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MLB WINTER MEETINGS


December 9, 2009


Fredi Gonzalez


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

Q. Fredi, my question is probably different than the rest of the boys, so I'll just make it brief. The Phillies last night signed Ross Gload, and a lot of fans in Philadelphia don't know about him. Can you give us the book on him?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, I think they are going to get themselves a good baseball player. This guy, he did a terrific job for us coming off the bench. You know, pinch-hitting, he could -- if Howard needs a day off against the Marlins, you know, he can fit in there at first base for us.
He's a good ballplayer, blue-collar guy, and he's a great clubhouse guy. So Charlie is going to -- he got himself a good baseball player.

Q. Larry talks about the consistency in the rotation. How do you see a year older with these guys?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, I always said, going through our pennant race last year, at worst-case scenario, that experience, it's got to help him for next year and their careers and upcoming years.
So you know, everybody is a year older. Everybody has got more Major League -- they have a lot more Major League innings, so you're looking for them to learn from that, and get better.

Q. Can you talk about NĂșñez as a closer?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Sure. When Matty went down for about a month, we had to the shut him down with the injury with the arm. We just kind of shut him down, and we didn't have anybody. He had, I think, one career save before that. He has a good arm and has a good out pitch with the changeup, swing-and-miss pitch.
He's a pitcher. He's not a thrower. He's one of those guys that he's a pitcher and he knows how to pitch. He's not scared. He's one of those guys that I think the more success he had, you know, 22, 23, 24 saves, I think he really, really enjoyed it and really liked that role.
He doesn't spook. He walks a guy or somebody hits a game-winning home run, which happened the very next day, we would run him out there the next day in the same situation, and he got one, two, three. So those are good qualities to have in your closer.
So I think we were lucky that we had him. You know, he's kind of developed into a pretty good closer. Hopefully he can close a lot more ballgames for us.

Q. But he's definitely the closer?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, I think so. I think so. I think he has done a good job. Right now, if the season started today, Lindstrom is still in the ballclub. And the days that NĂșñez cannot close, Matty has done that, so you have a guy with experience, also.

Q. Can you talk about Jorge Cantu?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, this guy, in the last two years, he's been middle of the lineup hitter. Last year he got 100 RBIs for us. The year before he got over 90, I think, RBIs. He's been terrific.
When it's late in the game, you know, and you've got to drive in that run to win the game or tie the game or there's a big run for us, he seems to have the knack to get that; that gives you great at-bats all the time. Good guy in the clubhouse. We played him at third base and last year we played him at first base.

Q. And Amezaga, how is he feeling?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He's still doing the rehab with the knee, and hopefully he will come to spring training and be ready for the upcoming season, the 2010 season. Because we sure missed him last year.
You know, having him -- I've always said having him is like playing with an extra two guys on the roster because he can play shortstop, third. You can put him anywhere and he can play, so you almost have an advantage of the other team and put him anywhere, and a guy makes stuff happen when he plays baseball.

Q. Is it your feeling that Jorge will be a guy that will be around next year? Are you pretty confident today?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Sure.

Q. Compared to other guys?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Right now I feel that he's going to be on this club.

Q. Obviously going back and forth, positions, first to third, does it matter so much to you, or do we have to see at spring training?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Where he plays next year? No, just the dynamics, the makeup of the team, what we have there.
I think if you pick up the phone right now and call him up, he'll play wherever you ask him to play. You know, he's that type of guy. You say, Hey, we need you to play left field. Okay, no problem. He'll go out there.
Doesn't matter where he plays for me, either first or third. I just like to see him come up fourth.

Q. You won 87 games last year and finished second behind the Phillies. What is it going to take for you guys to get past the Phillies? What's going to be the difference-maker in your mind that can put you above them?
FREDI GONZALEZ: You would think that by the experience you could get -- you get a little closer to them, but I think those guys put a pretty good product out on the field, the Phillies do, and they know how to play the game.
For us, we are going to have to play injury-free baseball next year, nobody get hurt, and maybe get some help player-wise to catch them.
Or, if they have some injuries on their team and maybe we could catch them. It's a pretty good ballclub they run out there.

Q. Could your pitching...
FREDI GONZALEZ: If our pitching stays healthy -- and I'm not going to say we are going to go out and win the division or anything -- but it should be interesting.

Q. Can you talk about the job you did last year, winning 87 games, and then the last weekend in Philly?
FREDI GONZALEZ: We did a good job and got together as an organization, and it's over and done with. It's water under the bridge and go forward.
You know, the last weekend, I think that Sunday, I think some of you guys asked me that question. I said, I don't know what to tell you, I think was my quote to you guys. I don't know what to tell you guys. You think you did a good job and nobody wants to have bad stuff written about them or said about them.
But it's over with. We never make an excuse about payroll or any of that kind of stuff. You want to win ballgames and our owner, Mr. Loria, expressed that he expects us to win, which is fine, no problem.

Q. You don't expect any carryover during the season if you guys struggle in April or May?
FREDI GONZALEZ: No.

Q. Where do you see Bonafacio in his future? He can play several different positions, too.
FREDI GONZALEZ: We have to wait. If it happens, if it doesn't happen -- if it doesn't happen, if (indiscernible) goes with us and Bonny is in our club, he's your super-utility guy that can play a couple different positions, a guy that could pinch-run, that kind of guy.
If Uggla is not here for whatever reason, then give an opportunity to play his natural position at second base; I think last year we asked him to play third base. In the Major League level, never done it before. I think it's tough to judge a guy that way.
I think if you put him at second base, or more of a position that he is accustomed to, you might see a better offensive player.

Q. Do you think that will help him at the plate?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, I think so. Any time you put -- it's hard enough to play in the Major Leagues and then play in a position you've never played; now you put him in a position at second base or shortstop, and he's more comfortable and there's less pressure, I think you may see a better offensive player.

Q. And you just leave Coghlan in left?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Or you could put Coghlan in second base. There's a lot of moving pieces that we could do, and you know, we may go into spring training Coghlan playing both positions. See how it goes.

Q. Coghlan, you brought him into left field and he had not played there.
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think he played like ten innings in the Minor Leagues in left field just before we called him up, and I tell you, he's an average left fielder, for me, in the Major Leagues.
His natural position -- he played second and third in the Minor Leagues, but there are people in our organization that feel like he could do all right at second base.

Q. If you go to spring training and he's doing both, could that hinder the process of just making...
FREDI GONZALEZ: It could. It could.

Q. How far along is he before he could be a really good left fielder?
FREDI GONZALEZ: For me, he was about 50 games into it before I sat there late in the game and said, You know what? We don't have to worry about it anymore. I think it might have been less than that before we started not taking him out for defense. We used to take him out in the seventh inning for defense when he first came up as a left fielder. After a while, we didn't have to worry about it, and that's how much better he got.

Q. Imagine you want Chris.
FREDI GONZALEZ: One or the other, correct. Yeah. Again, in a perfect world, you want like December 31st to say, Okay, you're going to play here, and don't worry about it. But it may not come to that.
I'm not worried about Chris, because from the way he picked up playing left field, it was -- you know, because he puts his nose to the grindstone and he will make himself whatever position we ask him to.

Q. He was so good the second half of the season, obviously; it's hard to envision him keeping that kind of pace throughout his whole career. What kind of player do you eventually see him becoming?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think he showed us what he is that last -- the year. If you put the whole year together, obviously that second half, I think, what did he hit, .370 the second half? That's pretty hard stuff to keep.
I think the whole year, an on-base guy, a guy that's going to be in-the-gap power. You make a mistake, he will run it out of the ballpark on you. I think that's a snapshot of what we will see his career as a whole.

Q. .321 and let the National League hitters in on-base percentage.
FREDI GONZALEZ: He had a great year.

Q. Do you think we will see more power out of his bat?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think he will be one of those guys that can hit in teens, 12, 13, 14 those type of numbers. I don't want him to be one of those 35 and lose the on-base and that kind of stuff.

Q. We haven't talked about Hanley so much, but second in MVP voting, can he get any better? His power did decline a little bit last year it seemed like.
FREDI GONZALEZ: You know what, I see his maturity and the way he's progressing in his career. I like what I see. You know, he won the batting title. He went from almost 20 errors, correct, 22 errors the year before, to 10 errors at shortstop. You see him working and getting better. Two years in a row he's won the Silver Slugger Award, Rookie of the Year.
His career is progressing the right way. It really is. It's a sign of his maturity and his work habits. Two-time All-Star.

Q. Overall, how can your pitching improve?
FREDI GONZALEZ: The starting pitching? Learning from what they did last year and logging those Major League innings. Sometimes we get into a situation where we want these guys to mature so quickly. You start looking at some of the innings these guys are running out there, and they barely have got 200 Major League innings.
You know, it takes a while for young pitchers to get them where you want to get them.

Q. What do you think they learned as a staff overall?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, it's hard to compete in the Major Leagues, and you've got to keep making adjustments, you know, because people keep making adjustments against you.

Q. Is Volstad the one, I mean, obviously he's the one that --
FREDI GONZALEZ: -- had the sophomore jinx or slump or whatever? Well, he's the easiest one to look at, but you have Andrew Miller in the same boat. You have got SĂĄnchez to put a good, healthy season together.
Then we saw a glimpses of it in the end where you go, Whoa, there's some pretty good stuff coming out of there.

Q. That's the first time you had ever seen him?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, 2006 he was real good, and 2007 when I saw him he was hurt, shoulder. 2008 he missed a whole year and almost half of '09. There were some games there at the end, where you go, Wow, that's what people are telling us, what with he saw.
Who did I miss? Vandenhurk, you have Vandy. He just needs to go out there. Another guy that needs to have a healthy season.

Q. What was it with Chris Volstad that you felt kind of went?
FREDI GONZALEZ: It might have been just getting him those innings, closer to the 200-inning mark, and we worked extremely hard. He worked extremely hard trying to find -- from tipping pitches to mechanics to your arm angle. It was really nothing glaring, any of that kind of stuff.
So hopefully it was just a year of a lot of innings and maybe just...

Q. You mean the year before?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, that kind of stuff. For a young pitcher.

Q. Would it be rare if every young pitcher this year took a step, took a good, positive step in the right direction? It's one thing to develop five pitchers and have them pitch for one year, but to have them all take a next step.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, I'm sure, and I'm talking with Bobby all the time. He's got six starters going right now, as we speak right now. If you look at our rotation, we have got six young guys.
But come spring training, somebody is going to, you know, have something wrong, and now you get down to five. Another guy is going to get hurt, and now you're down to four. Next thing you know, you're looking for two guys. You're always looking for pitching and never have enough.
It would be great if all those five, or four guys out of the five, improve. That's the stuff that you want. Your question with the Phillies, that's what you need to catch the Phillies. All of a sudden five of those guys click at one time, you know.

Q. But it's the most unpredictable part of the game outside of the bullpen.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, because you just never know. There's so many factors: fingernail or somebody has swine flu or something. Next thing you know, you're starting a journeyman, six-year, Minor League free agent.

Q. Who is your opening starter?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Probably Johnson. (Laughter.)

Q. Obviously the contract thing is out there and it's public; it's a one-year deal. Would his head not be fully there, or a little conflict?
FREDI GONZALEZ: No. Not with him. Not with this guy. Not with Johnson. Maybe another individual you might see some of that, but this guy is the whole package. Not the stuff that you see every fifth day, but on the other four days that you don't see it, his work habits, the way he comes in and prepares for the following start, I don't think that kind of stuff is going to bother him one bit. I really don't. I will be surprised if it would.

Q. And the distractions?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah.

Q. Is that part of your job, to make sure things like that aren't? Do you look at that whole situation?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, he's got, what, four older brothers? I would call those guys up. Make sure they set him straight if it comes to that.
Really, with him, I don't see any -- this guy is locked in.

Q. Can you characterize your expectations in terms of making a move, whether it's here or in the run-up to the season?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Making moves?

Q. Yes.
FREDI GONZALEZ: You know, that might be a general manager's question. I know the phones have been ringing. I don't know if we'll make a move before we leave here or not. I can't answer that question.

Q. I came in late obviously. Can you characterize in a general sense what you view as the team's needs?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, you are always looking at bullpen. You would like to add to the bullpen and you would like to get another hitter and maybe another starter.
I think you poll 29 other managers, you might have gotten the same answer.

Q. The easy part is identifying the needs. In your situation, is the tough part fitting it into the financial situation that you're now in?
FREDI GONZALEZ: That's correct. That's correct. You know, we need to fit it in those situations. But we have in the past and we have been competitive and we have been close, so I don't see that changing.

Q. A little bit off the beaten path. Before you got the job with the Marlins, you went through the interview process in Cleveland. Did you take something out of that interview process that helped you prepare better when you got the Marlins job?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think every time you go to one of those interviews you pick something up. The more comfortable you are around the people and the questions you are going to get asked, it's a good thing.
I think I went through four interviews before I got an opportunity to manage in the Big Leagues with Minnesota, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Florida, and I think I was better the last one than the first one to be honest with you, sitting there with Terry Ryan.
But I think it's more just being comfortable with the questions and know what you can expect.

Q. As long as we are off-track, let's stay off-track for a minute. What drives you crazy? What's your pet peeve?
FREDI GONZALEZ: In baseball or in anything?

Q. Anything.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Wow. I'm a pretty patient guy. Tardiness. I don't like tardiness in any kind of setting. Even going to a party or something. They tell you 6:30 and we are still at the house at 6:30, I get a little upset at the wife about that kind of stuff.
I don't know. You have to give me a little more time to think about that.

Q. Do you have a problem with tardiness in the clubhouse; is that a problem?
FREDI GONZALEZ: No. You try to nip that in the bud right away.

Q. You can't tell the players, Less time putting on the makeup. That doesn't work.
FREDI GONZALEZ: That's one of my rules is be there, being on time, be prepared to play and play the game the right way. So if you take that as what ticks you off, then go the opposite end.

Q. Do you have a replay opinion from what you saw in the playoffs? Keep it the same?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think keep it the same. Those guys do a wonderful job the way that they have to decide right now about it, safe, out, ball, strike. I think we can open a whole can of worms if we start going through the replay booth.
Really, it's not fair, in my opinion. I might get into a little trouble with the television people, but I think they really went out of their ways to make those umpires to look bad sometimes.

Q. You were involved in the first unofficial replay game ever.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, with the ball hitting off the wall there and not the home run. I think the tough calls are the home run calls, the foul calls, the fan interference ones and the ballparks that don't have -- that are really fan-friendly, I guess what they are.
Philly you can reach over, and I don't even know how many more are making them that way. As far as bang-bang plays at first base, those, I would leave that alone and let those umpires take care of that stuff.

Q. Given the practicality of the play with the Twins and Yankees and the in-bounds, the fly ball that hit a foot in, do you see how they could, even if they did replay, where they could put the runners?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, that's why just leave it where it is right now. And you know what? I think 20, 30 years down the road when none of us will be here, I think it will get to that point. But until that time comes, I think we just leave the replay where it is right now.

Q. Earlier today Jim Leyland said if he had his choice, he would get rid of the box because it makes the umpires look bad.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Oh, the strike zone box? Yeah, but you know what, I wouldn't get rid of it. I'll get rid of it for the fan, but I think it's a good teaching or learning or evaluating tool, if it's accurate, which is hard for me to believe if it's accurate or not.
I'm not a math major or space science, whatever, but you look at home plate in a lot of stadiums and you look at that camera they use to evaluate that strike zone, and it's 25, 30 feet to the one direction or the other. You know, how can they judge with that ball being that far? It's not directly over the pitcher.
But I think, again, I think those Major League umpires do a terrific job. They have got to do it right now. They don't have the benefit of five different angles or slow motion and any of that kind of stuff. Some of the calls that they were nitpicking, I mean, you couldn't even tell with five different angles, you know what I mean? I think you're opening a Pandora's box there, I think.

Q. Will you be keeping an eye on the pitch count this year for a lot of the young guys?
FREDI GONZALEZ: We always do. You know, we always do. Pitch count and innings pitched, you know, but it's a big thing, that pitch count.

Q. Do any hunting this off-season?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Did you have to go there? No, I did deer watching. I didn't get to fire a shot.

Q. With Volstad, are you guys planning to change anything with him, whether it's his mechanics?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Randy has got the videos and all that kind of stuff. We are just going to go into spring training and let him pitch and prepare himself to compete, really, to compete for one of those spots.

Q. So there's no big key for him, it's just last year was part of this maturation process?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think so. I think so. It's just one of those sophomore things that happen. You know, sometimes it becomes a mental thing. Maybe fatigue, maybe the amount of innings pitched for a young player. Maybe just getting used to the league the second year around.
But I don't see anything mechanic drastically that we could have changed.

Q. Randy is new obviously. What is kind of the plan as he's getting the pitchers ready for spring training? Are they all on schedule?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He's talked to all of them. He's been to the Fall League and saw Miller pitch one time and seen all his videos. We have given him all the videos on them. When he comes to spring training, Randy, it's his baby.
You know, Mark had his strings out and the program and the way he liked to do stuff. It's up to Randy the way he wants to run those pitchers in spring training, whether he wants to run them every day or whatever he wants to do.
It may be different for every pitcher. Some guys may like to throw every other day, some guys throw a little more often.

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