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December 6, 2011

Don Mattingly


Q.  At the end of the season you were talking about wanting to have a big bat, does it look like it's going to materialize, what do you think of the moves you've made so far this off‑season?
DON MATTINGLY:  Well, again, I think we talked about what we really thought we needed last year at the end.  That was something that would give us an opportunity to make a huge impact.  Obviously things, over the course of the winter, that's not going to happen.
So really what we've tried to do is really be able to try to put pieces together that we can mix and match, and be able to matchup with different styles of pitching, lefty, righty, hopefully be able to go back and forth with people.  We obviously want to try to protect Matt.  In every scenario you're trying to protect him.
But also we want to get people on base, and also create depth up and down our lineup, give us a chance to score throughout the game.  Not get caught where we've only got a couple of innings to score.

Q.  What type of club do you see?
DON MATTINGLY:  Obviously we're going to be a little bit like last year.  A lot of the same players.  Full season, hopefully with Dee Gordon.  I'm excited about that.  This kid was pretty exciting, especially the second time he came back.  The first time up he struggled a bit.  But the second time up he was solid.  Like 24, 25 bags, puts him in the pace ‑‑ put him in position to maybe steal 50 bags.
Additionally, Mark Ellis, another kind of solid bread and butter guy that everybody you talk to, he's got ‑‑ can do a lot of things.  He's got a huge presence in the clubhouse.  He knows how to play the game.  Obviously get Andre at full strength, the way James finished last year.
Juan Rivera back.  It's a combination of guys, I think we should be able to use, because it's depth up and down the order.  We want to mix and match with Kennedy at second base.  Jerry Sands, we could kind of go right‑handed on people, first base, outfield.
And again, it's part of our mix and match plan, trying to take what we have available and put a club that's going to be ‑‑ has a chance to win every day.

Q.  When you look at the names on the roster right now does it look like a team that should win the division?  Does it look like a team that could win the division if it catches some breaks?  Does it look like a team that's a long shot to you?
DON MATTINGLY:  To me it's going to be a lot like what we talked about at the beginning of the season last year.  You feel good about your club.  Everybody is going to feel good about their club.  But we feel like, again, our guys that are supposed to drive in runs and do things are going to have to do things.  And we can talk all we want about this combination, that combination, but when it gets right down to it no matter what the front office does, what we do, we've got to try to put them in a position to have a good year.
We're going to have to have guys have good years.  Matt is going to have to do similar to what happened last year.  We're going to need Andre.  We're going to need everybody else to do their part.

Q.  Does it feel like a lot of things are going to have to go the right way?
DON MATTINGLY:  Yeah, I think so.

Q.  Little margin for error at this point?
DON MATTINGLY:  Well, for the most part everybody's in that boat.  There was a few clubs out there that have a whole different style of depth, you know, of guys up and down their order.  And we're not going to be that club, but we're in the same boat as a lot of clubs.

Q.  When you talk about how special Matt's year was, and also how interchangeable the NL west is, year to year, it's a different team on top?
DON MATTINGLY:  Well, Matt was obviously, you know, he had a tremendous year.  And it was fun for us, because I think that we've seen a guy start to reach that level that everybody thought that he could, and some of the things that people thought he could do.  And to be able to see him reach some of those, and still talk about wanting more, it's just fun for me.  And it's fun for our club.
When you start talking about the west, I kind of see it every year, somebody different.  Arizona last year.  Gibby does ‑‑ gets those guys playing.  And they make a few changes, but pretty much the same pieces they had before.  And they get hot and pitch well against some good pitching in their bullpen and they win the division.
Colorado one year.  San Francisco, us a couple of years ago.  So it's a division you're in bill ballparks for the most part and there's some good pitching in our division.  It's one of those divisions that you know everybody is going to kind of beat each other.  And it gives you an advantage if you can play solid baseball over the long haul that you have a chance to be in it.

Q.  One thing that Ned's kind of been holding on to asking him why he's optimistic, why are you convinced that wasn't an aberration?
DON MATTINGLY:  Well, it wasn't any tricks or anything.  Our guys pretty much played hard all year.  Early the first 90 games we didn't really score with any kind of consistency.  We were able to put some runs on the board.
Our pitching was pretty good.  To be honest with you you've got Kershaw every five days.  Our pitching was pretty solid.  It kept us in games.  Our bullpen is pretty good.  Our back end, we had two kids that pitched great and kind of counting on them again.  We've got good arms.  So we stayed in games.  We put some runs up.  We played good defense.  We're going to be a club that is going to win games.
I was really proud of the club.  But to me it's time to get past that.  I'm really ‑‑ being proud of last year's club in the last half is all nice and everything.  But it's going to be a different club.  We're going to have new challenges.  It's going to start all over again.  And finishing strong last year is something to build on, but it's not something that ‑‑ we've got to move past that.

Q.  What can you reasonably expect from James over the course of the season, talking about what he's going to do.  I take it you can't count on him doing what he did the last seven weeks over the entire season?
DON MATTINGLY:  That's what James is capable of.

Q.  Those are like Babe Ruth numbers?
DON MATTINGLY:  No, they weren't.  He hit 12 homers.

Q.  But over 1200?
DON MATTINGLY:  Maybe not to that point.  But James, over his career, has been pretty good.  He's been like a 90 RBI guy.  He's not a big power guy.  But he had 700 bats in there that he got lost.  And from the second half ever 10, the first half and the second half of this year was not very pretty.  But James kind of came out of that.  And that's one thing that I think gives us hope because he did it for a long period of time after that.  And that's what he was able to do before that.  You know James is going to give us everything.  So we don't really worry about that part of it.

Q.  Concerned at all at the end of the season you talked about how Andre seemed to give away a lot of at‑bats.  How concerned is that as you go into spring?
DON MATTINGLY:  It's definitely a concern for everyone.  It's what you talk about our offense, when our offense you can't sit back and wait for the three run homer.  We've got to have good quality bats up and down.  When you have guys that can mix it up and battle every at‑bat.  Not just Andre, but all of our guys.  We can't give away at‑bats.  And we've got to make guys work.
I talked about as the season was ending, you can't give up that many of at‑bats.  He's in the middle of the order, it's something we have to work on.

Q.  How do you see the rotation right now as compared to last year, that was one of your strengths, obviously.  It seemed like you gave up Hiroki to get an extra arm in there?
DON MATTINGLY:  It's the same group that we kind of finished with.  Obviously we had Dana Eveland at the end of the year and Nathan that couldn't kind of shut him down.
But he's a promising guy.  And so there will be some competition in Spring Training, hopefully some depth.  I know we've talked about Aaron, so we're still working through that.  So I kind of ‑‑ at this moment, it's Kershaw.  It's Billingsley.  It's Lilly.  It's Capuano.  It's a fight for five.

Q.  Do you like that trade off, is there basically Kuroda for Capuano?
DON MATTINGLY:  Well, it's stuff you have to do.  And getting quality innings, guys that give us a chance to stay in games.  (Indiscernible) was great last year.  I think he was 11‑13, or 13 ‑‑ something, but he pitched good all the time.  He kept us in a ton of games.  That's what we have to replace is a guy that goes out every time and keeps us in the game, and gives us a chance to get to the bullpen late with a lead or at least in it and gives ourselves a chance to score late and win.  We'll see.
Talking to Rick, when you prepare for him, doing hitting, he was a tough guy to prepare for.  He has a lot of weapons, he can do some things with the ball.  And there's been a couple of surgeries since then and hopefully last year bounced back and kind of getting over that.
He's a competitive guy.  And again, we're going to ask him to keep us in the game.  It's what we ask for everybody, keep us in the game.

Q.  Is Billingsley kind of the guy that is going to decide if this is a good staff or just kind of ‑‑
DON MATTINGLY:  Billingsley is kind of ‑‑ like when we talk about James and our offense, we have to get everybody to kind of do their thing.  Billingsley is in that category, too.  That you would like Billingsley to step up.  We don't really feel like he's a 500 guy.  We feel he's better than that.  The stuff says he's better than that.  I think we're looking for more consistency and a little steady improvement from Chad.
We need him to step up and be that No. 2 type guy behind Kersh that when you go into the series and these guys are hooked up back‑to‑back that you're going to have trouble with us.

Q.  How much do you wish you could have had core own aback, and what kind of influence is was he?
DON MATTINGLY:  Hero is a great influence for our guys.  I felt the time he's been away ‑‑ obviously the language barrier with actually communicating with guys and talking to guys, was a challenge.  But his work ethic and the way he went about his business was so good for our young pitchers.  The guys, he see him work.  They see him prepare.  He's in the film room.  The way he goes about his business is something that you want your young guys to watch.  And obviously Kersh, some of our young guys in the bullpen saw that.  He's made a huge impact in LA.  And he'll continue to make an impact in LA, even though it doesn't look like ‑‑

Q.  What does Gordon have to do to become a game‑changing type player?  Obviously experience, but what does he have to learn?
DON MATTINGLY:  I think with Dee, I think more than anything he knows how to use his speed.  He already knows how to use it.  And so he knows what he's got.
The thing with Dee, hitting in front of the order, you want to see him get on base.  The second time he came back we saw that he had a better feel for getting deeper in the count, counts that he should be taking, he learned, this is where I've got to take this pitch.
So those are the areas that he made advances.  But he came back, I think he ended up over 300.  And he was just a different hitter when he came back.  He shortened his swing.  But I think he needs to continue to learn that he's a leadoff guy, he needs to get on base, somehow, some way, he's got to get on base.
To me, Dee is a star, honestly.  And not only from what he's capable of doing ‑‑ he wants to be a star.  And that's what I love about Dee is that he'll work.  He wants to get better.  He has a great look in his eye every day.  He's going to get better.  He knows he's got to keep working.  He's got to keep getting better.  He's going to be a star.  If he stays healthy, this kid is a star.

Q.  What can Davey do?
DON MATTINGLY:  Davey just helps these guys, with Matt and all the guys that steal bags.  Davey is just great at times to run, times not to run.  I've seen him with Dee last year ‑‑ Davey doesn't matter if it's Matt or if it's Dee or whatever it is, Dee ran last year and the guy is like a 1‑1 or something.
And Davey is just straight up, what the hell are you doing?  He comes in the next inning, you you cannot run the baseball.  Just matter of fact.  In a good way.  It's in your face a little bit, it's direct, but it's in a way that these guys, they get it.  And I think he's just going to help them be a better and better base stealer.  Davey knows the pitchers and he teaches it.
So these guys, they're looking at keys, they're trying to pick up something all the time with guys.  And if you see it, you go, if you don't see‑t you don't go.  If you've got it, you go.  If you don't have it, you don't go.  And then there's times you don't go.  So Davey is great with those guys.

Q.  With the catching situation, do you see A.J. most of the time, five, six times a week?
DON MATTINGLY:  Yeah, for the most part.  It's not quite ‑‑ we were kind of going every other day mostly.  I think with Matt it will be a little bit less than that.  We've just talked basically that we're going to ‑‑ looked as it as not want to slash or bash A.J. or Matt, we're looking at it as a defensive position.  We want to play defense back there.  We want catchers to call the game.  We want them to study.  We want them to help pitchers.  And what we get on the other side of that is going to be, we'll take it.

Q.  You look at fitter row, what's your projection?
DON MATTINGLY:  I don't think we have to have a projection, just knowing that we like him.  And we think he's a catcher, he looks like a catcher, he's built like a catcher.  He's strong.  We've just got to let him ‑‑ it's like anything else, we've got to let him grow up.  And that's the one thing I don't think we want to rush him to a point where we end up hurting him and pushing him back two years.

Q.  What little you saw from this year, how close do you think he was ready to be where he is?
DON MATTINGLY:  To be honest with you, when I watched Fed last year, you like everything you see, because he's a guy that gets in the film room.  He studies.  He gets with the pitchers.  He pace attention to all that.  When I watched him play, I felt like he was young.  I'm not saying I have a ton of experience, but I've been around a little bit.  When you watched him play it felt like he was young.
Not that he wasn't physically or mentally ready to be here, he just didn't have enough time yet to be here, and be what you want from that guy back there.  I don't have any doubt that we're getting there, but he just you seemed young last year.  I know he played in winter ball.  He didn't play a whole lot.  We'll see him in spring, maybe that little opportunity he gets in LA, last year those small amount of games, give him confidence when he walks into camp that he might be lighting it up.
He may look like a totally different guy in camp.  We'll see what happens in camp.  But what we saw last year, I think we felt like he looked a little bit young.

Q.  You talked about what you guys could do if things go right.  But last year when things went wrong, you guys were pretty bad at times.  Do you feel like there are more safeguards in place to prevent that type of slide, that basically kind of knocked you guys out of contention, where even if you rallied late ‑‑
DON MATTINGLY:  You know, it just depends what that is.  If you're going to say safeguards, Matt is going to miss two months, you're going to miss three out of your four infielders for your whole season, basically.  You see depth when you look at it right now.
But if three guys go down in your infield, then those are the guys that are your depth are playing every day.  And guys that you kind of count on for three days a week up playing five days a week.  And you get a month and a half down the road you've got beat up guys, and you've got kids behind them.

Q.  Do you think that the roster the way it's set up now you have a better chance of staying healthy?  Going into last year there were a lot of guys with histories of health problems.  Do you feel that this team has a better chance of staying healthy?
DON MATTINGLY:  It seems like it.  I mean I don't think ‑‑ look at James, he pretty much plays all the time.  Dee is a young guy, you feel like he's going to play.  But he got banged up last year, he's going to be stealing and sliding, so you never know what happens.  Last year we had one who had a lot of injuries over last year.  Casey, who is getting over the injuries, and Juan.  Juan is kind of a little bit of a surprise because he's played a lot of games.  I feel like we've got a chance to stay healthy.
And again, a lot of the same plans I had going into Spring Training last year with giving guys days off, Furky wanted to make sure he got one to two days off the week, that all goes out the window when he's out of the lineup.  Casey is out of the lineup.  James is playing every day.  Aaron is playing every day.  You can put all the best plans down but stuff happens.

Q.  Are there guys in particular that you want to give days off to?
DON MATTINGLY:  Well, I think Mark is a guy at second.  We talk about him pretty much being the every day second baseman.  But looking at that from 130 to 140 games.  So there's time there for him to get some days off.
Juan, obviously we think he's another guy that's going to benefit by days off, and trying to keep him in one spot for the most part.  We want him to build some flexibility with the club, but trying to keep him in one spot for the most part.
Kind of mix and match him with the lefty and righties, giving did you rare and James off, letting them go more right‑handed at times.  And just trying to keep everybody strong, as much as possible.

Q.  What do you think Jamey Carroll is going to bring to Minnesota and do you think he's pretty much underrated around the Major Leagues?
DON MATTINGLY:  I think Jamey is definitely probably underrated.  A guy nobody really realizes, and if you look at the stat Sheets and you watch Jamey for a couple of days, you're not going to be that impressed, obviously.  Just when you watch him over the course of the season you go, wow, that's pretty good.  He's just solid.  He got a great deal in Minnesota.  And obviously I'm happy for him.  We just have to fill that spot.

Q.  A year ago you were sitting here, a rookie manager, never managed anywhere, other than Arizona, and a million dollar question around baseball was can done I manage.  You knew the answer to that but nobody else did.  I'm just curious as to what you take away from last year in terms of satisfaction, in terms of what you learned and in terms of where you are now, a year later?
DON MATTINGLY:  Well, as far as where I am a year later, is a lot more comfortable, that's for sure.  You know, last year a lot of preparation from the time season ended all the way to Spring Training, making sure camp ran right, the first talk with guys, all these questions that you have just of the unknown, fear of the unknown.  So a lot more comfortable in all those areas.
Obviously my kind of communication with guys.  Even though I felt like I've always gotten along with guys and able to talk, just going through a year, having to deal with all the issues and didn't really have a ton of issues, but dealing with every issue that came up, you just have that experience under your belt, dealing with basically making decisions for 160 games.  It was just a ton of decisions you make ‑‑ feels like every day you're making decisions.  And the more you do that the more comfortable you get.
I don't know about any satisfaction.  I don't look at anything bad, that everybody having a question, how you're going to handle it is a fair question.  Honestly last year, I hadn't managed, so I felt like it was a fair question.  Again, I've always been pretty confident in myself.  But also knowing that we were going to build people around me that were experienced, that had been through seasons and so that gives you confidence, too.  And I'm not an ego guy to the point where I'm going to try to make sure ‑‑ running every little aspect.  I'm going to let my guys work.  I believe in letting them work, overseeing, and letting them work and all that.

Q.  Is there anything other than in particular in looking back you really learned?
DON MATTINGLY:  The toughest part was ‑‑ is just kind of having to send a guy down that you don't feel like is a guy that should be going down.  That you feel like you don't have your best club because of options, because of one guy has options, one guy doesn't.  Those type of decisions, those are always hard for you, because you're trying to win a game every night, no matter what.
I don't care what kind of club you've got, you're trying to win a game every night.  And you want to have your best club there.  But you have to have an understanding ‑‑ I have to an understanding of there's mechanically there's reasons that guys have options, some guys don't.  That's the way it is.  That's the way guys have been dealing with since they started the system.  That was probably the part I had the most trouble with.

Q.  Do you have a way of anticipating how much it will do for the club on the field when all these external issues finally resolve?  Is that something you can't really think about?
DON MATTINGLY:  I know there's a lot of talk about it last year.  I don't think it really affected us much, honestly.  It was a little, probably, just tedious from having to talk about it a lot.  One thing I will say about it and I think it's one of the things I learned last year, you don't ‑‑ as a coach and a player, even though I played in New York with Mr. Steinbrenner, you don't realize the driving force that the ownership is.
You're a player, you're just playing, oh, they're the owners, we got to do it down here.  But there is a force up above, I think, you know the players, the manager, the general manager, that says we're going here.  And that's the ownership.  And that's the one thing I really felt like ‑‑ the first time I really had an understanding of that force that I think that ownership causes, because it's a driving force that says we're going here.  This is our mission.  This is how we're going to get there.  You guys are entrusted to make that happen.
But this is where we're going.  And so ‑‑ and last year I kind of felt like ‑‑ I told Ned this one time, I felt like it's him and I trying to drive this thing.  And you just can't do it from those seats.  I know there was a lot of trouble with everything that was going on and Mr. McCort didn't want to be a distraction by being down in the clubhouse or any of that type of thing.  And he had a lot to deal with obviously, and obviously it's still going on.  But I think that's what we missed last year more than anything is that driving force that says we're going here as an organization.

Q.  Going to do the things necessary along the way ‑‑ that commitment is there, I guess?
DON MATTINGLY:  That's what ‑‑ that's what you feel.  You feel like there has to be ‑‑ there's something that's pushing the ship.  And that's what I felt like we missed last year, as much as all the distraction ‑‑ it wasn't the distractions, it was that push that says we're going here.  We're going to keep making decisions, we're going to keep moving in that direction.

Q.  Having been through it once, do you feel you can artificially manufacture that feeling, are you any better to do that?
DON MATTINGLY:  From our standpoint, I feel like we did.  We've done that right.  Because we asked the players to get ready to play, not make excuses about any of that, because at the end of the day, you can say whatever you want, you've got to throw strikes.  You've got to locate pitches.  You've got to get yourself a good pitch to hit.
You've got to make good decisions on bases, you have to back up bases, throw the ball in the right spot, it's baseball.  And we have to perform well enough to win a game.  And none of that is really affected.  You can talk about that and say this has been a distraction.  To me that's just crap.  Because that's just an excuse that says there's a reason why we didn't back up a base.  Well, give me that reason.  That had something to do with ownership?  Because we didn't back up a base.  Or I didn't locate my pitch.

Q.  You could have prevented you from getting somebody that could locate a pitch?
DON MATTINGLY:  That's all good, but I'm saying during that period of time that we're on the field, it's us.  We're on the field.  It's us playing good enough baseball to win a game that night.

Q.  All that said, are you kind of glad that it looks like it's moving toward a resolution?
DON MATTINGLY:  Yes (laughter.)  But for the reasons of ‑‑ we talk about having that force that says, you know, we want this organization to go here.  We want this organization to be what the Los Angeles Dodgers should be.  And that's a proud organization.  It's been a historically strong franchise with a great fan base that wants great baseball, and has played great baseball.  And that's what I want to be a part of.

Q.  Have you talked to Frank this off‑season?
DON MATTINGLY:  No, I have not.

Q.  Have you talked to Magic Johnson?
DON MATTINGLY:  I have not.  I haven't talked to Larry Byrd, either.

Q.  Are you looking for another 162 games from Matt?
DON MATTINGLY:  Sure.  Why not?  161.  I tried to give him a day off last year, but he didn't want it.

Q.  Larry was a good third baseman.

Q.  Does that mean you don't want Uribe playing shortstop?
DON MATTINGLY:  No, I'd like him playing third.  But definitely would look at Juan as a back up shortstop on certain days.  He's done it in the past.  And he's actually done it pretty good.  Juan surprisingly has great ‑‑ you look at Juan in that body, you don't look at it as a guy who would have good hands.  This guy has great hands.  He can throw from every angle.

Q.  Better than Hairston?
DON MATTINGLY:  Well, I haven't seen Jerry there.  I don't really remember seeing him there.  If I have it's been really a short look.  And we're going to look at Jerry all over, kind of in that super utility role of being able to play all over the field.  We'll try to look at Jerry everywhere and see what he looks like.

Q.  If you were going to give Dee a day off more often you could move Juan and put somebody else at third?
DON MATTINGLY:  Yeah, as we sit right now, just not knowing any of the guys, you'd probably look at Juan.  And if it was a long‑term thing we'd probably be looking somewhere else.

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