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Oct. 18 Joe Maddon pregame interview

October 18, 2016

Q. Getting to the postseason, sometimes teams don't have the luxury of having a great No. 4 starter like you have. Can you talk a little bit about Lackey, his experience, and how much all of that is going to help him in this situation?JOE MADDON: You're right. We're able

Q. Getting to the postseason, sometimes teams don't have the luxury of having a great No. 4 starter like you have. Can you talk a little bit about Lackey, his experience, and how much all of that is going to help him in this situation?
JOE MADDON: You're right. We're able to go 1 through 4, we even have Jason Hammel not even active right now. Yeah, it's wonderful to have that. His experience, you've seen him in the past. The last start maybe not what you were looking for from him. But he's coming off a little bit of an injury where we had to use him lightly toward the end of the season. I think he's still building up his arm strength, but I have a lot of faith in him throwing right now. Actually, I thought that last game against San Francisco, velocity was pretty good. Velocity was pretty good. He probably wasn't as sharp location-wise, but his stuff is absolutely there. The attitude is there. I know he's going to be ready for the moment.
Q. How much of the elements of daytime baseball and the chance of some of your right-handed hitters running into a pitch early in the game go into your decision-making for your lineup tonight?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, we wanted -- just looking at the whole thing, you look at Hill on paper. Hill's what you call a neutral pitcher. He can be equally effective to righties and lefties. Sometimes under those circumstances I'd like to choose the power guy right there, the guy that might have a better chance of putting the ball in the seats. So, again, it's just one of those. We have that option. We have that choice because we have Soler on the bench because Contreras is on the bench, Almora's on the bench, to kind of set it up that way. It would be nice. Obviously it would be nice. We did work out yesterday until 5:00, and even like the game starts at 5:08, the shadows were pretty far gone by then. It was pretty much enveloped out in centerfield. So my point is I think hitters should be able to see well. With the shadows being out, the lights being on, I think it should be more neutral or good. And of course, yes, you'd like to be able to jump it a little bit and get ahead and move to defense in the latter part of the game.
Q. Ben Zobrist essentially credits you with saving his career when you had him start playing multiple positions. What do you remember about that time? What convinced you that Ben could play multiple positions, succeed and get better?
JOE MADDON: Wow. Well, when we first got him in the trade, he was playing shortstop, and at that time he kind of just hit the ball through the middle of the field. He was trying to get singles up the middle of the field. And he's a nice shortstop, he was fine. But he didn't have this extraordinary range or tools or arm that you want out of a shortstop. But he's a switch hitter and he's one of the best teammates you've ever had in your life. He really is. So moving forward, when you get a guy like that, that's talented, that can hit from both sides of the plate, you try to find a spot for somebody like that. And we just thought by giving him multiple positions that it was his best avenue to get to the Major Leagues. And, of course, the player has to concede and say I'm on board, I like this, I can do this, which he did. But just digress a minute, part of it was the end of '07 or during the '08 season, he went back to Triple-A and came back with a different batting stance, left-handed, and all of a sudden the ball started going in the seats. So the power showed up, and that made it even more interesting to have him become this multiple positional player. You didn't see him as an everyday shortstop. Okay. That was part of it you didn't see. But he definitely has an outfielder's body. We found out he can play second base. And then just working him all around the diamond, second base, and either corner outfield is probably his best position, although he still likes to play shortstop, and I'm not afraid to put him there in a pinch.
So I think the biggest thing that occurred with him is the power showed up. With an adjustment in Durham, and he can tell you better than me, but all of a sudden, he came back hitting the ball in the seats.
Q. Joe, flipping Anthony and Zobrist, is that just a better look for your team, or is that also something that you think might help Anthony? How much dialogue has there been with him over the last 24, 30 hours?
JOE MADDON: I mean, I really haven't discussed it a whole lot with him. I try not to complicate things. I just thought just rearranging the chairs a little bit might help. Zobrist, again, you're talking about defensively utility, offensively, too, you could put him anywhere and he's good. I've liked Anthony in the 4 hole in the past also, and, again, just to possibly get him on track a bit. Nothing really complicated at all. The bigger thing there was who to hit behind him by moving him to the 4 hole. Among all of our guys right now, Javy's probably been working better at best than anybody. Which is something I probably would not have known two months ago based on where we were at two months ago, but for right now, why not? Then you get Soler involved right behind that. So I think it adds to the depth of our lineup at that particular moment against a left-handed pitcher today. That's all that was. But more than anything, just to give them a different outlook, a different mindset. Put you in a different rocking chair, hopefully. Because I don't think Anthony's really far off. He saw the bar hit foul the other day. He's had some really good hacks, and the ball's been fouled straight back. We've just got to get him on that pitch a little bit better, and sometimes maybe something as simple as maneuvering the batting order helps.
Q. The heart of your batting order has not been producing as much as they were in the beginning of the season at the end of the season. Are you concerned about this?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I mean, not necessarily concerned. Part of it is, and from the bottom of my heart, we've been facing some really good pitching. We saw in San Francisco. They have an outstanding starting rotation. Cueto was outstanding when he pitched. Bumgarner's always good. Samardzija, we got to him a little bit. But then Matty Moore, I've seen that in the past, and then we run into Kershaw. So part of our lack of being offensive is the fact that we've been seeing some really good pitching. That's number one.
Number two, we have to somehow figure it out. And it is a little bit concerning in the sense because we kind of got stuck there last year. We got to this particular point and then ran into a hot pitching staff with the Mets. So that's part of why I wanted to manipulate the lineup a little bit today to see if we could unearth some things or move somebody mentally to the point where we get to hitting like we're capable of doing. So getting another right-handed bat in the lineup, counteracting having Montero. I wanted Montero to catch Arrieta today. So all of these nuances are part of it. But, yes, we need to get the "Brizzo" component of our lineup going.
Q. What do you remember about liking about a 24-year-old John Lackey in Game 7 of the World Series? And how has he changed from then until now?
JOE MADDON: Honestly, I've had that question. He hasn't changed at all. He's in better shape, that's my answer. He's actually in physically better shape than he was. Check out the pictures from 2002 compared to how he looks now. So he's in better shape. He's taking care of himself. Stuff-wise, like I said, if you look at the gun ratings, I'd like to see a chart from back then compared to now. They're really similar. I thought back then he had more of a natural cut to his fastball. That was a big pitch for him back when he was a kid. But overall velocity numbers up to 92-94, they're still there. The number on the breaking ball, the slurve, it's kind of a slurvey thing. It's not a slider. I think it's a slurve. That's still there. It's like 82-83 with that. The changeup. The changeup is something we try to get him to do back in the day. I know Buddy Black, Pepe, was trying to work with him on that. He didn't have a really good feel for it back then. He's gotten better with his changeup. He's a fastball pitcher. He's a cowboy when he pitches. He goes right after hitters. There's not a whole lot hidden when John pitches. So, honestly, you can't talk to him that day in the dugout. Conversations, when you take him out of a game, he doesn't like it. He's exactly the same guy only in better shape.
Q. You said Spring Training that you thought Lackey would bring an edge to the team. How did that play out during the season? How did he sort of rub off on this team?
JOE MADDON: He has, he does. We have a couple of those guys. Him and David, Jonny Lester to a certain degree, Travis Wood in his own quiet way. We have this nice edginess about us. But John Lackey, specifically, like I said, the day he pitches, man, he's a different cat. He's no different. The players know there's no messing around when he's pitching. Not that there is, but they know how John is and how he can be, hold people accountable to the moment when he's out there. But I like it. And a lot of our young guys, I think, having had the opportunity at a young age to play behind him or with him, it's going to help them as they move down the road a little bit too.
Then when he's not pitching, he's like the funnest, most open, loudest guy there is. So that's John, and he has -- he's rubbed off on us in a lot of good ways. And I think the marriage with him and Jon Lester and David, it's good. I mean, I've seen some really good teams this year, I thought, that we have played against that are really young and good, and I didn't see the real good balance with the veteran players among them. I think that's part of the big reason why we're in this position right now is we are young and good, but there is a balance among our older players to really hold them accountable. In a sense, peer pressure is much better than managerial pressure.
Q. Lackey was saying that maybe being young and not having the experience can play in favor of a pitcher, just not knowing what to expect and go out there and do your thing. But how do you think experience manifests itself for a guy like John going out there with the experience that he has?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I mean, you could always say what you don't know, obviously, can't hurt you. You just go out there and you're just winging it and you're not overanalyzing it, I get that. But in an experienced situation like with John right now, I know he's able to process it to the point where he's still youthful. Like I said, he hasn't changed at all. He's still going to go out there with that same kind of an attitude. But he knows. If you want to talk pitching, talk with John. He really understands what he's doing out there and how to manipulate and work against certain hitters. He knows how to utilize a hitter's aggressiveness against him. He knows who to stay away from in certain moments. You don't even have to hold up four fingers. He knows what to do. He has a really good feel for this part of the game. He really is a baseball junkie. He talks about his dad a lot and how his dad -- they talk about moments in the game and how somebody maneuvered or manipulated the moment in a proper way. So he is, he doesn't come across that way, but Johnny really is a great student of the game. And as a pitcher, I promise you, everything he does is calculated. He knows in advance of the lineup tomorrow what he wants to do with each guy. And like I said, he'll pick his poison, who to pitch to and who to not. So I've really been impressed with his baseball acumen as a pitcher when you engage him in conversation.
Q. So Julio Urías has displayed a pretty effective pick-off move early in his career. Some have said it's very close to a balk.
Q. Is that something that you're preparing for or something you may talk to the umpires about before the game?
JOE MADDON: When you get to see it on TV, it's pretty obvious, it's not even close. It's a very basic tenet regarding what is and what is not a balk. Give him credit, man, for going through with it. That's part of the game. I think from umpire's perspective, there are certain umpires that are in tune to that, some that are not. There are other balks that I always get annoyed with that aren't called. So I'm certain that the umpiring crew has been made aware of it. That's 101. That's not an interpretation. That's balking 101 for me. So we'll see. We'll see how it all plays out.
But, yes, when you're working with base runners in Instructional League, the first thing you show them is if a guy does this, it's a balk. And if he -- if his foot doesn't break the plane, then be careful. So that's the first thing you look at with a left-handed pitcher. So, again, moving forward, we'll see how it plays out. From umpire's perspective, from the dugout, I'd like to see a little bit more scrutiny with that overall.
Q. You have obviously a lot of weapons in your pen. However, in certain parts of August, September you lost both of those probably at the same time, Pedro and Hector.
Q. Were you concerned that probably you would not have them this effective at this stage of the season? And talk a little bit about how much they mean to your pen?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I was really surprised we did as well as we did when they were hurt. Because they were out for a long period of time in August and September. We were without Strop and Rondon. That was a huge concern. But the positive side of that is it gave C.J. Edwards more work and Grimm more work and Montgomery. All these guys that we probably would not have counted on as much got work. They did really, really well, and they're now in the mix of this whole thing. My concern was, honestly, that, yeah, they're going to get rested, but are they going to be as sharp? You know, when you've been out that long, that last two weeks of the season, we kind of planned it out or plotted it out like in Spring Training where guys work on specific days, regardless of the score. So they didn't have that same adrenaline rush when they were pitching also towards the end of the season.
Those are my concerns. So I think they're both fine right now. Rondon and Strop, but I was concerned about those items. The ancillary benefit right there is the fact that these other guys got work, to the point now where they're throwing really well. You saw C.J. induce the double play. You've seen Montgomery come and get multiple like one-plus innings. So while they were hurt, I was concerned, but I think it's all worked out for the best.