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December 8, 2010
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA
Q. What have these two months felt like? Is it kind of slowly getting the feel that this is your job?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, you know what, yeah, I guess you can put it that way. I think that we went from the press conference to the organizational meetings to getting to know the players a little bit, and it's been great for me. We have got a great group of scouts, professional scouts, get to listen to their evaluation of our players and get to know them a little bit better. It's been a lot easier knowing the team because even though I've been gone for four years, we see them 18 times a year for the last four years so I get to know -- a Major League club you know pretty well. Some of those guys that are going to come up next year are going to be back and forth, and those guys will give you more information before you go into Spring Training.
It's been nice to be able to talk to Roger almost every day, about the pitching staff. Talk to Frank and Bruce about the entire organization, how they rank, kind of get a feel going into Spring Training next year.
Now when you go in there, you have to put a face to the name that they have been talking about for two months.
Q. You said in your introductory press conference, you had snuck over to Rome, did you see anybody you like?
FREDI GONZALEZ: We have got a lot of good players. We talked about it up there, you think you have got a lot of good players, but keep getting more, because with injuries and all kinds of other stuff that could happen, you'll never see them.
But I think I saw seven or eight games, so I got to see Freddy Freeman all seven games. I got to see Minor pitch, I got to see Beachy pitch in the Minor Leagues. Obviously both of those guys pitch in the big leagues so got to see them on TV a little bit and got to see the other kids, Marek, which I liked them, I think pretty close to being a Major League ready pitcher. I got to see a young catcher in Rome.
FREDI GONZALEZ: He's going to be pretty good. Shortstop there, pretty good also. Got to see a bit of instructional league, so you got a little familiar with the organization.
Q. And that was a different perspective, kind of as a fan, sitting in the stands watching.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, I wasn't scouting anybody. At that time I was just watching -- tired of being around the house and the wife kicked me out, go do something. So went down and watched a little baseball.
Q. What were your thoughts on Freddy?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I liked him. And you hear the evaluations of our people and they go right along with what you saw for those seven games, a guy that's going to be able to swing the bat. He's ready. There's no sense for him to go back to Triple-A. He's ready to come to the Major Leagues and we have to give him every opportunity to play every day.
We'll give him a breather here and there in case there's a tough left-hander or something. We'll put somebody else in there.
Q. How much has the fact that your relationship with Bobby, how much easier has that made it, because he's able to ease the transition for you and make you feel comfortable?
FREDI GONZALEZ: It's always difficult. There's always pressure. I think that the ultimate pressure is winning games. You want to win games. But as far as a transition of replacing him, you know what, I never felt that. I think that it's almost like a family member, your dad or an uncle to say, hey, we have this car in the garage in our family for 30 years. Here are the keys, you know, it's in great shape, it's in good condition, just drive it and keep it running. And that's the way I felt; the way I feel about the transition. Not replacing, not replacing Bobby, a Hall of Famer. Just, here are the keys, keep going.
Q. Because you know him so well and the organization.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Right. You know Bobby and the whole organization. You come back after four years and the same people are still in place starting from Terry, John and Frank and Bruce. I think he was coming in when I was leaving to Florida but for the most part, the entire organization, same people.
Q. Have you got a sense of, you were here long enough to know what the Braves mean in the community and all that, but being the manager, have you got a sense since you took over of how big of a position that is or how much people revere that in the community?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, you know, I've been recognized more as the Braves manager in Atlanta than when I was the Marlins manager in Miami. The people, and I think it's because of the history, I think it's because of one time they were the only show -- we were the only team that's been televised, the super station, WGN and TBS, so a lot of people across the south that really, really love the Braves. Generations among generations, I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and said, "Hey, my grandmother loves you guys, she watches every game, she's 86 years old."
It's good. It's a good feeling. I've been welcomed with open arms, but we have not lost six in a row yet. (Laughter.) Or five in a row. But I think for the most part, I think people here love the Braves. They love the Braves. They love their Braves.
Q. After the trade, did you start doing prospective lineups?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Not even after. Frank called and said, "We may get Uggla." So I started getting scratch papers and writing his name in there, absolutely.
Q. Some of the guys, the top-end arms in the organization, how would you say your familiarity is with some of those guys?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, those are the guys that I listen to the reports, listen to the scouts, see the scouting reports that we have that the Minor League, player development staff has compiled. You listen; you've still got to form your own opinion, and say, now when we go to Spring Training, put a face to what the report says.
And we have got a list of top 25 guys in the organization, so you have to know who is who, how close somebody is, how close this guy may not be, or may be at the end of the year. So you feel good about that.
I think in some of those names, if they walked in here I wouldn't know who they are. But I would know their name and how well they are recognized in the organization.
Q. Do you have a sense of the level of buzz? I realize there's not as many familiarity but is it one of those things that it's not a huge factor when you're taking a job but one of those things you come to learn pretty quickly?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, as an organization, I can tell you this, without picking on one person or a group of players; as an organization, I think we are in pretty good shape in the Minor Leagues. I think we have got some guys that are coming up and are close, pitching-wise, real close. You know, if you look at the history with the Atlanta Braves, you have guys starting, Chipper Jones, Furcal, Andruw Jones, Francoeur, McCann, Heyward, they just keep coming. And I think that's going to continue.
Q. Did you just take an open mind into camp?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Usually that stuff works its way out and you will start figuring out who is going to be the guy. Right now I'm open to one night, if the lineup just falls right, you go with a lefty. Let's say you face the Phillies and you have got Utley, Howard, a right-hander, maybe and then you have Ibanez in the lineup in the ninth inning. That falls that way, then you give Venters the opportunity to do it that way and the other way, you give Kimbrel an opportunity to do it that way.
Q. Did you see Kimbrel?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I did see him and I saw him in the Major Leagues pitching in a pennant chase in a playoff game, and I liked what I saw. I liked what Roger had said about those guys.
Q. Center fielder, is that the biggest question mark right now?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, we are going to give Nate a chance to play every day and give him an opportunity, and I think that we can see what he did with the Pirates a few years ago, I think it's there. And will we will give him that opportunity to do that.
Q. That month with Nate when he was down there, did you see him down there?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I saw a guy that -- there's spurts where you see him and go, wow. We saw the Pittsburgh Pirates, you know, and I think you saw that in the Major Leagues a little bit. Now it's just a matter of getting back to the consistency of it.
Q. Shafer going to get a chance, too?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think so. Right now you look at the outfield position, you've got Heyward, McLouth, Prado, depending on if Chipper is good or not good, and you have got the opportunity to go Mather, Schafer, maybe Hinske, let him get out there and play left field. We are looking for four or five outfielders.
Q. Were you instrumental in Mather being acquired?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I saw him in Spring Training and I liked the athleticism and the versatility and flexibility that he could play a couple of different positions. In the National League, it's big where you can double switch and put them to left field and put them to third and put them in right and put them in first. But here is a big 6-3,6-4 big kid that can run. So he's had some issues with I think it was the wrist or something, but I've seen him juice the balls in Spring Training and I think he played us against us.
Q. Would you consider bringing Andruw Jones back as your No. 4 outfielder?
FREDI GONZALEZ: His name, we have been in the room, kicking tires and looking at names and his name has been brought up. We have talked about it. We have talked about it, among others, but his name has been brought up.
Q. I can't remember exactly when Hudson made his first start against you, but I know he pitched against you in May at some point in time, what did you see the first time you saw him this year? Did you see the guy --
FREDI GONZALEZ: Maybe not that first start, but I saw him keep getting better and stronger and getting past the Tommy John surgery and maybe it was just a matter of him knowing that thing was going to hold up. Maybe there was a confidence thing there.
But he is healthy and boy, oh boy, that's a nice piece to have in the starting rotation. Along with Derek Lowe. His last month, you know, the pennant chase this last season was outstanding. You know, I know he worked with Roger on a couple of mechanic things and hopefully he doesn't forget during the winter. He starts the season, he's got a chance, and talking to Bobby, he's got a chance to win 20, both of those guys, very easy. Without putting any pressure on anybody or anything like that, but they have got that kind of stuff.
Q. You said you saw Minor in Triple-A, kind of wore down toward the end of the year, but do you think he's ready for a middle of the rotation type role and responsibility for this team?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Middle of the rotation would probably be difficult with the guys that we have there. If we start the season tomorrow; I think his upside is maybe the top of the rotation. But if we have to start the season and he makes the team, then you put him behind -- and no specific order you have Lowe, Hudson, Hanson, Jurrjens, and let him be the fifth guy, or he'll beat you --
Q. Being a lefty, that puts him down there, too --
FREDI GONZALEZ: Here is a guy that can -- he won't beat you. He'll be your fifth guy. If there's days off, you can skip him. You don't put that kind of pressure on a young kid, you know. Break him in that way.
Q. For the defense, are you happy with your team defensively now?
FREDI GONZALEZ: You know what, it's a number that you always want to improve, and it was a number that I really didn't know until the Winter Meetings, we were I think third or fourth to last in defense. I think a lot of those errors were from the second half on. And that's not characteristic of an Atlanta Braves team. Pitching and defense, that's still going to be a big part, improving that defense.
I think winning championships, and winning pennants and all that kind of stuff, I think defense is a big part of that. But pitching and team defense.
Q. Speed, too?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, speed. One thing at a time. Let's work the defense and the pitching.
Q. But you're confident with Prado moving to left that you're going to be a little better out there and you don't think that was a big draw back?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think he's fine. I know where he's got the rap about defensively, the All-Star Game in New York, but just so happened to be about 5 billion people watching it.
This guy is pretty good, you know. He's pretty good. For me he's the best guy to turn a double play. He hangs in there and turns the double play. And yeah, I'm real comfortable with Danny at second base. Eddie Perez has said he's seen Prado play left field winter ball and he plays, no problem, no problems at all.
So that being said, I'm sure he's going to have to work on it in Spring Training and get more comfortable with it. But I've got no reservation.
Q. He'll be out there full-time in Spring Training?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Prado?
Q. Depending how Chipper comes in.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well he'll be out there and then we have to put him in the infield. He'll get plenty of work out there in left field -- you're talking about Prado?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He will get plenty of workouts in left field and he will get some work in the infield. We can't go into Spring Training and say you have to play all the games because something can happen like that and we need him to play third base.
Q. Kind of anxious to see him in Spring Training?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I see him on video, I see him on video with Roger and there's a couple kids there, okay, that really, you know, really like. Yeah I'll be interested to see, delivery is good, and it's a good arm, so looking forward to seeing in person.
Q. That rotation depth, to have the guys you have, pretty much will beat you there, six guys, and if Teheran could be right --
FREDI GONZALEZ: He's right there. He could be in June, you know the way they are talking in the room, there's two or three guys that could be their July, August, knocking at the door.
Q. Prado being one of those?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, some of those guys.
Q. Has it been nice, I know you spent a lot of time early in the morning with McCann and stuff during Spring Training, to see him develop to what he has, is that just kind of a nice feeling for you?
FREDI GONZALEZ: You know what, it's been great. And he's got all of these Silver Sluggers and five-time All-Star, and I told him, I said, "How about a piece of gold. That's what's missing in the mantle." I'm talking about the Gold Glove, he has the whole package to do that, win the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger. It's been nice to watch that kid mature and develop. Roger tells me he's pretty good at following game plans. Hopefully he's around for a long time. Those catchers are hard to find, especially left-handed. He's the old guy of the team pretty much and he's 26, with five All-Stars on his Mantle.
Q. Alex Gonzalez, you've seen him grow from a kid to a man. Anxious to deal with him on an every day basis?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, shoot, my first dealing with Alex was 1997 in Portland, Maine. There was an immaturity there like any young kid and here he is, 2010, Major Leaguer, 12 years.
I'm looking forward to watching him play.
Q. Where does George Sherrill fit in?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He's not a Brave.
Q. Thought he signed.
FREDI GONZALEZ: Not yet. No. Threw that one at me; I don't know.
Q. You talked about the lineup, how many guys could you fit in that lead-off spot or how many options do you see?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, right now, without really thinking outside of the box, put McCann out there. It would be Prado or Nate, pretty much. Maybe a little tinker with Gonzo up there but for me those are the only two guys you can put in the lead-off spot. I know when they put Prado to the lead-off spot, the team took off. Maybe we'll start with that it. We'll see how Spring Training goes. But for me those are the two options.
The lineup I have in mind, everything being equal, everybody being healthy, Prado fits better leading off, because then you go left, right, left, right, left, right all the way down.
Q. Heyward number two?
FREDI GONZALEZ: McLouth number two and Heyward becomes a guy that's a middle of the order type guy, run producer, a guy who can do that. I said left right, left right, but Chipper will be the switch-hitter.
Q. Would you kind of play with what you've got in your mind with that lineup for a while or kind of tinker around with it through Spring Training just to switch and see what would work best?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Probably tinker. You know, tinker but we have to start Spring Training and if we had to start a game tomorrow, that would probably be the lineup. And those lineups are not written in stone. You can always look at different matchups, who is going, who needs a day off and tinker that way.
Q. Could you see a scenario especially not knowing what Chipper is going to be like when he gets back, of Heyward being in that three spot from day one?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, you can see that scenario. You can see McCann being in that scenario. You can see Danny there and you can see Heyward. If Nate was the Nate we saw in Pittsburgh, he can hit there.
So, yeah, you can see those. It all depends on, like I said, starting, it all depends on the health; everything being good, few and far between in a 162-game season.
End of FastScripts