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December 6, 2011

Eric Wedge


Q.  You were here last year just starting off the job, how different is it 12 months later?
ERIC WEDGE:  Very different.  One of the biggest things I think I needed to do and it was important for us to do was for me to get a grasp on anything and everything within the organization.  First and foremost, the players.  But ultimately, from head to toe, you know, just where we are and just assess everything.
Nothing more important than my relationship with Jack.  And I feel like that is tremendous and continues to grow.  My relationship, his relationship with the front office and the ownership has been fantastic, as well.  And a high level of communication, which is, I think, a mandate.  It has to happen.  It's important.
And all of this is just simply to trickle down to the players and make sure that the players are getting what they need and ultimately we're on the right track.  It's still the early stages.  I talk about that foundation.  I feel like that foundation is there, albeit thin, but it's there.  And we'll keep building on that.

Q.  Is there any one type of player that you're looking for, that you've specifically told the front office this winter, that that's the kind of guy I want on this team?
ERIC WEDGE:  Yeah.  Not in regard to just specific performance, but ultimately, I do want a couple of veterans. I'd like to have a veteran position player and something from a pitching standpoint, maybe in the bullpen.  Maybe in the rotation.  I don't know, depends on what comes our way.
But in regard to what type of player on the field and performance, nothing too specific, because I want to keep our options open, because our is our young kids, it's continue to play our young kids, be it in the rotation, the bullpen, but even more importantly, I think, because of the numbers our position players.  And that needs to get better offensively.  We will.
As painful as it was last year, it was necessary to do what we needed to do and what we're going to do in the future.

Q.  Where are you going to make the step forward offensively?
ERIC WEDGE:  Collective.  Without a doubt.  I talked about one through nine, and that's what we're going to do.  And we're setting that foundation with our kids to make sure that they understand, to a man, what a good AB is, what a good out is, and just how to compete throughout the course of a ballgame.
When this is all in motion, you're going to see nine tough outs at home plate.¬† And I'm not talking about waiting around for a three‑run homerun, I'm not talking about one big bopper.¬† If one of those kids develops into that, great.
But ultimately I want to score runs every inning.  I don't feel like we're in 7, 8 or 9 order or whatever it may be, that we're just going to run through this inning.  I want to do a better job with two strikes.  I want to cut the strikes down, I want to do a better job with runners in scoring position.  And ultimately, this may be the final step, with two outs in score position, because that's a separator for a club.
So I feel like I have a tremendous feel for our kids and where they're at and what they need to do.  And we'll continue to move forward with that.

Q.  What was your conversation with Ichiro postseason, and where do you sit with him?
ERIC WEDGE:  I've met with him twice.  I met with him again the other day.  And I want to keep the lines of communication open with him.  I respect him.  But also I don't want him to read something or see something through you guys, you know, that I haven't already talked to him about.
I'm still not sure where I'm going to hit him in the order.  I want him to understand that, because ultimately I'm going to do what I feel like is best for our club.  I'm going to put out the best nine in the right order, in the order that I see fit to score as many runs as we can.  And if I feel like that's him leading off, then that's what we're going to do.  If I feel like that's him hitting the three hole, that's what I'm going to do.  If I feel like that's him hitting somewhere else, that's what we're going to do.
He told me last year in the middle of the season that he's going to ‑‑ he wants to do whatever is best for the ballclub.¬† And he wants me to do whatever I feel like is best for the ballclub.¬† And I take him at his word and that's what I'm going to do.¬† He's been tremendous, and he's been communicating with me; and I appreciate that.
We're looking to build a winner here, and a championship team that should be a championship organization.  That's my entire focus.

Q.¬† You've seen him leading off, obviously.¬† How do you get a sense ‑‑ how do you work?
ERIC WEDGE:  Last year was tough, because it wasn't a prototypical year for him.  And I haven't been around him on a prototypical year.  I'm hoping to be around him this year in a prototypical year.  He's a guy that he can be aggressive at times.  He's a guy that can be a little bit passive at times.  He has a mindset and he goes up there and he sticks to it.
Like I've said before, he's a tough one to assess, because it's such a unique style.  It's very rare.  And that's why he's such a special player.  And that's why he's a future Hall of Famer.  It's no doubt in my mind that he is.
But right now he's here to help us win ballgames, as the other 24 are.  And that's what we're going to move forward with.

Q.  Has he spoken to you at all about his training partner, the shortstop, Kawasaki?
A.He's not spoken to me about it.  I'm obviously aware, but we have not had a specific conversation about that.  He's brought up a few players that he wouldn't mind seeing come here.  I'm not going to mention them, but I appreciate that.  Obviously I pass that along.

Q.  What are the extent of your conversations with Franklin Gutierrez this season?
ERIC WEDGE:  We're going to bring a group of position players in early January.  And they know that.  We're going to bring them all in at the same time.  I want to put my eyes on them.  I want them to workout for a couple of days, with Griffin and our strength conditioning, Rocket and those guys take a look at them.  I want to talk to them.
As important as anything, I want them to know that they're coming in here.  They've got four or five weeks and then after that they'll have four or five weeks until Spring Training begins or about a month or whatever it is.
The coaches, Rick Griffin, myself, and we've been in contact with guys, and to answer specifically about Gutierrez, he feels good.  His weight is good.  His weight is actually better than we thought it would be right now, so we're really happy about that.
I wanted to make sure that the reports that were good are really good, and not the good that I heard last winter, if you know what I mean, to be completely honest with you.  So I pressed that issue.  And he's an important guy for us.  This is a guy that's kind of flying under the radar for certain people.  But not for me.  I had him in Cleveland.  I know what he can do when he's good.  I'm talking offensively, I'm talking about getting on base, stealing bases, I'm talking about being a guy that's a run producer, whether himself knocking them in or himself scoring.
There would be nothing happier for me and I could plug him up there in that two hole.  I would love for him to really come in and fight for that and do it that, because I think he's capable of doing some things up there.

Q.  You say his weight is good, you mean it's gone up?

Q.¬† Has he put on ‑‑
ERIC WEDGE:¬† I don't know what it is ‑‑ it's good.¬† He's ‑‑ there's nothing else that he can put on, he has that lean body type, unlike most of us.¬† When he puts on weight, it's good weight.

Q.  Casper Wells is another guy that you saw something, and then it went away.  Where is he at?
ERIC WEDGE:  Well, he, too, he's been in Arizona, we've been checking him out.  He's been seeing the doctors.  He feels good.  He had some eye issues, head issues, sinus issues, he had some things going on upstairs that really affected him.  And we feel like we're on top of that right now.
But we need to stay on top of that.¬† Physically there's no issue.¬† The guy is a rock.¬† Athletically he's very good.¬† I love him in the outfield.¬† I love him on the bases.¬† We saw a couple of weeks that were pretty special.¬† I thought he had a chance ‑‑ and we still feel like that's in there.¬† But we also saw the flip side of that, too, I hope we can attribute that to some of the things he was having upstairs.
To say I know exactly what we have, I don't.  But I know what he's capable of doing.

Q.  You mentioned Kawasaki earlier, including what Ichiro has mentioned, what do you know about him?
ERIC WEDGE:  You know, I just know what our scouts have talked to me about in regard to him.  I won't get into specifics.  Nothing is set in stone yet.  Nothing is really done yet.  So we want to make sure that we continue to talk about it and look at that.  It's rely nothing for me to mention.  Jeff mentioned it.  I commented on it.
But ultimately, you know, we're going to bring a number of different people in the camp.  Last year coming into camp I really didn't have much of a feel for anybody.  This year I'm having a much greater feel for almost everybody.  But there will be some people that we do bring in that we're going to have to assess and evaluate and see if they're a fit.

Q.  How flattering is it that he says the only team he wants to come to is the Mariners?
ERIC WEDGE:  I've heard that from more than one person.  I think it has more to do with Ichiro than it has to do with Seattle or Eric Wedge, I can tell you that much.

Q.  Third base, are you comfortable with what you've got there, a couple of young kids?
ERIC WEDGE:  We've got a couple of young kids.  Again, we're still looking for some veteran presence, whether it be in the infield or outfield, I don't know.  I'm willing to go with what we have right now and run with it, if that's the direction we decide to go in.  I'm willing to take that on and go with it because I'm all about continuing to play these young kids.  And developing them to continue to be good, Big League ball players and better hitters and better all around players, better all around professionals.
But I would like to have a little bit of veteran presence to help them continue to move along.

Q.  Have you spoken with Chone Figgins at all?
ERIC WEDGE:  I have not.  I know that Rick has and say few of the coaches have.  I've left him alone, married, you know, doing his thing, feeling good.  He's been checked out again by the doctors, so knock on wood, he's completely removed from that injury that he had.  So that's a big part of it.

Q.  Is he still a guy you can look at every day at third base?
ERIC WEDGE:  I'm not sure.  I want him to be able to play all over the place.  I don't want to just pigeon hole him and just have him locked into third base or another position I want him to come into Spring Training and be prepared to play wherever we need him to play.

Q.  You haven't decided on the starting rotation yet, next year?

Q.  What are you thinking about?
ERIC WEDGE:  We're going to see what happens this winter.  Again, I feel good about the young starting pitching that we have coming.  I don't know what, if any, of the young kids that we have in the organization are ready to be with us from day one.  But they're most definitely going to come to Spring Training and compete.
Obviously the only three that are really set in stone for me right now are Hernandez, Pineda and Vargas.  And Beavan has a leg up, probably, because of what he did.  But I'm not going to lock him in just yet.  I'm going to look at him as well as a number of our other young kids.  And I'm sure we'll sign a few guys, too, that will come in and compete for roles, as well.

ERIC WEDGE:  No, I don't get caught up in the lefty, righty type thing.  I want the guy that's going to do the best job for us.

Q.  Because of the friendship between Ichiro and Kawasaki, do you think if he's on board, he's going to bring a positive influence to Ichiro?
ERIC WEDGE:  I don't know.  Ichiro is so focused.  I don't know if he needs that, you know what I mean?  I don't think he let's anything get in his way.  I do think this will be a little bit different for him coming off the year he had.  It's not the status quo for him.  I still continue to focus on the ten years that he had, how successful he was.  He's only one year removed from that, and I feel like he's capable of getting back to that level.
With his discipline and focus and the routine he has, and being more familiar with his teammates, we had a lot of transition, a lot of turnover last year, I hope all of that is going to make him comfortable.

Q.  Does Carp's role depend on what happens here?
ERIC WEDGE:¬† Right now I'm sitting looking at him more in outfield because of Smoak at first base.¬† I want him to be ‑‑ that's where the bulk of his time is going to come in Spring Training.¬† He's still going to play first base.

Q.  Do you see Mike Carp more of a position player?
ERIC WEDGE:  Yeah.  One thing that you saw with him, when he was out there, we bounced him around on necessity with Smoak going down.  But one thing I think you did see when he was out in leftfield, somewhat regular basis, he was more and more comfortable.  When we bounced him around a little bit he wasn't as comfortable out there.  I think that tells you what you need to know.

Q.  What's your impression of Yu Darvish?
ERIC WEDGE:  Know him.  Watched him.  Impressed.  Haven't done a lot of work on him.  But it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Q.  So in the same vein, on Carp, not wanting to bounce him around that much, are you looking at him more as an every-day player against righty and lefties?
ERIC WEDGE:  I don't like to put a guy in a position, to where they're platooning, you know what I mean?  Like when we brought Yu over to Cleveland, to give you an example of someone you know, it's just real easy to do, and I think it's the wrong thing to do.  It's the wrong message to send the player.  I'm not smart enough.  You're not smart enough to figure out if he can or cannot hit against lefties.  You have to watch him do it and watch him react to it.
I've got a pretty good eye for what I feel like is going to play.¬† Right side or left side against right‑handers or left‑handers.¬† So I think he's going to be capable of hitting left‑handers, too.¬† To answer your question, I'm not looking to platoon him.¬† He's coming in with an opportunity to play on an everyday basis unless something crazy happens this winter.

Q.  How is Smoak doing?
ERIC WEDGE:  Good.  He's on the rail, doing his thing.  We had him come out here and do some things.  We sent a guy back there with him to meet with his guy and do some things.  So he's one of the guys that we'll bring in early January.

Q.  You had about a two weeks to reflect on it, but can you put into perspective the loss of Greg Halman just at this stage compared to when we called you two weeks ago?
ERIC WEDGE:  I can't.  You know, it's just a horrible thing.  You talk about perspective of life, it's just a horrible tragedy.  You realize just how fragile life is, and I think about his family, what they're going through with everything surrounding that.  I think about his teammates and how tough that was for them, as it is for all of us.
But the people that really knew him that were living with him for the last three or four years and really spending time with him, so, yeah, it's just a horrible tragedy.  I guess you always have certain reminders in life just to remind you just how fortunate we are to have life and just how fragile it is.  It's just almost something that you have a hard time putting into words and running it through your head.  It's hard to even think about.

Q.  With the team as young as yours, do you have to phone some of these players and see if they're okay going forward?
ERIC WEDGE:¬† One thing I've learned a long time ago, I think everybody has a different way of mourning.¬† And everybody has their own sense of ‑‑ in regard to how to deal with that.¬† So whether it be myself reaching out to a few people or others reaching out to a few people, we did what we felt like was necessary.
But ultimately it's a private time and it's something that regardless of what I say or what somebody else says, you've got to work through that yourself.  It's tough.

Q.  How familiar are you with Darren Ford?
ERIC WEDGE:  A little bit, you know.  Not real familiar, but a little bit.  I think that with where we are here, my second year with all these young kids, we're going to make sure that we open ourselves up to different options, different types of players.
But I'll continue to say this, there's nothing more important than the focus that we have on our young players, that we've already got the ‑‑ we've already kicked off with and continue to get them to where they need to be.

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