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October 2, 2007

Bob Melvin


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Mr. Melvin?

Q. Can you talk about the demeanor that Webb has and how that will play into a big game like this?
BOB MELVIN: His demeanor, his stuff, he plays pretty well everywhere. You know, a pretty composed guy. Can't really tell whether or not things are bothering him out there or not, and he's always got the sinker to roll back to.
Secondary stuff is better. I think he's pitched in enough big games, albeit it hasn't been in the postseason, but has a lot of confidence whenever he takes the ball. And I think it works well, too, that we're starting at home.
So I don't see any issues with him as far as nerves or anything like that.

Q. Could you talk about the difference from your staff last year to this year and the sense of accountability that comes with the presence of a Kirk Gibson to your players?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, you know, I don't think it's that different as far as accountability goes with past staffs. I think the fact that our group here is a little bit younger means we have a little bit more influence over a group.
Therefore, from day one something we wanted to establish was work ethic and accountability to your team, and we're going to try to get it better each and every day, whether it's during spring training or during the season. We're going to try to learn from our mistakes and try and get better and better and better as the season goes along.
I think with a younger group that was the right way to handle it and the only way to handle it, and having staff members like Chip Hale, who's a guy that's been with these guys before.
Kirk Gibson, who obviously his reputation comes with him, and we're trying to accomplish and work on as far as base running and so forth. I think you've seen the numbers get better as the season comes along. Bryan Price has always made his pitchers very, very accountable. So I think our staff as a whole and the philosophy on the whole work ethic was number one, accountability was number two, and it's something we've tried to do each and every day, and Gibby has been a big part of that.

Q. Have you settled on your roster for the postseason?
BOB MELVIN: Not yet.

Q. When do you anticipate --
BOB MELVIN: I think it's tomorrow at 10:00 or something like that, so we don't have any announcements as far as that goes yet.

Q. You talked about Webb's demeanor. What about your team in general in terms of experience? I know you don't have a whole lot of it in terms of the postseason; the Cubs probably have more. Does it really make any difference at this point?
BOB MELVIN: We'll see. I think we've played in quite a few games, dicey games this year, whether or not we were on the back end of a losing streak, whether or not we went into a particular city, whether it's San Diego or LA or something, where a little bit of momentum was working against us.
I got a lot of questions this year about is this the biggest series of the year. So we've played in a lot of games which I felt were pressure packed. Now, the postseason is completely different. Guys that were rookies are no longer rookies. You know, we've gotten a full year in, and we've gone through the ups and downs and so forth, so I think those issues are kind of gone.
Yet we don't have a lot of postseason experience. We'll just see how that plays out. Our guys are pretty exciteable. They like to go out there and play. I think some of them are a little bit immune to what's going on. We just try to focus on each and every day, and they just go out there and play the game and deal with the ramifications afterwards.
Being that we haven't been, a lot of us, in the postseason, it's kind of an unknown.

Q. I don't believe you've had to face Carlos Zambrano so far this year. Kind of the luck of the draw. Can you talk about facing him for the first time?
BOB MELVIN: Well, you know, electric stuff. I think we were fortunate that we didn't have to. We did win, I believe it was four out of six, and that's not having to face Zambrano. He's their best. He's their guy. We're going to see him a couple times this series, no matter if they go with three or four.
If it goes five games you end up seeing him a couple times. He's a difficult guy, and that's why you match up your number one against their number one. They feel like they have the right guy on the mound tomorrow, we feel like we have the right guy on the mound.
Just looking at it, you feel like it would be one of those games that would be a little bit closer to the low-scoring type of game, but you never know until you go out there and play. But a very, very good competitor. Swings the bat very well, too. Adds another dynamic as far as that goes. He's their guy for a reason.

Q. With the lack of experience that you were talking about, playoff-wise, on this team, and the bigger games on the Cubs' payroll, do you feel like you guys are the underdog here?
BOB MELVIN: I don't know if we look at it that way. It seems like no a matter what we've done this year we've been kind of the underdog, so that's nothing new for us. I think people thought we were going to go away as the season went along.
The deeper we got and the closer we got to the finish line, I think there was a lot of speculation that the team was going to roll under, and it didn't. So it's just something we have to deal with every day. We're not opposed to being the underdog.
I think sometimes it probably works well for us being the underdog that we don't put too much pressure on ourselves. We probably don't look at it one way or the other. It's probably something you have to ask individuals in the clubhouse.

Q. Two-part question: Justin Upton, have you made a decision on him?
BOB MELVIN: He's good. He'll be good to go. They did do an X-ray. Nothing as far as break or anything like that. He's considerably better yesterday from the day before. He's considerably better today. He will take batting practice and so forth, so I don't think it's an issue going forward.

Q. I know you have so many kids on this roster, but what do you make of his demeanor as he comes into the postseason?
BOB MELVIN: I think that's the thing I've been most impressed by. Even though he's been through some struggles for a guy 19 years old and single A before he got here, so he wasn't overwhelmed by anything even though he was struggling.
He gets more upset with himself than that kind of in awe, far-away look that a guy will get if he's overmatched, and I have haven't seen that. He's had some struggles at the plate like a lot of the guys have, but he never looked like he was overmatched, he never looked like he was in awe, and he certainly has not shown that at all.

Q. On those rare occasions when Brandon did struggle, what did you see? He getting away from anything specifically? How quickly did it come back to him once he figured it out?
BOB MELVIN: With Brandon, when you say struggle, it's kind of relative. He goes through 40-some odd innings where he doesn't give up a run, and then didn't have as good a game after that and all of a sudden it was a struggle.
I think he handles and is able to rely on different things if his sinker is not there. Obviously number one for him is the sinker and the command of it. If the command isn't good he looks for other places to go, his secondary stuff is a lot better. His change up is better. His curve ball is better. His pitches inside to left-handers are a lot better.
So he's got some weapons to go to, whereas in the past maybe he hasn't. Struggling for him is giving up a few runs, and everybody is going to do that from time to time. It all starts with his sinker, and if he feels like he doesn't have great command of that, then he's forced to try to do some things a little bit differently.

Q. How concerned are you about the power Alfonso Soriano shows at the top of the lineup and how he's been starting ball games, especially coming off a very productive month of September?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, he's swinging the bat well. We kind of have the same variable with Chris Young. He's let off a lot of games. He's got a lot of power in that would, you know spot, too.
Between the two of them they probably add a dimension with speed and power that a lot of other teams don't. So it's not a guy where you're just going to go in there and throw the ball over the plate and you don't want to walk him, which is the case with most lead-off guys.
He's a guy you have to pick your spots and obviously be careful, because the first pitch of the game or the first at-bat of the game can leave the ballpark. Same thing with our guy. So it's a little different how you attack a lead-off hitter like that as opposed to a guy you're just trying to keep off base. We're very aware of it, and it's a dynamic most teams don't have.

Q. What do you think explains your success offensively despite being near the bottom of the NL in some categories?
BOB MELVIN: Timely. We don't rely on one or two guys. It seems like we have a couple guys that show up every night, whether it's Snyder and Drew, whether it's Clark and Salazar, whether it's Byrnes and whoever.
I think that a lot of times we won't put a lot of pressure on ourselves because of the fact we feel like we have some weapons all the way through the line-up. So I feel like timing more than anything has been on our side offensively even though the numbers wouldn't suggest that we're too terribly potent in the long run. But from game to game I think we pose some challenges every day.

Q. Have you decided what your line-up is going to look like tomorrow?
BOB MELVIN: I have, but they don't know it yet, so I'm probably more prepared to announce that after the workout today.

Q. I don't think anybody on the other side would say it out loud, but I think the Cubs are relatively happy with the match-up they got in the first round. Having beaten them four out of six, do you guys kind of feel the same way about them?
BOB MELVIN: It didn't matter to us. We were happy to get in. Whoever we played, we'd prepare how we think we need to prepare accordingly. I can't speak for them. If you look at our numbers on the stats sheet and you look at our names as a group, it probably doesn't overwhelm you, but I think we pose some significant challenges for whoever we play.

Q. Tony in the clubhouse, if you could talk about his role with these younger kids and how important that is?
BOB MELVIN: It's been, with as many younger guys as we have, we had our hazing the other day. We had to have a whole other bus for just the rookies. He's a very stable force. A lot of stability from Tony, whether it's Tony, Orlando Hudson, Eric Byrnes.
But I think Tony is kind of the father figure around here, and I think recognizes, by facial expressions, whatever, can read guys very well and what they're going through at a particular time, and is very apt to be able to go over and be able to cut that off quickly.
A lot of times he'll come in to me and say, Listen, a lot of times we have something going on over here or, I noticed something there. So he's kind of a conduit to me more than just a player around here. If ever there was a guy that's kind of a betweener between coach and player, even though he's very productive for us on the field, he's a stabilizing force for everybody in that clubhouse.
Some of the guys feel like they can go to and talk to him maybe a little bit more on a personal basis where he might be a little more guarded talking to me or one of the coaches.

Q. (No microphone.)
BOB MELVIN: There's no question. He gives us a lot of things -- if he's not here we don't have a Tony Clark to draw from, which we've had to considerably over the course of the season.

Q. (No microphone.)
BOB MELVIN: You know, the team I came up with my rookie year with the Tigers, there was a whole host of them: The Morrisses and the Gibsons and the Trammels and Parrishes and so forth. I don't know that I've been on a team where it's been as rookie laden as we are here with just one or two.
I really haven't been on a team that's been like that.

Q. In regards to Brandon, did his start Friday against Colorado give you an indicator of what he could be like in a game like this, or did you need an indicator for Brandon?
BOB MELVIN: I didn't, but I think that was as difficult a game for him to have to deal with as he's had to deal with all year. Being that we made a last-minute decision, there was a lot of pressure on that game.
That was a game that we needed to have and a team that -- one team that he's really kind of struggled against.
I think internally you're not going to see -- externally you're not going to see anything out of him that would suggest that he's doing anything different, but I think internally he was like, Okay. He had to step back and kind of remove himself for a minute and move forward knowing it was going to be a much different situation he was pitching in than the day before.
He did it beautifully against a team that was as hot as anybody in baseball. Offensively was swinging the bat as well as anybody. A team that had his number, so to speak, and even in that game these guys were taking good swings. It's not like they weren't for a day taking good swings. They were, and he had to pitch out of jams and he had to make pitches when he had to.
I think that's going to make him a little bit tougher going forward and pitching a game like he's going to have to tomorrow. I think it was well-served that that game played out the way it did.

Q. How much did your approach have to change as the manager this year, given the youth and inexperience of this club?
BOB MELVIN: A lot of people ask me, What style of manager are you? How do you like to play? And I think it's more about the group that you have. They don't have to come in and acclimate to how I want to do things, I have to acclimate to the group.
If you're not a power hitting team you're not going to hit around and play for a three-run homer, even though that's my managerial style or whatever.
So I have to acclimate to the group. And we do have a lot of inexperience this year, yet we felt like as a staff we could probably influence this group more so than other groups, you know, where once you get to the big league level, you have a few years in, you do things a certain way.
It's more difficult to probably make them look at some things different or I want to do things differently where when we have a younger group, as we do here, we can influence them right away. It's one of the most rewarding things we have as a staff around here is we feel like we've gotten better as the season has gone along and we've had some influence over these guys.
It's been a very rewarding year as far as my managerial seasons. I think this is the most fun we've had because we have had an influence over these guys because there's been a lot of energy and a lot of excitement.

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