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MLB WINTER MEETINGS


December 6, 2011


Charlie Manuel


DALLAS, TEXAS

Q.  Have you talked to Jimmy?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  I talked to him about a week ago when I was in Philly.  I saw him two days in a row.

Q.  What did you guys talk about?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  I can't tell you.  (Laughing).  We talked about a lot of things.

Q.  Are you confident he's going to be back here?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† I think that Jimmy, there's a big chance that Jimmy is going to be back with us.¬† I feel that way, and I think it's going to get done.¬† I think our organization, when I listen to people upstairs and my general manager, and they‑‑ I think right now that's definitely our A plan.

Q.  How many our plans do you have?  Do you have B, C, D, E?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think that any time in baseball, like when a situation is like it is there, I think that you always think about what happens if this happens and that happens.  You try to cover the bases or something like that.  But at the same time, if I'm a betting guy, I'll say that we keep Jimmy, that Jimmy is going to be with us.

Q.  What makes you so confident?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† I think he's been in our organization a long time.¬† I think he's definitely a part of everything that we've did in the past, and I think that he's a Philly.¬† I think that he wants to remain a Philly.¬† I think it's just a matter of some‑‑ there's still some time, and there's still some thinking, and you're probably looking.¬† It's kind of a‑‑ Jimmy can be a spur of the moment guy sometimes.¬† You know, he'll wake up one morning and say, hey, I'm staying a Philly.¬† That's kind of who he is.

Q.  If Jimmy is the last big piece to this team going into the next season, how do you feel the changes and where you guys stand going into the year if he's your last piece?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Oh, I feel like‑‑ I feel good about it, really.¬† I feel very good.¬† I feel‑‑ at the end of the season, when we got eliminated, of course I was upset, and it took me a while to really‑‑ after about a week, I was wanting to come back and get going again.¬† It took me about a week to get over it.¬† But I looked at things like Jimmy back, and you put our team on the field, and I think I like what I see.
We won 102 games last year, and there was times when‑‑ up until the time that we clinched our division, I don't really know how long, but we seemed like for two or three months there we won series all the time, and once we clinched, we started resting guys that was having health problems or injuries, and that's kind of when we lost some games there for a while.¬† But at the same time, we finished with 102 wins.
I think from the second half of the season, we definitely were one or two in offense.¬† We talk about our offense and it still shows we can score runs, but I know we can score more, and once we added Hunter Pence, that's when‑‑ once we added Hunter Pence last year, actually that's when Mayberry really started coming on, that's when he picked up.¬† We think he has a chance to be an everyday player, and we'll find out.¬† But at the same time, too, if you look and see who we have, why shouldn't I be excited about it?¬† I'm very excited.
Halladay sent me a message over Thanksgiving, and I would have texted him back, but I don't do it.  I can't do it.  I didn't think about calling him, but he texted me a message and said that he was ready to go back and try it again.  He says, if we keep doing this we're going to win one of these days.  I kind of look at it that way.  We have got guys that want to win and we've got guys that want to play and want to win.  Thome comes over with us just because he wants a ring.  We've got guys, Halladay, Lee, Hamels, all those guys, you guys talk to them every day.  We want to get back to the World Series and win again.
We took one big step last year and then we got knocked out in the first round, so we didn't get the other three steps.  But we'll come back this year and we'll put more into it and try even harder if that's possible and see what can happen.  I like what we've got.

Q.  You said you think your offense was good for the second half of the season, but it can be better.  What do you think has to happen for it to be even better?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† I think first of all, if you stop and think about it, we can get‑‑ if we keep our front line players healthy, Utley‑‑ I think Utley is going to bounce back and he's going to come back and be a player like he used to be, and I think he's definitely capable of hitting 300 and hitting 25 to 30 homers.¬† I think in the last three years, I think he's missed time, and I think it kind of‑‑ the time that he's missed, his injuries, definitely‑‑ like has kind of set him back and seems like it pushes him back even farther and the rest he's getting this winter and the fact that he's going to be ready to go when he comes into Spring Training, we'll definitely monitor him, I think he's going to end up having a big year for us.¬† We've got Hunter Pence, going to have him for a full season.¬† Of course we've got to get Ryan Howard healthy and playing.¬† I think he will miss some time, but I saw him Saturday, and he was limping a little bit, but he didn't have his crutches, so that's a good sign.
I think all those things, just getting healthy and being able to play‑‑ but then also again, getting back to the point where Howard hitting, if you look, we've got to‑‑ I would say we can just be a little bit more‑‑ we can work on scoring some runs early in the game.¬† Our pitching is set up‑‑ our team now is not the team that you seen three years ago.¬† Our team is based around pitching, and it's very important for us to get the lead in a game.¬† And if we can‑‑ that's the only thing that I would probably talk about as far as changing an offense.
We don't have guys who walk a lot, and we don't talk about walking a lot, we talk about getting a good ball to hit, and if you don't get a good ball to hit, then you will walk, and that's a proven statement.¬† We've got guys who all of a sudden, you look up and our lineup is swingers, and then we've got‑‑ when we get in big games, then especially the one‑run games, that's the ones that not only does it bother me, but it bothers some of our players when we lose those games.
I think it's trying to put runs on the board early, and I think that's another way that we can improve our offense.¬† But we're really capable of scoring quite a few more runs than we did last year.¬† From an offensive standpoint and who we had‑‑ you've got to remember last year we tried some new players at the start of the season.¬† If you go back and look, we had our two utility players got 550 at‑bats.¬† If you would have told me that coming out of Spring Training, I would have told you there was no way we were going to one 102 games and things like that.¬† It wasn't like we failed.¬† I mean, we failed to win a World Series, but we‑‑ from an offensive standpoint we're very capable of doing a lot better.

Q.  Now that you have guys like Wigginton and Nick is along the way and Thome even maybe, do you picture yourself rotating guys more?  You didn't really have that opportunity last year.
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† I think what you see depth‑wise is experience on our bench is going to make us better, and I'll tell you guys something:¬† When you're sitting there and you've got a Major League lineup and you've got an expectation to go to a World Series and things like that, and you take‑‑ you start playing a couple guys came from the Minor Leagues and you start playing a couple guys, some bench players, and all of a sudden you look up‑‑ I've seen times, especially the first half of the season last year, when we had Rollins and Victorino and powered in the lineup and the rest of our lineup was like it was made up by guys who were trying to stick on our team or come from the Minor Leagues or our utility players, and there's nothing wrong with a utility player or a bench player.¬† You've got to have those without a doubt, and you also got to take part of your team, and they have to do a job for you.¬† But at the same time, on a given day, if you're going to play‑‑ like if you're going to play a weak lineup, what I call a weak lineup or a lineup that's not consistent, then it's going to catch up to you.¬† That was the problem we was having, and that's why we went out and was fortunate to bring Pence to us.

Q.  Do you view Mayberry in a situation like Francisco was last spring, the chance to go in and win the job for you full time in left field?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  Yeah, I think we go to Spring Training we'll put him out there and let him play.
Last year I tried‑‑ especially when he was hitting the ball, I tried to match him up with certain pitchers, and John has improved a lot.¬† If he can play regular and hold his own and play like he did the second half of the season, then he's going to be a top‑notch player.¬† But that's not what we have to find out.

Q.  What other options do you have?  What if he can't?  Last year we said the same thing about Francisco and he kind of struggled.  Who's the backup option?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Right now when you look at our team, we would have Wigginton and we would have Lance, and we could have‑‑ who else is there?¬† We've got some options.¬† It's not like‑‑ we've got some guys that can move the ball.
Also, too, guys, you guys never say anything about it, and I don't mention it that much because I don't like to sit and‑‑ I'm a positive guy.¬† I don't like to send a bad message to a player, but when you look at it, and I've heard you guys say and I've heard fans say and everything about how much speed we've got, I'd like for you to buy you a watch.¬† Like when they get on the base and see how fast they can go first to third, second to home and things like that and see how many of those guys we've got, I think we definitely‑‑ that's a place we can upgrade, and also we need to get a little bit smarter around the bases and like to have a little bit more knowledge, especially with two outs, runners on second.¬† Situation baseball we definitely can improve on, and we've got the guys that can do that.

Q.  Ruben said a few times now that he's comfortable with the bullpen, he likes the bullpen, but you basically have Papelbon and Contreras, who's coming off elbow surgery, and they're really the only two veterans in the bullpen.  Are you comfortable with the bullpen?  Do you think you need another veteran arm back there?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† We need him to be healthy and we need for him to be able to pitch some.¬† And even then I would feel if we had one more strong piece ‑‑ we've got Bastardo and Stutes, and they started the season last year.¬† Bastardo was my guy that really surprised me last year.¬† He come a long way, and he really surprised me as far as what he did for about two‑thirds or three‑fourths of the season, he was lights out, and as I used to tell you guys, the experience that Stutes and Bastardo had, the last month of the season, and also that's the longest season they've ever been in, and they was in it at the Major League level and the mental part of it starts wearing on you, and it's kind of expected that they would‑‑ like Mike struggled a little bit in September.¬† But this year coming up, this is a year that they've got to prove that that wasn't a fluke, how good they are.¬† I think they can do it because they've got talent; so therefore, I look at our bullpen, and I could see where he would say he was comfortable in the pen.¬† I feel comfortable with our bullpen, too, but like another late‑inning piece, a guy with a good arm, Contreras definitely could be that guy, and who knows, we might have somebody in the Minor Leagues that can do that.
Every year somebody comes‑‑ every year I've managed in Philadelphia, every year that I've managed in Cleveland, somebody always steps up and you find something that does a job or is kind of a sleeper or something like that for you.¬† And we're sitting in a good position to have a real good bullpen and also a good starting rotation.
I look for Worley.¬† Worley is real.¬† I think that he's definitely for real, and Kendrick is better than he used to be, and as far as ‑‑ Kendrick's stuff is better than it used to be.¬† His command is better.¬† You can bring Kendrick up all you want, too.¬† I've got kind of warm on Kendrick because he shows me that he'll go out there and he'll pitch and he can take you in the point of the game where he can win.¬† He's got a lot of moxie, and he's got a lot of determination.
Blanton, if he's healthy, we know that he can definitely be capable of pitching in the rotation.  So yeah, why shouldn't we be liking our pitching?  Best pitching I ever had.

Q.  What do you do at first base and then your lineup until Ryan comes back?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Nix has played there a little bit.¬† I think he played seven or eight games there.¬† I think he played one or two against us last year if I'm not mistaken.¬† I know he played one.¬† Mayberry, we'll try to get Thome to Spring Training, we'll send Thome over in the Minor Leagues and we'll let him take ground balls and get some playing time and he'll start out playing three or four innings and we'll work him up and work him in.¬† And when we feel like it's time to bring him over to the Major League field and put him in a game, we will.¬† I think he's going to have to work hard, but I think he can still play first base.¬† I had him when he was 18 years old and he played third, and he's got good hands.¬† If I was a betting man, I'd say that he can play once or twice a week, but at the same time, I won't push him or I won't go‑‑ I'm not going to put him in an embarrassing situation for him.

Q.  Even if he can handle it, would you be worried at all that playing the position might cause his back to flare up?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Yeah, that's a problem, like his back would be a problem, I think, if you did‑‑ I think if you monitored‑‑ I've always said that Thome had back problems, a lot of that came from the fact that he didn't cover a lot of ground at first base, and he was always diving and he was always hitting‑‑ any time he dives, he's a big man, and when he's hitting on the ground two or three times a night and things like that, that's going to take its toll on his back.¬† But I think the way Jimmy works and things like that, I think that we can monitor that.¬† I think he's going to be able to give us what we want.
In an ideal world, we've got to get Thome some at‑bats.¬† He'll stay sharp, and he's a threat coming off the bench and he'll make the other managers think about things before he makes moves.

Q.  You could also see using Nix?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  I could use Nix there.  He played some, so we can definitely try him there.  Wiggins, yeah, he played some in Colorado.  He's played some at left but not a whole lot.  He played first, third, left, probably in that order.

Q.  Do you still like Pence hitting third?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Actually I've always thought of Utley being our third hitter because when he's hitting good, that didn't‑‑ I was down last year on lefties.¬† When he's hitting good, if you go back and look, he's been very productive, and I think that‑‑ when I think of our lineup, I think right now our lineup couldn't change a whole lot, but I think at the same time I would see‑‑ I still like Utley in the third hole if he's healthy and he's good.

Q.  Why in your mind did both Ryan and Chase struggle against lefties last year?  And that really hurt your lineup when those two weren't going.
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† I think when Ut came back, I think Chase didn't‑‑ I think Chase hadn't been seeing‑‑ when he was working in the Minor Leagues and he was getting some at‑bats and he was playing and stuff, he wasn't probably‑‑ if you go back and look he wasn't getting many at‑bats on lefties.¬† All of a sudden the lefties that he's facing in the Big Leagues are good starters or they're a situational guy who's got a lot of breaking balls, and I think his timing was off.¬† I think Ryan‑‑ I think last year, I think that he got impatient, and he wanted to hit them, and he chased a lot of bad balls out of the strike zone, especially away, like breaking balls and stuff.¬† And I think that we can‑‑ I think there's some work, and the right kind of work, I think that Ryan can get back to where he used to be against lefties when he first came up.¬† I think he's very capable of still hitting.

Q.  You mentioned Utley.  Did he change his program this offseason to get more rest or anything like that?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Not really.¬† Really, I haven't talked to him, but at the same time, I know our doctors and Scott Sherwin was looking for a way that we could get him to‑‑ get some kind of program where he could strengthen his legs and things without‑‑ taking as much pressure off his knees as possible.¬† But I know he's going to work out hard, I know that.¬† But at the same time hopefully he'll be ready and he'll be feeling good when he comes into Spring Training.

Q.  And you're pretty confident he will be?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Yeah, I'm pretty sure Utley is going to‑‑ I think he's going to come back.¬† Utley has got some good years left.¬† I totally believe that.

Q.¬† How different and how frightening would it be to go into a season without Jimmy in your lineup, something you've never‑‑ you've had to deal with it, I guess, from injuries, but how worrisome would that be?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think when I think about that, of course he's a big part of our lineup.  But at the same time, things that you have to do sometimes, they'll work out.  We've got the kind of guys, we've got the attitude and we've got the kind of team that when somebody gets hurt, you guys know, the guy we plug in, that I can plug in or we plug in, he usually does a tremendous job for us, and whether he ends up having a good season or not, during that time he does good.  And we've been very fortunate in that situation.
But having Jimmy makes it much easier, of course.

Q.¬† Do you think you have as many options, veteran options on your benches?¬† Back in '07, you rotated at third, you would rotate in right.¬† You would have 11, 12 guys with plate appearances.¬† Do you think that could be one of those years getting Polly off his feet and getting Wiggins some at‑bats?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Yeah, I think we've definitely got to get Polly off his feet more.¬† The last couple years he's missed a lot of times, and that's downtime from being hurt, and I think that's one of the reasons why we‑‑ Ty Wiggins, he gives us a strong bat with some power and things like that, and I look at Wilson Valdez as one of the top utility guys in baseball.¬† He can play all nine positions and things like that, but at the same time‑‑ but anyway, if you look at it, too, Ty would give us more stick and more thump, and if we need to, we can defense for Ty late in the game if you have to or whatever.

Q.  But he was hurting in the NLCS.  What are you going to do, throw Martinez or Valdez in there against Carpenter?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† I looked at it.¬† To me our team is better with Polanco out there, if he's hurt a little bit, because ‑‑ first of all, he hit like six or seven hits off Carpenter in 18 at‑bats or something.¬† I don't want to break the rules of baseball.

Q.  You talked a lot about getting Chase off his feet a little more in the past with his knees the way they are and everything.  Is that something that you're going to try and look to do more this year?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  Right, yeah.

Q.  How tough is it to get him out of the lineup?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† You know, it's tough at times.¬† But at the same time, that's something that I think Chase and I have worked it out pretty good, really.¬† It's something that you have to do, and Chase is still going to get‑‑ he's going to get a lot of at‑bats.¬† But at the same time, he's going to get‑‑ even when he's healthy, he's going to get a blow here and there.

Q.  I know Jim Thome is really excited to be back, and I know you're happy that he's back, but how many games do you think that Jim Thome could play in the field?  Could he play 20 games this season?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think he can.  I think he can play 20 games, yeah.  I think he can.

Q.  Probably not 50, though?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† 50 might be a stretch, but at the same time, I look at Jimmy as somebody who‑‑ like if‑‑ look at it this way:¬† In Interleague play, is it nine games on the road?¬† That's nine he definitely can hit there, and if you're a pinch‑hitter in the National League, I can find a place for you to hit once a night about, so that's 150 or whatever, 280 if you want to say.¬† But if we get him over 200 at‑bats and things like that, I think he'll‑‑ that's enough for him to help us and produce and stay sharp as a pinch‑hitter.

Q.  I know you're probably still just getting to know him, but what are your first impressions of your new closer?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† When I first met him and talked to him, I liked him.¬† I saw a lot of determination and a lot of want‑to.¬† He gets excited.¬† I mean, he looks like‑‑ when you start talking to him about closing, he looks like he wants you to give him a ball and let him go out there right then.¬† That's kind of how I felt.¬† I said, look at this guy, he wants to pitch right now.¬† Yeah, he's fired up.¬† He's like most‑‑ he comes across as‑‑ he came across very‑‑ as a guy that's going to‑‑ that he wants to pitch, and he likes being where he's at and feel good about it.

Q.  Ryan has developed into kind of a nice ninth inning guy this past year, but how much did you value a guy who's closed for six years and has the track record that Papelbon has?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Yeah, definitely.¬† I think it came into play, especially from our organization standpoint and things.¬† I looked at Madson, though, I kind of‑‑ I'm really happy for Madson and I'm proud of what he did this past season.¬† He established his self to me as a closer, and he's also‑‑ he helped his stuff most all season.¬† His command got better, separation in his pitches, his fastball to his change‑up is better, and he learned how when he got two strikes on guys, he learned how to finish them off, and he also learned that he didn't have to throw the ball over the plate a lot of times to do that.
And I think just the part of him getting experience and kind of proved to himself that he could close.¬† I used to tell you guys, if he ever closed four or five games in a row out that he'd be on his own.¬† It took him a couple years to do it, but he did it, and after that he kind of settled in and took off.¬† I'm happy for him, and we've got‑‑ I feel like we've got a tremendous closer, but I also feel like he's got a future to be a closer ahead of him, and I'm pulling for him.

Q.  Ruben said after the season that the way he looked at your hitters, he felt like the hitters you've already got on your team could learn to take a little different approach than what they've taken the last couple years.  You're such a student of the game.  What's involved in getting that message across?
CHARLIE MANUEL:  Baseball is a funny game, and you look sometimes, and you look at Bobby Cox and everybody says he's a sure Hall of Fame guy, and why is he going into the Hall of Fame?  Mostly because he won those 14 division titles in a row, because of his record.  And you look at that and you say, well, how can that be?  How come he didn't win more World Series?  Because there's a ton of luck in baseball, and every day is different, and you react different every day, and that's the part that's hard to explain.
When I was a hitting coach and things like that and I spent all this time with these guys, it was hard for them to explain to me how they felt.  We might have had something in common because I did play the game quite a few years and I made quite a few outs.  I could definitely listen to them.
But the game is kind of that way.¬† What I saw in a game, guys, especially the fourth game in St. Louis, we were‑‑ we scored twice early, and then all of a sudden they got the lead, and all of a sudden we started trying to do too much, and we started swinging at balls out of the strike zone.¬† I saw the same thing in the fifth game.¬† All of a sudden we kind of‑‑ I don't know if you'd call it panicking or not, but we get over‑anxious and we start chasing bad balls, so then you do‑‑ like when you don't hit, that's kind of how it looks.¬† I saw Atlanta do that for three days at the end of the season when we played them.¬† I saw them do the same thing.
I saw the Cleveland Indians in 1995 when Glavine pitched against us down there, I seen us do the same thing.  We played the first three or four innings, and if you go back and watch that game, if they ever show it, watch it, because the first three or four innings, we smoked some balls and every one we smoked was right at people and all of a sudden we started chasing balls out of the strike zone and Glavine kept feeding us more and walking us off the plate.  What happens is that's kind of how the game goes on that day, and you say, well, why didn't you real them in or harness them and stuff like that.  It's kind of hard to do.  Really that's almost impossible.

Q.  Your old Japanese friend Mr.Mishimoto passed away last week.  Did you have any influence from him as a manager and would you talk about it?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† Well, I talked to some people, I did an interview when I heard about that, and Mishimoto was‑‑ he was a good friend of mine, and I enjoyed playing for him.¬† I really liked playing for him.¬† He was funny.¬† I used to do things with him as far as just kind of like, I don't know, he liked to laugh, and he liked to have fun, and I'd always pull jokes on him and tricks, things like that.
He had a tremendous career, and I'm happy in some ways because he lived to be 92 years old, and he enjoyed life.¬† He was a good manager.¬† He was one of my most important managers.¬† He used to talk to me a lot about hitting, things like that, and he taught me a lot about the game.¬† And I was very‑‑ at first I was very sad, and then I kind of realized that he got to do in life, basically what he wanted to do, and he lived a good life.¬† I'm sorry in some ways, but in other ways I'm very happy that I got to play for him.

Q.  When was the last time you saw him?
CHARLIE MANUEL:¬† I saw him‑‑ the last time I saw him was in 1992 or '93.¬† I went there on a‑‑ and played in his old‑timer games, and he was a commentator at that time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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