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MLB WINTER MEETINGS


December 7, 2011


Manny Acta


DALLAS, TEXAS

Q.  How important is it for Ubaldo to make a few starts in winter ball?
MANNY ACTA:¬† I think it's very important, because he feels that it's going to get him in the best shape possible in Spring Training and he has experience with that.¬† His best season with the Rockies, pitched winter ball, up until the end of playoffs over there.¬† So he's also working on different mechanical adjustments that he's supposed to put together in off‑season.¬† He's going to put it in place in practice in winter ball.

Q.  How much have you talked to Derek Lowe and how confident are you that the issues he had in September will be subside go.  He said it was an issue and it's gone and he's ready to go.
MANNY ACTA:  We haven't talked, just texted.  He was in Hawaii and I was in the Dominican at some point.  But we're pretty confident that this guy is able to go out there and help us out, you know.  He's healthy.  He keeps the ball on the ground, and he seems to figure out some things that he was doing wrong last year at times and probably rely more on his sinker than his breaking ball.
And I think he's going to be a great help to those other sinker ballers, Masterson and Carmona and also on the younger kids on just how to prepare.¬† Not only to pitch, but to win ballgames.¬† He's been on the big stage, big teams, big markets.¬† Been there, done that, basically ‑‑ Red Sox, LA, Atlanta.¬† So he brings a lot to our clubhouse and to our baseball team.

Q.  Is there a comfort level with the five set, you're not going in with I guess with some lesser experienced guys in a competition for that last spot?
MANNY ACTA:  I would expand the number.  I wouldn't say there's a comfort level with the five guys that we have.  I would say there's a comfort level now that we feel that we have eight guys at least at winter camp and we all know you need minimum 7 to 8 just to go through the season because it's very unusual for a team to go through a whole season without somebody going on.
But adding Derek Lowe, a guy that is capable of throwing 200 innings for us gives us the opportunity to have guys like Huff, McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez and even Scott Barnes, when he comes back from his injury, that's depth.  And that's something that we didn't have here a couple of years ago.  So change that five for eight.

Q.  The return of Grady, are you excited?
MANNY ACTA:  We are.  Since I took this job I wanted to see this guy out there win some ballgames by himself for us, because that's how good he is.  He's capable of carrying the club.  And we saw that when he came off the DL in April.
But unfortunately he's been hurt the last three years.  He's a year and a half removed now from the micro fracture surgery.  And the other knee was just a scope.  So we're confident that if we take care of him in Spring Training he can be very productive for us.
We're not going to ask him to be the guy he was five years ago.  I think that would be too much to ask.  But if he can be the guy that he was when he was when he came off the DL in April.  We'll take that guy.  He was pretty good for us.

Q.¬† So much the off‑season focus is obviously on what you guys address and bring in.¬† How important is it Santana coming off his first full year, Kipnis, even the year he had, for those guys to continue to solidify that core for you?
MANNY ACTA:  That's something that we place a lot of value on, the fact that over the last three years we continue to make progress when it comes down to our depth, because it's not a secret that's been an issue for us.  That when a guy or two has gone down, especially some of our guys in the middle of our lineup, we have struggled with our offense.
And now we were able to add a guy like Kipnis this year, Chisenhall, so we are adding more pieces every day, guys to our lineup, that, let's say, a guy or two goes down, we'll be able to survive and compete better than in the past.  That being said, your four, fives go down that's a different story.  But those guys had Major League experience.
It wasn't a September club.  Major League experience and meaningful games.  So he meant a lot to us that those guys were to add to our team last year.

Q.  Is first base still kind of the open spot?  If that's the case, do you expect there to be something done before April to add somebody, other than just LaPorta?
A.Our front office continues to work hard on that.¬† We're trying to get better production out of there.¬† We're hoping ‑‑ no one has given up on that.¬† And we're hoping make Matt comes to Spring Training and becomes the player that everybody envisioned him to be.¬† That being said that we are exploring making our club better, whether signing a free agent or to a trade.
And also probably adding an extra bat, not only the guy at first base, but maybe another outfielder that can help us out, having those three guys on the left side and Grady not being able to get out there and play every single day for us.

Q.  How will you protect Grady in Spring Training?
MANNY ACTA:¬† Well, our medical staff is going to put together a plan on how we're going to use him in Spring Training.¬† But that's not going to be as important as how we're going to protect him during the season because sometimes you get so excited when you see him out there doing well that you want to take some ‑‑ you don't want to take some guys out of the lineup, but at the end of the day you might not be helping them.
But in Spring Training it's up to our medical staff to put together a plan.  And I think the way things have happened here the last couple of years with him and Santana, our medical staff has done a tremendous job.  And I just follow that in spring.

Q.  And regular season you see him being able to play three, four days in a row?  Is that the limit?
MANNY ACTA:  Well, let's wait until Christmas before we talk about Spring Training, let's get through Spring Training and then I'll answer that question for you in Arizona.  That's our goal.  I can't sit right here right now and tell you how many times a day he's going to play in April.  We first have to get through Spring Training and be able to get him strong and ready to play.

Q.  Are you interested in the Japanese market?
MANNY ACTA:¬† Oh, we're interested in every market.¬† That makes our team better.¬† We have shown that in the past.¬† This ballclub has had a few Japanese players before.¬† I have taken a ‑‑ I can honestly sit here and tell you I don't think we're going to be posting for you.¬† That's not our market.¬† I think that's just out of our reach now.¬† We did that last year with Carrasco, whatever makes our team better.

Q.  Chris said he thought Choo, when asked about his health is fine, a hundred percent, do you expect him to have a bounce back year?
MANNY ACTA:  Absolutely.  I think that Choo was going to bounce back the second half of the season, if he didn't have the broken thumb.  He's not a fluke.  This is a guy who for two and a half seasons was the best offensive player in Cleveland because Grady was hurt.
So even when he had that rough season last year, the second half after all that he was coming around.  Now he's healthy, ready to go.  He's in Korea, finishing some military obligations he has to fill.  And he's coming to camp to be ready to come back and be the player he was.

Q.  A do you know enough about Robin Ventura to have a guess of what that White Sox team and its personality is going to be this year, knowing the void that Ozzie Guillen is leaving?
MANNY ACTA:  I'm not a believer that the team takes a personality after the manager.  I think Robin has a pedigree of being such a good player, and also being table to control his emotions and very smart guy.  Things are going to be a little different.  Everybody is different.  Some people bring energy and enthusiasm and are vocal.
Some other people just control their emotions and are a little bit more passive.¬† But I don't think the players actually ‑‑ if you bring a guy from the outside, that is already 31 years old is going to take up the manager's personality.¬† He's a guy who was a good player and he was smart and it's been done in the past.¬† And I think he's going to be fine.

Q.  Are you going to be Ozzie?
MANNY ACTA:  Ozzie doesn't play for me.  I'm not going to miss him at all.  I wish him well.  But I only miss my player when they get hurt, and my wife, who is not in Cleveland.

Q.  How do you get a more sustained season?  What can he do?
MANNY ACTA:  You know, we can slice those numbers any way we want to.  At the end of the day he hit 25 home runs and he drove in 92 runs.  So if he does that, whether he starts low and gets it at the end, I'll be happy with it.  It would be impossible for him to keep up the pace that he had from the beginning, but he had a pretty good season.
And I understand that you could see it at the end that he fell off in the second half.  And that's something that we're aware of, but he hit 25 and drove in 92, so I want to slice the numbers that way instead of concentrating on the 240 he hit in the second half.
We don't have a secret magic formula to do that for him, but we'll take 25 and 92.  Actually I'll take 20 and 85, too (laughter.)
Q.How much do you think your players, especially the younger guys benefited from just being in the race for five months and playing some important games in August where there was a certain amount of pressure, a certain amount of spotlight on them?
MANNY ACTA:¬† A great deal.¬† That's something that we put a lot of value on, the fact that guys like Lonnie and Kipnis were in the middle of this pennant race, at least for a few weeks before Detroit took off in the last month.¬† And that's invaluable because now ‑‑ that's our goal.¬† Our goal is to finish business.
They've been through it.  They were playing meaningful games.  It was just not a September club.  And you don't get that experience every day.  There are guys that play their whole career and don't get to play on meaningful games.  We value that a lot.  And I think it will pay dividends for them.

Q.¬† Will you come into Spring Training making them aware ‑‑ obviously last year 80 and 82, there's going to be even higher expectations?¬† This is the year that a lot of fans have been waiting for for this team?
MANNY ACTA:  Nobody has higher expectations than us in our own clubhouse.  Your expectations are different than ours.  That's why we had the differences in where we were going to finish, when Spring Training started.  How people thought that we were going to be, whatever they were thinking, and we weren't thinking that way.
So these guys know.  The task at hand is to win, to win the division.  It's continue to get better and win.  They're really not trying to matchup other people's expectations.  Expectation should be to win, to win the division, it doesn't get any higher than that.

Q.  Is there a division that has more mystery to it than the ALC, because the performances of the teams, I mean it wasn't something that you would have expected out of the AL central.  A lot of teams don't even know what they have this year?
MANNY ACTA:  I love our division.  Even before all these changes that are going on right now, I always felt that it was balanced.  Some people prefer to call it weak.  Just because you don't have three teams that are power houses like those teams in New York and Boston and Tampa doesn't mean that our division is weak, it's just balanced.  And that's great.  That's what you want.
You want every one of us in our division to come up to Arizona or Ft. Myers, Florida, wherever you're doing your Spring Training with a chance of winning and thinking that you can win.¬† And it proved ‑‑ and it's going to continue to be an interesting division.¬† The Kansas City Royals are doing a tremendous job putting a bunch of young kids together, adding to their pitching staff.¬† And it's going to be a fight again.

Q.  Have you got any thoughts on the dimensions of Target Field.  People say it's plays a little big.  Do you think it's too big?
MANNY ACTA:  I like it myself.  I'm different.  I know that a lot of people like the home runs and all that.  I like them when I'm in offense.  But I think it's a fair ballpark.  We're just so used to some of the new ballparks that are so small.  But I'd rather manage in a place where I don't have to be on the edge of my seat on every pitch.  It actually gives me kind of a comfort level.  I don't mind it.
It's been done in different places where, hey, you just try to put a team on the field that matches your ballpark.  And I don't think the issues were with the ballpark last year.  I think no team in the big leagues had more injuries like those guys or important injuries, like not being able to have Joe and those guys that amount of games that they didn't play.
The dimensions of the park didn't affect them the year before.  They won their division.  I like the dimensions.  Just to keep it short.

Q.  Are you surprised Sandy didn't get a job somewhere?
MANNY ACTA:  Oh, he will.

Q.  I know he will.
MANNY ACTA:  That's a process.  I didn't get my job in my third interview, either.  I had to go through a few of them.  And his name is out there now.  He does a good job.  We get some good feed backs from his interview.  It's just going to take somebody that is willing to take a chance.  It's very easy to stand up and say the guy doesn't have any experience, but you can't get any experience until you get the job.
No one comes out and drops from the sky with seven years of managerial experience.  Every one of the great managers in this game, they started with Game 1, Leyland, LaRussa, Torre, you name them.
Are I think eventually it's going to happen for him.  He's on the right path.  He's going to be our bench coach.  This is going to keep him more involved than first base, not to say he wasn't involved.  But you can't stop him.  He'll be able to do it, he's got too much passion and knowledge for the game.

Q.  Is there any thought about just making Santana a first baseman and trying to get another catcher?  Do you like the flexibility he gives you by bouncing between the two positions?
MANNY ACTA:  Ideally you don't want guys bouncing back and forth that much.  He had a big split there.  But because of the fact of our inconsistency at first base and also because of all the injuries that we had, we had to keep him in the lineup as much as possible.  And he led our teams in bats and games played coming back from a knee surgery.
We value him as a catcher, but to tell you the truth, I tell you with Santana, he's a very good ‑‑ wherever you put him he's going to be able to produce.¬† And it all depends what we can accomplish right now, during the off‑season.¬† What can you acquire?
If you can go out there and either make a trade or sign somebody that is going to be productive at first base or if Matt shows up to Spring Training and become the player we envision him to be, it makes things easier for us.  Not that many teams have a catcher with that type of production.  So that gives us an advantage.

Q.  Do you think too much was made of his average given that he made a lot of mechanical adjustments in like May, June, where it's almost like he had two different seasons within that season?
MANNY ACTA:¬† Well, in our corner we ‑‑ obviously we see the game at times differently.¬† And we don't ‑‑ we didn't make that much out of the batting average because he walked '97 times.¬† These people sometimes get caught up in the old batting average stat.¬† But the old batting average is only relevant if you don't walk at all.¬† And the fact that he kept his on‑base percentage of 350, that was good enough for us.¬† If you go and look into the statistics, this guy, he was in a very select group of about four guys that were able to hit 25 homers, have 35 doubles and walk over 90 times.
There were only like four guys that were able to do it that, he was one of them.  What that tells us is that we all know he's better than 240.  So we know how scary things are going to be when he gets up to the 280, 300 range.  Because of the amount of walks and home runs and RBIs, we weren't alarmed by the batting average.  It was his first year in in the big leagues full season, and he'll make the adjustment.

Q.  With Sizemore, when he was at his peak, played every day, do everything.  He's been through a lot.  What do you see for him now both in terms of batting order and how many games?
MANNY ACTA:¬† Not going to go into batting order in December because ‑‑ no way.¬† I'm not going to be telling anybody right now where they're going to be hitting, so they have two months to think about that.
Getting the guy that we saw in April when he came off the DL, yes, the stolen bases weren't there and they're probably never going to be there the way they were in the past, but a powerful bat and that's what he showed for us when he came off the DL.  So we're expecting him to be healthy, to get his legs strong and be a run producer for us.

Q.  Can you talk about some of the adjustments that you talked over with Ubaldo, what you identified and wanted him to work on this season?
MANNY ACTA:¬† Yeah, we picked up along the way when he first came over.¬† We didn't want to make any drastic changes when he came over.¬† We let him pitch and tried to let him find out a few things.¬† And one of the things he's going to work on during the off‑season is his stride, that we need more consistency with the length of his stride.¬† And that's something that was pointed out to him.
He made an adjustment at the end of the season, very few, I don't know how many of you guys noticed about where he was holding the ball.¬† He was very low at the beginning, and at the end he was higher with it.¬† Some of that stuff he's going to work on during the off‑season now.¬† And he's going to implement them during winter ball, fastball command, we all know that.
But we feel that if he's able to control his lower half and be able to be consistent with the length of his strike, then the strike throwing department will improve.

Q.  You think the injuries kind of played into the lower half, getting out of whack?
MANNY ACTA:  No, he's always been kind of a short strider type of a pitcher.  But the injury, I think he felt that his arm never caught up because of Spring Training, not being a hundred percent.  And then who's not to say that he did change some things, just trying to compensate for the injury, too.
But the data we have, and talking to him, he's always been kind of a short strider, and we're trying to see if we can take advantage of him using more his lower half.

Q.  Santana, with Chris Antonetti was saying that you didn't really want to play winter ball, the organization didn't.  Do you think he was tired, that he had almost 600 bats, played a lot of games?
MANNY ACTA:  Carlos was not tired.  He wanted to play winter ball.  And I've always been a pro winter ball guy.  But the fact of the matter was that he didn't lead our team in bats.  He didn't lead our team in games played.  And he's coming from an injury last year.
We just are trying to be cautious with him.¬† He's our producer in the middle of the lineup.¬† One thing is if he needed at‑bats, he would have been doing great playing winter ball.¬† But you can't say he needed at‑bats when he led the team in at‑bats.

Q.  Have you seen Demetri in Dallas?
MANNY ACTA:  I saw him yesterday, yes.

Q.  What do you think about his weight loss and trying to get back in the game?
MANNY ACTA:  I was very impressed with the way he looked.  I heard that he was the same weight when he was playing A ball.  It was pretty impressive.  He's a guy that's been able to put the fat part of the bat on the ball.  So if he wants to come back, I hope he gets an opportunity.  And I'm glad he's in better shape.

Q.  Back to the winter ball.  This year the Caribbean Series is in the Dominican Republic, what is going to happen there, what do you expect to happen there?
MANNY ACTA:¬† Pandemonium.¬† A lot of fun.¬† It's a lot of fun.¬† I've been part of it before and it's a great opportunity for baseball fans at that time of the year.¬† I'm just ‑‑ that are just getting itchy to see baseball.¬† It's real competitive baseball, especially when it's played back home, usually the big time players are playing winter ball, they want to participate because they're at home representing their company.
I think it's going to be a great event.  And obviously it can't be compared to the ones in the past because let's and less players play winter ball now, especially the high caliber guys, veteran guys, but it's still a great atmosphere in baseball.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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