BRAVES MANAGER FREDI GONZALEZ
October 3, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Workout Day
Q. I know you had a lot of difficult roster decisions. Can you tell us what the decision was when you left Doug off, what it came down to?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, ultimately you sit and talk to the coaching staff, and we've been talking for a while about this, ever since we clinched, and you try to put the best roster you think is going to fit that five?game series, and put your best 25 out there.
And ultimately without getting into details on this and that, we feel like we put our best 25 out there to compete against the Dodgers.
Q. It's been a while since you guys have faced Clayton Kershaw, and really Justin is the only guy on the roster with more than a handful of appearances against him. Can you talk about that?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, you know what, we didn't face him at all this year. We missed him the entire year. But we got some information, like everybody else. We got a scouting?? videos, and Justin will give you his opinion. We've got a couple other guys, I think 10 or 11 at?bats against him, and go at it that way. He's got to throw the ball over the plate, and if he commands it and does what he can do, it'll be a tough, difficult night. But Maholm can do that, also, and it's going to be?? hopefully we can match pitch for pitch and then get into a battle of the bullpens, see how we go from there.
Q. Back to roster composition, these 25 men seem a reflection of a fairly pragmatic approach on your part, given that Maholm was a starter all season, Downs was brought over to be your left?handed reliever. And presumably in the postseason, and of course Uggla has been here and at pretty high expense for three years now. Is it hard to make those sort of decisions, or do you have to take emotions out of it or who's doing what at this moment?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, I couldn't take the emotion out of it. Yesterday might have been one of the hardest days I've ever had to experience as a Major League manager. Closer to that might have been releasing a player the last?? second or two three days to Spring Training or sending him down to the Minor Leagues if somebody had a really good Spring Training.
Yeah, it was difficult yesterday, but I think if you look at the scope of the entire team and think that you put the best 25 out there, it makes it a little easier, the decision. But yeah, it was a difficult decision. I'm not going to lie to you. It was tough. You've got a relationship with Danny for seven plus years, Maholm has been here, Woody, Downsy came here just at the trade deadline. But you feel like Woody could?? I didn't want to carry three left?handers in the bullpen. We carried 11 pitchers. Garcia has done a decent job. He's got some postseason experience. And so we made that decision that way.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about just what did you tell Uggla, and is he available for later?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah. I mean, conversation was short. I don't want to get into the specifics of the conversations, but yeah, going into the next round, it's a seven?game series, and maybe your roster?? you compose your roster a little bit different. You know, he may be able to get on that roster spot.
Q. And Hale you're keeping obviously as a bullpen guy, right?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yeah, Hale is?? our rotation is Medlen, Minor, Teheran, Garcia, and we kept Hale because we felt he's a guy that could give us some innings late in the game if you get into one of those crazy 12, 13?inning games. He's the one that has stretched out enough that he can give you a long man at the end of the game.
Q. A few years ago when the Giants won the World Series, Barry Zito was left off the roster and a lot of credit was given after to the way he handled it and having a positive impact on the team after that. Have you seen the way Dan has handled the news and maybe Scott and Paul that maybe have indicated they're still going to be able to have a positive impact, and what kind of signs have you seen from them?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, the conversation you've had?? it's a difficult conversation, it's a difficult thing to take as a professional athlete when you compete on a high level. The pitchers are going to go down to instructional league and keep pitching because we're thinking we want to go to the next round. So Maholm, Downs and Varxaro, guys who were pitching they're going down to instructional league and Roger has to prepare to pitch hitting live hitters and keep them sharp.
We saw last year Cueto go out in the first inning against the Giants and I think he came out of the third inning maybe the second inning. So we're going to have those guys out here pitching and be available.
And Danny, for the next round, we'll get together again, huddle up and see what the best roster for that round is.
Q. They'll be sending out Kershaw and Greinke in the first two games and you may face them again. How daunting is that challenge, how much of a strength is that for them to have that kind of one?two?
FREDI GONZALEZ: It may be the best rotation in the National League. We take it one pitch at a time and battle Kershaw tomorrow and worry about the other two guys the next couple of games.
You know, that's the way we go about it. We want a young rotation that can match them pitch for pitch and go at it that way.
Q. Given that Dan has two more years left on his deal, which is pretty pricey, do you see him being here next season on this team?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, I'm just worried about Kershaw tomorrow. Obviously the decisions that we made doesn't have to?? never came into input into the salary or length of contract or any of that kind of stuff. I'd like to keep it in baseball decisions. I think it works better that way for me anyway and for our staff.
Q. For a postseason team you've had to make a lot of different moves with your everyday club, moving players moving around the diamond. What have you seen from Elliot Johnson at second and then Heyward in center that give you confidence?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, I think the world of Jason Heyward, other than he's 6'5" and 245. He doesn't look like your prototypical leader and center fielder. If you run him out there every day, he may win a Gold Glove in center field. That's how good I feel about him playing center field. Elliott Johnson came to us late a couple of days before the end of the trade deadline, and was a release player from Kansas City. But he has a dynamic, he gets some speed on the bases. He can put the ball in play. At second base he's fine. He's better than fine, really. He covers some ground. He throws a nice double play. He's a solid baseball player. I like his IQ, baseball IQ, and he can make a difference in a postseason series.
Q. I was wondering if you watched last night's game and remind your players about chasing balls and kind of not getting too anxious on the big stage for this kind of series?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, you know what, we'll meet a little bit tomorrow and I'll just tell them not to worry about making mistakes. It's going to be a short meeting. Don't worry about making mistakes, just go play the game. To tell you the truth, I didn't watch much of the game. I was pretty wiped out by the time the first pitch came on. But I liked the atmosphere. I did watch that first couple innings.
The atmosphere there in Pittsburgh, I thought that was outstanding. I hope that we can create that here in our field and get the chop going and that kind of stuff. It gave me goosebumps watching the Pittsburgh Pirates fans getting into it like that right from the very first pitch.
Q. We all know what Medlen did this month and you've been telling us, do the math. Is there any one point or one point over the last couple weeks where you said he's going to be my Game 1 starter?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I couldn't tell you exactly the time, but in my mind it was either Minor or Medlen, going into the last month of September, and I think they both had four or five starts left there in that month. Medlen, he's earned it, and he's a guy that pitched a big game for us last year. He pitched that St. Louis Cardinals play?in game, so he's got that going for him, and so we made that decision.
Q. There was a point late in the season in New York before Tim Hudson got hurt where you had six starters for five spots, and the thought was maybe Medlen would end up in the bullpen or at least was a candidate to end up in the bullpen.
FREDI GONZALEZ: I don't know who's thought that was.
Q. Did you see a different Chris Medlen at that point in terms of fighting for a spot, or is it the same guy you've always seen?
FREDI GONZALEZ: For me he's been the same guy. I think he's gotten more run support of late. If you look at his numbers in the first four or five spots, been okay, quality starts, just getting lost here and there. He would lose 4?1, that type of thing. But I don't think that?? especially it never came out of my mouth that he was going to the bullpen, at all. I know we had six starters at one time or the possibility of six starters because Beachy was supposed to be coming back and that never materialized. I always tell you guys that that takes care of itself, and not that you want any decision to be made for you because of an injury, it took care of itself.
Q. For the people that are getting an extended look at your ballclub, the bullpen has been a real constant for you guys, but what about the rise also of a guy like David Carpenter and what he's been able to do?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He breaks camp, and we don't really know about David Carpenter. He goes down to Gwinnett, because we haven't pitched?? he's a converted guy, catcher, converted guy, hadn't really pitched much in the Minor Leagues, so we sent him to Triple?A to let him work on all his pitches. I don't know what the timing that he came up. I can't remember, it might have been an injury or we needed a bullpen spot, and he pitched, and if you remember he pitched in the blow?out game in the 5th or the 6th. But little by little, every time you run him out there he'd get people out, and then you just keep pushing him back towards the tail end of the game, and lo and behold, you feel comfortable. Walden goes out with an injury, you've got one night to give the ball to Carp to go pitch the eighth, and he did a heck of a job for us. And now for me you can pitch him anywhere in the game. Wherever the matchup is, you pitch him in the seventh or the eighth. But here's a guy that nobody knew how he was going to shake out here in October, and he's been a big part of our bullpen.
Q. When you look across the field in the other dugout you don't see Matt Kemp and you don't see Andre Ethier??
FREDI GONZALEZ: I still see a lot of good baseball players, you see Ramirez down there, Uribe down there, I think González is one of the best catchers in the game, you see their pitching staff, and by the way, that kid that plays right field, he's not bad, either. They've still got a pretty good club.
Q. Obviously you had Hanley in Miami for a number of years. How have you seen him from a distance evolve into maybe a more mature, fuller player now?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I haven't been really with him since '07, but I thought the world of him when he was with me?? I guess 2010 was the last time I saw him, from '07 until 2010, and I told Donny when he was injured, this guy could tilt the field offensively or even defensively running the bases, this guy could make an impact on the baseball field. I think it was 2009, he won the batting title hitting third, won the batting title. He's a special player. When he's healthy, I know he's had some tough stretches with his health this year, but he's scary. He can do stuff defensively, he can steal your bases, he can run you out of the ballpark, he can hit a gap per. He's a special guy.
Q. You mentioned the starters matching each other pitch for pitch, turning it into a battle of the bullpens. Do you feel that's the most clear edge you have over the Dodgers is in your bullpen?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, you know what, we don't know what the edge is. This game of ours, you guys have been around forever and watched games. We like to match up on paper, this roster with that roster, this starter with that starter. I've seen rookies making their first start beat John Smoltz. I've seen weirder stuff happen. You've got to play the game. You don't match payroll, you don't match roster for roster. Go play the game, see what happens.
Guys that are hitting 190 during the course of the season may win MVPs in the postseason, things like that. That's one thing you know for sure, you just never know what's going to happen. We like to play it all out on paper, but we don't play it on paper, we've got to play it on the baseball field.
Q. You've said Parcells has told you the second time around it's going to feel a little different. Does this feel different than last year?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Well, you get used to the stuff. The more you win, the more you want to win, and we didn't get a chance to win.
Last year we came close, and here we are again. There's no promises for next year. You don't know what's going to happen next year when we get this opportunity, and let's see how far we can go and win. I've always preached the whole year, and you guys have been around me for three years, is win the series. Well, I think we win three series, we'll be in pretty good shape.