Oct. 4 Neil Walker pregame interview
Q. What was it like yesterday dealing with those shadows as they crept across the infield? And with the even earlier start time today, what are you expecting from this game?
NEIL WALKER: Yesterday start time was challenging with the shadows. I think anytime you see a mid-afternoon game, as an offensive player, that's the first thing you think about is I wonder what the shadows are going to be like. Some ballparks aren't as bad and some ballparks are extra bright. Yesterday wasn't too bad, but it certainly wasn't great. But you know both teams have to deal with it. Today you're not going to get many shadows unless the game goes three, three and a half, four hours. But then again, Sunday we'll have to deal with the same thing in Pittsburgh, so we're learning to deal with it.
Q. When you've got two teams that are so evenly matched, I guess, any advantage you can look for, something like where Lance Lynn and you guys have seen a lot of him over the last couple of years, Cardinals may be less familiar with Gerrit Cole, could that be a source of potential advantage for you guys?
NEIL WALKER: Yeah, I think in a way, certainly. Gerrit's been very good over the last four, five, six starts, and we've seen him kind of we've seen the confidence grow and the trust in his off speed stuff grow and continue to improve. I think, yeah, as a hitter the unknown is sometimes a difficult thing, too, whether it's a reliever, whether it's a starter, seeing guys' fastballs out of their hands, seeing the breaking ball, seeing the off speed stuff can take a few at bats to get used to that, and hopefully that's the case today. We're not banking on that, and he's not banking on that. He's banking on getting the best approaches out of them, and obviously they're a very good offensive team. But with Lance you know you're going to be challenged with fastballs, especially early on, and he's going to be mixing in his breaking ball and changeup over the course of the game. So we're going to have to be very good in covering our zone and hitting his mistakes.
Q. What challenge does St. Louis' bullpen present to you? It seems they have waves of power throwers coming at you.
NEIL WALKER: Yeah, I think that's another situation where they have some young arms down there similar to what we have. But we haven't seen a ton of their guys. The Martinez guy threw last night. We haven't seen a ton of him. Siegrist, we've seen him a few times. Mujica we've seen quite a bit. Rosenthal, yeah. But you know whoever is coming out of that pen is going to be throwing hard, and I think the times we've seen the bullpen struggle is when they haven't been able to command the fastball. Last night they were obviously very good. There were only two of them, but it was good to, I think, in our perspective, see Rosenthal, because I believe he's been closing for them. So, yeah, but you know what you're going to get from those guys. You know you're going to get fastballs and buried, buried off speed, late in the count.
Q. You had the Wild Card game and yesterday. Is there an adjustment to playoff baseball and the intensity? I know you want to keep it like every other game, but does it feel a little different?
NEIL WALKER: I think the tune up we got in Pittsburgh all these days are running together. What day was that? Tuesday. On Tuesday was certainly an eye opener for myself individually being your first playoff game. You know there is going to be a lot of energy. You know the crowd's going to get into it. So I think that was a good tune up coming into yesterday, into a road series in the playoffs. So it wasn't too surprising to feel that energy, feel the intensity in the ballpark. But it's certainly different on the road than it is at home because the energy is almost shifted towards cheering for the home team against the road team. But that's very standard. Yeah, I don't know about an adjustment period, but certainly the first game was a big help in kind of honing that energy and not letting it affect your play, your approach at the plate, and your nerves in the field.
Q. In terms of the organization's emphasis on defensive positioning this year, from your point of view, how much of a difference would you say there is? And, secondly, was there a meeting in Bradenton where it was explained what you guys were doing? How did you guys get introduced to it?
NEIL WALKER: Yeah, I think through a lot of the research that our scouting department and the organization had done they had found, particularly with some of the certain pitchers that we had, that some of the defensive metrics and the shifts in the positioning was going to be useful. I think there was almost a trial period through last year and kind of half of the year before that in 2011 that we kind of threw some things against the wall and the organization threw some things against the wall, and a lot of them stuck and some of them didn't stick. But I think over most of last year and this year we've all kind of given into it. Because, to be honest with you, there are certain times you feel like you're in no man's land as a middle infielder. You're playing far in that four hole or the shortstop's playing way in the six hole or he's playing over the top of the bag, and you're in certain spots that when you catch the ball you kind of feel like you don't know where you're at, and that's kind of a strange feeling. But giving into it has been, in my opinion, pretty successful. I haven't seen the numbers as far as runs saved and things like that, but I know that usually where we're playing, it's pretty much in the right spot. But that's something that's been implemented, like I said, over the course of the past several years. And they've asked us to really fully give into it. It took a little bit to give into it because you're not used to playing in certain spots where you're not used to, but I think that's something that's going to be universally kind of implemented in the game of baseball, if you ask me. But it's going to take some time because most people don't want to give into it.
Q. You guys have been a good bounce back team all year. I'm curious how you think, especially with the game being so close to last night's finish with the early the short turnaround, the early start, how that might affect you in that regard?
NEIL WALKER: Yeah, that's something that we've been pretty good at is kind of turning the page and focusing on today, the present, and tomorrow, whatever the case may be. Yeah, I think it being closer is even better, to be honest with you. After last night, we went home and pretty much went to bed and woke up and here we are again getting ready for another game. I know we're going to be prepared. It's a new day. Yesterday was a lot of energy in the ballpark. A lot of excitement. They had their ace on the mound. They got the best of us yesterday, but today's a new day. You know, we're certainly not it's a whole different atmosphere in my opinion. I think we'll be able to turn the page pretty well and go out there and compete and give ourselves a chance to win.
Q. The positioning, how do you administer that? Is it you have to study the scouting reports a different way? Is there someone on the bench who calls it? You don't have a radio that someone says, hey, move here or whatever. How do you that?
NEIL WALKER: We get a sheet every day, and before every series we go over all the hitters, 1 through 13 or 1 through 14, whatever they have. So we have a pretty good idea. Certainly the division, you have a pretty good idea what guys are going to do, too, after playing 19 games against them. But at the same time, there are situations like today with Cole on the mound, he throws a little bit harder than most of our guys, so we may not move as much to the pull side as we normally would in situations like that. So we get a sheet every day, and we have information on where the lineup has hit that same guy if they've faced him before. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is Cole's first start against them. Our defensive positionings will be somewhat similar to what A.J. with A.J. yesterday, but with the thought in the back of your mind that he throws a little bit harder than most of the guys in the league. So you're banking on a little bit more tardy swings.
Q. I know you have a game today, but when you get back to Pittsburgh on Sunday, as raucous and loud as that crowd was on Tuesday, do you think it's even possible that they could repeat that performance again on Sunday afternoon?
NEIL WALKER: I hope so. I really do. It was awfully impressive. You know, we know that the support is there. And I think it was 20 years of built up frustration culminating into one day on Tuesday. I think it's going to carry over. I hope it's going to carry over. Certainly that was I don't know as a road player, obviously, just playing here and playing certain places like Philadelphia and San Francisco, certain places that are tougher to play as a road team, I hope that the home field advantage type situation will carry over, and I think it will. Then again, you get a team in the Cardinals that have played a lot of places, played a lot of postseason ball and been in a lot of high stress, high excitement situations, so you're banking on their nerves being fairly cool too. But I know our fans are going to do everything they can to rattle them a little bit.
Q. One last defensive positioning question. Yesterday, I forget which hitter hit it, but there was a ball early in the game that went off Barmes' glove into left field. When I saw it off the bat I thought single, and then it was after the fact that, oh, it went off his glove. Was that a case of extreme positioning or was I not paying enough attention?
NEIL WALKER: I think in that particular situation I believe you're talking about the Molina ball. I think he was playing him a shade to pull, yeah. I don't know exactly. You might have to ask Clint. From what it looked like, I believe he was playing him to the pull side a little bit extra with A.J. on the mound.