride?
CLINT HURDLE: No, there wasn't because the messages were relayed to him throughout the course of the season. It was an education process. I think it was a lesson well-learned on his part, and you know, experience is a very valuable thing and there's only one way to garner that real experience and that's sometimes to be at both ends of the spectrum. He very definitely was at both ends of the spectrum this season.

Q. Jennings is healthy. He said he's healthy. He comes in with Cookie, you had a choice of Kennedy and Jennings. Do you see yourself as having a potentially couple of top-end guys?
CLINT HURDLE: Oh, yeah. I think both of them would have, you know some things that they could talk about on why they might think that they would love to have the ball opening day. Cookie, when he came back, you know, there was just a couple of glitches on that whole string of games pitched for him. There's only a couple glitches in the whole string. The last two months, Jason Jennings pitched probably as well as I've ever seen him pitch in a Rockies uniform. Jason, you know, I just talked to him out there. What are we going to do different this year, come out of blocks cleaner as a team and individually. His Aprils have been notoriously skewered. You know, a lot of people would say how can you give the ball to a guy opening day that has a history of terrible Aprils. Maybe that's something in and of itself to shake up the mix.

Q. So you haven't made a decision.
CLINT HURDLE: No, I haven't. I've kicked it around and I'll continue to kick it around. I'm very open-minded on it.

Q. Speaking of Cookie, were you aware he got the Tony Conigliaro award?
CLINT HURDLE: No, I did not know. That's great.
We're happy for him. We've talked about that throughout the summer.

Q. Do you go to Spring Training already with a lineup in mind or are there positions that you'd like to see come competition at?
CLINT HURDLE: You know, we'll have a lineup in mind and there could be a couple tweaks to it but our guys are our guys. You know, Holliday is going to hit cleanup. Helton is going to hit third. First and second is still kind of batting around. Atkins did pretty good at hitting fifth behind Holliday. There was some protection there. Hawpe, you split him up between him and Helton third and sixth, that way you can't -- a left-hander can't pitch to both of them. You've got some distance between them. That's not all bad. If your second baseman is Luis Gonzalez, you've got some barley to your bat down there. Pretty good chance a catcher is going to hit 8th.
Some things can happen in between now and then. I think one of the nice things that's going on is Dave Collins and Shealy working on outfield play and, you know, if we can get them into spring training and show he can go catch a ball and hit a cutoff man, do some things, there's a right-handed bat that gives you something that might be able to do maybe happens in right or left. Helton needs a day off the bench, whatever but one of our guys, whoever responds to very well and, you know, he's enough of a guy, has enough of a presence to keep everybody pushing. I think even coming into Spring Training, we start looking at some of the younger kids we're going to bring in. You bring a Tulowitzki and Ian Stewart. Just taking balls.
Everybody in the organization is seeing what's going on, we're getting better, there's depth. Nobody is taking my spot. I've got the spot. I'm going to hold on to my spot. Play the game. It will all work itself out. That hasn't been the case in the past. This is a positive sign for us.

Q. Are you still committed to Luis at second or would you look to get something so could you move him back to utility?
CLINT HURDLE: If something would happen. We're not going to force anything to happen. You know, there could be some players that might get non-tendered, that might give us an opportunity to think a little differently but that's out of our control. If they get tendered, they get tendered. We'll just have to wait and see. I mean Aaron Miles, if something would happen to Luis you've got Miles and we're going to continue to move Miles around if nothing happens.

Q. What about Omar (Quintanilla), he showed flash, he could play second but you also said maybe the best thing for him would be to get more at-bats at Triple A.
CLINT HURDLE: That's the discussion we're having internally right now. We'll just let this play itself out. You can make all these plans now and then somebody can go down with a week to go in Spring Training and then what? We've tried to really look at what is in the players's best development. We would love to give him more at-bats to develop his offensive skills and by the same token there could be situations that arise that that might not happen. We're all aware of how steady he is defensively. He didn't play a lot of second base. The games he went over to second base it was like he played a lot of games over there in his past. I don't believe that will be an issue.

Q. From a department standpoint, if something happens injury wise, infielder or outfield, you're in pretty good shape, maybe depends on what happens with your catching but is pitching the one place that you worry about the depth?
CLINT HURDLE: Probably our concern we have is depth within our starting pitching from an organizational standpoint. We were able to bring Esposito up for four starts late in the season. After that, you know, depending on the guys that either stay or don't stay, we didn't really go out and sign, haven't signed -- we haven't signed any six-year free agents that are starting pitchers. We haven't signed any yet. There will be a couple we will go get. We're looking at ways to create some depth going into Spring Training within our starting pitching because, like I said, you never plan on it but, you know, Zach Day, the most I think he's ever thrown in a season is 130. B.K. has never been given the opportunity to start the season as starting pitcher and finish the season as a starting pitcher. Reasons out of his control but that's a reason. Sun-woo Kim, the reality is there's not a lot of history there either.
So you want to have plan B in place just so we don't have to scurry late and that's one of the things that we've identified and we're well aware of.

Q. Through free agency or both free agency and trades?
CLINT HURDLE: I think both.

Q. You're talking about roster guys that would come in with a real good shot to make the team, Estes and Oliver. Oliver was a flier.
CLINT HURDLE: Estes was a guy we ended up taking a flier on but he had history. Oliver we didn't know what was going to happen. We're looking at exploring that option again with some names that have flexible arms that have started, have pitched in the bullpen with experience and we have the possibility of having a starting rotation of anywhere from 28 years and under. I think Sun-woo is 28. Everybody else is 26 or younger. There's nothing wrong with having a guy that's 34 or 35, being able to come in and provide some depth and some starts or, you know, if somebody goes down to provide a lengthy stay in the rotation.

Q. You know your system pretty well. How close are you to being able to have that depth come from your system?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, I think Double A is where the nucleus of your starting pitching department is right now, the next wave of it.

Q. Morillo?
CLINT HURDLE: I think there's a lot of people, we're not going to rush Franklin Morales. There's a lot of people that can't stop talking about him. There's a bunch of names. (Manny) Corpas. We've got people in place that just -- the timetable, we're not setting one but we're not going to push it. But it's not the next level right now.

Q. How far along is Carvajal right now?
CLINT HURDLE: You know, he started some games there. Now he's back in the bullpen and we probably had as many hits on Marcos Carvajal in these last three days as we have any player on our team.
I think for myself and the organization, I'm not going to speak on anybody else's behalf. One of the most refreshing things for me is walking throughout the halls or being in the room and taking calls and people ask about our players. People want to go know about our players. To the point of do you really think we moved Fuentes now? We finally found a closer with some stability. A very affordable deal, a young player. We're just ready to peddle him. Move him right on down the road. Hits all over the place on him. Shealy, Carvajal. In the past it was Holliday and Gonzalez, there was Hawpe. A lot of comments made on Hawpe. People that saw him this year, just gives you that sense of, okay, you know, we're not way off the boat on this. Other people are seeing the same things we're seeing. And to know that we have even play right now. If the season started right now, two very capable catchers that can receive and throw the ball and call a game.

Q. That's Ojeda?
CLINT HURDLE: Ardoin, then we've got a switch-hitting left-hander with a year of Major League experience under his belt. We're going to see what he can bring. That's that. Can we do better? Maybe we can. But I mean we're not in the first year. We're not looking at Molina or Hernandez. It doesn't make any sense.

Q. Is Estrada off the board?
CLINT HURDLE: I heard he got traded. We were talking. We were talking and we talked with a number of clubs. Couple different scenarios and there wasn't anything there. You know, the funny thing is you'll go to some clubs with some interest in some players and they'll tell you, you know, we want Holliday and Fuentes. Okay, we're done. We're done. Thanks but okay.
Johnny Estrada is a pretty good Major League catcher but Holliday and Fuentes is our guys.

Q. He just got traded to Arizona?
CLINT HURDLE: I'm saying the names that come up with people.

Q. Carvajal, do you think he should start or bullpen? Are you going to wait and see? Where does that stand?
CLINT HURDLE: I think we're going to wait and see how everything plays itself out because he's flexible. We think he can pitch multiple innings out of the pen. I don't think he's real comfortable starting right now. They tried it down in Venezuela in a comfort zone environment you might think and it just hasn't worked out unless you're just going to commit to giving the kid 20 starts to develop. I mean in his defense, at times we might have handled him with kid gloves. Obviously more than he wanted but I thought we handled it efficiently and I think we were able to be educated, ability to be coached. He improved in some areas that we know he's a very capable young man that's got some skills. And if you talk to the scouts, I mean there's a lot of scouts that think this guy has got big time upside.
It's kinds of a mixed bag. Oh, you've got to start him. Oh, man, leave him in the pen. It's one of the decisions we'll have to make. We don't have to make it today.

Q. You had talked about with B.K. you would like to meet with him in person. Have you had, I won't say a change of heart, but you and him didn't see eye to eye but you basically had to cut him and thought it was (inaudible) a couple times because of roster mechanics. Has your opinion of him changed? Do you need to hear something from him to you personally that he wants that or is there --
CLINT HURDLE: It's not me personally. When we cut him, it's because he was a bad pitcher. It was nothing personal. Yeah. I'm just saying. Look at the numbers. Look at the job performance that went along with what was going on at that time. He was pitching very poorly. Not major league standard, not acceptable.
A situation presented itself and to his credit he moved upon it. I think we're trying to present an opportunity for B.K. to show some growth, to take the next step with us because there are times when you know all players handle adversity in different ways and we want players to be accountable and responsible. He showed some growth in those areas but there's sometimes, isolation is an issue. He doesn't do anything maliciously but we're trying to help him speed the process up where he just becomes another one of the guys on the team we've got to handle separately.

Q. You used the words "pitching poorly." Would it be fair to say at some point he was "pitching stubbornly"? He didn't seem like he wanted to make the necessary changes or that something --
CLINT HURDLE: That has been a big topic of discussion. He's never said he would not pitch out of turn. Every pitcher has a favorite. His favorite would be to start. He has an idea of what he can accomplish to start. He never said "I don't want to pitch out of the pen." He just pitched terribly out of the pen. It's out of turn. We've had that conversation.

Q. You know what I'm saying?
CLINT HURDLE: I can understand that.

Q. Watching what's going on here with the Dodgers, some other teams in the division, does that change your opinion of how guys will fall into it?
CLINT HURDLE: No. We're going to control what we control. We're going to move at our own speed and I think everybody in the division knows that it's a division that's going to be competitive and it's going to be kind of open and we're all trying to improve the area we need to improve.

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