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World Series Media Day: Roberts interview

MLB.com

Q. How did you and A.J. become friends? And what's it like managing against him in the World Series?

DAVE ROBERTS: We became friends when we worked together with the Padres in San Diego, and he was in the front office, I think director of scouting, and I was a coach and we just kind of hit it off, and obviously we were contemporaries, and had mutual friends, and just loved talking about the game. And so still have mutual friends obviously in the game now. And so to be managing against him now in this situation, it's really surreal. I think after we advanced, he reached out to me. And then after they advanced, I reached out to him. And from that point on it's been radio silence. (Laughter).

Q. How did you and A.J. become friends? And what's it like managing against him in the World Series?

DAVE ROBERTS: We became friends when we worked together with the Padres in San Diego, and he was in the front office, I think director of scouting, and I was a coach and we just kind of hit it off, and obviously we were contemporaries, and had mutual friends, and just loved talking about the game. And so still have mutual friends obviously in the game now. And so to be managing against him now in this situation, it's really surreal. I think after we advanced, he reached out to me. And then after they advanced, I reached out to him. And from that point on it's been radio silence. (Laughter).

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Q. Outside of Corey Seager being added to the roster, do you anticipate any other changes maybe on the pitching side?

DAVE ROBERTS: There's a couple of things we're sort of talking through. Obviously with Corey the addition of Corey, three games potentially in Houston with the DH, how we're going to use the catchers, sort of what makes sense in this particular Series. So, yeah, outside of Corey right now we still have a little bit more time to kind of figure it out.

Q. I wanted to ask you a typical question, but a question that has to be asked before the Series: What it means for you to be in the Series, bringing your team to a Series, especially for a team that hasn't been there in decades. And secondly, can you talk about the Astros, your opinion of that team?

DAVE ROBERTS: Well, I think that obviously we're excited about this opportunity. But we're four wins away from accomplishing our goal. Up to this point, like I've said all year long, we've taken care of what we had to to get to this point. We still have a very focused group, and a lot to be done. Very good ballclub. Very well coached. It's a forward-thinking organization. They've got a lot of talent. They can pitch. They can slug. They've just got a lot of athleticism. So to kind of prepare for a team like that, poses some problems. But I like our guys, too.

Q. It seems like much longer ago, but I think it was just a little bit less than two years ago, when they had a press conference upstairs and you put on the jersey, and you said that this organization has been so good to you, you really hope to give back and get to a World Series. Here you sit. I know you've got a lot of things on your mind right now, but have you had any time to sort of reflect on what has been just an unimaginable two years, and here you sit today with the World Series backdrop behind you?

DAVE ROBERTS: I don't do as good of a job of enjoying the moment as I probably should. I do recall that day. And I think it was to bring a championship back, not just to get here. So we're almost there. But, yeah, there's intermittent moments where I can kind of -- and I sort of lived through it with the players and the coaches and see their excitement and big spots. And you see Clayton, who was just up here, and see what he's been through and Kenley and I, the conversations that we've had, guys in the clubhouse that have been here for so long and waited for this moment. So, yeah, you want to finish it up with a championship, though.

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Roberts on preparing for the World Series

Q. Knowing Alex Cora, being a teammate of his, knowing Boston a bit, being a first-time manager, which Alex is going to be, once the Series is over. What's your take on that hiring and how do you think Alex is going to do?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think he's going to do well. He's very intelligent, understands the game tremendously. I think that he connects with players, and there's got to be a trust. He's a grinder; he likes to work. But obviously until you do it, there's going to be some challenges as far as managing your time. And it's considerably different than just being a coach, a Major League coach. But the core of understanding the game of baseball, connecting with players, and taking on information and how you sort of get it to the players and the coaches, I think that he'll do very well. And obviously he played well there in Boston, and has some relationships with certain players that are still there, which I think is a good thing. And I think he's a great leader.

Q. When players are injured, they sometimes can be ghosts; they're not involved anymore, and they can be forgotten. With Ethier, how did he integrate himself into the mix? And where was his value before September 1st?

DAVE ROBERTS: Well, with Andre it's been a very difficult two seasons. You look back at Spring Training, he was actually going to start the season as our leadoff hitter, takes a ball at Salt River Field off the shin and breaks his leg, so he's out essentially for the entire year. And then this year the back went south on him. As frustrated as he's been, he still managed to stay connected with his teammates. And there's a lot of banter going back and forth with him and Cody or Austin, and the other guys, and just keeping those guys going. He was around us when he could be, but he worked really tirelessly to get back, and even when he wasn't starting, when he was sort of getting back, he just said he just wants to be a part of this in any way, shape or form. And had no expectations going into October. And so he earned that opportunity to be on the postseason roster. So I think that for me personally, just seeing it from kind of afar is that just the way that he's handled some struggles with a lot of class and professionalism, and I know inside his heart was broke, but he never let the guys see that. And he was always there positive, rooting for his teammates. So to see him back, active, and getting big hits for us in the postseason, for the longest-tenured Dodger, I think, it's great to see. And he said a lot of cool things to the team as far as really embracing this opportunity, because you never know when you're going to get it again.

Q. You studied history at UCLA, when you come into your workplace, you come down, you walk through and there's a hallway full of history, Dodgers, all these accomplishments. Can you detail what it's like you coming into work and basically being involved in the history of the Dodger organization, as well?

DAVE ROBERTS: I do that every single day. And I do take moments to look down that long his list of hardware when I get off the elevator. And I see the Silver Sluggers, I see the World Championship trophies, I see the Gold Gloves, and all the different pictures of the former managers, the great players. That kind of blows me away. So I really try to focus on the moment. But when you look at the history and in that context, yeah, it's a little overwhelming to just think that you just want to do your job and be good at your job, and help a team be good that particular day and win a baseball game. There's a lot that kind of comes with that. But, yeah, I definitely don't take that lightly.

Q. I'm curious, a little follow-up to that last question: I go back to the first game at Dodger Stadium in '63, the first World Series game. And I'm wondering how far back you go when you grew up in San Diego area, once you ended up there. As far as some of the tradition, did you get up here at all to any of the World Series and knowing what it means to the fans now that it's been so long?

DAVE ROBERTS: Well, my first game was in 1983. I was living in Orange County and I drove up on a Sunday and it was somewhere until the upper deck. And I remember Franklin Stubbs hit a home run. And that's kind of the extent of that. I remember having a Dodger Dog and then moving to San Diego, and sort of Tony Gwynn, you have to love Tony Gwynn when you live down there. But the Dodgers organization - Tommy Lasorda, Jackie Robinson, obviously I followed in his footsteps and went to UCLA. At that point in time I think really became kind of crossed over as far as really having affinity for the Dodgers once I went to UCLA and going to Jackie Robinson Stadium every day, and my dad talking about Jackie. And then playing for the Dodgers, and you get the Don Newcombes, the Maury Wills, the Sandy Koufaxes, and guys like that, who are now my friends. So the late Duke Snider lived in San Diego, was a friend of mine. And now to see where we're at right now and Don Newcombe called me when I got named manager in tears. That doesn't happen every day.

Q. Knowing what this means to the fans --

DAVE ROBERTS: And knowing what it means to the fans. And it's a deep-rooted tradition here.

Q. When you look at this matchup and you look at Verlander and Keuchel, is there a bigger challenge that lies ahead in those specific games?

DAVE ROBERTS: No, not to take away anything from anyone else they're going to go out and start against. You look at that one, two, and completely different pitchers. But they're both No. 1's on championship-caliber teams. Yeah, we've got our work cut out for us. And you've just got to go out there and compete. And Verlander is going to be throwing 95 to 98, 99. And he's really found that slider, and he's got the breaking ball to change off that. And Keuchel works to the bottom of the zone, changes speeds. Ball just misses barrels, puts it on the ground and has good tempo, and he's a strike-thrower, as far as it seems like he throws strikes, but it kinds of seems to get out of the strike zone. But both competitors. Like I said, I like our guys, too. It's going to be a great series. But looking at the one, two, that they're running out at you, and you know you've got to beat them a couple of times in a long series. It's going to be a fun series.

Q. When it comes to Kershaw can you describe what you see from him behind the scenes, the work ethic, the preparation, that part of him that makes him great?

DAVE ROBERTS: I can. And I think that's the thing that I guess to put it in one way, I think the fans get cheated on not getting the opportunity to see him in between starts. Because I think that we as fans can appreciate him every fifth day, and the energy and the emotion and the success that he's had on the field. But to be behind the scenes and to watch him work so diligently, with detail, every single day, that's something that for me I marvel at. To not only get to a certain plateau, but to want to strive to be better, and that consistency that he's shown over the course of his entire career, that now has sort of affected, impacted, his teammates, not only the starting pitchers, but the position players. And a lot of what Chase Utley has done for our guys, Clayton has done that, too. It's just a credit to him. I wouldn't know what it's like to be a superstar. But with what he does every single day, with working with a purpose, with everything he does, it makes sense.

Q. We talked to Corey, he said he's feeling great. But knowing that a week ago he couldn't move, do you trust that he is healthy? And how do you construct your 25-man roster now, where it could flare up on him?

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, it could, and I think that obviously you've got to trust the player, but we also have to trust our eyes and the medical staff. And Corey is going to do everything he can to lobby to be active and play in the World Series. And I know that. He knows that. So to have Charlie Culberson and other guys that can play short, if something does go out on us, we're definitely cognizant of that. But to have the DH potential, also, because I think from the training staff, swinging the bat really doesn't pose a problem, it's more of the bending over. So he's going to take aggressive ground balls today, and we're going to put eyes on him again, and knowing that we still don't have to make that decision until tomorrow morning. Unless something really unforeseen happens, I don't see how he won't be active for us. It is nice that we have the depth that we have.

Q. When you think about the size of this stage and the exposure that comes with it, how meaningful is it to be not only the first Asian-born manager to manage at this stage, but also possibly the first African-American manager to win the World Series in 25 years?

DAVE ROBERTS: I didn't know that, J.P., thanks for that one (laughter). That's great. That's great. I think that it's -- I knew when you have this job, this opportunity, responsibility, and I think that -- and I take it in the best possible way in the sense that I represent a lot of people, and trying to do things the right way for the right reasons. And so as we expect to win four games, and to bring a championship back to Los Angeles, I think at that point in time there will be a lot of emotions because of those reasons. But right now I think purposefully I try not to get out of the moment as far as preparing for Dallas Keuchel and the Astros. But I think when you frame it like that it's very meaningful.

Q. Kiké Hernandez has played seven positions. Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, too. How important has versatility been to your team? Has there been more of an emphasis on getting those kind of flexibility in players in recent years?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think so, and even this year, as far as if you look at the National League, I can speak to it more, there was a lot of carrying eight relievers this year versus the seven. And having four guys on the bench. So the model of having guys that are versatile, I know that Andrew and our guys are really big on players that you can sort of move around the diamond. And I think the players enjoy that, too. You start at short, then you go to the outfield. Or any of our guys, you might not start but you can finish a game playing and vice versa. So to have the guys like Kiké, Austin, Chris Taylor, all these different guys, Logan we played at third a lot when JT was down, so to have that flexibility, obviously when you're double-switching, a lot of the season we had a four-man bench. That versatility was almost a necessity for us. But now when you're talking about carrying five or six guys, now it's much easier for me.

Q. Obviously there's a lot of adrenaline that comes with the World Series. Most of the players that we talked to said once first pitch is thrown, they settle in. From a managerial standpoint, can you describe adrenaline, NLCS, when do you settle in? Is there such a thing as settling in?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think that's a good question. Man, when do I settle in? I think that I settle in once -- yeah, the first pitch is thrown and the game, you're trying to get a rhythm of the game. And you want to see how your starter is executing pitches, how the ball is coming out. And you want to see that first four or five hitters on your team, how they're conducting at-bats and how the pitcher is coming out of -- the opposing, how the ball is coming out of his hand. At that point in time I'm just sort of, just assessing, getting a feel of the game. And so that's a little settling in a little bit. But then as the game starts to get to the middle innings, then the focus starts to heighten even more, as you start to kind of stay ahead of things. So I think maybe the first couple of innings is a little bit of, I can just sit back and just take in the game and be a spectator, and then it starts to really ramp up.

Q. Can you describe or explain what makes you feel more proud about this group of players or this process, this great run by the Dodgers?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think the thing I'm most proud of and I think the coaches can say the same thing, is the way that we've really kept our focus on each day. It's a long season and I think that for us, and we talked about -- and the people that have seen us play all year long, from Spring Training to now, we play a certain way and at a certain intensity, and it's not easy. And to the players and the coaches, to their credit, it's watching us play in February or March and to right now, it's a similar brand of baseball. And I think that it's easy to try to turn the switch on and play at a higher level when the stakes are high. You're on a bigger stage, but I think it's more of a credit. And it's easier to kind of handle the expectations or the pressure in big spots when all you know is a certain way to play. And I think for me the biggest win is we've been consistent with that all year long.