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December 6, 2006
Q. How do you feel about the bullpen now compared to a week ago?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, better. We feel like we've got three solid veteran pieces that should help us. You know, particularly our younger kids. Hopefully we're not done. Hopefully we can make one more move, and if we do that, we're going to Spring Training, see what happens. Borowski will be a guy that will be in the back end, Hernandez can do it, too, Fultz we can use wherever, and we'll see what we can do beyond that.
Q. Does Hernandez' age limit him to maybe --
ERIC WEDGE: Well, he's defied pretty much everything when it comes to his age. If you look at the way this guy throws and the way he takes care of himself, I think the one thing that I'm very happy about is not just the way these guys pitch but their experience and the way they will be able to handle things from day-to-day.
Obviously there was a lot of negative momentum in our bullpen last year with a lot of the things we went through that were very tough, and you've got to be able to nip that in the bud and be stronger for it. These guys, there's not much they haven't been through. We're not exactly sure how it's going to set up just yet. We know that we've got a couple guys that can pitch late in the game for us, and hopefully we can add one more.
Q. You mentioned experience. Is that something that was maybe the most frustrating thing last year with the bullpen? Guys were still figuring out what it's like to go out there?
ERIC WEDGE: Yeah, I think last year we had some of the younger kids struggle but some of our veterans struggled early on, too. Like we talked about, early on in the year we couldn't get to Wickman and then when we could get to Wickman we didn't have him. It was one of those years.
We're looking to be much more consistent, be a little bit more diverse down there, and I think that what we've learned with young people that we do have coming back, it's going to help us this year.
Q. So you're not initially pigeonholing Borowski as your ninth inning guy?
ERIC WEDGE: No, not right now. I've talked to him. He knows that he's going to be pitching in either the eighth or the ninth inning, and we're going to see what's best for our ballclub. Until we're done with everything, we're not going to lock people into roles in the middle of December. We're going to let things play out and go from there.
Q. You didn't have a left-hander for the longest time. Now there's talk of maybe even having two. Was there anything you learned from last year?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I've done that before. It's better to not have a left-hander than to have a left-hander down there that's not getting the job done you feel like you've got to use. That can be the worst thing for any bullpen.
I think that having a left-hander down there, a guy with some experience that pitches with confidence, a guy that can face right-handers or left-handers like Fultz, that's going to help us. If we have one guy down there then we're going to have to pick the right time to use him. We're going to have to work hard not to abuse him and take care of him. If we do have two, then we'll go from there.
I think we're very confident about the three left-handers we have in our system, probably need some more time to develop, but we feel like at some point in time they can help us, as well.
Q. In the wake of the failed closer experiment with Carmona, how fragile do you think he's going to be at the start of Spring Training?
ERIC WEDGE: I don't think he will be fragile at all and that's because of the program that was set out for him last year and what he did last year after struggling with the closer's role. To be able to stretch him back out, get him down there, let him come back up and make three or four starts and let him go back to winter ball and pitch the way he's pitch, which he's been fantastic, that just shows you how tough he is. We found out how tough he was when he was setting up. He was arguably the best setup guy in the American League for six weeks. People fail to remember that. But that's not just something you can wash aside.
Yeah, it didn't work out and it wasn't his time to close just yet. So he regrouped, we got him stretched out so he could continue to start and develop, and that's what he did. This year we're going to let him come in and see what's going to be best for our ballclub.
Q. Of the three lefties, Sipp, Perez and Lara, which one do you think is closest?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, we haven't seen Sipp up here yet. The other two have got a little bit of experience. It's hard to say who has a leg up. With the way Perez has thrown this winter, he's the first one that comes to mind. It would be a toss-up to see who's pitched better this winter between him and Carmona.
It's tough to prep it out outside of the fact that Perez and Lara have a little bit of experience. Sipp hasn't been here yet, but we're just as excited about him as we are the other two.
Q. Are you guys still in the market from your talks about getting a big bat to protect Travis in the lineup?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, it's obviously something we've always wanted to try to find. We're looking for the same thing everybody else is looking for. There's not too much out there.
We're not going to close any door. If an opportunity presents itself to us and we can do that, it would obviously be a big play. Then we'd examine it all the way through. Right now we just don't see that opportunity out there.
Q. You guys are a little bit more of a mid level market team. The way the market has been in this free agent period, has that hurt you guys in pursuit of anyone?
ERIC WEDGE: I don't know that it hurts us more than it hurts anyone else. Any time you're a small market team or your payroll is where ours stacks up, it's always going to be a little bit tougher. But it's not an excuse, it's nothing worth complaining about. You're talking about getting good players and playing good baseball, and that's what we're going to try to do.
Q. Have you given much thought to specifically the No. 2 spot?
ERIC WEDGE: I have, and I haven't made any decisions firm just yet. Again, before I predetermine anything, I want to just let things play out here and see what we're going to do. There's going to be some -- you're going to have a left-handed lineup and a right-handed lineup depending on who's on the mound, but we're not going to pigeonhole anybody into a straight platoon right away. We're going to see how it plays out. I know Dellucci is going to play against right-handers, I know Michaels is going to play against left-handers, I know Grady is going to play every day, Casey is going to play every day somewhere, and there's going to be the other bats to be had. We'll take a look and see how Dellucci is against lefties, we'll see how Michaels competes against righties. I felt like Jason really continued to improve there last year.
We're going to take a look at Choo and Gutierrez, as well, and then we know we have Casey Blake who can go in the outfield. Casey is going to be playing some right field, going to be playing some first base and he might even get some reps at third base if need be, depending on how we finish off our team signing-wise.
Q. What do you have to see in Barfield this spring? Is it the same you saw at the end of the year or more?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, we need to see more defensively. Last year was his first year at first base. I thought he made a lot of improvements. But he needs to continue to get better for him to be an everyday option guy.
I'm going to expect him to come to the camp early and work as hard as he possibly can, and we're going to evaluate him throughout. For us to expect him to hit the way he hit for two months, I think that's a little bit unreasonable to expect that from a young man. He was fantastic for us. He's definitely in the mix. He's a guy that we want to be part of this, but he's going to have to come in and make the team.
Q. Defensively is it instincts, is it footwork, what is it you want to see?
ERIC WEDGE: I think it's a little bit of both. I think it's a little bit of everything. I don't think it's one glaring thing or another. One thing I thought he really improved on was picking the ball last year so it was good to see that. I think footwork, ground balls, instincts, feel, experience, all that comes into it.
It's not his fault, he just needs more time and more reps out there. He just has to keep working to get better. There's no reason to think he won't do that because that's what he's shown us that he will do.
Q. Are you past the point where you'd consider trading a starting pitcher?
ERIC WEDGE: We wouldn't -- we still wouldn't rule anything out just yet. We like our five starters. We're not looking to trade any of our five starters. But if something came down the pike that was a good baseball deal and helped us be a better team today, tomorrow, then we would have to take a strong look at it.
Q. Do you feel good about your backup depth in the rotation, if a guy goes down or --
ERIC WEDGE: I feel like we have some depth in our rotation right now and we're not sure where Carmona is going to end up, but he's potentially some starting depth, Slocum is some starting depth. I mean, it'll keep going on from there, really. We're going to have some depth.
Q. How close do you think Miller is?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, he's a guy that I think will show us how close he is. Obviously he's in that mix of depth, too. I didn't mention him just because right away we want to make sure we slow ourselves down and give him time to continue to pitch. But I'm sure he's going to gain some attention in Spring Training.
Q. With seven different Series teams in the last seven years, with as close as you guys came in '05 and other teams who have made the Series we didn't expect, do you think that there's a feeling that every team has realistic thoughts they can get there whereas in past years it's hopeless, the Yankees are going to win it again?
ERIC WEDGE: I think it's more competitive for more teams now. I don't think anybody would have anticipated or predicted that's happened with our division, ourselves included. When we started to put this thing together in '03 I felt like we had a good game plan, we put it into place and we feel like it's progressed very nicely, but the one thing we didn't anticipate is just how competitive our division would be. It's the best division in baseball now.
But that just makes us have to be that much better and that much more competitive, and it's just that much more of a challenge for us. We know we can play with all those teams. We're looking forward to it.
Q. How convinced are you that Peralta is going to be your everyday shortstop until the end of the year?
ERIC WEDGE: I think with everything that happened last year, I feel strongly he's going to come back and be the Jhonny Peralta that he wants to be and that we're counting on him being. This is not just going to start at the beginning of the season. This is something that started last year during the season.
Look at all the conversations we've had, all the conversations he's had with other players, other coaches, not to mention the work that he's going to be doing this winter to help him on the physical side of things, the mental side of things and the fundamental side of things, whether it be down in the Dominican or in Cleveland.
And then what he's going to be doing every day in Spring Training, just to give himself every opportunity to be the player he needs to be in the middle of our diamond.
Q. He needs to drop weight, doesn't he?
ERIC WEDGE: He needs to be in the best shape that he's ever been. He needs to be focused from pitch to pitch, and he needs to continue to improve fundamentally. He's capable of doing all those things. We've seen him do all those things.
I've told him, and I think I talked to you guys about it, what we need him to be is the guy he was those last five games of the season. You watch the way he played those last five games and the consistency he showed from pitch to pitch, from out to out, from inning to inning, from play to play, from at-bat to at-bat, that's the guy we're looking for.
He's not the first person to have a tough sophomore season, so to speak. Everybody goes through different things, and he's a guy that I'm hoping that this will be the most important year that he's ever had because it's going to be the year that showed him what he needs to do to be the type of big league player he can be.
Q. How do you deal with the perception of bringing in Buck Showalter as the manager? Everybody knows the reality, Mark did it with Terry, Mark did it with Grover. This is a guy you didn't even have a relationship with. How do you deal with that?
ERIC WEDGE: It's not something I really think about. I mean, the decisions that we make, we make together. Mark and I talked about bringing Buck in, and I was on board with it. It's an organizational move. It's something that we look at the experience that he has in different areas of the ballgame, whether it be at the Major League level or the Minor League level. You know, it's something that a number of us in the organization can draw on, and you're always looking to get better.
I mean, whether it be Francona or Buddy Bell or Grover or Buck, this is something that we've had a history of doing. We've been consistent with it because we bring in people that can help people around them get better.
There's always going to be speculation. It comes with the job. It doesn't bother me. Like I said, Mark and I, we talked about this at length before we even made a phone call to Buck. It's something that should help us.
Q. Can you point to anything specific where it helped to have Buddy -- especially Grover because that was more an advisory role, were there specific areas where he helped you that you thought you got better as a manager and maybe you can apply that to what you're expecting?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I've had a number of people around me help me get better from the first day I've been here, and that was by choice obviously.
You know, I believe in surrounding yourself with experienced people, people that have a different skill set than you have. I think in the off-season, this time of the year, January, and particularly Spring Training, that's really the one time when you can spend a great deal of time with your people, with the staff, and beyond the Major League coaching staff, people in an advisory role such as Buck and Grover were in, and even Tito when he was here. That's when you're really putting your team together and making decisions and trying to set the framework for the season.
Plus with all the transition we've had at the Minor League level, losing our farm director and assistant farm director and field coordinator in six months, Buck has a great deal of experience down there, too, and he'll spend some time helping out that area.
Q. Your team is coming off a disappointing year and there's no changes as far as coaching staff or manager or anything. Some people are surprised by that. What were you seeing from the coaching staff? You're still confident in those guys?
ERIC WEDGE: You don't make changes just to make changes. You make changes because there's a reason to or there's a need to make a change, and I just didn't feel like that was the case. I've obviously made changes in the past when I felt changes needed to be made, regardless of our record. You do it for the right reasons.
I'm the one that's accountable. Everything falls on me. That comes with the job. I felt like the coaches did a good job, they got the respect of the ball players, they work hard, they're passionate, they're knowledgeable. We just didn't have a very good year last year. We know which areas we need to get better with and we know why it happened. Now we're trying to fix it and learn from it and put that into play in '07.
Q. Is there added pressure on you this year coming off of last year?
ERIC WEDGE: No, I mean, I don't spend time and energy worrying about that, I just don't. My focus is on the players first, the Cleveland Indians organization, the city of Cleveland. My job is to get these guys to go out and play and be at their very best.
The one thing about last year is their style of play and the way they competed, that never changed and never wavered and never has. Once we built that foundation, these guys showed up and played regardless of what the score is and what the record is and where we're at. Did we play good baseball at times? No. We've got to be more consistent and we've got to make sure we finish innings off. That's what we're working hard to be better with this year.
Q. I remember at the All-Star break you talked about the need for certain guys to embrace the leadership role. Was that something you saw?
ERIC WEDGE: I did see that. That's something I'm excited about. We challenged some of our core guys in this club, the guys that have been here from the beginning or close to it, and the guys that we know are going to be here in the next couple, three years to step up in a leadership role. That doesn't just mean by example. I mean, there's things that go along with that where you monitor your teammates and you make them more accountable and you make each other, those core guys, accountable to each other.
I really started to see that happen there the last month and a half or so, two months. We're going to need more of that. We're going to count on that, them just to bring that on into this year. It's their team. It's their team, and because of that, they need to hold their teammates accountable, whether it be a pat on the butt or a kick in the butt, whether it be a smile or a conversation, whatever it takes.
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