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Oct. 15 Joe Maddon pregame interview

MLB.com

Q. Understanding that you take it one game at a time, is there a different feeling between a five-game series and a seven-game series?

JOE MADDON: Sure. You have obviously more games to win and it's stretched out a little bit differently. I don't want to say that there's any less urgency per game but, there might be just the click. In a five-game series, man, it's really everything's enhanced. Not as much as a Wild Card game, but still it's kind of different. So you see we have included one more pitcher just to possibly take care of that. One less position player one more pitcher. Trying to match up with them as well as we possible can. But, again, if somebody were to get hurt pitching-wise, you could be in a really -- of course, you can replace it, if somebody were actually to get injured, but even in the course of a game can make all the difference in the world. So we chose to go with Rob Z. and took Tommy off for right now. But there's a little bit of difference, but at the end of day, man, it's just one game at time, like you eluded to, and that's pretty much where I'm looking at it.

Q. All the attention that Javy Baez has generated this week, wondering is he the kind of kid that you don't have to worry about, how he handles that kind of attention, or do you say something and try to remind him he's still got to stay within himself?

JOE MADDON: I haven't really said a whole lot to him except our normal conversation. I thought he's been handling everything extremely well. There's been a lot of attention, deservedly so. And, again, I always go back to the guys in the room, our veterans in the clubhouse are so good, if he wanted to step out of line a little bit, I know he would hear about it rather quickly. And by the same token, I don't anticipate that he will. He's pretty grounded, where he comes from and the life that he's led to this point, playing the winter ball that he has, the tribulations he's gone through to get to this particular point, injuries and everything else, family situations, he's pretty solid. So, I only do that if I feel it's absolutely necessary. I don't think it's necessary at this point.

Q. Is this a tougher matchup for you as far as homework and preparation because of the fact that the Dodgers use their bullpen so much and that matchup situation might create a little bit more attention?

JOE MADDON: It probably will. But at the end of the day you just have to sit down before the game and decide what you would like to do for as much as you can. There's times during the game that it becomes more extemporaneous, there's no question, but having all fluidity that they have, you just can't match up on at every particular moment. We're pretty static regarding how we do things with our batting order. We came out of character a little bit by hitting for Addison during that playoff game in San Francisco, but for the most part I think we're predictable with all that. At the end of the day, it's about the players, and everybody's making a lot of big deal about matchups, et cetera, but I have a lot of faith and confidence and trust in our guys that are going to be out there tonight, regardless of who is pitching and we're playing against. And, again, I just -- last point I want to make, it is really about us or the Dodgers about themselves or the Cubs about themselves. I think we really get into this scouting thought process a lot where you always are worried about the other guy or the other team, and I would much prefer that we go out there and play our game, meaning that we pitch like we can, we catch the ball, we work good at-bats, we don't expand our strike zone, we make good reads on the bases. Those are the things that are really pertinent. Again, I think you sometimes get caught up in the other side way too much. And I don't want to feed that to our players either. It's about what we do. And if we do it well, we'll be okay. And if we don't do what we do normally well, then it's going to be a different kind of a series. So, you know me, I really do want to simplify it this time of the year and to simplify, have your guys focus on their games first.

Q. You kind of started to talk about this, but what's your comfort level with Rob Z. in terms of how you might use him this series?

JOE MADDON: Very, high level of confidence in Rob Z. I'm certain that when he goes out there, whenever we do put him out there, there might be a little bit of nervousness within the first two pitches, which I absolutely would want him to be, but after that I think he's the kind of guy that would settle in rather quickly. He's got good makeup. He's solid. So I really believe that wherever we put him, if it's -- if we're putting him in a situation that's good for him, he'll succeed. But I have no concerns. He showed that to me in that game in L.A. when we brought him in early for Jason Hammel. Now, I know it's a different time of the year, but I have a lot of confidence that our guys are going to go out there and cavort as they normally do. I really do. I would be surprised if we did it any differently.

Q. When you look at the scrambles some of the other managers are having to do in the LCS round to get a rotation together to even get today's pitcher or tomorrow's pitcher, how big of a luxury is it to have the four guys you have, how solid they are, and line them up exactly the way you want them?

JOE MADDON: Of course. I mean, on the surface, you would think that it's an advantage. I think that it should be an advantage. But sometimes when you're in that scramble mode, some good things occur from that, too. I've been involved on both sides of it. But would I prefer this? Yes. I prefer knowing that it's Jon and Kyle, then Jake and then John. I would much prefer that, and I'm sure they would just prefer saying Clayton, et cetera. But that's the way you want to win a division, which we did, and we were able to get it done within four games and not have to be extended. All that matters. There's got to be reward attached to winning a division, not having to play in the Wild Card game, there has to be reward to when you do win, doing it in less than five games. Those are the rewards. So for us, for me, it's -- you're right, it's been easier to do all that, but I can't -- we won't know until this thing is over if it was an advantage or not.

Q. When you look at Hendricks, the year he had, why was he such an improved pitcher this year?

JOE MADDON: There's one really obvious factor to me, and it's the word confidence. He's much more confident. I thought at the end of last season he started pitching at a higher level, more consistent command. He's a guy that has to have his command. The first part of last season, he wasn't as sharp as he can be. He became sharper season in progress. By the end of the year, he got -- he started to pitch really well. And that just carried over to this season. So, I think that, I think he's added a couple new wrinkles to what he's doing out there, successfully, and with that he's pitched some complete games, too. He's pitched farther, further into the games, and 7th innings he's had a couple complete games and also thrown over a hundred pitches several times. All those things I think have lent to his confidence. And we all do better when we're confident regardless of what have we're doing. And I just think that he has earned it. He's definitely -- he works at his craft, his work is impeccable. So, it's just a matter of his confidence catching up with his abilities.

Q. On the human side, how has it been dealing with having a couple of really good 162-game competitors in Hammel and Szczur that haven't been on the October rosters?

JOE MADDON: They have been great. They have -- if they have been overtly upset, they haven't demonstrated that to me or anybody else. I'm sure they are internally upset, but they have been great. They're a big part of our getting here to this particular moment, Matty was like one of the top pinch hitters in the National League this year, period. And then Hammer's got like 15 wins, didn't he, this year? Something crazy like that. So both these guys have been big contributors to our situation. However, going into this, you have to make your best guesses right now. Things are streamlined a bit. And we made our choices based on different skill sets. But they have been wonderful. I've not heard anything negative.

Q. You have made a real emphasis to kind of distance yourself and the players from the Cubs past and all the history. What do you expect from the crowd, the fans, as things get more serious here?

JOE MADDON: Oh, it's going to get more serious. I didn't realize that.

See, I have a different take on things. Today is what, October 15th? I really want to believe our guys are going to treat it like July 15th or August 15th. I know I am. There's nothing I could do differently. There's nothing that they could do differently. We all have the same common goal in mind, both us and the fans. However, when you start looking at it from the wrong perspective, it could interfere with what you're trying to do. Listen, our fans, our ballpark is kind of like postseason on a nightly basis. I've said that from the beginning. I am so impressed with this place and how our fans react every night. Obviously, there is more at stake right now, I cannot deny that, but I don't want us to change anything. I don't. There's nothing more to delve into, there's no more prep necessary, BP's optional today. There's only two groups, which is if you were here on August 15th, it would have been exactly the same way. We have not reported earlier. We're not doing any more meetings. Again, I think this is the time of the year for absolute simplicity. If you choose to get more than simple, you could set yourself up for a fall. So, anyway, I don't want to treat it any more seriously. I want it to be the same. It's been the message from Spring Training, want to play the same game tonight that we have been playing all year.

Q. Willson has been always a great prospect in the Cubs organization. But this year, playing with the Cubs, it seems like he has been here forever. What are some of the things that surprise you about him and the way he has been playing and his contribution to the Cubs this year?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, the surprising part is how well he does handle the moment. Now, there's times he gets emotional. Don't get me wrong. He can be -- he's an emotional kid. I love that. I don't want to coach that out of him either. I just want to have him like understand how to rein it in at times. But he's not intimidated by anything. Talked about it often, if this guy wanted to box in the wintertime, I want to be his manager. This guy's tough. He's very tough. And he's passionate about everything that he does. Doesn't surprise me. Just getting to know him this year -- I didn't even know him before this year. Spring Training, I remember the meeting we had in my office, and Theo and Jed talking about it, how he's going to be pertinent to us this year, how we wanted to engage him with the starting pitchers in the bullpen at Spring Training and how important it was going to be. And they were right. So I'm getting to know him. He's wonderful. He's absolutely wonderful. The word passion just drips out of every -- out of his pores constantly about everything that he does. And he's going -- again, he's going to keep getting better. That's the part that as a catcher he's a sponge, as a student he's incredible. So just know he's going to keep getting better and nothing frightens this guy.

Q. I'm curious, you say you want them to play like it's July 15th or August 15th, and this is kind of Game 167, right?

JOE MADDON: Yep.

Q. My question is can you manage that way, though, because you are -- or do you manage a little differently because it is the playoffs? For instance, you brought Chapman in trying to get six outs. So can you do that yourself I guess is my question.

JOE MADDON: Yeah, I think that I can keep that separate. My point is I don't want them to do anything differently in their preparation. When they go out on the field, I want them to play the same game. Now, for me as the manager, I pinch hit for Addison the other night, which I think I've done once last year maybe. We did bring Chappy in. Absolutely that would be different. How you attempt to win the game strategically speaking might be a little bit different because you can. You can't be throwing Chappy six outs during the course of the season and expect his arm to be functional at this time of the season. Play two games, day off, play three games, day off. I mean, right now we're more like an NHL or NBA kind of a schedule. We have a little bit of breaks where you can tax or press guys, especially pitchers, a little bit more, just based on scheduling. You're right, 167, whatever it is right now. But play 162, you don't -- we play like 24 days in a row. To try to extract that out of a pitcher at that time of the year, a relief pitcher, you're really setting yourself up for a significant fall. So that part, yes, I totally agree, strategy can be a little bit different this time of the year, but the way you approach the game and the way I want them to play the game, I don't want that to change at all.

Q. Understanding that you take it one game at a time, is there a different feeling between a five-game series and a seven-game series?

JOE MADDON: Sure. You have obviously more games to win and it's stretched out a little bit differently. I don't want to say that there's any less urgency per game but, there might be just the click. In a five-game series, man, it's really everything's enhanced. Not as much as a Wild Card game, but still it's kind of different. So you see we have included one more pitcher just to possibly take care of that. One less position player one more pitcher. Trying to match up with them as well as we possible can. But, again, if somebody were to get hurt pitching-wise, you could be in a really -- of course, you can replace it, if somebody were actually to get injured, but even in the course of a game can make all the difference in the world. So we chose to go with Rob Z. and took Tommy off for right now. But there's a little bit of difference, but at the end of day, man, it's just one game at time, like you eluded to, and that's pretty much where I'm looking at it.

Q. All the attention that Javy Baez has generated this week, wondering is he the kind of kid that you don't have to worry about, how he handles that kind of attention, or do you say something and try to remind him he's still got to stay within himself?

JOE MADDON: I haven't really said a whole lot to him except our normal conversation. I thought he's been handling everything extremely well. There's been a lot of attention, deservedly so. And, again, I always go back to the guys in the room, our veterans in the clubhouse are so good, if he wanted to step out of line a little bit, I know he would hear about it rather quickly. And by the same token, I don't anticipate that he will. He's pretty grounded, where he comes from and the life that he's led to this point, playing the winter ball that he has, the tribulations he's gone through to get to this particular point, injuries and everything else, family situations, he's pretty solid. So, I only do that if I feel it's absolutely necessary. I don't think it's necessary at this point.

Q. Is this a tougher matchup for you as far as homework and preparation because of the fact that the Dodgers use their bullpen so much and that matchup situation might create a little bit more attention?

JOE MADDON: It probably will. But at the end of the day you just have to sit down before the game and decide what you would like to do for as much as you can. There's times during the game that it becomes more extemporaneous, there's no question, but having all fluidity that they have, you just can't match up on at every particular moment. We're pretty static regarding how we do things with our batting order. We came out of character a little bit by hitting for Addison during that playoff game in San Francisco, but for the most part I think we're predictable with all that. At the end of the day, it's about the players, and everybody's making a lot of big deal about matchups, et cetera, but I have a lot of faith and confidence and trust in our guys that are going to be out there tonight, regardless of who is pitching and we're playing against. And, again, I just -- last point I want to make, it is really about us or the Dodgers about themselves or the Cubs about themselves. I think we really get into this scouting thought process a lot where you always are worried about the other guy or the other team, and I would much prefer that we go out there and play our game, meaning that we pitch like we can, we catch the ball, we work good at-bats, we don't expand our strike zone, we make good reads on the bases. Those are the things that are really pertinent. Again, I think you sometimes get caught up in the other side way too much. And I don't want to feed that to our players either. It's about what we do. And if we do it well, we'll be okay. And if we don't do what we do normally well, then it's going to be a different kind of a series. So, you know me, I really do want to simplify it this time of the year and to simplify, have your guys focus on their games first.

Q. You kind of started to talk about this, but what's your comfort level with Rob Z. in terms of how you might use him this series?

JOE MADDON: Very, high level of confidence in Rob Z. I'm certain that when he goes out there, whenever we do put him out there, there might be a little bit of nervousness within the first two pitches, which I absolutely would want him to be, but after that I think he's the kind of guy that would settle in rather quickly. He's got good makeup. He's solid. So I really believe that wherever we put him, if it's -- if we're putting him in a situation that's good for him, he'll succeed. But I have no concerns. He showed that to me in that game in L.A. when we brought him in early for Jason Hammel. Now, I know it's a different time of the year, but I have a lot of confidence that our guys are going to go out there and cavort as they normally do. I really do. I would be surprised if we did it any differently.

Q. When you look at the scrambles some of the other managers are having to do in the LCS round to get a rotation together to even get today's pitcher or tomorrow's pitcher, how big of a luxury is it to have the four guys you have, how solid they are, and line them up exactly the way you want them?

JOE MADDON: Of course. I mean, on the surface, you would think that it's an advantage. I think that it should be an advantage. But sometimes when you're in that scramble mode, some good things occur from that, too. I've been involved on both sides of it. But would I prefer this? Yes. I prefer knowing that it's Jon and Kyle, then Jake and then John. I would much prefer that, and I'm sure they would just prefer saying Clayton, et cetera. But that's the way you want to win a division, which we did, and we were able to get it done within four games and not have to be extended. All that matters. There's got to be reward attached to winning a division, not having to play in the Wild Card game, there has to be reward to when you do win, doing it in less than five games. Those are the rewards. So for us, for me, it's -- you're right, it's been easier to do all that, but I can't -- we won't know until this thing is over if it was an advantage or not.

Q. When you look at Hendricks, the year he had, why was he such an improved pitcher this year?

JOE MADDON: There's one really obvious factor to me, and it's the word confidence. He's much more confident. I thought at the end of last season he started pitching at a higher level, more consistent command. He's a guy that has to have his command. The first part of last season, he wasn't as sharp as he can be. He became sharper season in progress. By the end of the year, he got -- he started to pitch really well. And that just carried over to this season. So, I think that, I think he's added a couple new wrinkles to what he's doing out there, successfully, and with that he's pitched some complete games, too. He's pitched farther, further into the games, and 7th innings he's had a couple complete games and also thrown over a hundred pitches several times. All those things I think have lent to his confidence. And we all do better when we're confident regardless of what have we're doing. And I just think that he has earned it. He's definitely -- he works at his craft, his work is impeccable. So, it's just a matter of his confidence catching up with his abilities.

Q. On the human side, how has it been dealing with having a couple of really good 162-game competitors in Hammel and Szczur that haven't been on the October rosters?

JOE MADDON: They have been great. They have -- if they have been overtly upset, they haven't demonstrated that to me or anybody else. I'm sure they are internally upset, but they have been great. They're a big part of our getting here to this particular moment, Matty was like one of the top pinch hitters in the National League this year, period. And then Hammer's got like 15 wins, didn't he, this year? Something crazy like that. So both these guys have been big contributors to our situation. However, going into this, you have to make your best guesses right now. Things are streamlined a bit. And we made our choices based on different skill sets. But they have been wonderful. I've not heard anything negative.

Q. You have made a real emphasis to kind of distance yourself and the players from the Cubs past and all the history. What do you expect from the crowd, the fans, as things get more serious here?

JOE MADDON: Oh, it's going to get more serious. I didn't realize that.

See, I have a different take on things. Today is what, October 15th? I really want to believe our guys are going to treat it like July 15th or August 15th. I know I am. There's nothing I could do differently. There's nothing that they could do differently. We all have the same common goal in mind, both us and the fans. However, when you start looking at it from the wrong perspective, it could interfere with what you're trying to do. Listen, our fans, our ballpark is kind of like postseason on a nightly basis. I've said that from the beginning. I am so impressed with this place and how our fans react every night. Obviously, there is more at stake right now, I cannot deny that, but I don't want us to change anything. I don't. There's nothing more to delve into, there's no more prep necessary, BP's optional today. There's only two groups, which is if you were here on August 15th, it would have been exactly the same way. We have not reported earlier. We're not doing any more meetings. Again, I think this is the time of the year for absolute simplicity. If you choose to get more than simple, you could set yourself up for a fall. So, anyway, I don't want to treat it any more seriously. I want it to be the same. It's been the message from Spring Training, want to play the same game tonight that we have been playing all year.

Q. Willson has been always a great prospect in the Cubs organization. But this year, playing with the Cubs, it seems like he has been here forever. What are some of the things that surprise you about him and the way he has been playing and his contribution to the Cubs this year?

JOE MADDON: Yeah, the surprising part is how well he does handle the moment. Now, there's times he gets emotional. Don't get me wrong. He can be -- he's an emotional kid. I love that. I don't want to coach that out of him either. I just want to have him like understand how to rein it in at times. But he's not intimidated by anything. Talked about it often, if this guy wanted to box in the wintertime, I want to be his manager. This guy's tough. He's very tough. And he's passionate about everything that he does. Doesn't surprise me. Just getting to know him this year -- I didn't even know him before this year. Spring Training, I remember the meeting we had in my office, and Theo and Jed talking about it, how he's going to be pertinent to us this year, how we wanted to engage him with the starting pitchers in the bullpen at Spring Training and how important it was going to be. And they were right. So I'm getting to know him. He's wonderful. He's absolutely wonderful. The word passion just drips out of every -- out of his pores constantly about everything that he does. And he's going -- again, he's going to keep getting better. That's the part that as a catcher he's a sponge, as a student he's incredible. So just know he's going to keep getting better and nothing frightens this guy.

Q. I'm curious, you say you want them to play like it's July 15th or August 15th, and this is kind of Game 167, right?

JOE MADDON: Yep.

Q. My question is can you manage that way, though, because you are -- or do you manage a little differently because it is the playoffs? For instance, you brought Chapman in trying to get six outs. So can you do that yourself I guess is my question.

JOE MADDON: Yeah, I think that I can keep that separate. My point is I don't want them to do anything differently in their preparation. When they go out on the field, I want them to play the same game. Now, for me as the manager, I pinch hit for Addison the other night, which I think I've done once last year maybe. We did bring Chappy in. Absolutely that would be different. How you attempt to win the game strategically speaking might be a little bit different because you can. You can't be throwing Chappy six outs during the course of the season and expect his arm to be functional at this time of the season. Play two games, day off, play three games, day off. I mean, right now we're more like an NHL or NBA kind of a schedule. We have a little bit of breaks where you can tax or press guys, especially pitchers, a little bit more, just based on scheduling. You're right, 167, whatever it is right now. But play 162, you don't -- we play like 24 days in a row. To try to extract that out of a pitcher at that time of the year, a relief pitcher, you're really setting yourself up for a significant fall. So that part, yes, I totally agree, strategy can be a little bit different this time of the year, but the way you approach the game and the way I want them to play the game, I don't want that to change at all.