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December 8, 2009

Manny Acta


Q. Have you guys named a hitting coach yet?
MANNY ACTA: Not yet. We're pretty close to making that announcement. I'm not anticipating maybe more than a day from that happening.

Q. You had a specific set of challenges in Washington with a young team. Seems to be a similar situation in Cleveland. What was attractive about this Cleveland situation that made you want to come on board?
MANNY ACTA: I don't see it as similar, because I think there are more pieces in place here in Cleveland. I think when we arrived over there, we only had Ryan Zimmerman basically, and we were looking for more pieces to add, and we ended up finding Flores and then added some more. But I'm getting into a situation where I already have one of the best right fielders in the American League. We had Grady Sizemore, we have Travis Hafner, we have John Peralta, we have Asdrubal Cabrera, so I could feel we have more pieces in place already, so that's what attracted me, and also the fact that the farm system is a rich one. So I'm looking down the line to see guys like Santana, Nick Weglarz, Shin-soo Choo, Rondon, Carrasco, so that kind of really attracted me over to the Indians.

Q. And as the roster stands and everything you've just said, what kind of time frame would you give for the Indians to become competitive again?
MANNY ACTA: Well, I'm not into the prediction business. I'm not going into Spring Training trying to win the Division. I know that this team is only two years removed from being a game away from the World Series, and I do know that a couple pieces are no longer there. But I'm always looking at the possibility that one of those guys like, say, Masterson, Laffey, say Fausto is back to his old self, step up, and we play in one of the most balanced if not the most balanced division in the Big Leagues, which if you look at it over the last three, four years, a different team has won it. So hey, we're going to Spring Training thinking why not us?

Q. With the time since you've been hired, what are your expectations in terms of what you need to acquire to make your team better?
MANNY ACTA: It's pretty clear that we do need better pitching. That was kind of the problem last year, and I think it's a general problem. I think a lot of people are looking for pitching. But we do have some guys, Jake Westbrook is coming back, and he's a solid guy when he's healthy. We're hoping to help Fausto back, and Masterson is going to be in full season in the starting rotation. So we feel also that our bullpen, even though we didn't pitch as great last year, we have a lot of power arms at the back end that can miss bats, and that's what you need in the American League. I think we feel that we can do better in our offense there. Obviously we were in the middle of the pack without having Grady for the whole season and Travis Hafner. So we're very excited about our potential.

Q. Your organization is obviously working hard not only here but throughout the whole off-season to improve. What do you think the chances are of getting something done while you're here in Indianapolis?
MANNY ACTA: Something is going to be done. I'm not saying it's going to be big or huge. I think everybody knows where we stand. I don't think we're trying to bring any of the Holliday's, Bay guys into Cleveland. Obviously they might come, but into the opposite clubhouse. But we are looking at some scenarios. I think we are looking at maybe trying to acquire a utility infielder, right-handed bat and possibly a backup veteran catcher. But nothing major. I think the whole baseball world knows where we stand.

Q. From the perspective of time since you left Washington, what are the lessons that you've maybe had more time to think about that you can carry over to Cleveland and make you a better manager?
MANNY ACTA: I think the experience I had over there, it's what people need. Everybody needs experience. Everybody needs to pay their dues. That's what I did over there, and I never ran from my problems. I think when you run from your problems you have an opportunity to show the rest of the world what you can do, and that's what we did. We have no regrets. I mean, we knew what we were getting into, and I think if I wouldn't have gone through what I went through over there, I wouldn't be sitting here with you guys.

Q. Are you surprised it happened as quickly as it did for you, about three months ago?
MANNY ACTA: You know what, I started getting phone calls way before the season was over about interviewing, so that gave me hope that it might happen quicker than anticipated. I talked to a lot of people in the industry, and most of those people, they don't always see just wins and losses. They were telling me that people are watching what's going on, and they knew what I was going through. I wasn't the first or the last one that was going to go through a rebuilding process, and it's tough. It's grueling. It's painful at times.
But it was good. It was good for me. The experience, not only managing for two and a half years, which I already did, but also two and a half years times two, dealing with you guys, plus the individual interviews, so that's part of the job, a big part of the job. That's something that I already accomplished.
Going to the Indians, to the Astros, or wherever else I might go in the future, hopefully nowhere else, I already have that on my résumé. Not everybody looks at wins and losses.

Q. Do you think style-wise even in small ways you'll be different this time?
MANNY ACTA: You have to be different this time because you have three guys in the outfield that from the get-go will have green lights, guys that can run, high percentage of stolen bases. The style of every one of us, the 30 guys, just changes depending on the personnel that you have. It's that simple. None of us are basically defined as doing something. I think all of us will adjust to what we have.

Q. Who do you have in left field?
MANNY ACTA: Well, we have options. We can Michael Brantley, and LaPorta can also play left field. We have those options. Jordan Brown is having a really good winter ball in Venezuela, so we have options. Trevor Crowe, that's another guy who's going in to compete for a spot. We like our options out there.

Q. You talked about enjoying managing in the National League. How do you think it's going to compare being in the American League just from a fun factor?
MANNY ACTA: It's going to be a little bit more relaxing. Even when you're not winning, you can't relax anyway. But the fact that in the fifth inning I'm not going to have to be looking over my shoulder, how many pitches this guy has, we're down by one, I have to pinch-hit for this and that. I think it makes it a bit easier.
I'm not saying that, including myself now, that people who manage in the American League can't do it in the National League. Obviously all of these guys are capable of doing it. But it's a different ballgame.
I think the most important thing for me is going to be since you can stretch out the starter a little bit longer, regardless of how many runs he's given up, it's finding enough work for the bullpen guys.

Q. What's it looking like at first base for you guys, which direction you're thinking about going?
MANNY ACTA: If the season were to start today and everything was normal, we're looking at guys like LaPorta, Jordan Brown, but we're also looking through the free agent market to see if we can find a first baseman. You know, we have a few months to go yet, and some guys are going to be out there.
In the ideal world, we'd probably want guys to get those at-bats.

Q. What are your thoughts on Marte, where he fits in?
MANNY ACTA: Yeah, he fits into that, too, corner guy, right-handed bat off the bench. He's going to come to Kemp and we'll have to make a decision. He's one of our options, too.

Q. With Grady is he one of those guys that you can't really appreciate unless you see him every day?
MANNY ACTA: Well, I think the whole world already knows about Grady. He was a hidden mystery before, but I think in 2007 the whole world got to know who Grady is. He's a special player. That's another thing we're looking forward to. He just had a check-up to see where he's at with both surgeries, and he's ready to go. He's already on his workout program.

Q. You mentioned Fausto. Where is he right now? What's the latest?
MANNY ACTA: Fausto is pitching in winter ball. He just threw three innings two days ago, and we got good reports. He threw the ball well, and he's going to continue to pitch through the winter. He felt that that helped him in the past, and he wanted to go work on some things.
We're going down there next week and watch him pitch and talk to him and get him in the right frame of mind. I think he's pumped up because the last two outings that he had at the end of the year were good. So he went home with that good taste in his mouth.

Q. And you guys are okay if he pitches through the playoffs in the Dominican, through the final series, or is there any limit on that?
MANNY ACTA: I think we do have a limit on every one of those guys, and it's been established already and agreed upon with the winter ball team. But it's going to give him a significant amount of starts where I don't think it's going to affect his winter ballclub.

Q. After the firing in Washington, there was a period of soul searching or whatever for you. You said there was no regrets for you, but was there anything that you take away from that that you think you can improve or you can use to better yourself in your next opportunity?
MANNY ACTA: I think we take too much credit when we win and too much criticism when we don't. I wouldn't do anything different. All you can do is control your attitude and your character, and the rest is going to fall on what you do in the field. I don't think too many people showed up in Cleveland to watch Hargrove or Eric Wedge, and too many are not going to show up to watch me next year.
I think it comes down to the players. We do the best we can, and we don't put the blame on them, but I won't do anything different. I think you still have to be patient wherever you are and continue to work, and at the end of the day, I mean, it comes down to the people performing on the field.

Q. So those months after the All-Star break, what were they like? Was it tough, or were you immediately looking toward the next job, or what?
MANNY ACTA: No, I wasn't looking for the next job. I was just planning for the off-season, what were my options. Yeah, I was getting my house in shape over there in D.C. to put it on the market and sell it and then moving my family down, down to Florida again, and then just watching ballgames every night and following baseball. I mean, I had plenty of time to do that.
I started to get phone calls right after I got fired. I had options to go to work. But I just decided to spend time with my family and not want to go to work for somebody for three months and then get another job at the end of the season. That's basically what it was.
Talking to a lot of baseball people in the industry, I knew that things were going to be okay. I didn't think right away I was going to get a Major League managing job, but I had some stuff lined up.

Q. So you ended up having two options. Why this one instead of Houston?
MANNY ACTA: I thought that this was perfect for me. Perfect fit for me. I thought that it was because I really had to choose very carefully my next step, and I think that all the young energetic players that are already in place here, plus the one coming up, an opportunity to grow together with those guys as a team were better for me.

Q. In your opinion how big is it for the younger catchers to have Sandy Alomar kind of help them develop?
MANNY ACTA: It is huge. I think it's not a secret by now that he was one of the first guys we went after as soon as we knew that we were going to interview or had a chance to get the job. He's not only a big-time guy in the community, but also over the last couple of years being in the National League East and talking to Sandy and seeing him at work in New York, we knew that he could be an asset. The fact that we were able to get him over to our side is going to be huge because of what you just brought up. We're going to have some young guys behind the plate, and I think Sandy is not only going to be able to help the catchers, but also help with Belch and Radinsky with our pitching staff to people these guys to know how to attack hitters, because he was very good when he was behind the plate doing that kind of stuff.

Q. What's it going to take to get a guy like Travis Hafner back to where he was during the 2006 and 2007 seasons?
MANNY ACTA: Health. It's been over a year now since his surgery. We had a talk with him in Cleveland, and he's feeling the best he's felt in a while. So I think it's a matter of him being healthy. He had already started his off-season conditioning program, and we count on him big. We need him for our offense.

Q. Do you think he's going to be able to play -- a lot of last season he couldn't play consecutive games, he needed a day off here, a day off there. Is that still going to be in place, or do you think he's going to be able to consistently play?
MANNY ACTA: Well, we're going to get together with our medical staff and the conditioning staff to put a plan in place. But that being said, our plan is he's going to get days off here and there but nothing as he was in the past where he couldn't play a certain amount of games in a row. Our plan is we need this guy. This guy is a bat in the middle of our order. If he's fine, I'm looking to have him out there as many games as possible.

Q. Speaking of plans, what's your plan as far as handling the closer's position? What's your mentality going in after seeing what happened last year?
MANNY ACTA: Well, Kerry without a doubt is our closer. Well, the plan that we're designing right now with Belch is that we're anticipating having a better start and playing good. So even when we hit a rough spot, we're not going to let him sit for, let's say, more than three days at a time, and also talking to Belch, it's not going to be a problem. Woody is a guy who's going to be able to get the four-out save and stuff like that. So that's our plan going in. Use him not only in save situations but when we have to try to keep him sharp.
And Chris obviously pitched very well the second half of the season. And going into Kemp, we're counting on him to handle that eighth inning there.

Q. Are you not worried about Kerry Wood and the injuries that he's had in the past? You say because he's been a starter, he can get this for us, but he's shown over the last couple years that he's a guy that tends to break down more?
MANNY ACTA: Yeah, but that's one of the reasons why he's in the pen. Those are not just going to be innings, but the fact that I don't think you can allow a guy like him to sit that long in the bullpen. We're going to monitor all that, but Chris is a big part of it. There are going to be days that when we're on our good streaks, we're not going to run Woody out there every day to save a game, and then Chris is going to have an opportunity. We have guys like Tony Sipp who hit the ball very well last year. I think Chris earned a lot of confidence last year over the second half of the season from our Major League staff.

Q. With the explosion of social media like Twitter, athletes with their own websites, how aware do you have to be of your players using things such as Twitter?
MANNY ACTA: Well, you know, I can only be the baseball manager, and I can only manage myself. I can guarantee you I'm not going to be caught doing anything wrong on Twitter, because I don't Tweet. No Facebook, nothing like that. You can only talk to the guys so much, but contrary to what a lot of people think at home, this is Major League Baseball. This is not college where you have more control over your players in a dorm or something like that. You can only do as much as you can, educating them. I think MLB baseball does a great job, but at the end of the day, people have to take responsibility of knowing that it's very dangerous. Technology is great, but at any moment it can end up hurting you.

Q. What did you think of Sizemore's pictures going on the internet?
MANNY ACTA: I haven't seen them, because that's really not going to help me win one more game. (Laughter).
I've never seen them. Why would I want to see them? If I want to see any of my players, I'll just walk in the showers after the game. I think it's sad, people using stuff like that to basically get into people's private lives. But you have to be aware of it.

Q. You were talking about how you have this young, talented team with the Indians. Do you wish in Washington you had that in terms of position players, because you had guys Dmitri Young, Ronny Belliard and those type of guys? Do you wish you had younger players?
MANNY ACTA: Well, that's everybody's wish, but sometimes it takes time, and sometimes you have to accumulate those guys. Unfortunately over there at the end there, the pitching was coming around with a lot more younger guys. But I don't think there's anybody to blame for it. I think that's what I basically inherit, or whatever came before me inherited. I came in, and it was Ryan Zimmerman, and then we picked Flores under Rule 5 and he was the next guy in line. The rest of the guys, unfortunately, we couldn't get them. But they're on the right path right now.

Q. Now that you've had a little bit of time and an outsider's perspective, what do you think that franchise needs to get to where it wants to be?
MANNY ACTA: They need what the other 29 need, pitching. I mean, you talk to everybody here in the lobby, and everybody is looking for pitching. It doesn't take a rocket scientist. If you finished last in pitching, you're not going to win. You just can't shrug people away in the Big Leagues. I really don't like to talk much about that situation because whatever I said is going to sound like we're making excuses, but we set some records over there. We went through a stretch where we scored over five or six runs a game ten days in a row, and we were 1 and 9. I mean, that's a message right there.
I think we went about it the right way over there. That's why I think they're on the right path. The first half of the season, most of the starts came from four guys the year before who were in Double-A. I think it's a great -- it was a great experience for those kids that they could -- that were able to learn at the big league level. But same hand, you know, you're going to suffer some ails doing that.

Q. Manny, have you got a feel for the free agent market at all? Do you think it's going to be slow to develop and kind of depressed, or do you think there's going to be some bargains in January and February?
MANNY ACTA: Eventually there will be some bargains just because of the amount of guys that will end up being out there. I see this free agent market just like last year. Once one of the two big guys sign, whether it's one of the outfielders or the pitcher, the rest of the market will establish themselves. I think that's what happened last year. A lot of people waited on Mark, and I think this year is no different. A lot of guys are just waiting for those guys to set the standard, and the dominos will fall.

Q. As a manager do you have any particular pet peeves or anything that really drives you crazy, other than questions like that?
MANNY ACTA: We have a few. You know, we're not a very big fan of guys with our hats backwards, stuff like that. But we haven't had any problems with that in the last few teams we had. I think those rules were there before we got there. That's kind of about it. There's so many things that you just can't control anymore.

Q. Are you a big guy when it comes to uniforms, guys looking the same and dressing the same, stuff like that?
MANNY ACTA: As long as it's not completely out of whack. You know, we all have different DNAs. You can't be cloning people. As long as it's not something getting out of hand. I think Major League Baseball has done a good job over the last few years of trying to regulate that kind of stuff. I'm not very big on cutting off the uniform either, or the batting practice apparel and stuff. I'm big on respecting the game and respecting the fans. For the most part when guys do that kind of stuff, the games are not well played.

Q. I don't know if you've been asked this or not, but given the Indians are starting over basically from ground zero, what's the number one thing that needs to be established?
MANNY ACTA: Well, first of all, I've been telling people that I just don't agree when people are saying that we're rebuilding and starting over, because we do have a lot of pieces in place already. We have a right fielder, a center fielder, a shortstop, a third baseman, a designated hitter. Those spots are already in place. I don't think we're completely rebuilding. But the main thing is to try to have the mentality on these guys, establish that competing sounds good. We don't want to compete, we want to win. That's a word that is thrown around a lot, and I respect it, and people throw it around and all that. To me competing is good one-on-one. We just want to win, and that's what we want to establish.

Q. What do you see in the pitching staff that makes you think that this team can pitch? What has to happen before you can have respectful pitching, with Cliff Lee gone, Sabathia gone?
MANNY ACTA: Jake is on the right track right now. Westbrook, we need him healthy. And we need to have Fausto back to his old self. I'm not saying he doesn't have to be -- if he is, great, the way he was in 2007, but to bounce back from the season he had last year. And then the rest of the guys, you know, I'm expecting Masterson to do good this year. We have the Laffey's and Sowers of the world and so a lot of those guys will have to step up.

Q. Nationals were already rebuilding from the ground up with the farm system. You figure the Indians are a little bit farther along than the Nationals were when you started there?
MANNY ACTA: Yes, that's the way I feel, because when we got over there the only player to build around over there was Ryan, and then we had to find the other pieces like Flores showed up the very next year, and they have a couple guys now in the rotation. Here we already found some pieces in place, so it's a slight difference.

Q. You have some pieces in place. It's different. But then what -- even though you're not rebuilding and you don't buy that theory, what is it that you want to establish first as a new manager that can get this team ready to win?
MANNY ACTA: Well, the first thing is we need to stop dwelling on the guys that left, because they're not coming back, and to embrace the new kids that came aboard and are already ready to contribute at the big league level, and to face what it is. That's the type of market team that we are. This is what we're going to do. We need to work hard, outsmart, outwork, outscout, whatever we have to do to now be making -- falling into the excuse that we just don't have the right payroll.

Q. I don't want to repeat anything, but what about Fausto? Have you seen anything and realized anything that he can do? What's going to have to happen to him to get him ready?
MANNY ACTA: I don't think it's too early. I think a lot of us have spent a lot of time already on Fausto, and Fausto basically, the league pretty much kind of made an adjustment to him, and now he's going to adjust back and try to use both sides of the plate instead of just using one side of the plate. This is what the Major Leagues is all about, adjusting year to year, because regardless of your payroll, everybody has a DVD on you and a book on you.

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