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October 19, 2009

Charlie Manuel


Q. Could you talk a little bit about the run that Ryan Howard is on right now. There have been a lot of great players who have put up great numbers, but for him to do it continually in the post-season, as well.
CHARLIE MANUEL: Yeah, Ryan has been swinging real good, of course. He's seeing the ball good, he looks real relaxed at the plate, and from a mechanics standpoint, he's loading up good and he's staying on the ball. When he's staying on the ball, he makes more consistent contact. He's hitting real good right now.

Q. The cameras seem to have captured Ryan in this very thoughtful state before he bats, maybe if he's in the hole or if he's almost on deck. Do you know if he's just visualizing or if that's just his way of focusing and getting ready for the at-bat?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think that's his way of focusing and basically getting ready. I think that he's thinking about his at-bat and things that he has going for him and things that -- how he wants to feel and everything when he gets up there.
Visualization is part of hitting, and when you sit there sometimes, whether you do it -- you can do it once you walk up to the plate and you can step out and look around, things like that, and kind of gather your thoughts, or you can sit in the dugout there, too, and kind of visualize things and really concentrate on what you want to do. It depends on the person and how he feels.

Q. Have you or some of the other players noticed this as the game is going on?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Yeah, I've noticed it, yeah. I've noticed it. I haven't talked to him about it because it's something I think that's his own thing.

Q. You'd like to say all the time you can't over-hit, you can practice hitting. You talk about Japan all the time. Ryan doesn't seem to have that mentality; is that true? He does not swing a zillion times.
CHARLIE MANUEL: No, Ryan -- again, everyone is different, and that's one thing being a coach sometimes you've got to realize that, and that's getting to know the guy and really communicating with him. Ryan thinks from a physical standpoint; when he doesn't feel good and he's not swinging good, why should he be hitting, because he thinks that that's just forming bad habits and things like that.
The way he feels a lot, and things that a hitter likes to do, or he thinks that's the best for him, then if it works, don't mess with it.

Q. Randy Wolf has given you guys some problems in the past and he kind of gives you a different look than the first three pitchers you've faced. Is it tough to make an adjustment on the fly in a series like this when you face a guy like that? And what do you need to do to attack him?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think what we've got to do with Randy is a lot like what we were doing last night, we've got to make him throw the ball over the plate. We've got to make him bring his fastball down and we've got to make him bring his breaking ball, his slider, whatever it is, over the plate. Don't get caught up in swinging at bad balls. Wait for good balls to hit. We've got to be a little more patient with him and force him to throw strikes. And if he starts throwing strikes and getting ahead of us, we can go back and adjust and get more aggressive on the first pitch, things like that. That's what I think. The big thing is make him throw the ball over the plate.

Q. When you see what you got from Pedro last time, do you have any kind of thought in your mind when you'd like to get him back, how you can use him in between if the schedule doesn't permit it?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Right now we'll just kind of let him get some rest from pitching. Probably after tonight's game or something, we'll go practice tomorrow. Dubee and I, we'll be talking somewhere along the line between tonight and the morning, so we'll decide then exactly what we want to do with our pitching.

Q. What makes you, what you've seen from Cole, think that he can have one of those starts where he doesn't -- it seems like in each start that he's had, he's had a hiccup like he had in that one inning the last time. Are you still confident he can hit that groove that he was in this time last year?
CHARLIE MANUEL: First of all, winning the game is number one priority, and if Hamels wins 10-9 or if he wins 2-1 or if he wins 1-0 -- I mean, Hamels can pitch. I don't have to sit here and reminisce about is he going to pitch good or is he going to pitch bad or what is he going to do. Cole Hamels can just flat-out pitch. When you hand him a ball, if he gets hit, he gets hit. That's part of the game. I like Hamels on the mound. Is he going to give up runs? More than likely, like most of the time guys are going to give up some runs. How many runs he gives up, of course that can be a problem. But at the same time, like I said, winning the game is what it's all about, and I like Cole on the mound.
I think any time you hand him the ball, I think he's capable of going out there and shutting the other team out. That's kind of how I feel about him.

Q. The way this team is constructed, do you think it can win for many years? Obviously it did well last year, and this year doing great so far. Do you think it's constructed with the young pitching and powerful hitting, constructed for many years to come?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think how you win for many years, you keep a lot of your core players together and you try to keep the chemistry and attitude. I am definitely a chemistry guy and things like that. But at the same time when you talk about winning for many years, I talk about the elite team, and I think that there's got to be some turnover at times, and you've always got to be working on strengthening your weaknesses. If you have some weak points, which almost every team in the National League that we've gone through has, I think that you always look to improve your team. As long as you do that and you can keep your core players, I think that's how you have a team for a long time.

Q. There's a possibility that Padilla will pitch the fifth game against the Phillies. Can you talk a little bit about the differences that you've seen from Padilla today and Padilla when he was with the Phillies' organization back in 2005?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Yeah, my first year here I had Padilla. Padilla has still got that same big arm that he had when I was here. The other day against us, he pitched a tremendous game. He was very aggressive. He attacked the strike zone, and he kind of came at the hitters, but also, he changed speeds and he was aggressive and he didn't back off. He was a completely different pitcher than he was when he pitched here from what I saw.
But at the same time, he's always had good stuff, it's just a matter of him putting it together, and kind of putting his game together from a mental and a physical standpoint. And the other day he put a good game together.

Q. The only difference in your lineup significantly from last year is in left field. What are some of the reasons or advantages of having IbaƱez there and what he's done for you?
CHARLIE MANUEL: IbaƱez, when he came in, especially the first half of the year, he got off to a tremendous start. He's one of the reasons why we're in the post-season. He's one of the reasons why that we won our division. Then after his injury, he come back, he's still at times trying to find the stroke that he had his first half. But he'd played very steady in the outfield. He's been a tremendous -- he's been real good running the bases, and he's had a big year for us. He's definitely -- he's made us better. He's made us a better team, and he's a good player. Definitely a big part of our team.

Q. It's kind of been interesting to see the two different philosophies you and Joe Torre have taken with your lineups. He hasn't been afraid to switch it around a little bit, and you've kept yours stagnant all the way up through the playoffs. Can you talk about your philosophy a little bit? Do you think it helps players to kind of hit in the same spot on a day-to-day basis, particularly in a playoff series, and what's kind of been your thinking day-to-day?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I think that when you look at our lineup, I think when I look at the top of our lineup, I like our speed. And when our speed -- when we get guys that can run on base, they produce. The switch hitters, we don't have to worry about the lefty-righty thing, and then all of a sudden we are overloaded with left-handed hitters if you stop and think about it. At the same time Utley and IbaƱez all year long hit him good, and all of a sudden the second half of the season Ryan is starting to hit them much better.
I look at our lineup, and I think Ruiz is an eight-hole hitter on our team and I think Feliz is definitely a seven. I think the only thing you could switch every now and again is IbaƱez and Werth. I think the rest of it kind of flows together, and I think that's our best lineup. And I think we led the league in runs scored. I don't think our lineup is stagnant, by no means. Go ask Kuroda. (Laughter).

Q. With exception to Game 1 when they out-hit you, the Dodgers really haven't put up a crooked number against you guys. Does that come as a surprise considering how highly their offense is touted?
CHARLIE MANUEL: What's that? I'm sorry.

Q. With the exception of Game 1 in which they out-hit you, they really haven't put up a crooked number against you guys. Does that come as a surprise considering how highly the offense is touted?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Basically the reason for that is our starting pitching the last two games has been very good. I mean, Padilla the other day pitched a tremendous ballgame, too. He kind of stopped our hitters. That's kind of what it's all about. We've played three games and we've had, the last two games especially, real good pitching. That's probably why we've stopped them. They can score runs and they can -- and last night's game was only one game. We're up 2-1 in the series, and we came to the ballpark today to win today's game.
Believe me, we have a lot of respect for the Dodgers. They can definitely put some runs on the board; we know that.

Q. I don't know the exact numbers, but after a blow-out this season you guys have been okay, mediocre maybe. How do you keep the energy level after putting an 11-0 score on the board and coming back the next day and trying to replicate that?
CHARLIE MANUEL: That's the beauty of the game. That's just part of baseball. And that's the part where the focus comes into play. And what I mean by focus is it's a long season, and in order to be a good team you've got to bring it every day, and the more days, the more you can be consistent, that's when you can beat -- have a good record. Just because you beat a team 11-0 last night, okay, we always talk about our team is resilient. That's the beauty of baseball; you can get beat 20-0 tonight and come back tomorrow and beat somebody. That happens all the time, and that's kind of how you look at it. But it all starts probably if you think about it with the pitcher going out there and holding them down. The pitcher shuts them down, it gives you a chance to score runs, and then you have a low-scoring game. That's why people talk about you've got to have pitching, you've got to have pitching. That's what pitching is about. They can stop -- when you get beat real bad, the next day, the starting pitcher on your team, if he goes out there and he's tough and he holds them down, that gives you a chance to win, then you can overcome that 11-0.

Q. Someone asked you about Padilla when he was here. There was seemingly a chemistry problem then. You've been asked about Cole Hamels and his theatrics already, and then you mentioned you're a big fan of chemistry as a manager. How do starting pitchers figure into the chemistry of a team? Is it a different equation than core players or everyday guys?
CHARLIE MANUEL: I don't think so. I think when you talk about chemistry, you're talking about the guys getting along and liking to play. We talk about how much our guys like to play and everything, and I know our pitchers are the same way, they like to pitch. It all kind of blends together. And I think that's what -- that definitely helps with the winning attitude.
I think the pitchers, I think of our pitchers, and the ones that are in our rotation and everything, they have that kind of thinking, that desire and that competitive part of them. Every time they go out there, they want to win the game. I think that's one of the things we talk about.

Q. Speaking of needing pitching, when you guys picked up Cliff Lee in July in a trade, how unexpected was it for you that you picked him up? And the second part of that question, how closely do you watch trades and how closely are you involved in them when that stuff is going on?
CHARLIE MANUEL: They'll ask me my opinion on things, and I tell them about, like, when guys come up. We have our scouts and of course the front office, and they do most of the talking, and they're the ones that make the trades and everything. But they'll ask me, and I'll suggest. I'll tell them who I think -- like, who I want or who fits the best on our team. And we'll go from there. Of course they try to help our ballclub in the best way they can to get the best pitcher out there possible that we can find, or the best player.

Q. We've seen Ruiz come up with big hits the last two post-seasons. What does he bring to your clubhouse and your pitching staff throughout the course of an entire seen?
CHARLIE MANUEL: Chooch, he's loose around -- he likes for you to kid and play with him some and things like that. But at the same time he's very serious. And he's grown into gaining respect of our pitchers and our team. And I think they like throwing to him. I think that he's definitely more aggressive and he's more of a take-charge guy than he was when he first came up. And I think all those ingredients that comes into being a front-line Big-League catcher, he's kind of grown into them, and he's had to learn.
And I think that he keeps getting better defensively and offensively. When he starts hitting the ball and putting up some offensive numbers, then he becomes a very tremendous good Big-League ballplayer.

Q. You mentioned your lineup being kind of dominated by lefties, and there was a lot of talk before the series about the Dodgers' lefties and maybe you were susceptible to that. Was that overblown? You mentioned IbaƱez and Utley and how well they've hit lefties. Do you feel that talk of lefties being able to shut you down is overblown?
CHARLIE MANUEL: That's one thing about the game, I can talk, you can talk, anybody can say whatever they want to about it. But when the game starts and you've got a bat in your hand, the guy is throwing a ball, you're trying to hit it. Some days it doesn't matter if he's left or right or whatever. Some days you can hit him and some days you can't, and over the course of a season if you're inconsistent against lefties or righties or whatever, it's going to be right there in front of you and you're going to say this is how you beat these guys, you put left-handers on him. If we're hitting the ball, it doesn't matter. But we know at times when our offense is sputtering a little bit, then teams love to put lefties on us. That's kind of a percentage deal. Atlanta, for instance, they'll call a left-hander up it seems like just to put him on our team every time we go play them, and Bobby Cox likes to make sure he has three or four left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. And if his starter is not what you call real good on that day or something, he'll make sure that he'll put at least three lefties on Howard and Utley when our lineup goes around.
So that just tells you that they like to do that. But when we're hitting the ball and scoring runs, the other day IbaƱez hit a big home run off of Sherrill, that's good hitting. That's a lefty on a lefty. We can hit them. Utley IbaƱez hit them real good, especially at the first of the year. But it's just a matter of on that day.

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