home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


December 4, 2007

Manny Acta


Q. Manny, can you just kind of -- playing off a little bit, we were talking to Jim about catching.
What do you feel like Jesus is ready workload-wise in terms of the handling the pitching staff and offensively? Is there any way to put a game number on it?
MANNY ACTA: That's something that we probably going to come up with a definite answer in the Spring Training, but in terms of acquiring people, we can't wait that long. So that's why when Jim mentioned today -- and I think you guys got the point, when he mentioned about we either looking long-term or short-term, when we look long-term, if we can acquire a prospect, catcher that can be with us for long time, the other one, short term obviously will be because we want to give Flores a year or two to be ready to handle all that.
That being said, we can't make that decision right now of having him catch every single day and just have a backup guy with him there because if the kid is not ready, then it won't be there.

Q. Did you talk to Jesus after the trade, after Schneider was traded?
MANNY ACTA: Right before. Not knowing that Schneider was going to be gone -- knowing but I didn't let him know. We were just talking about how he's doing in Winter Ball and all that kind of stuff, and I just told him "Work hard over there" because he might have a workload waiting for him.

Q. Manny, can you in some detail tell us what you liked out of Jesus last season and what he needed to improve upon?
MANNY ACTA: Well, other than his tools, obviously Jesus outperformed most of the backup guys in the big league other than a guy like Castro who obviously is a super backup. Jesus, usually your backup catcher in the big league, is a veteran, AAA guy or everyday guy in the big league in decline that just goes over there, plays once, twice a week and, you know, doesn't do what Jesus did. He ended up driving in some big runs for us and hitting for some additional power when we needed to and at the end of the season, backup guy doesn't play as much as he did.
But that being said, too, now it's another story if he has to go out there every single day and we don't want to take the risk of having to option the kid down and hurting him mentally.

Q. As far as his approach at the plate, what did you like from him? Was it the way he saw pitches, he uses all fields?
MANNY ACTA: He had quality at bats. Lot of quality at bats from a guy just coming from A-ball. That was -- impressed me the most especially when he was behind in the count, he wasn't going -- you know, for those breaking balls in the dirt. He impressed us. He had a lot of quality at bats for a kid just out of A-ball.

Q. Manny, I talked to Belliard a few days ago. You showed a lot of confidence in him bringing in on the Nationals. What plans do you have for him next year?
MANNY ACTA: Obviously I had the advantage of being on the same side of Ronnie before because, whether you like it or not, that's the way we -- we are human beings. We perceive people certain ways without getting to know them, and if you're on the other side a lot of times you see how Ronnie wears his uniform and the way, you know, certain things that he does, he might rub people the wrong way.
When you're with him, all he cares about is winning and he'll do whatever it takes to win. And so I had that advantage, and to us it was a blessing to get a guy like Ronnie, and it proved to be a blessing once Guz went down from day one. He's a guy who knows how to play the game. He accepted his role from day one, which was presented to him before we signed him. I mean, here's a guy who just came from the World Series champ St. Louis Cardinals playing every day to go play for the Nationals as a backup. Took his role, and it worked out for him and us.
Conditional page break: 2

Q. Is he still a backup going into the season?
MANNY ACTA: This a multiple choice question like were you trying to do with the catchers up there? It's December. I'll give you all those three months for you to have fun trying to put it together, but I think, you know, did he a tremendous job for us and we just don't know Guzman ended up the season being hurt. It's a long winter. I would hate to tell you right now he's in or out and change my mind in a week.

Q. When you talk about guys that have human beings perceptions of other people, you can say that with Milledge. What's been the perception of him, is it fair, and what are your thoughts and plans on Milledge?
MANNY ACTA: Well, he fits that category a little bit and again, I had the advantage of knowing him and being with him for two years in New York.
He came up very young, you know, flashing wrist bands, pants up, and stuff like that, cornrows and sometimes that means nothing. All of us have a different DNA's, and all of us are different. I think he's a good kid. We're very excited to have him. I always thought that, you know, that he was a good kid and I saw on the very next year and last year from the dugout that he has adjusted already to New York and to his teammates and grew up a lot in two years.
His upside is tremendous, and I think he's going to be a big part of our lineup and our future.

Q. Where do you play him?
MANNY ACTA: He's going to Spring Training. We're lucky to have four guys in the outfield that can play multiple positions. He's going over there to compete for the centerfield job. That being said, we'll know that he can play corners, too.

Q. What about him offensively? What's his game like offensively? Does he have holes in it? What does he need to work on? Have you seen him develop in the past couple years?
MANNY ACTA: I actually think that all he needs is play every day to show what he's able to do, because it is not easy when you're 21, 22 years old to come up to the big league and be an everyday guy and expect that guy is going to produce at that level that people have projected from the day he was a first-round pick.
That being said, I think he handled that well in New York for a team that made playoffs and last year was in the playoffs and now he's going to have an opportunity to go out there and play every day.
I think given the chance to play every day, he can develop into a guy who will hit between 20 to 30 homeruns and be a run producer, too.

Q. Does yesterday's trade for Dukes kind of cloud that outlook of him playing every day now that you have four outfielders?
MANNY ACTA: No. Milledge will be a huge part of our team for years to come. We are going to make a priority that Milledge gets at bats.

Q. Manny, how much has with Dukes and Clippard and Milledge?
MANNY ACTA: Who is Clippard?

Q. How much does this improve your team you think compared to last year?
MANNY ACTA: I think we have made big-time strides. I think our outfield has improved and with that, also the bench and we gotten younger with energy, and any time you can do that, which is what we're trying to accomplish here, and have guys play the way our leaders like Zimmerman and Kearns play the game, I think we're into something good here.

Q. If everyone pans out the way that you guys hope they will and if everybody is healthy, you're going to have guys on your bench who are used to being starters. How do you think some of those guys are prepared to handle?
MANNY ACTA: This game is about adjustments, you know, and the numbers are there and they don't lie, and obviously our responsibility is here to try to put the best team on the field unless, you know, one of those moves involve a guy who is part of our Plan A, long-term, short-term type of thing, we're not going to sacrifice a guy like that just to have a guy in there who might not be part of our team in a year or two.

Q. Manny, you sit here at this same meeting last year that you guys were going to shock the world. What is your outlook going into this year?
MANNY ACTA: Certainly didn't shock the world. What I meant by that was play 500, making the playoffs. I'm very proud of the way our kids played. I think it's very difficult for the rest of the world. We're not following these guys every single day to realize what they did. I mean, the fact that these kids were able to win more games than the year before without actually Alfonso, Soriano, Jose Guillen and, Nick Johnson was our best hitter and still is when he's healthy. At least production-wise, put everything together, I think it was just a tremendous accomplishment. They went into Spring Training with a zero-man rotation basically. We were on a try-out out there as you guys know, and these guys, they performed well above everybody's expectations, and I think a lot of credit goes to my coaching staff. Those guys do a tremendous job. The kids we have are very coachable. They bought into the kind baseball we wanted to play, and I got to give them credit, too, because we started 9-25. They could have easily just go, "This is not working, it's not going to work," and they stuck with it and they got better.

Q. What did you learn over the course of the year?
MANNY ACTA: That, you know, that I'm glad I had the patience that I had and that I got to keep developing because 162 games is a long season, and that's something that I have to stress for our guy from the beginning. 162-game season, you're always going to have three, four, five long -- not long but losing streaks. So you have to be patient because this is not like football where you lose on Sunday and you got to wait one more week and workout for a week and go to bed just thinking about that last loss.

You got to forget about it and the next day back at it.

Q. Manny, I know the season doesn't start today. There's been a lot of changes already. How do you see the various changes?
MANNY ACTA: Obviously the top two teams, they're still in my mind will be the Phillies and the Mets and obviously the Braves right there, and we'll just going to try to continue to get better and see if one of those teams, you know, fail and we can sneak by and go from there. But as far as all the moves and stuff, everybody knows. Everybody knows our situation and the Marlins' situation. The Phillies and the Mets, right now they continue to make moves and improve themselves. Their track record speak for themselves over the last three, four years.

Q. Sorry if you answered this earlier, but what do you know about Dukes as a person and player and what are you hoping to get from him?
MANNY ACTA: I know pretty much what you know, just because I read it about the kid, but I did visit with him in the Dominican Republic. This took a long time. This wasn't an overnight type of thing. A lot of you guys, especially the guys that cover our club, you guys know this was even mentioned at the beginning of last season and I had some friends actually work over there in Tampa and I gather information and, you know, the kid's problem has been off the field. Just because you get thrown out and you argue with an umpire and get in an argument, bunch of guys doing that I call nice guys who done it and will keep doing it.
We just think it's unfair as a human being to turn your back on a 23-year-old guy. I would give whoever is trying to erase this kid off the map, you know, I will ask him to put themself in the same position. None of us would want to make the wrong decisions, but if you do, would you want to be just put away forever and forgotten or would you want to get another chance at life? That's the route we took.

Q. Manny, the guy you traded for, Clippard --
MANNY ACTA: We haven't traded for him.

Q. How is Dukes going to challenge you as a manager? Does he present a problem for you as a manager? Do you have to look at him a different way or handle him a different way?
MANNY ACTA: No. Our expectations for everybody on our club are the same, and we do try to get to know each guy personally. We just don't -- we all different, and some guys need a little bit more love than the other ones. Before Dukes arrived, I do have some players that need more love than the other ones. I'm going to try to be there for this guy, but I think we have a great clubhouse, and I think the Nationals are doing a great job to set up a plan for things off the field. Having Dmitri Young there and Kearns and Zimmermans of the world, our clubhouse in general I think will help this guy, and then it will be up to him.

Q. What concerns, if any, do you have about your outfield defense?
MANNY ACTA: None whatsoever. I mean, Kearns is one of the best in rightfield, and then the kids in centerfield and regardless, it's an improvement over what we had last year or what we had three, four, five, different guys playing centerfield, and that wasn't our biggest problem last year. We were last in runs scored and we need some offense, and I think these guys are going to provide it.

Q. Where do you see Milledge as a spot in the order?
MANNY ACTA: Depending on what we do the rest of the winter, John, I think he's a middle of the order guy. I think if you ask me right now, I could probably see him hitting 2nd for 2nd us up until he develops, and then we have some movement where we can move to a more production-type stuff.

Q. Manny, this team seems to be more athletic now. Do you see yourself doing more than just wait for the three-run homers?
MANNY ACTA: The style of baseball that I play, it's about getting results. You can have nine guys that can fly, and if they can't steal the bases, I'm not going to be running.
It's been proven, the Mets have lead the league in stolen bases the last three years and that didn't guarantee them to win, and you still got to have guys that have high percentage making it trying to steal bases, and I think those guys, some of those guys can develop into that, but can they steal 25 bases, the Milledge, the Dukes, and all that? Yes. But if they're going to be getting thrown out 15, 20 times, that's not going to cut it for me because I already proved to these guys last year that running smart is better than just being reckless-aggressive.

Q. What kind of reports have you gotten on Nick's progress?
MANNY ACTA: That he's feeling much better after they took the rod out and he doesn't want to put any date or anything but that he feels like he's more up to speed than how he was before they took the rod out.

Q. Manny, have you talked to Dmitri about his future on the bench possibly? Have you even talked to him?
MANNY ACTA: No, Bill. You know, that's too far down the line. I really want him to concentrate on what the goal is, which is take care of his health during the off-season, be in better shape for Spring Training, and be ready to play first base. He's not on the bench yet. Why should I talk to him about that? You don't want the put any negative stuff into any of this guy's head.

Q. I didn't know if you were finished with Bill. Losing Schneider, everyone talks about how well he came to the pitching staff. Do you feel it's even more important now to get a veteran pitcher who can maybe assume some of those leadership roles as far as the staff goes if Jesus is going to have to carry most of the catching load?
MANNY ACTA: I'm going to tell you the leader we have on our pitching staff. It's Randy Sinclair. He spent countless hours studying videos, opposition and looking at stats and working the mechanics of these guys, and Ryan was a great help to us and a good leader behind the plate, but mainly because he was able to believe in Randy.
Whoever comes in, I don't think we need that much proof just to show him the guys that we had pitching for us last year and the result that Randy got out of it. To answer your question, I think I got my leader already in Randy and whoever comes in should follow him.

Q. (Asked in Spanish.)
MANNY ACTA: Same answer as I gave Bill but in Spanish. I'm not going to give lineup in December. Make lineups up until April when I put mine.

Q. You have a roster. I can show. You have a roster. Your team play tomorrow.
MANNY ACTA: Who is pitching?

Q. Johan Santana.
MANNY ACTA: I try to put some righties out. Zimmerman struggled with him a little bit. I'll put Belliard at 3rd.

Q. What did you like about Ryan Church?
MANNY ACTA: Ryan Church, he really, you know, took the challenge last year of erasing the tag that he had about not being able to play every day and he took that challenge and he went out there for us every day and made progress, and he was one of our main guys in the middle of our lineup. He was also able to erase doubts that some people had that he could handle centerfield, and he played quite well for us over there, so Church has value as a guy that can play the three outfields?

Q. You saw him enough in rightfield to make an assessment of how he can play out there on a regular basis?
MANNY ACTA: When he first came up, that was his primary position with the Indians when he first came up to Montreal. He played there a few times. But over the last few years, I haven't seen him enough in right, but the corners are not a problem with him.

Q. He can play center and the corners.
MANNY ACTA: I agree.

Q. Two part question, Manny. Number one, how much, if anything, did you have to do with the Nationals plucking Jesus Flores from the Mets, and how much did he impress you last year? Here is a youngster who never played a day in AA and he goes to the Major League and basically does pretty well.
MANNY ACTA: I would say that on the decision-making, that was its last nail in the coffin, basically because John Sterns managed Flores and was very high on Flores, and he was a catcher himself. David Johnson was scouting the league for us and was very high on Flores. I got into the room and Flores name was almost on top of the list. I didn't even know what their opinion was, but I went for it right away. I think we need that guy, thinking of our future and me being familiar with him. I was very impressed with Flores. I told these guys earlier before you got here, how he handled himself at the big league level, go look at his numbers and your normal backup, catcher in the big league, and if you consider that he came up from A-ball and what I did, this guy to cover our team daily can pinpoint about four, five games that this guy won for us including one in Arizona where he hit a game tying homerun in the 9th, I think. He was huge for us. We know he's going to be part of the future, and we just got to be do what's right for him and for us.

Q. What's was your impression of Justin Maxwell when you had him last year?
MANNY ACTA: Quite impressive for a kid that started the year in Low-A. He came in in a tough spot, too, where we were playing teams that were fighting for a playoff spot and really didn't want to put him out there a lot and not be equal to every team in the hunt for the title, but he handled himself very well.
He's got a tremendous makeup. He's a very sharp kid. He played well for us, especially at the end, played him against the two teams that were battling for the playoff spot, and he played well. That being said, though, I think everybody here knows the situation. He just came up from A-ball and he's still got aways to go to compete at this level on an everyday basis.

Q. Is that beneficial to him, the Milledge and Dukes acquisition, that he's not going to be thrown into the Major League right away?
MANNY ACTA: I think it's beneficial to us because now we don't have to rush him or rush any other guys like we did two years before I got over here, where a lot of guys were in the big league more by necessity than by being ready to contribute up here.

Q. Dukes and Milledge were the two guys clearly in need of a change of scenery. Do you anticipate handling them in a certain way the try to give them a fresh start in Washington?
MANNY ACTA: I handle -- everybody is going to have the same expectations and the same rules. I don't have special rules for anybody. But I do, you know, I do have a good relationship with Milledge. I don't think Milledge will need that much difference of handling and both guys have something in common. They like to play, and they play hard, and their problems is not about tools or how they play the game. It's usually being things perceived certain ways or off the field.

Q. Planning on talking to them about that and trying to get them in a situation where maybe they come off a little better and handle themselves a certain way?
MANNY ACTA: I don't have to talk to Milledge about anything because he knows me, I know him, and he knows what I expect of him.
Dukes, I already had a meeting with him yesterday morning. And Dmitri, had talked to him, and he talked to some of the guys. You know, I don't ask for much. If you can't play, you know, for me and with the type of characters I have on my clubhouse, the way they play, then you have to check yourself regardless of who you are.

Q. What do you anticipate from them on the field?
MANNY ACTA: Well, first of all, they got -- especially Dukes who he just had that experience with Tampa last year and hit 190. He did hit eight homeruns in about a month at one point. He has all the tools. Nothing is going to be handed to those guys. That's what Spring Training is for. I think Milledge obviously he has shown at the big league level already that given the chance he can do some damage.
So, that's what Spring Training is good for, competition. I think right now us having four guys that are quality outfielders will bring the best out of Milledge, Wily Mo, and Dukes.

Q. Sandy Johnson, one of your mentors, just got named scout of the year. What's your reaction to that?
MANNY ACTA: Just found out. I'm very excited. He deserves that. That's nothing for what Sandy -- he deserves -- a lot of people here don't know how much Sandy had to do with all the Texas stuff and then the Arizona and then with the New York Mets. Just pure baseball guy. I'm excited.

Q. How much influence did he have in your success being here as the Washington Nationals manager?
MANNY ACTA: A lot because my first interview in Arizona, Sandy had something to do with it. Between him and Omar. He was part of that interview, and basically that's when I kind of met him personally. And since then, he had already made me believe, you know, after I came out of that interview, you are going to manage some day in the big leagues. You are going to be ready whenever the opportunity arise.
Then we spent the two years in New York. He was always very supportive. So he's a big part of my baseball career.

End of FastScripts
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297