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December 6, 2006

Bobby Cox


Q. Has this off-season been a little different?
BOBBY COX: Different because we weren't playing in mid-October so it was a little strange. I did watch most of the games that I could and enjoyed them. I thought the playoffs were good and the World Series was pretty good and all that. Hopefully, we'll be back there next year.

Q. I want to talk to you, about a month ago you were saying been pretty busy right from the start.
BOBBY COX: Yeah, I have a really been busy all winter just with personal stuff and charities, you know. And the team, talking to John every day.

Q. John says, "Bobby's been busy down here with the trade discussions."
BOBBY COX: I think we've been more busy this year and more actual thoughts and ideas than ever before, for some reason. You know, didn't work out with Glav, just couldn't fit it in. Didn't work out money-wise and he wasn't asking for a whole lot, but --

Q. How much did that appeal to you, Bobby, the thought of getting him back?
BOBBY COX: Tommy? Big time. I think he is really good.

Q. Is it tough to know John has to move the pieces around to fit people in like Glavine when you really want him to?
BOBBY COX: It depends on who we are moving around.

Q. I mean do you --
BOBBY COX: I'm not going to say but a lot of people we were speculating.

Q. To stay within that budget, he is having a little bit more --
BOBBY COX: Yeah, we would like to have -- 80 million's a lot but everybody would like to have a couple bucks.

Q. Does the unresolved ownership situation entered into this a lot, Bobby?
BOBBY COX: I don't think so at all. I really don't think so. No.

Q. More so than I guess more than the 80 million, is it so much of it I guess is already allocated to a handful of guys?
BOBBY COX: There's less than a handful of guys making most of it, which is the case with quite a few teams probably.

Q. Think the biggest you can get pitching, a leadoff hitter?
BOBBY COX: You know the core of the team is still there. We still have a real good team. We are looking for a little bullpen depth, if we could locate a real good one. We signed Sturtze and he should be able to go shortly after the season starts, I think. And I've heard nothing but good stuff about him. I talked to Billy Connors last night, he liked him a lot, even before he hurt his arm. So we added him and we are still looking to add a little bit more.

Q. If you were to go with what you've got now, Bobby, would you be comfortable in left field? I know Diaz last year --
BOBBY COX: I mean Diaz was good last year and we picked up Bohn, I don't know much about him and still have Langerhans still. When Langerhans is out there, it is hard to get gappers.

Q. What about Kelly Johnson?
BOBBY COX: He's working out a lot with Glenn Hubbard right now in left field and short, second, third, moving him around a little bit. You know, it is difficult, because he is just coming back from the elbow surgeries, so hard for him to really let it go. He is doing really good.

Q. Could he be ready to by opening day or do you think it will take a while?
BOBBY COX: I think so.

Q. John said at GM meetings that this was a good team that had a bad year, is that kind of the way you look at it?
BOBBY COX: Well, we struggled late in the game, you know, the first three-quarters of the season, and we have been I think in the playoffs if we just had a normal rear end of the game.

Q. If Wickman had come over earlier perhaps?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, but that wasn't possible. Cleveland wanted him, too.

Q. How much does that help you to know you've already got that?
BOBBY COX: A lot. Yeah, no. It's a huge -- we didn't want to come here without somebody like Wick closing the games out.
John did a lot of work, you know, right after the season or right the tail end of it with Smoltzie and Wick.

Q. How important is it knowing that Hampton should be back and ready to go?
BOBBY COX: A lot. Hampton's a quality starter. He's still young and he's got a new arm and we saw him throw in the instructional league. He came out after one and two-thirds, didn't face the last hitter, he popped an adhesion, so you know, it was nothing -- it is normal they tell me, very normal. So he got that sort of out of his system ahead of the ballgame.

Q. Is that almost like acquiring a guy, getting a guy through a trade?
BOBBY COX: Yeah it is, it is like getting a new guy. Really hasn't pitched in two years. He hurt it early two years ago, so he should be fresh.

Q. When you saw that when you guys were watching the pitching instructional league game is that initially alarming at all when it happened?
BOBBY COX: It was just a sting. He knew it wasn't his tendon or bone chip or anything like that. Yeah, you always get alarmed when somebody does that.

Q. Does that happen once in a while when they are coming back?
BOBBY COX: They say it happens more than once in a while.

Q. Bobby, you've been down that Tommy John road with Smoltz, do you have to be careful with Hampton at the start of season?
BOBBY COX: We will watch him closer than most guys probably but I would think that if he can break camp feeling good, he could go seven innings initially.

Q. Talk a little bit about what it's going to be like to manage against Fredi Gonzalez. I mean, he's your friend, you guys are neighbors but he also knows how you manage.
BOBBY COX: Yeah, he does and I know what he's done. You know, it's kind of like Ned and Jimy Williams that came through and, you know, it's kind of fun, actually. But the game's on the field.

Q. How proud are you that you turned out guys like that?
BOBBY COX: Oh, very and you know, I've been blessed. We've had great coaches come through, Fredi's of the top, he and Ed and Jimy, you know, just outstanding guys that really helped me along.

Q. A little bit of sweet meat when you see them succeed but --
BOBBY COX: Not against us. No, a different story.

Q. Is this the first time you're having one in the division?
BOBBY COX: Yeah. I think so. Yeah, it is.

Q. The second half when LaRoche was doing what he did and to hear his name bandied about --
BOBBY COX: All over the place.

Q. Are you surprised or I guess if you're trying to make moves, you --
BOBBY COX: We're listening to everybody, his name and a bunch of names have been out there but you got to listen. I mean, I've said that every winter meeting, you know, Andruw before -- you always listen and you know we are not looking to trade him, that's for damn sure, not a swing like that.

Q. Something were to happen with him, would you feel okay with Thorman?
BOBBY COX: If something did? Yeah. He's got a huge upside. He's a good-looking kid. Probably wouldn't do as well initially as Rochey, as he's more experienced but he's there and I've got him pencilled in to play a lot of left field this year and spell Rochey occasionally.

Q. You had J.D. Drew in Atlanta, you know the Red Sox just signed him. Could you tell me how he played for you and your evaluation of him as a player.
BOBBY COX: He's a good player, real good. He was solid with us. He didn't miss a lot at all. He can do a lot of things and throws good, he defends extremely well and he will take a walk and he'll hit a home run and he's gonna hit for average. He is really a complete player. There's nothing that you would say, "God, I wish this guy would work on this or that." It's not there.

Q. One of the typical criticisms of him is that he's been passive and that he gives the impression that he may be indifferent or he's not intense.
BOBBY COX: I don't know, on the field, you know, he's a quiet guy. He reads a lot and -- but I don't see anything wrong with, you know, reading a book in the clubhouse or, you know, when the game starts, now it's, you know, his job is to go to work. So, we had absolutely no problem with anything with JD. He's solid.

Q. Is Jared Saltamaccachia going to try out at positions this coming year?
BOBBY COX: We haven't discussed that, no, with McCann ahead of him, might be a good idea. I don't know. But we haven't even discussed that.

Q. If Giles remains on your roster, will you continue to hit him leadoff?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, probably, unless you got another idea.

Q. Bobby, is every scenario when you go for the machinations and lineups for this year, does every scenario include Andruw in center field, as far as you're concerned?
BOBBY COX: Every one that I can think of. I mean, he is a free agent after this year, you know, we would try to sign him and we know what's out there right now with some of these signings, it is enormous, but we will make every effort to try to sign him. He does have a tough agent, willing to take players other places. But yeah, we'd like for Andruw to play another four or five years with us, I'm sure.
And I just rated for Rawlings over the last 50 years, the greatest defensive players and he was number one, in my -- I picked 18 outfielders out of hundreds, but I thought he was number one.

Q. Is there anyway that Andruw's situation could be a distraction?
BOBBY COX: I don't think so. Yeah. It always, you know in the back of your mind, you know, I don't know when John's gonna get together and start discussing, but it's pretty difficult here because what's going on with the free agents now. I don't think so. Andruw loves to play the game one way or the other, he is going to get the overhead.

Q. The last time around, didn't he negotiate his own contract?
BOBBY COX: I think so.

Q. Yeah, he told Boras to sit back.
BOBBY COX: I guess. That's the rumor.

Q. Last year, you guys scored a lot of runs without a legitimate leadoff hitter.
BOBBY COX: Yeah, our problem wasn't runs, the leadoff hitter or any type of hitter. We scored plenty of runs to win the division, we just didn't hold people late in the game.

Q. So having a leadoff hitter is more of a luxury, I guess?
BOBBY COX: I've always said if you've got a great pitching staff, who cares who hits leadoff? What difference does it really make? But to have a Rickey Henderson or a Pete Rose, yeah, I would take those guys.

Q. Only leadoff once, right?
BOBBY COX: That's true but those guys would hit .300 plus every year and plus steal bases and you know, hit home runs too, Rickey would throw in 18, 20.

Q. What happened like say the first three-quarters of the year, where you and John and everybody else thought that there would be an emphasis this offseason to making sure there is enough depth in the rotation?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, we want to -- we think our starting rotation is excellent. And we need to secure games. Pitch counts get high nowadays, with the strike zone the way it is pitch counts are sky high early in games and, you know, it is nothing uncommon for a pitcher to have 100 pitches after six. So, it is pretty important to have three or four reliable guys.

Q. How much stock do you put in pitch counts?
BOBBY COX: A little bit. You look at it but I'm kind of like Maddux, you know, don't look at it. If you're tired, you're tired; if you're not, you're not, keep going. Quit looking at it.

Q. At the end of the year, you named a few guys in the bullpen that you thought were reliable, Tyler and Macay and --
BOBBY COX: Yates came on real strong, I thought. Macay came on strong. Of course Wick I think helped everybody fall in place a little bit out there. So Ronald did a nice little job for us.

Q. Getting Boyer back could be a --
BOBBY COX: Boyer plays big for us. We just hope he is going to be healthy and has a great spring and be ready to go. We are counting on him. He can make a huge difference.

Q. Where does Joey Devine fit in?
BOBBY COX: A chance to make the team, same way. He could be -- I don't know who is gonna make the team right now but, you know.

Q. What about Reitsma, Bobby?
BOBBY COX: I don't know, we really haven't discussed that situation.

Q. Going in, Chuck James is a starter now?
BOBBY COX: Big time. I think he had the best, I'm not sure, somebody mentioned in our room, the best winning percentage in the second half. And he was pretty classy every start.

Q. What do you like about him? What makes him a good pitcher?
BOBBY COX: To hear hitters talk about him, some hitters, good hitters, I won't mention names but they will come back and say, this is the toughest guy we face to hit at. He is extremely sneaky, quick, hard to pick up.

Q. Do you view Hudson coming back maybe --
BOBBY COX: I think you know, years, you know, could have been better but still won 14-13 and Huddy is very capable of winning 15, 20, there's no doubt in my mind. He is still working hard and I know he wasn't satisfied with his year last year or the year before, actually, but it's there. I think he is going to be a big winner this year, if we get our bullpen straightened.

Q. What do you think his biggest issue would be?
BOBBY COX: There's been times where he didn't have either confidence or the split didn't feel right to him, just with that pitch, but nothing really.

Q. Does that make it harder, Bobby, there's not one thing you can point to and Huddy can even point to fix or --
BOBBY COX: If he can win 15 games, I would be more than happy, he is right there every year, so -- but I know he's capable of winning more, if our bullpen holds for him.

Q. If Hampton is healthy with Hudson and Smoltz, how good could those top three be?
BOBBY COX: Oh, I don't know who they would compare with, if they are all on top of their games, just about as good as anybody's three.

Q. And Chucky four?
BOBBY COX: And you got Ramirez and Davies, Cormier pitching pretty good.

Q. You think Horacio and Kyle will battle it out for spots?
BOBBY COX: Right now, yep.

Q. What's realistic when you talk about Hampton? I mean, I know how good he can be but starting out, what's realistic expectations?
BOBBY COX: Depends on what we see in spring training, I guess. I answered this question, you know, when we break camp, I expect everyone to go seven innings as a starter. And I don't know why he couldn't do that.

Q. What are you looking for out of Francoeur next year?
BOBBY COX: Well, he drove in 100 this year and hit 30, 29, 30. I will take that again. And's great right fielder. And he brings a lot to the table to stay the way he is.

Q. What about McCann, Bobby, will it be hard for him to match what he did?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, hard for Ted Williams. But yeah, Mac can really hit. For me, he's always been a .300 hitter, ever since we changed eyes on him.

Q. Changing him to different position so you don't wear him down so much?
BOBBY COX: Nope, Mac runs about the way I do. No, he -- I know what you're getting at, we have Pena and Salty, Mackey. Salty had an offyear last year, we still prize him as the best catching prospect in baseball.

Q. People have been asking you for your catchers, you got a lot of catchers in the system, are people calling and talking to you about catchers?
BOBBY COX: A little bit. A little bit.

Q. After the season was finally over and you kind of stepped away from it, did it bother you what happened at the end? How did you handle it, I guess?
BOBBY COX: The team finished good, played hard at the end and if we had given up it would have been different but that didn't happen. Disappointed we didn't make it, like the entire team was, and it didn't take that much to get in either. That was what really got me. You could have had an offyear and won 84 and 83, and we'd consider that an offyear, and still been in. But that's the way it is, you can't figure out the game of baseball.

Q. The way things stand right now, you still think the East is the toughest division?
BOBBY COX: I haven't even -- I don't know. It's good, it's real good. Phillies are good, Mets are good, the Marlins are good, we're good. It's easy.

Q. That leaves one more, you left one out.
BOBBY COX: Who is that?

Q. Washington.
BOBBY COX: Washington is -- they are really working. No, they are. I mean, they lost a lot, Soriano, but they've got some players you'd love to have.

Q. Have you seen Francoeur mature as a hitter?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, he can sit on pitches now, he's sharp kid, he is still working. He is not going to walk an awful lot, which is fine with me where he is hitting in the lineup and I think if you took his -- the way he is aggressive at the plate away from him, I don't think he'd be as good.

Q. So is there a balance between that aggressiveness that he has and people hollering for him to walk more?
BOBBY COX: Depends on what he is looking for on pitches and be able to hit those pitches. You know if it is the first pitch it is okay.

Q. Is it more about being patient in the at-bat than just patient in general? Just like not swinging at the first pitch every time or --
BOBBY COX: He's improving, I think, with his homework.

Q. The Hampton that you saw before, you know, the July previous, maybe before he got hurt, was he about as close to as he had been to his pre-Colorado days?
BOBBY COX: He was throwing good, had a good spring that spring, we were really happy with the spring he had. And you know, springs can be springs but he was legit getting hitters out, he was throwing good. Just as great a competitor as he is and the way he has a passion for pitching, winning, I would -- I'm looking for big things. No reason not to with his abilities.

Q. A year ago at this time, you were looking for big things from Jorge Sosa, what happened?
BOBBY COX: What was the nickname? Houdini. He had the Houdini year for us, you know, you get guys on and somebody lines into a double play with the bases loaded or go up on the wall and catch one and he just wasn't able to work out of those situations last year. I don't think the WBC had anything to do with it.

Q. If something were to happen with Giles being traded this winter, how would you feel about Prado? What is your impression of how he did last year?
BOBBY COX: Hopefully we are going to have Gillie but Prado came to us last year with a little bit of a groin pull so I don't think we saw the best of what he -- our people like him an awful lot. You know if that did happen, we could feel with him.

Q. You feel like he could develop more power? You viewing him as a hitter?
BOBBY COX: I do. I really do. I think all those guys in the minors, Escobar has got power but it doesn't show up in the minor leagues as much, but get him in a big league season and he is likely to hit 15, 20.

Q. Defensively, can you talk about him defensively?
BOBBY COX: Prado, pretty classy, can turn the double play really well, good hands.

Q. Do you see Escobar as a shortstop or second baseman?
BOBBY COX: We see him as a shortstop.

Q. Could he play second?
BOBBY COX: Yeah. Right now, shortstop is his best position.

Q. A great arm?
BOBBY COX: Yes. He is a prized guy. Yeah. Highly touted.

Q. What about Salty before he got hurt out there?
BOBBY COX: Good but you know, Salty had an offyear.

Q. I mean the fall.

Q. What did they tell you about Escobar, how he played second in the fall league, did you hear anything about that?
BOBBY COX: All right.

Q. Just kind of getting adjusted to it?
BOBBY COX: He played some second in last year which was designed by the farm system to get him to play third, short and all of those guys switch, which is great. Great. And he's fine. Better at short, I think.

Q. I know we didn't see Aybar at second after he came over, do you think he is a candidate?
BOBBY COX: Yes and Thorman too. You are assuming Giles isn't here but hopefully Giles will be.

Q. And maybe Kelly Thompson, too?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, he is working there some.

Q. Bobby, what about working with all these new coaches?
BOBBY COX: Oh it is going to be great. I know them all well, we've known each other forever and they're high-caliber coaches, real good.

Q. Going to keep everybody loose?
BOBBY COX: Yes. And they are really going to miss those two guys, two sides to moving guys up. They are both quality guys, I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Of all of those, how about Fredi Gonzalez, how is he prepared?
BOBBY COX: Fredi is fully prepared, knows the game extremely well and line of communication will be great with all the players in the front office and the press and he's been ready for about three years now.

Q. What do you think his strengths will be?
BOBBY COX: All of the above I just mentioned, I think. Knows the game extremely well. Can't say much more than, you know, getting them to play hard and communicating with him and handling the team in general.

Q. Have you talked to Chipper at all in the offseason?
BOBBY COX: Haven't seen Chip. John has. He's got orthotics and wearing that for his feet. And supposedly they are helping. I don't know.

Q. For at least this year, still at third?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Q. When Fredi got the job, I mean, did he call you, did he ask you for advice, did he ask you different things?
BOBBY COX: I was talking to Fredi all along about things and, yeah, we stay in touch. We live close to each other in Atlanta, have coffee together in the morning, stuff like that.

Q. What is the biggest piece of advice you gave him for learning the ropes?
BOBBY COX: To be himself, actually, don't try to be me or Casey Stengel or Lou Piniella. You are who you are.

Q. Are you going to have to change all the signals, everything?
BOBBY COX: Yep. Fredi didn't forget them. And he didn't miss them either. Yeah, we will have to change them around a bit.
He will do great over there. He will do great.

Q. With the controversy over Mark McGwire going into the Hall of Fame, does that make you think that Dale Murphy's chances might have increased as the anti-McGwire?
BOBBY COX: I haven't thought about it that way. I've always thought that, you know, on ability and character and what one's done for the community and the game of baseball, Murph, for me, you know, he's won the Gold Glove five times, he was MVP a couple of times and he's got right at 400 home runs and what he does for the game of baseball and the communities, I know, you know, there's a lot of guys in his area there that maybe never make it, but if you take all that and encompass it, I think you've got a Hall of Famer. Special guy.

Q. Think he can coach one day?
BOBBY COX: Murph? Boy, I'd sure like to have him. Anybody would like to have Murph. He has a lot of kids so I don't know if his endeavors to do that at one time, he was going to get into politics.

Q. Governor of Utah.

Q. How tough would it be to replace Laroche's defense at first? Everybody overlooks that because he has such a great year hitting.
BOBBY COX: Well, right now, LaRoche is on our team and gonna play first base, so Thorman has improved a great deal, where he is actually a good first baseman. LaRoche is in the Gold Glove category for me. His arm is an asset, knocking runners off at second. Very few first basemen you can say that about but he's got that type of arm.

Q. What did you hear about Ward?
BOBBY COX: They are still talking to him every day.

Q. He really produced for you guys?
BOBBY COX: There wasn't too many guys better than Wardie pinch hit last year. I don't know what the stats were. I know with Washington when we faced them, he did nothing but hit the ball hard and when we got him, every attack with the ball.

Q. Are you comfortable with Brian Pena possibly being the backup catcher?

Q. He is ready for that opportunity?
BOBBY COX: Saw him at the end of the season last year when we called him up. They think it is going to be absolutely 100 percent but just needs to rest it, not hit or catch.

Q. Another switch-hitter off the bench.
BOBBY COX: And can run.

Q. Play third base?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, left field. He can. Always good to have him.

Q. Was Ward serviceable over at first?
BOBBY COX: Ward, yeah, I thought so when he played with Washington, he had one bad game there against us but when we had him there and watching him, he was fine.

Q. Pena's a smart kid too, isn't he?
BOBBY COX: Our catcher? Yes, he is, for a kid with his background coming over, speaks English extremely well.

Q. Getting anxious for something to happen?
BOBBY COX: No, getting ready for spring training, get down to it, you know. Our team, the way it sits right now is good. It's a good team. Find another piece for the bullpen, I would be happy as heck.

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