Oct. 5 Clint Hurdle workout day interview
Q. We've talked a lot about the resiliency of this team and the whole ‑‑ you showered away your losses. Basically last year, it seemed like when you hit your first hump, you just couldn't get out of it. How do you think you were able to fix it, the fact that the team is so good at coming back from bad experiences?
CLINT HURDLE: I'm not so sure ‑‑ I think as a team, I think as you continue to grow older and have maturity and add layers, as I mentioned before, physical toughness and mental discipline, you're able to evaluate what doesn't work. I think we tried some things that didn't work, or individuals were thinking things that didn't work, holding on to things that didn't help. So I think as a group, the pack mentality overtook it. Look, we know what we tried that didn't work. We're going to kick that to the curb and stay focused on what we need to be focused on. Let's not hold on to the individuality of it and hold on to the group effort of it and continue to play the game forward, keep it simple. And I think that has really ‑‑ I think that's really worked for our group.
Q. I know you like your lineup a lot. How tough is it not to be able to get more out of Jones who had a big ‑‑ several games against the Cardinals hit five home runs this year?
CLINT HURDLE: Yeah, he had a big, big time against the Cardinals. There's been a couple of clubs he did club this year.
Overall it's been a challenging season offensively, and that was the reason for the trade to go get Byrd. Garrett just continued to work hard. He's continued to get himself in a position to be able to add when called upon whether it be a spot start or a pinch‑hit off the bench. That's the reality sport. Sometimes you have had a hand in your own regulation playing time, as I found out through my years of playing and non‑playing.
There was really nowhere else to look other than the abilities and the successes or lack of success that I had. And I think it can be cleansing for a player to actually go through that and have that experience as well. Because at the end of the day, if you're pointing fingers at other places, there's always three pointing back at yourself. And Garrett has handled this very professionally. Every player we talked to that was affected by the acquisition of Morneau or Byrd or Buck understood and had to work through their own personal feelings and they've all moved on.
Q. The other day before Tuesday's game, you were talking about Francisco. And you said he's got a lot of Pirate in him. I think you said a lot of these guys have a lot of Pirate in them. I'm curious what that means to you and maybe what ‑‑ about Francisco specifically?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, you know, you can do research. I haven't been able to talk to a real Pirate lately. But in the movies that I've watched and the books that I've read, there seems to be a spirit of I really don't care what anybody thinks anymore. I'm crossing the line. I'm going to become a Pirate. It's not about mom or dad or brother or sister, not about where I used to work. I'm going to be my own man. I'm going to hope to latch on to a bunch of other men who feel the same way, that are like‑minded, and try to get something special done. Many of those men have gotten to that point in their career.
We all have a little bit of us that wants to make everybody happy. I want every fan to like my performance. I want every coach to like me. I want all of my teammates to like me. At the end of the day, I wasn't able to make a lot of people not like me. It wasn't enough focus on what I needed to do.
So I think we have a group of men in there that are comfortable in their own skin and committed to one goal. They don't care who gets the credit. They're out there playing that backyard baseball we talked about all the time.
Q. Clint, you saw in two different games yesterday an intentional walk not work out for the team that worked the guy. In a playoff series, it's only a small sample size of games, do you have to treat it any differently than you might over the 162‑game season where it might play out differently?
CLINT HURDLE: You know, one of the things that can be easy to do is walk the eighth hitter for the pitcher. That goes along the lines of managing by the book.
The challenges in a five‑game series, when you start working the statistics and analysis, they're based over large volumes of games. You don't know what you're going to get when you break it down or cut it down. I try and keep in my mindset is my pitcher's ability to get that hitter out versus the next guy.
And so many times things just make sense and you make the right decisions and you get the wrong results. As you heard me always say, at the end of the day, it was the wrong decision for me. This is when I do it and it doesn't work out. I have all the right reasons why I made it. I get the wrong result, I just tell myself it's the wrong decision. Because at the end of the day, we didn't get the result we wanted.
It's challenging. But this is what we do. This is what we're asked to do. And you never try and impact the game in a negative fashion. Sometimes it does happen. I took the walk of shame the other day in Game 1. You guys have followed me all year. That's the worst walk in the game is go out and take your pitcher out after the run is in.
And then I get questions after games why do you take so and so out? Part of my responsibility was to take them out before they give up runs.
That's a hard one when you have to go out there and you take your man out after he's already given up the run. So sometimes it can be lonely being a manager.
Q. Clint, what was the atmosphere like on Tuesday with the fans in the blackout?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't know if I can describe it. We're in a vacuum on this side, in the dugout. Once you get in the dugout, it's impactful. It was as loud a crowd as I've heard, and I've been to a lot of loud places. The perspective I reached out to a number of people were the ones in the crowd. The comments, at least to help your perception, would be that there were no lines for food. I've never been to a sporting event where there weren't lines for food because nobody wanted to leave their seat and miss any action of the game. And there was no lines in the waiting rooms or anything. There was just no lines. Nobody was moving.
So that perspective in and of itself, they're loud. They're very loud. Of course, when you get ahead early, they kept it up throughout the game. They continually ‑‑ different spots of the stadium, it was like wildfires. As soon as one would die down, another one would bust down over there. It was almost like they were passing the baton as far from a verbal, a really loud verbal assault.
Q. Are you able to name a Game 5 starter at this point? If so, what went into that decision?
CLINT HURDLE: No. We're not focusing on anything other than Game 3.
Q. How hard is it for Morneau to change leagues after all these years in the American League? And then have you seen some development in the month he's been here?
CLINT HURDLE: I never had to do it. I talked to some guys where it can be challenging, such a large volume of work in the American League. Weren't many pitchers that he didn't know, hadn't had actual game experience against. And then there's only a snapshot of guys he's faced before over here.
The ability to counter‑punch sometimes from the offensive standpoint can be more challenging, especially when you're facing good pitching. The month of September when he comes over, there's a lot more at stake. You're seeing better arms. He's always going to be a left‑hander against a left‑hander. Combination of things that made it quite challenging, I think, for him. But I do think he's continued to improve. The work will always be there. The effort will always be there. The focus and the preparation will always be there. But I think some familiarity is starting to take place. We're seeing better swings.
Q. You're somewhat overlooked a couple of days ago, but how important were those long innings that Jeanmar Gomez gave to you keeping your bullpen the way you like it lined up?
CLINT HURDLE: Very important from our perspective. One of the hard decisions that had to be made during the course was how long do you go with A.J.? You don't have an out after two innings, you're thinking maybe we can get some outs. Maybe we can get a third and then we can go. You're going to use at least probably two long guys. You're going to wipe out two guys, and you might have to use another two to three depending on if you work your way back in the game.
So the question is how much do you want to tie yourself to working back into a game you're already underneath with the opportunity to go 0‑0 tomorrow and be from a much stronger point out of the bullpen? That's the one I had to wrestle with while A.J. was pitching. For many, I wrestled with it too long. Jeanmar gave us four innings of relief. Mazzaro for one inning. That game could have played longer.
Extra innings we were still in a position of strength. From that standpoint, Jeanmar was able to give us what we had seen and give us much earlier in the season ‑‑ more than just two innings, but multiple innings of solid relief work.
Q. When you had discussions internally about bringing in Francisco, did you envision him being ‑‑ I don't want to use the word ace, but sort of the guy you hand the ball to in the biggest spots? Is that what you envisioned for him if everything went right with his recovery and what not?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't know if we ever got to that spot. I felt from the conversations that I had, the information that was shared with me, that this guy could be a difference‑maker in our rotation. If A.J. was going to be our one, he could be our two. Where that two went, how high it played, I don't think any of us knew. We knew the challenges that would be in front of him based on past performance. We felt confident a new opportunity, new league, bounce‑back opportunity, all those things we factored in in the analysis work that we did.
And at the end of the day, it's something nobody here can stick a thermometer in and pull out a number or percentage. You have to give the man credit for the heart, the conviction, the intent that he put into everything. That is what really, I think, has given that degree of separation from what we might have thought we were going to get to what he has actually done and performed and shown himself capable of.
Q. What is it about Kelly? He's had some really good games against you guys like Liriano has had against them. What is it about Kelly that's made it so tough against your hitters?
CLINT HURDLE: Unfamiliarity first and then execution of pitches second. Similar to what Cole was able to do the other day against St. Louis. You haven't seen a guy ‑‑ and he pitches a good game and mixes in the breaking ball with a good live fastball that he can work up in the zone.
And secondary pitches. He's a good, young pitcher with excellent stuff. And when he's throwing strikes, that's tough competition.
Q. Clint, you touched on this a bit ago about the reasons you guys ended up trading for Marlon Byrd. Once he got here, how well did he fit the role that you guys had hoped he would? How much did his production end up helping out your lineup? And also, what did his presence do in the clubhouse as a guy who's been around and been through some things as well?
CLINT HURDLE: In this case everything we've hoped for we've gotten. This guy has thrown aces all over the table. Clubhouse, demeanor, the game edge, the quality at‑bats, the ability to defend in right field, modeling the behavior you're looking to see late in the season at the plate in the batter's box. Young players get to see it. Both he and Morneau were able to do it. For a guy with no playoff experience, you would think he has a bunch.
That's kind of what I heard initially going into Texas in '10, he had left after that season. The conversations were still on‑going. The fact that they were disappointed they weren't able to retain him. The difference he made here, the difference he was able to make there. Sharpening of other players. When a player can make others around him better, that's significant in any sport. He's been able to do that I think just about ‑‑ I know in Texas and I know he's done that here.
Q. From your time in Colorado, you certainly know how the traits of a ballpark can play into a game and how a team can play into the traits of a ballpark. I wonder if you see an advantage in this ballpark here related to how your team plays or how your team is built, and specifically outfield speed and the defense you get from your outfielders plays into your hand here at home?
CLINT HURDLE: It was one of the first areas I asked about coming into the door and Neal Huntington shared his thoughts with me coming in, the defense factor, what we needed to do defensively. From a metrics system as well as performance value of player type you want to include, he felt it necessary that we needed to find a way to develop two center fielders to cover that notch area in left field. It's the largest left field in baseball. It's reminiscent of the old days in Yankee Stadium. There's plenty of right fielders that hit the ball, flip their bat and we catch it at the track if not in front of the track. It significantly gets people's attention if they haven't played here. It gets our guys' attention as well. Having those men cover that much area, it also gives your right fielder an opportunity to be more case specific in where you want to tactically put him. There's not as much ground to cover. It's a shorter right field. I think there's been times that short right field has helped us when the left‑handed hitters come in because they look out there to left center and say, Man, that's a long way. I go here, well, we try to pitch opposite from both those patterns and it seems to have played out well to this point in time since I've been here in the three years.