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December 4, 2007
Q. You've obviously spent a lot of time going through lineups in your head, where do you stand right now as far as the leadoff spot?
BOB MELVIN: You know, obviously it's status quo right now. We'll see. I mean, Chris did a tremendous job, whether or not we feel like we need him in the middle of the order, you know, being that he is a power guy. Still kind of yet-to-be-determined.
So we really are not any farther along with that. But we do have some guys that have had success doing it and whether or not we get ourselves into a situation where there's going to be one guy or we need to match it up again, still kind of yet to be determined.
Q. Did you see signs from your group in the second half or as the season went along of being a more productive offensive team next year?
BOB MELVIN: I don't think there's any doubt. I don't know what the overall numbers looked like in the second half compared to the first half, but it felt like we were a better offensive team. We went through periods where we struggled, whether it was a week or several days, and you know, the questions come up, are we back into our offensive doldrums and we seemed to get just enough.
So I think all our guys incrementally have a chance to get better and I think offensively just looking at the group, we have status quo right now, and we have a chance to be better next year; I would expect to be better.
Q. Can you talk about Brian and the award?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, talk about impressive. There's 180 big league coaches and to single out one like that, especially with Baseball America, it's pretty prestigious award. There's a lot of good coaches in baseball, real good coaches in baseball and to be able to be singled out as one is very impressive and well deserved.
Q. You talked about putting Reynolds and Tracy and Connor, how you're going to try to use that mix this year?
BOB MELVIN: We had to go through it last year. We're not afraid to match up on certain days. We'll see how far along Trace is and whether or not he's ready for Opening Day.
But based on everybody being healthy again, it's difficult, yet you can never have too many good players. So if we have to match up, we match up. We'll just see, like I said, Tracy's situation when we get there.
Q. Do you have a starting lineup or do you have two starters, Reynolds at third, Tracy or Connor at first and Tracy as --
BOB MELVIN: We just have to see how it all plays out and what the roster looks like once Spring Training starts.
Q. So Tracy's probably going to be the third baseman?
BOB MELVIN: Probably just depends. I would like to be able to use him in both. If I could, if a particular right-hander get him over, hit at third base and give Mark the day off or whatever, we certainly would look at that. But based on how he's feeling, hopefully he can play both positions.
Q. How difficult was it to part with your first-round pick?
BOB MELVIN: We have a lot of good young players and especially in the outfield, and with the emergence of Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez not too far away, it was just inventory that we could move; yet a guy that everybody was close to on a professional level and personal level.
Any time you have a guy that's a first-round pick in your system that's at Spring Training with you, a guy that you envision being a starter for years to come, and then all of the sudden things, you know, injury, some results, now all of a sudden you go in a different direction; it's tough because we feel pretty close to Carlos.
But I think it's going to be, for him, a great opportunity. He'll be competing from what I understand for a starting job, and you know, sometimes after a tough year, it's almost like being reborn again somewhere else where you get the opportunity and you can kind of wipe the slate clean.
Q. We're now a day and a half into these Winter Meetings, the ebb and flow, how confident are you that you're able to do some other things here?
BOB MELVIN: I like our club. If we do improve here, it's gravy. We look at a lot of different deals.
As far as payroll goes, one of the top clubs. Whether it's internal or whether it's trades or whatever, I think we have the resources to do that and we're always looking to better our club yet we like the group we have here and don't want to break it up too much.
Q. Speaking of not breaking up, there are so many teams looking for those last six outs in a baseball game; must be a nice situation here not having to worry about that.
BOB MELVIN: Well, that's one of the reasons we ended up where we did, with 90 wins, is the guys at the end of the game closing it out for us. Seven, eight, nine, the way they perform for us, it's instrumental in our success as any group on our team, so it's a very secure feeling.
Q. A lineup that performed well, do you think that's a lineup you'll stick with?
BOB MELVIN: I don't know, we were just talking about it a minute ago. You know, CY (Christopher Young) probably had his best numbers in the one-spot; yet a 30-home run guy based on what you have, you know, the rest of the guys, maybe we need him in the middle somewhere, and maybe we don't.
So it worked to an extent. We're not opposed to matching up and seeing what kind of group we have going into Spring Training and whether or not that's going to be -- we're status quo basically.
Q. Back to Tracy. Have you talked to him recently or have you gotten a sense how much of a setback that might be?
BOB MELVIN: You know, I talked to him right when it happened. Obviously you get a little concerned when something else goes, but I don't think it's too much of a setback, based on what I'm hearing right now. Whether it's shutting it down for a week and that sets him back; you never really can tell until you start doing baseball activity.
Based on what I hear, I don't think it was too much of a setback.
Q. Spring Training availability, will be back?
BOB MELVIN: What's that?
Q. Will he be ready for Spring Training?
BOB MELVIN: I don't know. That's why there was kind of a wide gap in the four to six (months), whatever it's going to be. Based on that injury, though, they thought he was doing very well.
Q. Rotation-wise, what have you established right now?
BOB MELVIN: With the guys we have plus Randy. We lose Livo --
Q. Micah for you right now?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah. And we have some intriguing guys, obviously. Edgar did a great job for us; whether or not Scherzer is a guy that competes for a starting job, or whether or not we see him as more of a bullpen guy. We have some guys coming along, too, the Greg Smiths and guys like that. So we do have some inventory.
But with Randy back, hopefully for a full season, that kind of lessens with Livo (Livan Hernandez) going away and if we can add one more, then we feel like we're in pretty good shape.
Q. What makes you think that you can count on Wolf?
BOB MELVIN: I'm not saying we can count on him. Based on what we saw last year for a particular time, he was very, very good. One of the reasons that he had the surgery earlier is so he could go through a regular Spring Training and have that much more time to recover.
So I think he's kind of cautiously optimistic right now, and you know, whether or not we can count on him for 32 starts, we'll see. But you know, he showed last year when he was healthy and pitching that he was still a dominating guy.
Q. Will you guys go through any extra precautions with him? I know there were periods where he wasn't going on the road.
BOB MELVIN: I don't know. Based on how he feels. You know, whether or not -- take it one step further, if we get some signs where he's a little stiff, maybe we're a loyal more proactive and we can shut him down for a start or something like that. But that's all yet to be determined, how he feels when he comes into Spring Training and how Spring Training goes.
Q. Is this it going to be a challenge for your team in 2008 to deal with the expectations after 2007?
BOB MELVIN: You know what, it's good that we're in this position. The expectation certainly will be higher next year based on where we finished up.
So it goes with the territory, and I think we're excited about being a team that going into next year is looked upon as a team that's got a chance to compete again.
Q. I don't know if we were joking or not, Mike taking groundballs, do you have any extra plans?
BOB MELVIN: You know, we talk about it a little bit. We really haven't settled on anything yet. But certainly it's potentially, depending on how our roster looks, an option.
Q. First base?
BOB MELVIN: Well, just depends. Depends on Tony. Depends on, you know, who that extra player on the bench is and what his role is.
Q. What's an ideal bullpen? I realize you can make bullpens from starting pitchers, from scratch, you can go a million different ways approaching the bullpen, but in your mind is there some standard that you would like to have?
BOB MELVIN: Well I think last year was a pretty good recipe for us. Seven, eight, nine; if you have those three guys that you feel very confident in what you have a lead, you know, now a six-inning starter can get you to those three guys, situational lefty, like Slate did for us last year, was one of our strengths.
So if we can keep the same group together and have a lead going into the seventh inning, I think that's about all you can count on as far as the bullpen.
Q. In that situation, is there issues with tiring over a long period?
BOB MELVIN: You always have to look at that. We didn't have anybody in the Top 10. We didn't feel like we really over extended anybody.
So you know, based on that, I don't think going into next year -- you know, Pena was the one guy innings-wise, but he's a young guy. We monitored his velocity pretty well. We didn't feel like there was any point in time over the season where he was overly taxed and we felt like he was a little bit crispier or a little bit overdone, we would give him a few days off. I don't think we over did it with anybody.
Q. What makes Scherzer so attractive? What makes you think he can challenge for a spot?
BOB MELVIN: Based on seeing him in the Fall League, he's got great stuff. He's one of those fast-track gays, high-profile college guys that's on the fast track to the big leagues. You know, what he accomplished last year in the summer and then you know, for me, didn't see him first happened in the Fall League, what he did in the Fall League would suggest he's pretty close.
Q. So he's a legitimate candidate for the rotation?
BOB MELVIN: Whether or not it's bullpen rotation, we're still kind of trying to filter out but I think he gives us options for both.
Q. I think, is it too early to talk about Igawa, but how much do you think about him as a starting rotation?
BOB MELVIN: We'd love to have him. Obviously resource-wise, financially, like I said, we're not one of the upper-tier teams yet. Any time you can bring on a player of that magnitude and not have to give up players for him, you know, you're better off for it.
So you know, we'll see. I think we're still in there from what I read hopefully and he's a guy that, you know, is a very, very high-profile guy for us.
Q. Did you already watch his video?
BOB MELVIN: Oh, yeah, I've seen video of him.
Q. How is the film?
BOB MELVIN: Great. He looks like a fierce competitor, has a breaking ball that splits the plate anywhere, looks like he competes very hard and has a winning-type attitude out there.
You know, based on all those things and what our scouts saw, velocity-wise, stuff-wise and so forth, we're very, very high on him, obviously a priority for us here at the meetings, big priority.
Q. Your team took a lot of people by surprise last year, and I think that this off-season, you're taking a lot of people by surprise. Is that a perception that you welcome, or would you like to be mentioned a little bit more in the grand scheme of things?
BOB MELVIN: You don't get too caught up with it. I think we're proud of the fact of what we accomplished last year, and any time you do that, the expectations raise. It just goes with the territory. We'd rather be in that situation than one where we're under the radar again. So we feel like we have a chance to improve every year and get better with the group we have.
Q. The competition in your division was pretty tight last year, pretty competitive and looks like it's going to be that way again. Is that something that you think your team can thrive on?
BOB MELVIN: You know, we saw very early in the season last year that our division was going to be very competitive. The starting pitching in our division, the one-run games, how it ended up in the end with three teams right there, one game swinging either way on the outcome at the end of the season.
You know, and all of those clubs have good systems. Giants have good running young pitching. Colorado has them here now and coming. We feel like we do. The Dodgers have a great system and younger guys there, too, and probably some more resources. The Padres have won it two out of the last three or whatever it's been. Very good division top to bottom.
We know going in that it's going to be very competitive, and that you, you know, those one-run games again this year are going to be very important. We were good in those one-run games last year, and we're going to have to continue to be good in those games to be successful again next year.
Q. Are you pretty set with Nipper being a reliever, as opposed to a starter?
BOB MELVIN: I think the way it looks right now, he's settled into that very nicely. He's actually a guy that we wouldn't -- was instrumental in some big games for us.
Q. Who's that?
BOB MELVIN: Nipper. I'm not shutting down his potential to start, and I think if you asked him what he would like to do, he probably would like to start. But he wants to help the team out anyway and realizes he helped in the role he did last year that he's giving himself more options to stay in the big league level. And he created a nice little niche for himself that a year previous, or even earlier in the year, probably wasn't an option for him.
I think when the curveball is not there, you know, pitching out of the bullpen for a shorter stint benefits him. You know, he's had a 12-6 curveball, and when you're not throwing it for a strike, limits what you can do and you're a little better off as a reliever with limited pitches.
Q. Who is your fifth starter right now?
BOB MELVIN: You know, it just depends on what happens when we leave here and so forth and the competition amongst the group of guys.
Q. So you need to add a guy?
BOB MELVIN: I don't think we would leave here saying that we have to get something done here. I mean, if we didn't add anything, then we would just try to do it from within. I think that's what we're profiling here, and that's what we want to do is get another starter here and that's the top of our agenda. So we would like to be able to do that. Whether it happens or not is still yet to be determined.
Q. Is Drew a candidate for lead off in your mind?
BOB MELVIN: Could be. Other than CJ, Byrnes, I think some of the guys, probably not their favorite spot to hit in the lineup, yet they are going to do what they can do to help the team. We do have some options. Stephen is one of them. I think we started out the year with Stephen there and went back to him a little bit later, and so he is an option for us. But there's really no set guy that we're looking to lead off as of right now.
Q. Where do you have Byrnes penciled in at?
BOB MELVIN: That's the thing about Byrnes, whether it's one, whether it's four, whether it's three, somewhere from one to five. I don't like to get too looked in the lineup.
Q. Has it been why you are experience that the bullpen on the teams you've managed, I don't mean just last year, is the area that's always changing the most?
BOB MELVIN: Changing, yet probably one of the most integral parts of success. You know, same thing with me and Seattle and my first year there. You know, we had the guys that knew the role, seven, eight, nine, and Sasaki went down for a while and Shigy coached and we had some different options there.
But when you have a bullpen that sets up after the sixth inning, and the guys know their roles and have success doing it, I think the team confidence raises knowing that you have a lead going into the back end; that you have a chance to win.
That was certainly one of the most important aspects of our team last year, so there were it was a priority to try to keep that group together.
Q. Why does it change so much? Is it because these are guys that sort of --
BOB MELVIN: A lot of it has to do with finances. They have some success and all of a sudden their salaries double or triple or whatever, and whether or not you have the resources to keep them.
You know you're going to pay premiums for starters, middle of the order guys, sometimes the bullpen guys, even though they are important, are not, as far as financially, the key guys that you're looking at. But they end up being key guys as far as the game goes along in the course of your success.
Q. So just take that back, when you're saying that it raises the confidence level of the team when the bullpen guys know their roles, seven, eight, nine; do you think that even if you don't in your mind in your Spring Training know who those seven, eight, nine guys are, that it's important or imperative that after the first month of whatever time that you deem necessary that by the end of the year, at least by mid season, that you have a good idea of where those guys are:
BOB MELVIN: No doubt. Those guys, they can prepare when they know what their role is and they know the time of the game and they know when the score is X and they get to a certain time when the phone rings it's going to be you, so you can visualize and prepare for those roles. We were pretty successful doing it last year and hopefully that stays the same this year. We like our guys at seven, eight, nine, Pena, Lyon, Valverde; we had very good success is with that.
Q. Are you pretty confident in a bounce-back year from Stephen at the plate?
BOB MELVIN: You know, track record for bounce-back; but I think a guy from the year before hit over .300 in half a season certainly was disappointed in the overall numbers. Yet the success of the team was more important to him. I don't think you see Stephen Drew hit .237 again. Well-documented he had pretty tough luck and so forth last year. I think you saw the type of potential Stephen Drew has in the playoffs, and that's the kind of guy we envision going into next year.
Q. Looks like you might have Tony's spot in the roster --
BOB MELVIN: That's the way it looks right now. We'll tinker here. Obviously it's something I say here right now and all of a sudden two or three days, it could change. But as we sit here right now, it looks like that one spot.
Q. What do you think caused your youth to accelerate so fast and for you guys to not only become competitive --
BOB MELVIN: I think it has a lot to do with Josh in our front office having the courage to thrust these guys into the roles that they were in. You know, you challenge them and our organizational philosophy is if the guys have success, move them, move them along and continually challenge them. We've reaped some rewards as far as that goes.
And going into last year, '06, was difficult at the end because we were getting rid of some guys that were very important to the previous years and some of the success of the previous regimes. Yet the focus was trying to get this group on the field that we had -- I think the fact that we did make some difficult moves in '06 gave them some valuable experience going into '07.
But I think it's the front office and Josh's philosophy that he's not afraid to throw younger guys out there and put them in prominent positions.
Q. Was that a tough thing to do to put that many kids -- obviously it's a bit of a gamble when you throw a couple of young guys out at the same time.
BOB MELVIN: You know, if you're the New York Yankees, it's difficult to do.
Going into last year, I think everybody kind of gave us a pass with the younger guys we were running out there, let them develop and see where these guys are in a year or so, yet they came along at a much faster pace. When we were in a situation the year before, we win a World Series with an experienced club and then all of a sudden just break it down, there's obviously some trepidation going into that.
But it's set up pretty easily based on moves we made in '06 that these guys were going to be run out there for '07.
Q. Does it change for the young guys now, the expectations that you've got in the playoffs and won a series in the playoffs, does that change everything for your guys?
BOB MELVIN: I think as a team it changes for us. I think our guys are going to always try to get better every year and think they have a chance to get better every year.
You know, just the fact that the expectations are raised are based on our successes last year and we would rather be in that position. We know that the expectations will be higher next year and I think our guys are ready for the challenge.
Q. Are you still planning on mixing and matching behind the plate or did Snyder assert himself for the second half?
BOB MELVIN: We have two very good young catchers, and both of them probably could be starting somewhere.
So, you know, Snyder did obviously quite a bit last year to thrust himself into a starting role. Yet you don't want a Miguel Montero sitting around and getting 80 at-bats or 100 at-bats being strictly a backup.
So we will mix-and-match with the group. But I think going in, you would have to consider Snyder the starter, yet we have a very talented guy, who they complement each other pretty well. I think you look at the overall numbers of what they did last year, was pretty good, and based on if they are left/righty, it's a pretty good match between them.
It's kind of the risk you run when you have some younger guys or multiple guys at positions, is the development part of it. We feel like we gave Miguel enough at-bats last year, yet we feel there's probably plenty of teams in the big leagues that would put him behind the plate and make him their starter.
Q. How much does a guy like Owings -- how much did you see --
BOB MELVIN: He loves to do it. He would play a position if you let him. You know, in the National League, too, with the pinch-hit role, you have a five-man bench. Sometimes it's difficult in a game, you know, depending on where you are early on to use a guy that you feel like maybe I might need a little bit later; whether or not you have an infielder or outfielder or catcher, or based on the importance of that pinch-hit at-bat early, he gives us an extra guy. And I think in the National League, we get quite a benefit of having an extra guy that I can use who is an actual bat to where you really have a five-man bench; it extends to a six-man bench as far as pinch-hitting.
Q. Does he have a first-base glove? Have you told him to get one?
BOB MELVIN: I don't know what he has -- I haven't told him as of yet, no.
Q. Going to surprise him?
BOB MELVIN: If I were to ask him to get a first base glove, he would probably run to his locker and pull one out.
Q. How do you see Rosales as a pitcher?
BOB MELVIN: You know, I think Mike had a very good year for us, and I think it's the first time he had to go through some failures, which he's never had to go through before, and I think he responded beautifully.
You know, he got roughed up a few times and we backed him off a little bit, pulled him out of the rotation for a little while and put him back in there and he throws a complete game shutout his first game back. So he's a very, very tough kid. I think for the first time in his career he had to deal with some failures which he's never had to deal with before.
I think you become tougher and better, you know when you come through those things out on the back side, and I think he'll be better for them.
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