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Winter Meetings interview with Bryan Price

MLB.com

Q. Obviously we don't know what's going to happen here, but if you don't trade either of your middle infielders, we've asked Dick how this might work out, but how do you figure out a way to get Peraza, maybe Herrera, opportunity when you have the same obstacles you had last year?
BRYAN PRICE: Well, I think hard to have two. The one thing we were able to define last season is Jose Peraza is a Major Leaguer. He's not a guy who is better served playing Triple-A, if I can get him in the lineup at least four times a week. And prefer not to have to sprinkle him around and take time away at short, second, maybe left and center field a game a week. But he's got to play. He's a guy that's got to play.

So it will be interesting to see where we are either between now and the first day of Spring Training or now and Opening Day. Things happen. The one thing that we have had as an issue in the last several years is the ability to survive Spring Training without injuries. So the depth portion of this is important.

Q. Obviously we don't know what's going to happen here, but if you don't trade either of your middle infielders, we've asked Dick how this might work out, but how do you figure out a way to get Peraza, maybe Herrera, opportunity when you have the same obstacles you had last year?
BRYAN PRICE: Well, I think hard to have two. The one thing we were able to define last season is Jose Peraza is a Major Leaguer. He's not a guy who is better served playing Triple-A, if I can get him in the lineup at least four times a week. And prefer not to have to sprinkle him around and take time away at short, second, maybe left and center field a game a week. But he's got to play. He's a guy that's got to play.

So it will be interesting to see where we are either between now and the first day of Spring Training or now and Opening Day. Things happen. The one thing that we have had as an issue in the last several years is the ability to survive Spring Training without injuries. So the depth portion of this is important.

So as far as Dilson goes, that's the other part. Are we still intact with our middle infield when we get to Opening Day? Get a chance to have a full spring with him and define if he needs a little bit more time in Triple-A to play or if he's ready to come up and be a guy. But also not a guy that I would like to have them there as a bench player. I don't think that's going to help his progress at all.

I think they're between Dilson and Jose, they're in a little bit different spot going into Spring Training.

Q. How much are you looking forward to getting a look at Dilson this spring?
BRYAN PRICE: Very much so because I know we were excited to get him. I think he's a strong, offensive second baseman who defends well. He's 22 years old. So to have a couple of young 22, 23 year olds over the course of the 2017 season that could potentially be playing with some regularity is exciting, because we've talked about the rebuild. And the rebuild is being able to feel like we can go out there and compete for postseason and championships moving forward. And in order to do that, you have to define who is going to be there during that stretch of time and who isn't.

I think that's the reason that beyond the financial challenges obviously, but for guys like Frazier, Chapman, are they going to be there for the resurrection of our ballclub and can we afford to keep them for that period. And when it was defined that we couldn't, we had to make significant moves.

Q. Have you spoken with others about carving out time for Peraza next year and how that may all work out?
BRYAN PRICE: Not to this point. I think that with Zach coming off his injury last year, it wasn't difficult to get De Jesus in there periodically when Peraza came up.

There was more opportunity the second time he came up or when he came up for good because Zach was banged up and we needed to get him out of there more often and then eventually we shut him down for the season. I think what we have to do is get to Spring Training and see where we are. There is no question this is a picture that's painting itself. If we come fully intact, we're going to be heavy on middle infielders and we're going to have two real young guys and two veterans and defining who is going to be a part of 2018, 2019, '20 and '21, is going to in large part define who is playing in 2017. And that's something that organizationally will be defined by the time we get to Opening Day.

Q. There has been a lot of debate over how much the Indians' bullpen usage during the postseason could be replicated throughout the season, but that's probably been covered enough already. What about what they did that went under the radar, their extreme curveball usage in the Toronto and Cubs series? Can teams do that, attack more?
BRYAN PRICE: I think a lot of that was based on their scouting reports and data, especially if you're -- I don't know if you're talking overall or talking primarily with the bullpen pieces, but either way -- there is no wiggle room in the postseason. You go into a situation like that you can't just sometimes sacrifice a game to save your bullpen. You gotta go out there and compete to win every game and that's why we saw a much smaller group competing in the postseason and seeing pitches thrown at a higher rate, because there was really a feeling, I'm sure, of there is no room for error.

I think what we're seeing is way more data. We're finding certain pitches that we can isolate, certain sides of the plate that can be utilized more, certain pitches that aren't used typically on one side of the plate. You're seeing front door slider, front door cutter, front door breaking ball, change-ups inside, right on right, left on left. So what's happening is through the data we're opening up a lot of different avenues to find out, defensive positioning, things of that nature. And now we're going it see how the offense seems to respond. That's the beauty of baseball is that back and forth.

Q. The home runs were way up this year, but not just the boppers, it's the rogue lineup, guys hitting home runs. Do you need to manage differently because of that?
BRYAN PRICE: Well, I think it's certainly -- the response to that is why are we getting so many balls in the air and can we isolate more guys or teach more guys to work down in the zone or to be able to find that pitch that will create more ground ball contact. I think that's the response.

The defense to that and finding that combination of ground ball-strike out pitcher. In our ballpark, certain times of the year it's very hard to keep a fly ball in the ballpark. And in order to win with any consistency, you've got to be able to do that with a higher rate, keep the ball on the ground or in the stadium or you have to have guys that can compete and outslug from time to time.

I think when you start to earmark pitchers and start to look at them the ground ball rate and strikeout rates have brought on a higher importance with all the analysis that we're seeing and it's the way that we will compete against the home run.

Q. How optimistic and realistic are you about what Mesoraco can do going into the season after two lost years?
BRYAN PRICE: I'm optimistic that physically he will be back. The type of workload that we see on the front end of the season will be defined on how he responds to the workload. I think he will certainly be eased in as far as -- I don't think he's going to have a Yadi Molina year where he's able to catch in 140-plus games, but I do believe that he's going to make it back behind the plate.

If I wasn't optimistic about that, I think we would have to look at other options as far as other ways to utilize Devin. Then probably in small ways we will.

And now the question is after being out of the game for most of the last two seasons is getting his timing and swing down. But he's still young, he's still athletic, he still has power, that's not going to go away. I think there has to be a certain amount of patience for him to find his way offensively and I'm not discouraged by it. I certainly would hope that he didn't have these multiple surgeries in his history but we've gone through it. Our doctors have not told us to be frightened of this. We will be cognizant of it but equally as optimistic.

Q. Having Tucker I guess as a good fallback, it's a hybrid system of some sort? He could be a regular catcher?
BRYAN PRICE: Absolutely, you're absolutely right. You can't discredit the fact that in the aftermath of Devin's injuries along the way, Tucker has established himself as a Major League catcher and a regular. He's not just a fallback option. He's a good option on days where Devin shouldn't be playing or needs a day off or can DH in a game.

The other part of that and one thing we realized is thank goodness we had Ramon Cabrera last year because had we not, we would have been scouring the waiver wire for a capable Major League second catcher. And I thought Ramon did a fine job as a back-up to Tucker, but we have to have reasonable depth simply because of Devin's injury.

Q. What's it been like to have first Winter Meetings for Dick as the GM? What's been your input and is there much change to how it's operated this year?
BRYAN PRICE: There is definitely a certain amount of change in leadership and I really appreciate and admire the way he's included Walt Jocketty. Even though Walt still holds a position in our front office, it could have been easy for Dick to roll past him and bring in different people. And we have a very connected and established group of people in the room, so when you go into that room from years past, coming to the Winter Meetings, there are a lot of familiar faces.

So Dick didn't blow it up along the way. He's got some trusted people in our scouting department and other people that ride along with him in the front office, and the continuity I think is a strength of the organization. And being able to have a senior, veteran guy like Walt to be able to help and support what we're doing is a big key to that.

Q. Chapman might be close to $100 million (No microphone) is that mind-blowing to you?
BRYAN PRICE: I think what's going to be interesting now that the price is being driven -- we talk about it all the time because we had him for so long and we think very highly of Aroldis. But what does that mean? What does it mean as far as can you pay whatever it is, if it's $15, $20 million dollars for a relief pitcher, now does that force managers and organizations to change how they utilize that player? Does that mean now he's a one-plus-two-inning type guy, kind of along the lines of Mariano Rivera. But there weren't a lot of guys doing what Mariano Rivera did what he did when he did it, and that's what made it so special. There were times where he would go three innings and shut down a game. It was not uncommon to see him unrolling out of the bullpen to start the eighth.

And with these some of these guys that are driving up the market, there are guys like Aroldis that may be defined as someone that to get your value out of them is going to have to pitch more innings. That's what I'm waiting to see.

We're doing it with younger guys that historically have a starter's background and we want to get more out of those guys. But they're used to it, conditioned to it and we anticipate using our bullpen more like you saw a lot of teams do in the postseason.

Q. Chapman is a very special name. Can you develop that or does that kind of evolve? Do you target a guy?
BRYAN PRICE: You have to condition for it, but you also have in turn for every Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman, if they turn into or are consistently multiple-inning relief pitchers, you have to have other pitchers around them that can do the same thing. Because if Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman throws two and a third to finish a game in the regular season, you are not going to fire them out there the next day and the next day and the next day. You might be able to use a closer five times in a week if you use them for an inning. If you use them for two or two plus, one and two-thirds, maybe that shrinks down to two to three times a week. So you're going to have to have somebody that is in lock step with that closer that can do something similar if you're going to have long extended winning streaks.

Starters don't finish games anymore -- closers do. So you better have maybe even more than one other relief pitcher that's comfortable pitching in the ninth inning and that's what we feel we need to do to get value out of Iglesias and Lorenzen, but we know if we do this we're going to need another one, too, or you're not going to have somebody capable of closing the ninth inning if you've used those guys and they need a day off.

Q. Talk about the rebuilding process and the pitching standpoint. As you go into 2017, how you feel about the staff?
BRYAN PRICE: I like our staff. And if we stay intact and it's DeSclafani, Bailey, Finnegan and Straily, it's not just my feeling, it's the fact that position players are going to go out there and feel comfortable every time those four take the field and are on the mound.

The key will be if we find a starter, if we find one in our system, if one of these one guys, be it Reed, Stephenson or Amir Garrett, or one of the younger kids from Double A can step up and take a spot or if we're going to decide or define that they're better suited to start the season in the Minor Leagues and find a fifth starter elsewhere. We'll see where that goes.

But the key for me is the bullpen because I don't think that we're Opening Day ready if we are healthy with those that we currently have on our roster or in our system. I think we do need to find some pitchers that can fortify that segue from the starter to the late-game pitchers, and I think that's what we will try to target as much as we can or another pitcher that can come in and has some history in closing, who can close if I'm not going to use Iglesias or Lorenzen, that this pitcher can come in and bridge that if they're not available.

Q. What is your role throughout your organization and the way you might want to see things changed with regard to how guys are developed?
BRYAN PRICE: The big challenge for me, personally, in a world where we want pitchers to throw less, I think they need to throw more. And that's not just necessarily bulk innings, but I think pitchers need to throw more on the side. We have pitchers that come through our system that throw bullpen sides of 25 to 30 pitches when we get them, and I would like to see them have a bigger workload on their side days. I would like to see pitchers throw twice between starts and I would like to see us build our starting pitchers into being able to carry a heavier workload in the Minor Leagues.

We had Anthony DeSclafani for a complete in Arizona in August. It was his first complete game in professional baseball. That to me is unheard of and that's not his fault. It's the fault of this whole group of people that feel like we have to put these kids in a bubble.

The injury rates are not going down with the amount of pitches and innings being lessened. That's not happening. We're still having our best pitchers having surgeries, missing time. It has not been proven that workload is a direct factor in my opinion and I would like to see our guys take on a workload. And we have always used our common sense in this game. If you've got a Minor League pitcher that goes out and throws a 120-complete game, I'm not going to throw him another 120-pitch complete game the next time out. I might cut him back to five or six innings and 80 or 85 pitches. But we pay these guys a lot of money to play baseball and as a starting pitcher, you're going to make $8 or $10 or $12 or $20 million. You better be out in the game a lot.

That was the beauty of Johnny Cueto, he just pitched until the game was over if he was throwing the ball well. I would like to see more of that in the game because eventually the relievers are going to be the guys that are eating up all the innings. And those career spans are going to shorten. You can't ask relievers to throw 125, 150 innings the way the game is going to be headed if we start using these multiple-inning closers and setup guys with too much frequency.

Q. So you're not a big proponent of the third time through the order of getting guys out --
BRYAN PRICE: I understand the numbers going up, I understand that. And in my opinion, in my opinion, until you allow your young guys to pitch in inning seven, eight and nine, and allow them to go through that order, they will never be able to do that.

Clayton Kershaw isn't Clayton Kershaw because the Dodgers said, You know what, the third time through the lineup we have to get him out of there. He doesn't become Clayton Kershaw unless he's allowed to become Clayton Kershaw.

There's going to be guys that are 90-pitch, five innings or six-inning starters, no question about that. And the game defines that, an organization defines that. But we're putting too many limitations on the young pitcher to ever define if they're capable of being Clayton Kershaw or the next version of him, or any other, you know, Adam Wainwright, or guys that have logged innings.

We're turning them all into six-inning pitchers and I don't agree with it. Doesn't mean I'm right, but I can tell you I don't agree with it.

Q. Does the same philosophy work with relievers that come up through the minors?
BRYAN PRICE: In some ways, yes. The other part of that is that they come from the Minor Leagues quite often and this isn't everywhere, where they've never thrown three days in a row. Some guys, you look at their workload and they've thrown back-to-back games three times all season in a Triple-A season or Double-A season. And they get to the big leagues, there's times where it's like, we've got three guys in our bullpen that we feel are comfortable pitching today. And it can't be that we're not going to pitch a guy because he's thrown a total of 24 pitches over the previous two days. That guy has to be available. We've got to teach them to be durable and teach them how to get their arms and bodies ready to pitch three times in a row or five times in a week. That's just the way it goes if you're going to pitch them in those shorter stints. Guys that pitch longer stints, those two, two plus, they're going to have more time between outings obviously.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRYAN PRICE: He has a bit of a health history. We all have our reasons for doing it, but if the reason is he threw yesterday and I'm not going to use him today or he threw two days in a row but threw 17 pitches over those two days when we have a philosophy of not pitching them the third day, if they're in Triple A that's not realistic. That's not preparing a pitcher to pitch in the Major Leagues because they are going to pitch three days in a row if they are feeling good enough to do so. And I don't think that's being reckless. I think that's trying to win games with guys that are capable of pitching with that type of durability.

Q. In your bullpen, you have five set spots right now with Jumbo, Cingrani, Iglesias, Lorenzen and Wood?
BRYAN PRICE: I wouldn't say set, I wouldn't say set. I would say that Jumbo, if you're going to name five guys, I think he has to come in and show he's willing to make a jump. And certainly his numbers reflected a great improvement the last time he was there.

I think the Ted Power influence is a big one, that relationship between Ted and Jumbo, Teddy's history as a bullpen pitcher, started also as a relief pitcher in the big leagues and the preestablished relationship that Jumbo and Ted had played a large part in Jumbo's turn-around last year. But I would love to see Jumbo be an impact pitcher for us. But he has got to show similar strides that he's made over the course of the last year. So I would not pencil him in as guaranteed to make our club, and I think he has a strong chance.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRYAN PRICE: Cactus League experience? That's a broad question. Is there any particular part of that question that you want me to hit?

Q. Just playing in Arizona, the setup, the statistics of what it's like to manage in that city?
BRYAN PRICE: I think there are pros and cons to everything. There is a lot more pros than cons for me. Biggest pro is I live in Arizona and I've always commuted to Spring Training facilities with the exception of Tucson.

I do think the weather component, the fact that we don't get much rain, the fact that everything is basically within 40 minutes of each other, all the stadiums is within 40 minutes of each other, is huge. You're not losing a workout day to travel and I think that's the huge complaint to Florida. Quite often their players are traveling to go play a game and don't get a regular amount of fundamental work, bunt plays, you know, infield cut-offs and relays, base running stuff that you would do on a typical morning.

I've always enjoyed it. I've always enjoyed it greatly and the thing we're finding with the Diamondbacks being out there, you've got more and more venues starting to show stronger and higher increased attendance, playing against the Giants, playing against the Cubs, against the Diamondbacks, the Rockies. There is a huge following there. There's a connection from LA to come down. Dodger fans come down to Glendale and see a ball game. It creates a much better ambiance than playing in front of 2,500 people in a venue that's not terribly well attended.

Q. That fifth spot rotation, would you prefer if it's going to come internally as opposed to a guy that's had some experience in the big league last year?
BRYAN PRICE: No, because I think that prioritizes Reed, Stephenson over Amir Garrett. I think Amir Garrett has checked off everything on his list. That's what we felt strongly about with Reed when he started in Triple A. He went out and checked off that Triple A criteria. Is he better in the league in Triple-A? Yes.

However, I would love to see Reed and Stephenson make that, just show up and look like Major Leaguers. And if they're given that opportunity, if they've earned that opportunity, either start or pitch out of the bullpen that they come up and look a little bit more like big leaguers. But I'm looking forward to the competition and to Amir coming in there and showing confidence on the mound and getting a much larger opportunity in big league camp than he's ever gotten before. He got an inning and two-thirds last year and probably wasn't enough to get a good feel for him.

Q. Is he a bullpen candidate?
BRYAN PRICE: Amir? I'm personally more reluctant in that regard only because I think there are other guys that probably fit that role better to pitch out of the bullpen.

I think eventually we have to define Robert Stephenson and where he's best served for 2017. Is it in Triple-A, in our bullpen? Cody Reed to a lesser degree. Amir to a much lesser degree. Amir should be in our rotation because he's earned it and I think that will be his first crack. That being said, I do not shy away from young prospects pitching out of a Major League bullpen to get their feet wet.

I don't think Amir is that guy as much as I might see Reed or Stephenson if they don't win the fifth spot but it wouldn't be unheard of. I think it would be less likely than the other two.

Q. Managers don't pick the All-Star rosters anymore. Is that good, bad, from your perspective?
BRYAN PRICE: I think the best thing that happened is the fact that the World Series home-field advantage is not defined or decided by The All-Star Game. The baseball community and that might be part fans, but I think it's the people that can identify the talent and team building and trying to build a team to win an All-Star Game.

You might have Billy Hamilton on it because he can help you win that game with a stolen base or defensive play in the outfield. But if you're going for a fan favorite, we asked for everybody to rally around Todd Frazier and I felt he should make the All-Star team anyway. But we had to make a robust push in Cincinnati in 2015, and for me, there shouldn't be ramifications to who wins that game when events like that can happen to influence who makes the All-Star team. You had an initial question that I got off of but I don't remember it.

Q. About managers and coaches no longer filling out the roster.
BRYAN PRICE: I think it's a game for the fans and I think having watched it firsthand in Cincinnati, MLB does a great job with the All-Star Game. I would like to have a vote but it doesn't bother me.

Q. Did you ever give thought to what you would have done with a 26-man roster?
BRYAN PRICE: I thought about it a little bit. It's a nice tool to be able to spin guys around and answers that question on if you're going to have an 8-man bullpen, 7-man bullpen, answers if you're going to have a third catcher so your second guy can be more active as an early pinch-hitter. There were some things that looked really good about that and I didn't get into the debate over it. I thought how it would enhance our club, but there are many guys that you're trying to take care of, young pitchers that you don't want to put in the middle of fire or you want to get a guy out early or when we are struggling with our starting pitching early in the season.

If you're starting pitching doesn't work, you need the extra bullpen guy, but you have to pinch-hit earlier as well. It's a kind of a double-edge sword. It was an unwinnable situation for us when the starting pitching wasn't there. So the 26-man would have been highly influential historically in our last couple of years.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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