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December 5, 2007

Charlie Manuel


Q. Got any new pitchers for us yet?
CHARLIE MANUEL: That I was going to tell you guys, we need pitching. No. We same old, same old, Paul. Just talk.

Q. Given all the managing you had to do because of that pitching staff last year, I mean how crucial is that in terms of to leave here without something?
CHARLIE MANUEL: We -- I think we showed last year we can win, and the part with strength in our pitching is definitely -- that's a big thing about it, about our team.
Right now we -- I like the move with the back part of our bullpen. I love the arms. And once we sign Romero and we still have Gordon and Madson, we need one more good piece and we need a couple guys that can, you know, like go a couple innings for us in the middle of the game and we need a starter. We need at least one starter, and to me that's the key to us winning. As everybody in baseball I think knows, we got three probably great -- not only superstar players is what we got, and, you know, like we got to find ways to get a little bit stronger feel and improve some of the weaknesses, our holes we have on our team. Once we do that, I feel like we can -- not only can we win our division, but we can definitely go deep in the playoffs and get to the World Series.

Q. How concerned are you right now about the depth you have in the rotation with Eaton, Eaton's shoulder, Myers's age, Kendrick has only made 20 starts. How concerned are you right now about the depth going into Spring Training?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I'm concerned about that, but after last year the way that we mix, matched and shuffled and things like that, you know, I look at it as Kendrick got some great experience and he's 10-4, and he definitely -- I said before he kind of saved our season and everything, especially by the way that he pitched when he came up. Myers gave us close to 200 innings, and he's another year older and, you know, like I think we just have to see where he's at.
But, you know, of course, Myers and Hamels, and they're pretty good.

Q. Are you real concerned about Eaton's shoulder at this point? Have you talked to him lately about it?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I haven't talked to him. Basically Pat has talked to him a couple times, and he visited with him I think at the end of the season and we -- I mean, at this time, we just kind of -- wait until we get into Spring Training because I don't know how much we can count on him. Not only is he healthy, but he can -- that he can -- that he's throwing better than he did last year.

Q. You almost try to kind of keep everybody going, Kendricks kind of saved the season. Do you kind of hope there's a guy -- not a saving, but a guy that come up and beat Kendrick or a mid season acquisition, be some other guy? I guess you can't look that far in the future.
CHARLIE MANUEL: I listen to people talk about baseball. You can talk about prospects and this guy is going to be a good prospect. Hey, he's going to be in the Big League, you know, two years or one year or something like that, and, you know, I can remember running an instructional league in Minnesota where we have Gasser, Alan Henderson, Guthrie, Bronkie, it was about eight, nine of them, and actually not any of them panned out at the Major League level. Like you look last year when Kendrick came up to us, in A-ball he was 6-22 in two years. I didn't even know about that if you want to know the truth, really.
Like I know they sent Kendrick to us, and kind of like we needed a spot starter, and we put him in the game. He pitched good, so we give him another chance. He pitched good again. That's kind how he stayed, in my book. That's kind of how I saw it.
We're talking about guys in our organization, our prospects are definitely in lower parts of Minor League, A-ball, or just now starting in a AA, and I'm sure if we struggle next year, of course, some of those guys might get a chance to pitch in the big league early and, you know, like some of them might come around. I'm not saying that at all. It would be good for us to go in and start the season with a real strong pitching staff. I think that's -- I mean, that's kind of where we're at.

Q. How do you look at Mathieson right now?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I look at Mathieson, right now he's probably going to pitch, pitch for us anywhere from 6th through the 8th inning or something, you know. Mathieson has never yet to -- has yet to reach his potential or show his expectation that our organization has had for him.
I think if he pitched to his potential, I think it would be really good, but at the same time, you know, like there again you're projecting what someone's potential is.
Until he does it, you know --
Q. Was he about as close to reaching that potential last year when he got hurt as you had seen him maybe since his rookie season?
CHARLIE MANUEL: When he got hurt, he was pitching good. How long he could pitch good is another thing. We get back, you guys always talk the me every day, we talked about consistency, and that's kind of what runs in the game. Of course, he's going to get hit and get spells where he doesn't do good, but at the same time, you know, you got to be consistent. You have got to have your stuff on a consistent basis, and that's how you survive, and that's how you are successful.
I think yesterday in the trade that Detroit made, especially Dontrelle Willis and they got Miller. If you stop and think, most people look at that and go, well, you know, Detroit Tigers got Dontrelle Willis, he's a proven Major League player, still 25, 26 years old, and Miller is a guy that just last year was his first year in the big league, came around North Carolina. How old is Miller, 24? I like Miller.
I mean, I like the hell out of Miller. At the same time, if you stop and think, you know, Detroit got a proven guy, and I think Miller is going to be -- if I could project Miller, I would say he's going to be a real big pitcher, but, at the same time, you know, Detroit still got a young proven guy.
So, you know, there's the difference right now is if you compare them what I see. Florida was looking for the future, and Detroit is looking for now.
I do think with the players that we got on offense -- I think our future is about the next two, three years, as far as having a big team.

Q. I hate to use the word lucky. Every team has got to get lucky with some guys. Castro, Matt Smith, those sort of people, who do you kind of have your eye on that could sort of rise to the top and surprise some people this year?
CHARLIE MANUEL: When we have our meetings, I always talk about Bisenius because of his breaking ball and his stuff, and always, you know, he's the guy that I for some reason -- even when I don't talk a lot about him, I still think about him because of his breaking ball and his fast ball.
I think that he needs more experience and command and he could be a guy that pitches in the Major League. Matt Smith to me what I hear, he's kind of going to be hurt for awhile. Paul, and I think Castro, I think Castro for me Castro is kind of like J.C. J.C. Romero. I look at Castro as a situational guy early in the big league and more success he has, of course, like he could -- he might move back toward the end of a bullpen for a situation, but we definitely -- I think the more you got to choose from, too, like you might hit on one or two of those guys.

Q. You've sat in meetings for the last few days and you talked to Pat and to other people. So, I mean, do you kind of feel at this point you're going to have to find some of those guys to be on your team maybe early in the season, or can you get the help you need and wait for those guys to maybe be a little bit more ready like Castro?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Right now we talk. We talk about probably about every possibility the way we can improve our pitching, but, you know, I've told you guys before, until we -- what we got right now is what I look at, and, you know, hopefully we can improve on that, whether it's in our organization or whether it's by trade or whatever.

Q. You have Romero from day one. Do you look at that, it was a challenge last year early in the season?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Second half of the season for us, I'd say Romero, Lohse, and Kendrick definitely. They definitely helped push us into the playoffs last year when you get down to our pitching.

Q. Does this change the way you use your bullpen? Is Gordon your 8th inning guy?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think with Lidge, like days when Lidge would rest, of course, Gordon will get some save opportunities, but, at the same time, I see Romero pitching in the 8th inning and Flash sometimes pitching in the 7th because of the match-ups on the innings, who is hitting.

Q. How concerned are you about Gordon, given his age, his shoulder problems last couple of years, the fact you had to use him a lot down the stretch?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think the fact when -- I like to see us have a strong enough bullpen where we can give Gordon the right proper rest. It's definitely early in the season. I think right now Gordon, by the end of the year he was coming around and he pitched pretty good, but -- he was close to where I used to think he should be.
We got some real good reports on him in winter. He works out in Clearwater. He's doing real well. The strength in his shoulder and stuff like that. I feel like he's going to be fine.

Q. Along those lines, I now how important the bullpen is to you and always talking about building a pitching staff from the back forward. Is your preference right now for a bullpen piece or a starter piece if you could only have one?
CHARLIE MANUEL: If we can't -- if we can't get another starter, I'd like the see us get two more bullpen pieces, overload our bullpen you know, like strengthen up on our bullpen.

Q. Charlie, where does the Mets rivalry with the Phillies go from here?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think it's good. It increases a little bit, if that's possible. We're a big rivalry. I think it's good. I think this coming year is going to be exciting.

Q. You guys are now finally in a position where you can actually say what Jimmy Rollins said and mean it because you have the title, but my understanding is that Rollins goes out and says you guys are going to win a hundred games. What was your reaction to that comment after last year's comment?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I didn't hear that.

Q. Well, I'm telling you now.
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think -- first of all, I think Jimmy gets excited, and I think Jimmy definitely wants us to win 100 games and so do I.
The day comes when we can win 95 to 100 games, I think everybody in baseball feels that way that they would definitely be in the playoffs and get a shot like had a chance at a World Series, because 95 to 100 wins will always kind of almost ensure that you're going to get in.
But, at the same time, we got to feel like we got to get stronger and, you know, like improve some of our weaknesses before that are we capable of winning 100 games. We've not even been close to that. Until we -- get close to it, you know, I think that's why we're sitting here today and talking about how strong our team is.

Q. So your MVP likes to say things because -- is that a motivational tool for him? Does he like coming to Shea and getting boo'd because it helps him play?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think it doesn't bother him. I think Jimmy likes that. He likes the stage. He likes to be there, and I think that's part of his play. One of the most tremendous years that I've seen a shortstop have in baseball. He backed up everything he said. And so if we win 100 games then he backs it up again and that makes a good manager, too.

Q. I apologize if you addressed this already, but when you're keeping track of your team and there's so much to keep track of, do you look at the Mets and say they need pitching to contend?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I look at the Mets right now, if you want to know the truth, and I say to myself, you know, like when are they going to do something? Because I know that -- I know they're definitely -- you know, I know they're going to go out and try to -- definitely going to try to win next year probably as much as anybody, definitely as much as anybody in our league and also, you know, like I feel like that they got something up their sleeve. Just because they're not -- haven't made a deal like that or nothing like that, although they did make a trade with Washington, they got a pretty good catcher, got -- definitely Church is a pretty good player.
I think there are things they're going to do yet especially in the pitching area. I don't think they're going to -- I don't think they're going to expose theirself, and I think they're going to come out and they're going to want to win.

Q. Thank you, Charlie. Does anything change now that you're the target on the back. Getting there, getting back. Always be the chaser. Now you're the team with the title, and the Mets and the Braves are chasing you. You always talk about April. It didn't hurt you this year. Does anything change now?
CHARLIE MANUEL: There's always a reason why you get off to a slow start. People look and say why did you get off to a slow start, in I can go back and tell you exactly why we got off to a slow start. That's why I tell you guys watch the game.
Like if you're weak in the pitching area and you get off slow and -- or your bullpen is questionable and you try to get a feel on what your team really is and how you're going to react sometime, it's not -- you're going to get out of the gate and get out slow, and then it gets back to the point, well, they weren't ready when Spring Training. All that is just a crock. That's something people say, whatever. It just happened to be where it's at that time.

Q. Do you not even acknowledge anything about April because you made it to the playoffs now. Do you just kind of approach it get ready now?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think -- like there's the old saying you don't win the pennant in April, but I also look at that game. The first game counts just as much as the last game.
Also those games during the season, the middle of the season count just as much as the last game. So every game counts the same. That's why, you know, that's why it's important that you get out of the gate and you win some games in April.
I like to see us -- the biggest thing about us in the three years I've been there, I'd like the see us one time get ahead, like let somebody chase us and -- I want us to be good enough to get ahead, if that makes sense. I want us to be good enough to get ahead. See if somebody can catch us, because we're always playing to catch somebody. We were fortunate to catch the Mets on last day of the season last year. We were in first place one day when the season was over.

Q. Never actually in the lead.
CHARLIE MANUEL: Yeah. For two years we was always chasing.

Q. Is that what kind of concerns you about the team as it is right now? You kind look and say watch the game. You saw how you guys won this last year. You can't really count -- you guys had to play your butts off the last month of the season, hope for the Mets to basically collapse.
Do you kind of feel like you don't want to put yourself in that position again, dodged a bullet, don't want to walk through another minefield?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I feel like what happened that -- first of all we won 13 out of the 17 games. We beat the Mets the last eight times we played them. We didn't back into nothing. I mean, you know, if you look at it that way, and -- but, at the same time, I think in order for us to achieve our goal and -- you get in the playoffs, and if we win our division and get in the playoffs, we want to advance. If Philadelphia, the fans, and everybody there wants to win a pennant. We haven't won a pennant for a long time. Winning a division not like winning the World Series.
We got to go to the World Series. We need to win.

Q. But you didn't back into anything like you said, but do you feel like you made it very, very, very hard on yourselves and right now you guys are set up to kind of maybe have to make it hard on yourselves again to get in?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I feel like things fell right for us. Things kind went our way. We play a game, you guys followed us. We play a game and get beat bad today and tomorrow -- we get beat by 13, and tomorrow the same pitchers that gave up those runs, they might pitch a clean inning for you and the inconsistent part came into play.
Therefore, like if we can strengthen our weaknesses, our holes, then, you know, that's what it's going to take for us to go all the way.

Q. How do you think this pitching staff compares to what it was last winter or when you ended the season?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Well, see, Lohse is a free agent and Eaton is hurt. Freddie Garcia is gone. If you look around, we were patching our rotation most of the time. That's why -- like I say when things worked out for us. Luck does count in baseball. I'm not saying we lucked into nothing, but at the same time we definitely had some luck along the way and like -- so does every other team.

Q. Do you see him as a candidate next year, Guch?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think Guch can play third base. I think he's got quick hands. I think third base is a reaction position, and I think the only thing I would question was he's used to throwing from second. He's used to getting the ball quick. His arm angle has to get up and strengthen his arm by a long toss.
I think by Guchie work ethic, Asian culture, came from Japan, background of practicing and stuff like that, I think he definitely could do that.

Q. You were in the playoff chase, you didn't want to make a move last year?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I didn't think it was fair to him and fair to us because he never played there. I think he needs time to practice, you know, like to go over there and practice and also like Spring Training or something like that, get some games under his belt at third base.
For instance, if you take him to Spring Training, you can play him at third base in the Major League games or you can send him over to the Minor League and let him play in the games and get experience over there, get used to playing there. I think he had never played there before and definitely a new position for him, and that wouldn't be fair to him in some ways.

Q. Does Werth playing everyday in rightfield and Victorino in center if you guys don't make --
CHARLIE MANUEL: You guys have been with me for three years. Guy that plays his best is usually the guy that plays. Werth, he had big second half of the season. He came along. He hadn't played in two years, and I felt like the more he got to play and the fact that he stayed healthy, I think that definitely helped him. But, yeah, you know, I look at Werth is definitely going to play a lot, and, you know, like how he does, kind of indicate how much he's going to play.

Q. What about position? You mentioned Werth might be centerfielder because you like Victorino's arm in right.
CHARLIE MANUEL: Victorino would be in centerfield. We don't have Rowand -- Werth on days when Victorino -- like I feel that he has time to give him a blow, Werth right now would be probably play centerfield for us.

Q. Charlie, I apologize if you covered this already. I jumped in late. Two full days into the Winter Meetings. How would you characterize your chances of making a big splash here?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think that we've been doing a lot of talking. Like what have we got, one more day? After that, you know, of course, you can still make deals. I think just a matter of two teams getting together and things falling right. Talk -- I've always said talk doesn't necessarily mean you're going to trade, and it seemed like every team wants to feel you out and every team will sit there, but they never really -- they'll really want to commit. And I saw where the Detroit and Florida trade, I saw where somebody said seemed like it wasn't going nowhere. All of a sudden it picked up, and they did it. That happens.
I think that's what it's going to take for us to do a deal. If we're going to do something big, I think that it will be because two teams got together and it will come quick.

Q. As a fan off base here, obviously everybody knows the trade yesterday. I guess you can appreciate what it's going to be like to face that Tiger lineup.
CHARLIE MANUEL: We're in the National League, that's good. But, at the same time, you know, I think Detroit got -- I looked at the lineup this morning when they had it on ESPN. They're going to score some runs. That's a pretty good lineup. Of course, if I put Howard and Rollins in there, we could get a better lineup.

Q. Charlie, you guys saw Percival a couple times last year when he was with the Cardinals?
CHARLIE MANUEL: He kind of surprised me with his stuff. You can still -- he still reaches up and throws about 93, 95. He might start out like low 90s, but he'll pick it up and stuff is still good. Breaking ball -- actually his command of his breaking ball might be better than it ever was, yeah.

Q. Charlie, speaking of Cabrera, Miguel, how does it feel to get him out of the division, and just on your observations, a lot of talk about maybe his conditioning, fielding? The times you've seen him, what were your thoughts on that?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think he definitely can play third base. I think -- he gained a little weight. At the same time he's real young. I'm sure he can get down to where he wants to be. Tremendous hitter. We don't even have to talk about his hitting. I think it speaks for itself.
I think they got a real good -- they got a very good productive hitter. I think as long as he stays adequate defensively, I think -- I don't think people will talk very much about his defense because his bat will carry him.

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