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December 6, 2011

Jim Tracy


Q.  I haven't talked to you since the Iannetta deal.  I'm not sure exactly what you can say about Hernandez, but when you look at the catching position, where does it stand with Ramon and how it fits with both Wilin and Pacheco, where do you stand in that position?
JIM TRACY:  Well, first of all I can just say that my understanding is obviously we have Ramon, pending the outcome of the physical.  And I'm obviously very hopeful the fact that all things there are going the way you'd like to see it go.
But I also want to make sure that everyone realizes the progress that Chris Iannetta, I personally feel made over the last year, to maybe the last year and a half defensively.  Some of the things in the outfield are very, very important as far as game calling and things like that.
The point is to make sure that everyone realizes that Chris Iannetta did not get traded because the organization or myself is as the manager was dissatisfied with what was taking place.  As a matter of fact, we were on pretty much an upward climb, big time in that direction, and like to see things go with respect to that position.
However, there was an opportunity to acquire a very special young pitcher, and in doing so we are adding to the mix of what we already have.  I think there's one thing that it's very safe to say right now is that when you look at our arsenal of arms, if you will, I think you could go so far as to say there may be a few organizations that are envious of ‑‑ not just young arms, it's one thing to have a bunch of young arms, but to have a group of young arms with a lot of quality, a tremendous amount of upside to them, that's a whole another statement.
And I think that the more and more you look at our situation, as we go forward and as we go into 2012, we're looking to be ‑‑ we want to contend.  I was very disappointed at what took place last year, although we got very injured, it's very hard to overcome your ace not performing up to his capabilities.
And then eventually being moved on.  Your No. 2 starter had Tommy John surgery, a brilliant young prospect like Nicasio and starting to acclimate to the Major Leagues, and ends up with a line drive to the face and breaks his neck.  That's hard to overcome.
But we are accumulating and stockpiling arms that we feel are not only arms to talk about but arms that are going to make a physical contribution at the Major League level.  In order to get an arm like Tyler Chatwood, you're not going to offer nothing and have the Angels say we'll just give you Chatwood.
So if you're going to get something, you have to give a little something.  And so what we did was we made a deal with a quality organization and a manager that I respect an awful lot, and we made what you'd like to think eventually down the road will be looked upon as being a very good baseball deal for both teams.
We got a very good young arm with tremendous upside.  They've obviously felt that their catching situation needed to be addressed.  And we made a trade.  Now, will it work out?  You wait and see.
But in order to do that we also needed to ask ourselves the question, if, in fact, Iannetta is traded, what are we going to do?  Now you add a veteran guy that has an understanding similar to where, like I just mentioned Chris Iannetta was at, that brings not only the defensive part, the game calling, the interaction, the respect from the group of pitchers that are standing in front of him, but an offensive player with great potential ‑‑ not potential, but a wonderful history of having had great offensive success.
The thing that intrigues me obviously about him offensively is about the fact that he's got power, from one foul line to the other.  And I've seen him get a number of big hits.  We've been on the receiving end of a couple of those that he's gotten against us.
He hits the ball to right field like a left‑handed hitter.  So that is encouraging that you get a pitch up and away from you and you're not going to pull it out of the ballpark and end up rolling it over to the shortstop, you're going to hit a double in right center and hit the ball out of the ballpark.
We didn't damage ourselves at all behind the plate.  We added another young arm.  Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Tyler Chatwood, Rex Brothers.  Those are the ones off the top of my head.  It's a very, very intriguing list when you write them all down and look at them and some of which have already made some contribution at the Major League level.  It's a pretty impressive list.

Q.  With such a young pitching staff, you don't know if you'll be able to get another veteran type in here, but how do you guard against the mentality of oh, we're young, it may take a few years to be a contender.  You want to be a contender now?
JIM TRACY:  I don't make excuses, as you well know.  And I really think, you know, I took a break in the action, obviously, to come down here to be with you guys, because we are, in essence to your question, we're hard at it up there.  We're not finished.  We're not finished by any stretch of the imagination, because there are still things that need to be addressed.  And we're working on those.
There are a lot of balls in the air, how they're going to land I don't know exactly.  But I think it's safe to say this, to sit here and say to any of you that we'll have a guy that is identified, Ubaldo was a guy that obviously became identified after what took place in the first half of 2010.  Tim Lincecum is identified.  Clayton Kershaw was a CyYoung Award winner in 2011 is identified.  We won't have that, but I am extremely proud of our bullpen.  I think our bullpen is very, very intriguing when you look at it and how it's constructed.
And so with the group of pitchers that we end up in our starting rotation, I think once we get started you'll have five guys that you feel pretty good about.  You'll also have depth in case something happens.  But you're going to have to look upon the rotation and say to yourself, is this a group of guys that can be extremely competitive and can they get you 17 or 18 quality outs and still have your team in a very, very good position to win and turn it over to your bullpen and let them do their thing?
It could get very interesting, because over the course of going about it in that manner, now does a Clayton Kershaw or a Tim Lincecum evolve as we go through.  Drew Pomeranz, I was very impressed with what I saw.  But what can he become?  He has a chance to become pretty special.  It's going to be pretty interesting to watch it evolve.
Another guy, (Indiscernible), I've talked to Frank and Thomas Harding endlessly about the fact he's insistent fastball command away from potentially becoming that Ian Kennedy, that Daniel Hudson, that Tim Lincecum, that Clayton Kershaw, faster than any other names I could mention to you guys.  Will it happen?  I don't know.  But we're going to keep working on it.
And then the other name is Jason Hammel.  And I have to bring Jason Hammel up because what I saw‑‑ even though going through the month of September the way he did this year is not something that I've been accustomed to since I put the Rockies uniform on.  They've been nothing but meaningful games.  Last year they weren't really that, but Jason Hammel had kind of a roller‑coaster type situation.
However, to the point where I took the ball away and took him out of the rotation.  Whatever it was, he's a father now, whatever the reason is, what I saw him out of the bullpen and then at the very latter stages of the season gave him another start where I felt like what the message he was sending to us suggested that we needed to send another positive one back to him and say, now we want you to start.
And whatever's been going on from the bullpen to the mound, we want you to bring it out in the same manner as a starter.  It was as good as I've seen him pitch since we acquired him in 2009.  His tempo, his stuff, his aggression, what is that going to translate into as we go forward, there's a lot of things to be very, very excited about, because of the unknown.
It could turn out to be we may have two or three guys where you get to the point and say, boy, you really don't want to face that guy.  Or if you do face him, you better be ready to not give up more than a couple of runs or you won't have a chance to beat him.  So there's a lot of stuff there that I'm really, really excited about.  I don't know how it's going to play out.  I don't know how much time it's going to take.

Q.  Have you thought about where Hernandez would fit in the lineup?
JIM TRACY:  Yeah, I have.

Q.  Is that possibly 5th, 6th, middle of the order bat for you?
JIM TRACY:  No, I think he's more in that ‑‑ in around that Helton‑Hernandez area, possibly in the 6th spot, something like that.

Q.  Okay.
JIM TRACY:  Somewhere in that neighborhood.  I don't want to pin it down.

Q.  Somewhere in that six spot?
JIM TRACY:  If Todd hits fifth, to have a right‑handed compliment, because he's capable of that.  He's capable of that.

Q.  But to put him much higher if he's not playing 115 games would be hard, right?
JIM TRACY:  Correct.

Q.  Cleanup, for instance, wouldn't be, if he's not going to play ‑‑
JIM TRACY:  No, because then you'd begin that roulette again of what you just suggested, every day he's not in the lineup, now all of a sudden six names have to get moved around in order to accommodate the fact that you didn't have him in there that day.

Q.  You've managed against him, what's your impression of Hiroki Kuroda?
JIM TRACY:  Hiroki Kuroda?  Just like any Japanese pitcher that I've ever come across, when I played over in Japan and/or managed them and managing Hideo Nomo, Ishi.  Hiroki Kuroda is an artist, and he's very, very good in understanding, No. 1, what he wants to do.  And No. 2, what it is that he has to do in order to disrupt the timing of opposing hitters.
Part of being able to do that or go about did in that manner is you have to have great command.  And he possesses that.  Rarely will you ever see Hiroki Kuroda lose a game because someone in the media room after the game is talking about the five or six guys that he walked.  He doesn't do that.  He's an artist.  He pitches to the edges.  He has very good secondary pitches.  He's very competitive.  He pitches ahead in the count.  And he disrupts timing.  And when you do all those different types of things ‑‑ and he's been pitching for as long as he pitches, you know there's a tremendous amount of know how.  That's why he's successful.

Q.  Talk about your young arms, what kind of value would he bring?  What kind of fit would he be on your club?
JIM TRACY:  You know, him or anybody else, of the type of caliber that I just described, you're hopeful that person also ‑‑ when I say from the leadership standpoint, he has the outside the lines type of demeanor that you would want young people to pay very close attention to, that whatever pitcher it is, if in fact it's available that we can acquire it, would not be hesitant about wanting to approach a young player, confront a young player on good things that they've done or things that they did that really inhibited them from being as successful on that given day as they wanted to be, that type of influence.
Believe me when I tell you that, Kevin Millwood was unbelievable for us at that, from the time that he joined us around the early to mid‑part of August in Cincinnati, all the way through the end of the season, he set an example just by walking around in the clubhouse.  The way he carried himself in the clubhouse.  The way he handled himself leading up to the start.  The way he dealt with the start.  The way he reacted after his start was over, even though the game wasn't over, we had young pitchers observe a very, very successful Major League pitcher.
One of the guys ‑‑ a star veteran, one of those type of guys.  That's the way I term it.  A guy sneaking up, I believe, or nearing and running in the direction of 200 wins in his career that would go upstairs after he was finished, do whatever it was that he had to do as far as the maintenance of his arm was concerned and then turnaround and come back to the dugout.
You know, you want young people to see that.  You really, really want your young people ‑‑ you want palmar aunts, you want White Sox.  You want Juan Nicasio, you want Esmil Rogers, Rex Brothers, unfortunately, doesn't get to see it because he's sitting in the bullpen.  He might be taking mill woods place or something like that, but you understand what I'm saying.

Q.  How do you see the evolution of Japanese baseball from your time to what it is now?
JIM TRACY:  You know, I'm not so sure ‑‑ you're going back a ways, now, but I'm not so sure that there weren't some guys that I was playing against back in the day over there that had this evolution process not started a little bit sooner.  I'd have to say to you, right, a lot sooner, that some of those guys could not have come over here and done just some of the things that we've seen Hideo Nomo.
I'd be remiss, if I didn't mention the name Ichiro, because he's pretty good.  I mean I played against some Japanese players back in the day that, believe me, when I was competing against them, I mean I could start naming some names, I have a pretty good memory, I could tell you some guys that I played against, that very definitely because of their skill set at the time I was playing against them, there's no doubt in my mind that they could have made a contribution to the Major League at that time.

Q.  Where do you stand right now, and there's a lot of time left, at second and third base?
JIM TRACY:  You know, at second base I'd say right now, as we sit here today, you know, you've got two guys, you've got one guy in Chris Nelson.  And you have another guy in Jonathan Herrera, that are guys that are in line to play baseball at the Major League level.  How exactly that completely unfolds, I mean I won't.  I won't definitively answer any of those questions today unless it is definitive.  But are they in the mix?  Yeah.  Chris Nelson ‑‑ I don't know how many more meetings I can have with Chris Nelson and feel like I'm breaking his Hart when I know full well at the time we get together he's been making enough of a contribution to stay in the Major Leagues.
Now, are there some things that he can continue to clean up and become an even better player to what we've seen at this point, yeah, him and I openly discussed that at the end of the season before he left.
The third‑base situation, you know, when I say it's up in the air, have we ruled out Ian Stewart?  I'm not going to sit here and tell you that we've ruled him out.  We have not.  Am I sitting here saying that I'm not going to sit here either that Nolan Arenado does not have a chance we're going to bring Nolan Arenado out of Spring Training and let him compete.  I've never been shy of that.  I've never been shy of a young player.  But you know something, I think it's also very important to say that when you are talking about this, are the circumstances correct, especially after what I saw of this kid during the course of the time of the four days I spent watching the Arizona Fall League.  To the credit of this young player, he's real good.  I won't shy away from that.  He's a very talented player.  And he's a very committed player.
But Ian Stewart is also a very talented player that basically had a miserable 2011, injury‑wise, all things being considered, but there are no question ‑‑ or there is no question his physical capabilities, to play third base, and when he does right offensively be an impact full bat in the Major League line up.  To say that we're leaning there, I don't know that that's the case.  It's going to be a competitive situation there.

Q.  Will you go into spring with CarGo set in right field, then, is that the plan or are ‑‑
JIM TRACY:  If we went today, yes.

Q.  Last year you made a point to tell him I want you to stay somewhere.  Do you have similar thinking this year?  Are you going to be more open‑minded?
JIM TRACY:  As we sit today, yes, he would go to Spring Training in right field, absolutely, as we sit here today.

Q.  What would change that?  An acquisition?
JIM TRACY:  Yes, to make sense for me to have to go back ‑‑ when I say go back to the drawing board, relook at the personnel that are now involved and say, you know what, in order to give a young pitching staff the best chance and surround it the best that we can and also especially 81 games defend Coors Field for 81 games the best we could possibly do.

Q.  What about the other outfielders?
JIM TRACY:  Fowler, Smitty, Fowler, you've got Gonzalez, Ryan Spilborghs as we sit here today, he's over in Mexico, trying to rectify some things.  He basically had a down year in 2011.  I think if he were sitting here he'd tell you exactly the same thing, although he dealt with a couple of physical setbacks.  The situation he was dealing with in his foot, that plantar fascitis, I think is what you call it, where he really couldn't push off, it infringed upon his offensive capabilities, there is no doubt about that.
Troy asked a question earlier before you sat down, I think the neat thing about being upstairs, there's a lot of open dialogue about, No. 1, what it is we already have from the standpoint of young players, but very, very talented young players that can make a contribution, and what is it that you can do to help facilitate the situation and yet not jeopardize what you know is out there on the horizon over the course of the next few years to come.
How do you balance the scales to where you're going to be good, even leading up to that, that's what we're working on.  And we have a chance to accomplish it.  But as I said earlier, there are things that have to happen.  There are some step out that has to take place from different people, on the pitching staff, in the bullpen.
Is Dexter Fowler going to be the player from opening day until the end of the season in 2012 that he was when he came back from the demotion to the minor leagues last year?  This guy was ‑‑ the player we saw when he came back, that's the guy we want him to be day‑in and day‑out.  If you see that player day‑in and day‑out and as I mentioned to you guys earlier, I'm very confident in the fact in saying we have two of the brighter young players in the game, period, in Gonzalez and Tulowitzki.  You always have a foundation.

Q.  Do you have anybody calling you and asking you ‑‑ like the Braves and the Nationals are looking for outfielders, are they calling you and asking you for any of your outfielders?
JIM TRACY:  Have we had some discussion?  You know, I know that there's been a little bit of discussion, but as to how much and how serious and to what extent, that's a better question for Danny to answer, because that stuff doesn't really come my way until it has materialized to the point where it's a fairly pertinent conversation between Danny and I.
Otherwise there's not a whole lot to discuss because, you know, it's hearsay or it's speculative kind of conversation.  He's got a lot more to do than just involve himself in conversation with me about stuff like that.  And I appreciate that, really.  If there's something of substance, something there that's really strongly able to be considered and/or discussed further, like where do you go with it?  But we haven't engaged in too much conversation with regard to those two organizations, specifically.

Q.  What do you think your team learned from the failure ‑‑ you and I talked last spring about you weren't interested in being good but great.  For a number of reasons it didn't happen.  I'm not rehashing that.  But is Dan upset with what he felt like the team's lack of mental toughness, not so much a fracture, but nothing helped to change to fix it.  What do you think you've learned and what is your role in that in trying to get it back to where chemistry is its huge strength?
JIM TRACY:  You know, I think it's very important ‑‑ and you know something, Troy, I started trying to do some of that before 2011, and I think where it begins is involving yourself with a specific individuals.  And the encouragement part, the conversation about the fact of the importance ‑‑ when I say clubhouse leadership, is really basically ‑‑ we ‑‑ my opinion, we have people that are very, very capable of that.  And don't fear the fact of picking up the torch and carrying it out there.
Because if, in fact, you start to see some things go awry, I'm not shy.  I don't like to spend as much time in the clubhouse as I did last year.  But if, in fact, some of these little fires that we're talking about don't get put out, then I've got to walk out there, because I don't like that.  I don't want that in my clubhouse.  And so basically the early messages were to certain individuals, you know, grab the torch and run with it or I should say grab the baton, maybe that's a better choice, maybe a better thing to run with than a torch.
So take the baton and run with it.  And let's engage one another.  And let's get it to the point where ‑‑ if something isn't the way that we want to see it be done, as Colorado Rockies, somebody step forward and address it.  And maybe some of these things won't even make their way back to my office and I won't have to walk out there.
I was talking to Dave Van Dyck while I was walking in today, I think an interesting example of what I'm talking about is the new manager with the Chicago White Sox.  I can't tell you how fond I am of that guy.  And he was a player of mine back in 2004 when we won the Western Division in Los Angeles.  But in relation to what it is that you're asking me, I've not had ‑‑ I've never had a better clubhouse lieutenant than Robert.
And I think, you know, when you look at that and you look at the task that he's undertaken, if there's one guy to be able to handle it, being as new as he is to being on this side of the fence it would be him, because of what I experienced with him seven years ago, and some of the things that he took upon himself to just deal with and put the flame out before it became a fire, gives you every reason to think, here's a guy doing something that obviously already has a pretty good idea of what it's like to sit in there, in that office, in that chair, behind that desk.  That's really special.
A guy like that evolves in your clubhouse, there's not too much adversity that you can't put down immediately.  However, we can talk about this all we want, but you know something, if somebody has to have a Tommy John surgery, that's no one's fault.  Let's make that very clear.  And if a line drive gets hit by a player from another team and it hits one of your pitchers in the temple and if he lands and breaks his neck.
That has nothing to do with the lack of clubhouse chemistry or effort or the way they went about their business.  That's just a run of luck that's not going to turn out too good.

Q.  Pardon me, and I'm repeating something, but what do you see in Kevin Slowey that you like?
JIM TRACY:  Well, you know, he's a consistent strike thrower that, you know something, what I've seen of him, what I know of him is he does not beat himself.  The other teams bats will beat him but he won't beat himself.  And one of the things that we ran into and one of the things that we definitely have to be mindful of as we move forward is we can be a pretty good team when we get to, as I said these guys before you sat down, get to a bullpen that I'm very proud of.
They're very, very efficient.  And I like to use them correctly.  And when I say correctly, meaning set them up to take care of the different situations that are going to present themselves as the game unfolds.
But unfortunately you can't do that the way you want if every other day somebody is walking out there throwing 105 or 110 pitches in four or the third or five innings.  Slowey can finish the game in '85 if he does it right, I've seen him do it.
But his efficiency, the fact that he can chew up some innings, because the other thing I do know is, you know something, if you look up every day and ‑‑ although it doesn't end up being this way, but it just feels like it, where there's so many times where you look up and you're already into your bullpen in the fourth or fifth inning, that's going to do damage.  Eventually it's going to do damage.
Now is the group ‑‑ are they going to recoup from it?  Yeah, they will.  I've seen it happen.  But there's going to be a period there at the time when you'd least like it to happen where they're going to go face first into a wall and have to come off of it, but it's going to take them a little bit longer than you'd like to see them get off of it because of the additional workload that they've asked you to take on that they otherwise shouldn't be doing if you're going to be a competitive, contending type club.
We feel Slowey brings some of that to us.  Now, I don't know what happened last year.  You know, there are some things that take place in any clubhouse in baseball that unfortunately you're not privy to all that information.  I get it.  But you just bounce back just a little bit prior to that.  This was an awfully efficient pitcher that knows how to win and/or leave the game in a position where if your bullpen does what it's supposed to do you're going to win.  Or if somebody could pick up a big hit where it looked like he might lose the game 4‑3, we need a couple of bats like that.

Q.  You spoke about Kuroda being a great pitcher.  Have you talked about the possibility of having him for your team?
JIM TRACY:  Well, we've talked about a lot of guys.  And for me to sit here and specifically say, you know, we've had discussion about Hiroki Kuroda, I really don't want to do that in this type of setting.  But, you know, with regard to some of the questions that were asked here and some of the things I've alluded to about how special a group of young arms that we have, I think it's safe to sit here and say, and everyone here can figure it out, that, you know, we're looking for an arm or two to help to make sense and allow these kids to grow at the rate you'd like to see them grow and learn from somebody that's been there and done that.  So there's been a lot of conversation about the likes of people like Hiroki and several other guys.

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