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December 10, 2008

Eric Wedge


Q. Can you say anything about where you are with Kerry Wood?
ERIC WEDGE: No, nothing has changed. There's still nothing done. You know, I think that our guys have done a great job moving down the road with the closing situation, and I don't see anything being done right away. But I think that there's definitely been some progress made.
We've been further down the road, like I told you, with other deals and they've fallen through. Until it's done, it's just not. And we're working on multiple fronts with our ballclub with the closing situation. You know, we're not leaving any stone unturned, and we're not assuming anything or taking anything for granted. We're just going to keep working.

Q. Obviously the big news of the day today was Sabathia signing. Were you as staggered as apparently everybody else was?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I mean, any time you're talking about that type of deal, it's pretty amazing stuff. But it's hard for me to get away just what type of human being CC is. As great a pitcher as he is, the first thing that comes to mind for me is just the type of person he is, the husband that he is, the father that he is, the son that he is and just what he's meant to the Cleveland Indians organization and just how many lives he's impacted both on and off the field, whether it be family, friendships or teammates.
He brings a lot to the table. It hasn't always been easy for him. I think people make the mistake sometimes with great players that it just happened. It takes a lot of hard work, you've got to go through a lot of tough times, but ultimately you've got to have the ability first and foremost, but then you've got to be able to work for it to get the most out of that.
That's why he's one of the best pitchers in the game today and that's why he's one of the most consistent pitchers in the game, because of everything that he's gone through and how he's persevered through that.

Q. When you look at the dollar figures, seeing what they ultimately were, does it validate the Indians' decision to ultimately trade him and now have a kid like LaPorta where you guys have at least six years of control?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I think it was the right decision at that point in time, and that's the only way you can make decisions. You look at where you are at that point in time and you've got to have the ability to see around the corner and have the guts and the discipline to make those decisions because you feel like it's what's best for your organization, maybe not today but for tomorrow, then you've got to do that.
I think that was as impressive as anything for us is the fact that we had those injuries earlier in the season, we traded CC, traded Casey Blake, traded Paul Byrd and we were one of the best teams in the second half last year. That's a tremendous credit to our kids and organization and the overall attitude of how they play.
We are a family. Probably as much as any team or organization out there. We lost a couple of guys that were a big part of that family. CC and Casey had been there for six, seven years. There was a few days that it took us to work through that, but once they did, they took off.

Q. Do you have an appreciation for how Ken Macha must be feeling today?
ERIC WEDGE: Ken is a good guy. I'm happy for him that he's managing at the big league level again, and they've got a strong organization over there. They'll figure it out. I think there's multiple teams that were hopeful that CC was going to come their way, but in the end only one team can do it, and now you move on.

Q. You knew CC as a pitcher, as a competitor and as a person. How do you think he's going to handle not only the atmosphere of New York but the pressure that comes with it and everything that comes from being a Yankee?
ERIC WEDGE: I've had that question a lot, and I think CC is going to be fine. I think he's going to be more than fine. You know, nobody puts more pressure on CC than CC. I know some people scoff at that because New York is different. Well, New York is different, Boston is different, Philly is different, and Cleveland has as passionate of fans as anybody else, as well. It's a great sports town.
Because of everything that CC has been through and because of the adjustments he's made, mentally, physically, fundamentally and just the leadership ability he has, the strength he has as a human being, and again, like I mentioned before, just what he does off the field and what he takes care of and who he takes care of both on and off the field, he's going to be fine.
He has perspective. He has a tremendous belief system in himself and the process. I think the process is as important in this sport as any other sport because when play for six months regular season, two months spring training, hopefully another month afterwards, it takes time for things to play out. You know, if he has a tough day, he's not going to overreact to it, he's just going to be that much better the next time.

Q. We've seen some teams who have expressed kind of a nervousness to go ahead with some of these big contracts, but the two New York teams have kind of shown that they're maybe immune to this recession. What are your thoughts?
ERIC WEDGE: I think that would be expected. I think that's just the way it is. I don't get caught up in the money part of it. I know where we are with the Cleveland Indians and what we can and can't do.
But what I don't like to see are teams or organizations use it as an excuse. We sure as hell don't. There's no reason to. We're all at the same level, we're all expected to compete, and you either win or lose and get after it. That's what we try to do.
I think everybody has to be respectful to the economy and what people are going through. There's nobody that should be oblivious to it. But when it comes to the game of baseball and the professional side of things, you know, teams and organizations are going to do what they're capable of doing to help their team to get better.

Q. The extraordinary money that they allotted to this and the length of the deal, are you confident that he can still be a productive pitcher to the back end?
ERIC WEDGE: I don't know. That's not for me to say. You'd have to ask them. I know one thing, CC is strong, he's a great worker, and he's one hell of a pitcher right now.

Q. If a team was going to commit that kind of money to a pitcher, do you think he's the type of pitcher that warrants that type of a contract?
ERIC WEDGE: Yeah, he's done everything that he could possibly do to be the pitcher that he is today. And in regard to what's deserved, years and money-wise, it's hard for me to say. I mean, that's so far beyond me, it would be hard for me to answer that question.
One thing that we've learned, whether it be this sport or any sport, the market is going to determine that. It only takes two teams to establish a market, and if that happens, then the numbers are going to jump.

Q. When you guys traded him, he went to the other league and you didn't have to deal with him.
ERIC WEDGE: Yeah, and we're going to open up in Yankee Stadium this year with New York. It'll be good to see him, strange to see him in another uniform, but I think it would be just as strange if not more so for him looking across at us, too. That's the nature of the beast, that's the business side of the game. I'm happy for him and his family, and our focus is on what we need to do here to get better.

Q. Was CC's size ever an issue with you guys?
ERIC WEDGE: No, I mean, he's a big guy. He's always going to be a big guy. But he's a hard worker, he's a tremendous athlete, tremendous athleticism, and he's strong as an ox. What he did last year, whether you agree with it or not, is nothing short of incredible. You've got to be some kind of strong to be able to hold up to that.
He's a guy that, obviously like a lot of athletes, has to stay on top of that, but he does that.

Q. Notwithstanding that, are you hopeful of getting anything else done before leaving here in the near future?
ERIC WEDGE: Yeah, we're working through our infield, and we've got some flexibility with that because -- Peralta can play short or third, Asdrubal can play second or short, so whether it be second baseman, a shortstop or a third baseman, we signed Jamey Carroll back and very happy to do that, he's a tremendous piece and he can be very versatile to us.
We're looking at that. I mean, I think everybody out there is looking for more starting pitching, so we're a part of that list, too, and we'll see.
One thing we know we can't do is we can't address everything at its utmost just from a financial standpoint. Mark and Chris are real good at being strategic when it comes to these things, and they're continuing to work through it now.

Q. What kind of a domino effect will CC signing now have on other free agents?
ERIC WEDGE: I'm not sure. I think that a couple of these guys are so far beyond everybody else, I'm not sure what that's going to have to do with the market. It's not for me to say, but they're a very small group of guys, and you know who they are, that are probably on another level versus everybody else.

Q. Does something need to be done to minimize that or to equal that level? I know that's a huge issue, but from a manager's point of view?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, it's just part of it. You know, whether it be this year or last year or five years ago, it is what it is. I mean, when you talk about the market and you talk about organizations working to get better and owners and general managers and managers being passionate about their team and wanting to do better, you know, that's just nothing but great competition.
I think it's been proven one way or the other, whether it be an individual or a team. It doesn't necessarily guarantee anything, okay. So that's why I don't think either side can complain about it. You go out there, you play good baseball, you're a Major League player, you're a Major League team, you're going to give yourself a chance to win. You do it good over six months you're going to give yourself a chance to play in the postseason.

Q. How much can your club build off the way you finished last year?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I think that it's something we'd definitely like to do. What I'd like to ideally see happen, we want to be healthy. We want to stay healthy through the spring. I wasn't real pleased to have Victor get hurt the first game of the season last year. That wasn't great. But I'd like to see us stay healthy into the season.
What it did, it gave us an opportunity for a lot of young players to play but also play in more prominent roles, whether it be starting pitching, bullpen or our position players.
In a perfect world, we're going to be able to take advantage of that this year with our other players coming back and being healthy and productive. We won't have Jake back probably until the middle of the season, but Fausto has pitched well in winter ball and our young kids pitched well at the end of last year and our young position players were better.
So the opportunity there and that experience, we should definitely be able to take advantage of. It's going to help us in regard to depth this year, but it's also going to help us in Cleveland as we're working to try to win games.
We want to try to work hard to have the best of both worlds, getting a lot of those core guys back but also plugging in the guys that were a big part of our success the second half of last year.

Q. What turned out for you, because it seemingly seemed like it could have been a long last couple months. You trade your ace, and it's obvious you're not going to get back to the playoffs, yet you played your best ball of the year after all the bad stuff happened?
ERIC WEDGE: The guys have always done a good job at getting better, making some adjustments. We've got a great coaching staff. They're very aware and familiar with what's going on, and they don't ever give into it. That's why you play 162 games. What amazes me is when people say you don't have anything to play for, so how do you get yourself going?
You always have something to play for. You know what, you may not have an opportunity or have a realistic chance of getting into the postseason, but you're still coming out there and playing for all the right reasons. It's just not whether or not you do or don't have a chance to get in the postseason. So if anybody says that, I just disagree with that tremendously.
But I think that our guys did a good job of getting better. They got comfortable, they learned from the first half. I think that the guys that were hurt worked real hard to come back, and I think our younger kids saw that. But we were a different team. We did it in a different way there the second half. We didn't have those big guys in the middle for the most part and we were a little bit more active because we were a little bit more athletic, and you always work off your team, and that's what we tried to do.

Q. If Victor is going to -- will you guys let Victor play in the World Baseball Classic, or is there any --
ERIC WEDGE: I'm not sure where he's at with that. That's something that we do leave that up to the individual. If Victor wants to play, then he's going to play. That's something that has to be an individual decision.
I mean, it's been -- the WBC, it's been very good for professional baseball, Major League Baseball, and just for international baseball. But from an individual standpoint, that has to be a personal decision because it does have some effect on how you prepare for the regular season.
We've got a tremendous amount of respect for that. If it's a matter of workload or injury, something that we need to get involved with, then we're going to get involved with it.

Q. He was on the DL so long last year, would you want him in camp?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, yeah, you want him to be ready, prepared for it. So as long as he's prepared for it, that's okay. So many reasons to try to get Travis and try to get Victor back at the end of last year, so they could hit the ground running throughout the course of the winter and this spring. These are decisions that I'm sure we're going to have quite a few of our guys asked about when it comes to that. I'm not sure what the timing of that is to be honest with you.

Q. Where is Hafner right now and how important is it to get him back?
ERIC WEDGE: It's important. We need him in the middle of the lineup. I'm confident that he's going to be a productive guy for us. He's doing well. Rehab is going well. He's dedicated, he's putting the time into it, I think he's in a good spot mentally and that's important, too, as much time as he's missed and some of the things that he's gone through over the last couple years.
I expect him to be ready to go when we get into spring training. You know, obviously we're going to keep a close eye on him and we're going to handle him the way it's going to give him the best chance to be healthy. But I think it's also important for him to have quite a few swings the next spring. I want him to have some ABs and have that repetition. We don't want there to be anything but thoughts of success when we leave Goodyear.

Q. Will Shoppach get more time and Victor --
ERIC WEDGE: I think Shoppach is going to get more time, just a matter of how we're going to make that work. I'm very comfortable and confident with Victor playing first base. I know Victor loves to catch, I love him behind the plate. I think with what Kelly did offensively last year plus how he handled our pitching staff, that's something we've got to give great regard to.
Garko had a great second half. We're in a good situation, we've just got to work through it. I have some thoughts that I've been working through, but I want to get a little bit closer to spring training before we put all that into play. But I think at the very least Kelly is going to play.

Q. What makes you think Peralta could play third if it comes to that?
ERIC WEDGE: We've thought about that a lot. Johnny is a very underrated shortstop. If there's one ball that he doesn't get to, I mean, people domino that into two weeks. But they don't take into consideration the routine play that he makes time and time and time again.
I think Johnny, his hands are fantastic. His first step has gotten better. His arm has never been an issue. He has a plus arm and a very accurate arm. It's not just a given, I'll tell you that. But I think that with some repetition, and that's one of the things we want him to play some third base in winter ball, just to get a head start just in case. Because right now he's still our shortstop, and until something else happens he's going to be our shortstop.
But I think that the more he's over at third base, if indeed we do do that, he's going to handle it. There will be a little bit of a learning curve there, but I think we'll have enough time to make that happen.

Q. Do you feel like you have a hole at third base right now?
ERIC WEDGE: I feel like when you look at our infield, I don't think you can just look at third base, because of the versatility of Johnny and Asdrubal, we could go second base, shortstop or third base and still be phone. Jamey Carroll, having him back I think is big.
I really feel like Josh Barfield showed us a little something at the end of last year with his batting the ball and staying through it and moving better at second base, the arm working a little better, turns were better, so a lot of different things with Josh that lead me to believe he could still be a pretty good Major League player.
But I think we'd still like to go out there and get another piece if at all possible, because in a perfect world we want to be a little bit better defensively and a little bit better offensively with the guys in our infield, so we'll see.

Q. If the Wood thing does work out, for the first time in a long time you guys are going to have a hard-throwing closer instead of a guy that kind of tricks people. What benefits does that give you?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, I mean, the closer is something that -- it's much more than just pitching in the ninth inning and getting a final out. It has a tremendous impact on your entire ballclub because you don't want something hanging out there day in and day out over the course of three hours and people wondering what's going to happen.
You want to feel very good about that guy you bring in, whether it be your position players feeling strong about being able to come back or having a one-run lead and not feeling like they've got to make it two or three runs or three or four runs, or your starting pitcher feeling like he's got to go deeper because he's got to push the rest of the bullpen back.
The domino effect is tremendous. We saw that early last year. We've seen that multiple times during my time in Cleveland when you don't have that. You put a guy like Jensen Lewis back there, things fall into place, people fall back in their roles, you close 13 out of 14, it's a big part of our success.
Yeah, it's impactful, the ability to strike somebody out, that's key, get yourself out of a jam with that.
We've got a couple different options of people that can do that, and obviously we're going to keep seeing it through.

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