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December 5, 2006

Bob Melvin


Q. I haven't talked to you since you guys got Davis. Can you talk about that?
BOB MELVIN: It's obviously our first need this year was another starter with Miguel not coming back, and it's always nice to have, number one, a left-hander, which we never had, especially in our division, and a guy that gives you historically 200 innings. You cut that up, you get three guys like that, three guys we feel like we have at the top of our rotation really takes the pressure off the bullpen. At times last year that was one of our problems is we were putting a little too much pressure on the bullpen.

Q. How far have you got in tinkering your batting order?
BOB MELVIN: You know, that's a tough one. We really don't have a prototypical lead-off guy, we really don't have a prototypical No. 4 guy. We've got lots of guys that we feel like are 2, 3, 5, 6 guys. Tracy has hit four, Drew has led off a couple times, Hudson could. Those are our biggest problems, and we can figure a way to do something at least day-to-day lineup. It doesn't have to be a set lineup every day.

Q. How important is it to consistently (Inaudible)?
BOB MELVIN: It's nice, but then if you don't, then you look to match up. If you have Chris young, profiles would be a little bit better, at least starting out against left-handers leading off, and maybe Hudson leads off against the right-handers. We'll tinker with it quite a bit in Spring Training and see where we go, but that's definitely one of the questions.

Q. Drew certainly can't --
BOB MELVIN: He could, yeah, I think so. I don't know that that's his favorite spot to hit, but you only lead the game off one time, lead off the inning later on in the game, but I think a lot of times it's that going up there for that first at-bat to lead off the game that guys like to see what a pitcher has and get a little more feel for the game before they actually go up there.

Q. Hitting the production spot pretty easily?
BOB MELVIN: Absolutely. All of our guys could. Hudson showed he can, too.

Q. Would the four hole be a match-up, too?
BOB MELVIN: Right now Byrnes hit 4th some and Tracy did, probably looking more so, Conor did, probably tried to resist hitting 4th some, but right now probably those two guys will start.

Q. Byrnes and Tracy?

Q. Moves already made by some of the other teams, particularly the Dodgers and the Giants in the NL West, have you noticed those?
BOB MELVIN: You can't help but notice.

Q. Does that make the job even more difficult?
BOB MELVIN: You try not to focus too much on that. You just try to focus on your club. We know that it's looking like our division is going to be that much stronger with some of the moves that were made, but we feel like there's still some things out there we can do to make ourselves better, too. A little bit of an unknown because our younger guys haven't been around that long, so where guys know a whole lot about them. We feel like all these guys are going to be impact guys. Maybe we sneak in under the radar a little bit.

Q. Looking at the numbers, your pitching came out maybe better than a lot of people might have thought.
BOB MELVIN: We ended up fifth or sixth, which at one point in time I think we were down around 12th or 13th. We made quite a run there and it had a lot to do with our starters getting deep in the game. When our starters get deep, our bullpen is less taxed, and those guys coming out of the pen have a little something left. I think you saw that toward the end of the year that our pitching was much better because of that.

Q. How do you like your makeup right now?
BOB MELVIN: We have a lot of good arms, we do. We've had guys that have had success closing and we have guys that have not had success closing, so with that there will be a little bit of a mix and match right now. Based on the way things ended last year, we think Pena is a guy who could close at times, and you saw last year Julio closed very well at times.

Q. So that's not on the top of your wish list?
BOB MELVIN: No, we're looking to probably add another starter right now, if we could, and then maybe tinker. You never know who comes available. Good players are good players, good pitchers are good pitchers. You're never going to say no to that. But specific needs right now, we're probably a little more in tune to maybe adding another starter.

Q. A No. 4 guy or a guy that could --
BOB MELVIN: It just depends on where -- when I was in Seattle my first year, I had five guys that all pitched around 200 innings and all took the ball and it didn't matter who pitched 1, who pitched 5. The psychological advantage of having a guy going out there that you feel like you have a chance to win, whether he's a 1 guy, 3 guy, 4 guy, 5 guy, once the season gets going it doesn't matter. We're just looking for some depth, adding another guy that your team feels good about running out there every fifth day.

Q. Veteran guy?
BOB MELVIN: I don't think it matters much to us. Obviously we're going to have some youth as far as our position players go, as far as the pitching end goes, you'd like to add another guy that has some experience and know a little bit more about what you're going to get.

Q. There's been less made about Tracy, and I know you don't want to talk about that kind of stuff --
BOB MELVIN: Sometimes -- I think it's just something to write about when there's not much going on with the team because he struggled a little bit last year, I think that's probably natural that that comes up.

Q. What behind him, what kind of depth do you have?
BOB MELVIN: Callaspo can play third. He's not a prototypical power, third base guy. It surprised me his name has been thrown around as much as it has.

Q. You've been asked about him, though?
BOB MELVIN: Oh, sure, you're always going to get calls from other teams. I think maybe that's how it gets started, too, is the other teams start talking about it.

Q. Offensively you were down a little lower in score, how do you assess the offense? You don't have many openings to make, just the young kids.
BOB MELVIN: You know, I think it was important that Drew last year, I think it was important that Quentin played last year so they know what the big leagues are all about, and it's good that they had success, too.
Going into the season they have that much more confidence and are more aware of what goes on at the big league level. And really both of them were in a position where they were having to make adjustments the next time around, and that's always -- you do something for a month or whatever and then you get a tag and they start making adjustments, and that's how you get longevity in the big leagues is making adjustments. So it was important that we got these guys going because we think they're going to be impact guys, guys where we were probably down a little bit, especially the last couple months offensively, we feel like these guys can pick up the slack.
Chris Young, too.

Q. Do you see Conor maybe developing a little more power?
BOB MELVIN: You know, similar to Tracy, I don't think that's something you push on a guy like that who's been a high on-base guy, a guy who uses a big part of the ballpark and the whole field. That will come. He'll learn to look for pitches and when he can take a shot and trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark, but it's not something we're trying to impress on him that we need the power numbers to go up.

Q. You have it pretty set every day, don't you?
BOB MELVIN: You look at our position players, and less than one spot really on the bench. Starting lineup, which is probably a little against the grain for having as many younger players as we have, but you look at our lineup and you know who's going to play out there, you've got Clark and Callaspo and whoever the catcher is going to be, and looking at DaVanon comes back healthy, we're going to have one spot on the bench, provided we don't make some moves as far as our position players go.
We have a pretty good idea of who we're going to see come opening day.

Q. How is that catching? Have you thought about how you're going to match up those guys?
BOB MELVIN: It depends on how Spring Training goes and how we feel like Montero obviously wouldn't have made the stride if we didn't feel like Montero could handle the big leagues. It gives me the opportunity to not put too much pressure on a guy, either Snyder or Montero, so we'll be able to match up some and then play the hot hand a little bit.
More importantly I think both of these guys are very aware of what we expect behind the plate and the game plan we expect to run out there, and they're both very diligent of getting together with the pitchers and making sure the plan we want executed goes out there and gets executed. We think both these guys are ahead of the game for their age behind the plate.

Q. You've been pretty high on Snyder the last few years. Do you see yourself in him?
BOB MELVIN: No, you know what, he's got a lot more offensively than I did. What I see is a guy that goes back there and understands how are pitchers throwing that particular day, what adjustments, knowing the opponent, all those things. You can get away with a guy hitting .200 behind the plate if he's doing his job behind the plate because it goes unnoticed. If you look at the ERA of a team, how involved the catchers are in it, and we think he's a guy that certainly gives us a lot as far as that goes. That's what I've been more impressed with more than anything the last couple years.

Q. (Inaudible).
BOB MELVIN: Well, he's got Odalis Perez.

Q. It looks like Barry Bonds might still be in your division.

Q. It looks like the Giants might be taking him.
BOB MELVIN: That's nothing new. I expect him to be there. If we don't have Barry in our division, it's a break. We don't count on it.
I thought you meant with us (laughter).

Q. Do you see the West being wide open again?
BOB MELVIN: It depends on how the off-season ends up. It certainly looks like the Dodgers and San Diego distanced themselves last year. It looked like who knows at about the halfway point, and then those two teams, and they basically finished with the same record. Two at the top with the same record and the three at the bottom with the same record. I think this year there will probably be a little bit more of a clear-cut favorite coming out than there was last year, but I still think the Rockies have a good team and I feel like we're going to be better, too.

Q. What did you think of Bochy moving north?
BOB MELVIN: It's going to be odd to see him. I'd like to get him out of our division. He's still in the division, albeit in another uniform.
I love Boch. I'm happy it worked out well for him. I know he's happy, too.

Q. When you see the Tigers last year, do you say to yourself there's always promise? Does it give you in effect more hope that a team can go from --
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, you know, you talk about low, within our division, like I said, you have three teams right there, and I don't think a few improvements -- I think a few improvements you could jump up pretty quickly. It doesn't bother me. I mean, seeing what they accomplished in such a quick period of time.
Now you look at the pitching, they have great pitching. If you have great pitching, your rotation and your bullpen, you've got a chance to move up.

Q. It seems like it would be a challenge for you to get some of your bench guys some at-bats.
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, DaVanon was a great -- I don't want to play platoon, but we found great opportunities for him, I think the way he and Byrnes profiled a little bit. There was a real good time to play. Byrnes predominantly is an everyday player, yet DaVanon can move everywhere. When he got hurt we lost a little something, a guy that can run a little bit, a guy that can lead off when Counsell was out, a guy that can run the bases and create havoc and so forth so it'll be nice getting him back.

Q. Who does he profile as far as a pitching match-up?
BOB MELVIN: He hits a fastball. There are very few guys that throw a fastball by him. He's not afraid to let it go on the fastball. The guys that give Byrnesie a little trouble could give Quentin a little trouble. I think DaVanon is a good fit for those bad match-ups or those days off that those guys are going to have.

Q. How is he progressing health-wise?
BOB MELVIN: I think well. Hopefully maybe a little late as far as Spring Training goes, but we expect to have him ready for the season, at least on the timetable we're at right now.

Q. Is he willing to come down early?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, and we'll see him in January. I mean, he's a local guy. He'll be at Chase Field.

Q. 14 and 11 at all, 14 positions and 11 pitchers?
BOB MELVIN: Certainly the start, depending on what the schedule looks like and so forth, at times it can be difficult, but I don't think it's out of the question that something like that could happen. That's all -- you know, that's always a question coming out of the spring is how many pitchers you're going to have.

Q. So you just play it by ear and see what happens?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah. There's quite a few guys that can compete for that last spot. I think Robby Hammock made some significant strides last year in resurrecting his career for us and being a guy that can catch, too, at least for me, there's a lot going on as far as what he can bring, especially with two younger catchers, just go ahead and take a shot and hit for somebody that's struggling earlier in the game.

Q. The explosion of free agent salaries this year, are you at least struck by it?
BOB MELVIN: I think a little bit, especially some of the relievers out there. But the industry is doing very well. Teams aren't going to worry about contracts like that if they don't think they can handle it. A particular deal may raise eyebrows, but...

Q. You used to be with the Mariners and worked with Ichiro, then Ichiro got the Mariners with the -- current Japanese system. It's getting expensive, the cost is high. What do you think about that situation?
BOB MELVIN: It just shows you how good of players they have in Japan. Obviously there are a lot of suitors out there, and we were one of them. We posted two. I was surprised to see the number, but obviously Boston wanted him pretty bad and wanted to keep him away from the Yankees, too.
It goes along with anything else. The numbers keep going up from year to year, and when you get a player like that, if someone wants him enough -- I mean, I don't know, I've seen some tape of him obviously in the WBC. I haven't seen him up close, but from what our scouts are telling us, this is a No. 1 guy, and you're going to pay for a No. 1 guy.

Q. Do you see Hammock only as a third catcher or would you see him as a true backup catcher?
BOB MELVIN: That's the thing, he can play third, first, he's played some second. He's comfortable there.

Q. Could he be a guy you keep as your only backup catcher?
BOB MELVIN: That would be difficult to do. I think he could play a week in a row or something like that, but I think one of the reasons he started doing a little more utility thing is because of his knee, and I don't know that when you have your second catcher is a guy that you're not sure about the volume of work that you would start (Inaudible).

Q. Are you worried at all about a loss of clubhouse leadership with Gonzalez moving on?
BOB MELVIN: I don't worry about it, it's just something you have to deal with. There's probably a handful of guys in baseball permeate the clubhouses like he did with us, but it's something we're going to have to get past. Counsell is the same way, Batista to a certain extent the same way. You have to move on. If you worry about it too much, then you won't get past it.
Everybody loves Gonzo and what he's done for our organization and our community and the whole bit, but the reality is he's not going to be here and we have to get used to it.

Q. He might be in your division, too.
BOB MELVIN: I'd rather see him go to the other league to tell you the truth.

Q. I don't think you're going to get that wish.
BOB MELVIN: No? Dodgers?

Q. Yeah.
BOB MELVIN: Did Baltimore make him an offer?

Q. Yeah, apparently more than the Dodgers offered him, but he doesn't want to go.
BOB MELVIN: I might have to give him a call and lobby. I'm a big Oriole fan, you know.

Q. It's a hitters' park.
BOB MELVIN: Yeah. I could see him flicking a couple over that scoreboard out there about 300 feet away or whatever it is.

Q. Tell him that.
BOB MELVIN: Oh, I have.

Q. So as it stands now, you've got about seven guys to choose from for the 4 and 5 spot, pretty comfortable with that?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, we like them. Nippert, what he accomplished last year, he puttered a little bit at the big league level but has some experience and knows he has to take it up a level. Enrique, what he did early on, at times was as good as we had, other than Webby. Then he struggled and couldn't recover from that. I really enjoyed seeing Edgar Gonzalez pitch the way he did at the end of the year. He wasn't a guy on the outs with an organization but wasn't real happy with how he had fallen down the pecking order a little bit, was maybe rushed to the big leagues a little bit early and had to go through a difficult period, especially in 2004, and then to recover like that in the same organization and put himself back on the map where he's definitely one of the lead guys for that working fifth spot. I think it's a testament to him not letting those things get in his way that would -- that has enabled him to get past that and just go out there and pitch and try to produce, because he's a talented guy.

Q. I haven't spoke to you either since Kirk was hired.
BOB MELVIN: This is a guy that I would have liked to have gotten over here before, maybe even a little sooner. He came available obviously after three years in Detroit, but a guy that I have a lot of history with and know very well, and it's a good fit. I think he's a good fit for our club, too. We're excited about having him come.

Q. How far do you go back with Kirk?
BOB MELVIN: Actually I came up behind all those guys, met him in, what, '81 was my first year in the Tigers system, came up behind that group, Gibson and Parrish and all those guys, so I've known him for quite a while.

Q. Going back to New York?
BOB MELVIN: Going back to New York and then probably early January. I've been back a couple times. Once we get into -- it gets a little cold in January in New York from what I understand. As a matter of fact, when I left, Kelly said yesterday it didn't get in the 40s.

Q. Coming back for the National Championship game?
BOB MELVIN: I am not. I think Nate Shaw will probably be attending that game.

Q. What do you think of that match-up?
BOB MELVIN: I would have liked to have seen USC win.

Q. They got Stanford's coach fired.
BOB MELVIN: Did he get fired? I didn't see that.

Q. Are you blown away by the contracts guys are getting at all or do you kind of accept it?
BOB MELVIN: You know, it goes like this, there seems to be a correction when the industry is doing well. Teams are making money it seems like, and as I was saying earlier, I don't think teams would be spending that kind of money if they didn't think they could handle it. Some of the relievers kind of open your eyes, some of the early signs maybe a little bit. But like I said, teams feel like they can handle it and it seems like there's some money to be spent out there right now. Teams are trying to widen the gap.

Q. Do you think it might look at more teams starting to look for cheaper alternatives?
BOB MELVIN: You always look at that. I mean, if you have a surplus in money you want to try to keep as many players as you can obviously. We're really not in that position where we are right now. I think trademark is something we're looking at pretty hard right now.

Q. How much is your ballpark skewed offensively?
BOB MELVIN: It's a hitters' park. We profile guys a little bit more now to try to keep the ball on the ground some of the -- that's one thing you see, teams coming to our ballpark, especially the power hitters, don't feel like they have to pull the ball to hit the ball out of the ballpark.
You know, it's a good hitter's ballpark, but our hitters like it, the pitchers we try to teach them to keep the ball out of the zone so the hitters keep the ball low to the ground.

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