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Oct. 17 A.J. Hinch pregame interview

October 17, 2017

Q. Lance goes to the breaking ball almost 50 percent of the time. What will tell you early on in the ballgame that curveball has a bite to it?A.J. HINCH: It will be pretty clear to me at his comfort level early in the strike zone throwing strikes. So not

Q. Lance goes to the breaking ball almost 50 percent of the time. What will tell you early on in the ballgame that curveball has a bite to it?
A.J. HINCH: It will be pretty clear to me at his comfort level early in the strike zone throwing strikes. So not having to make a perfect breaking ball 0-0 or 1-0 or 0-1. But being pretty liberal in the strike zone, that's when I know he feels he has the combination of the early strike curveball and then the put-away late in the count where he can dial it up a little bit, and get awkward swings and misses below the zone or outside the zone.

So for him, when he gets going and gets his rhythm and timing, he's landing the breaking ball early in the count, he's feeling pretty good about it. When he feels pretty good about it, I feel pretty good about it.

Q. How much do you play your catchers based on your own pitchers versus the opposing pitchers?

A.J. HINCH: I don't subscribe to the personal catcher theory too much. But yet I do a lot of the same things over and over again. So I sort of back myself away, in case I ever want to make a different decision.

Last night, Morton and Gattis have always had a nice rapport. But in Boston in the Division Series I caught McCann with Morton.

If there was an extreme circumstance, obviously I would take a look at it. You want your pitcher to be the most comfortable guy in the field and be able to execute pitches. But generally speaking, my preference is to have a starting catcher and a backup catcher, and have the backup opportunities be very obvious and comfortable across the board.

It's the one position that's not easily replaceable. There's a lot of foul tips, there's balls in the dirt, there's concussions. There's reasons why catchers get knocked out of games, and you need your pitchers to throw to any catcher.

Q. The good pitching you've faced, what are you seeing from your offense as a whole?

A.J. HINCH: Can I not talk about the good pitching? Because that's what it's all about. For us, we're an explosive offense that is one click away from having that 10-, 12-, 14-, 18-hit attack.

It is hard this League when you run into good pitching, especially as precise as the advance scouting gets in the postseason. These teams don't get here by accident, they know what they're doing, they know how to try to expose your aggressiveness. And that's what I see so far for us is that they're making pitches.

And for us to swing just in the margins just enough. Sabathia really good at throwing the high fastball, and it's just enticing enough to swing at, and the breaking ball below the zone.

There's some anxiousness to our bats that is a touch uncommon but I don't think it's really about us. I think it's about this high-end pitching we're facing. Their starters have gotten into the games a lot more comfortably than pitchers that have faced us in the past. And the bullpen's paid to come in and throw 95 to 100 and get outs.

One click away, one big base hit away, and the story line is going to be different. And if we get that big hit, which can from anyone through our lineup, 1 through 9, you'll see numbers start to pop up.

Q. I know you heard what Reggie Jackson said he believes Altuve is the best player in baseball. If he were 6 feet tall there would be no debate. Thoughts about that.

A.J. HINCH: I don't really care how tall he is. It's his ability that speaks for itself. He's the most consistent player in the League, in a league that has elite performers anywhere. If you go to any team, they're going to have somebody that stands out, is exceptional, somebody that is their favorite player, so to speak.

But a compliment from Reggie goes a long way to Jose. So that goes without saying.

Five-six, six-six, 100 pounds, 200 pounds, 300 pounds, it's more about what he does, not about the package it comes from.

Q. You were a catcher and Girardi was a catcher, Joe Maddon was a catcher. What is it about that job that prepares somebody to want to do this?

A.J. HINCH: We had a lot of catcher bias in us. But I think for us, we deal with every part of the game. The catchers are exposed to the pitching staffs.

One of the most difficult parts of this job is really handling your pitching staff, whether it's the psyche or the usage or being able to relate to them. This job has turned into a, how well can you relate to your players type job, how do you extract the most performance out of them.

The one position on the field that as a teammate or as a player that you've had to deal with 24 other players the entire season is the catcher.

So it's a leadership position, we call pitches, we run the field, everybody is looking at us. So naturally it evolves into comfortable in our own skin, whether it's running a game or running a team.

Q. With McCullers, what sort of pitch count might you expect from him?

A.J. HINCH: What was Verlander's? 140, something around there would be fine (laughter)?

That whole pitch count thing, that's very analytical, and we're an analytical organization. So we'll go with how long can he go (laughter).

Q. He hasn't started a whole lot in the second half of the season. Are there any concerns about stamina? And also relying on a curveball so heavily, that seems like it's a feel pitch.

A.J. HINCH: He's got a power curveball. I think as long as he's getting outs and feeling comfortable, obviously the game shortens as it goes. Starting at the back end with Ken Giles, to a rested Peacock, Chris Devenski hasn't pitched in a couple days, Joe Musgrove hasn't made an appearance in this series. We have some high-end pitching waiting, when and if it's needed.

But I don't think it's fair to your players to walk in and say, Lance, you have X amount of pitches. You have as many pitches as it takes to get as many outs as you can and give us a chance to win.

In my mind, of course, I know exactly where I see that. But I didn't go into Verlander start thinking he was going to throw that many, or Keuchel's start, or I didn't shorten Charlie last night because of any pitch count. This is a series, a time of year where you get outs. You get outs, you continue to have the ball until we think that there's a better matchup later in the game.