Q. Do you have any different conversations with Julio than you would have for a guy that's not a rookie? I mean, in his position, he's pitched well all season long, but he is a rookie, and it is his first Postseason game?
FREDI GONZALEZ: No, I don't. I wouldn't even bring it up or anything. He's going to go out, and he's going to compete like he always has. If he gets his fastball command and throws the secondary pitches, he's going to be okay.
But as far as a conversation, you know, it's still 60 feet, 6 inches, and get ahead of the hitters.
Q. Freddie Freeman has been so impressive, specifically with runners in scoring position. What have you noticed about his approach at the plate when he already has guys on that allows him to be so effective?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I think it's just from last year to this year. I think the biggest thing I've seen in him is just another year under his belt in the Major League level. I think last year he finished with 95, 96 RBIs, and he really wanted to drive in a home run. But I think his approach last year that was different from this year is that whatever the defense is giving him, he'll take.
From last year, second and third, one out, he was going to try to drive in home run. You see the ball in the middle of the plate, the diamond, get one RBI.
We've talked about, and Greg has done, Greg Walker the hitting coach has done a terrific job with him. The guy that drives in a home run runs consistently every year, they're not all game‑winning RBIs. It's whatever the defense gets you. I think it's just a maturity of a young hitter. You know, seeing him grow up and do that, it's really, really nice to see.
Q. You answered this question a couple weeks ago, but I want to make sure nothing has changed. Freddy Garcia is the Game 4 starter, right, regardless of any circumstances or anything like that?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Yes, want me to Bible? (Laughing). You sound like a lawyer there.
Q. How important has Chris Johnson been to the depth of your lineup, kind of get to the big thumpers there and you have him who can hit with two outs and two strikes?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He's been terrific. This guy keeps the line moving. We'll get to the bottom after, and he also lengthens the lineup. After McCann, you've still got to deal with Chris Johnson who is, by the way, second in the National League in batting average, and he gives you good at‑bats. He's been a big part. He's got a good approach. We knew when we got him that he had a good ‑‑ we knew he was a good hitter, but obviously, if I would sit here and tell you that he was challenging the National Batting League title all the way to the last weekend of the season, I would be lying to you that we knew we could do that.
But his approach is really good. It's consistent, and it's really not that complicated. You know, he'll come up. He comes up big with some people in scoring position.
Q. For a guy like him that's been around a little bit that's not played in the playoffs yet, do you notice him with a little extra fire, a little extra spark now that he's here finally?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Chris Johnson? We're still talking about Chris? I forgot your question. Say it again.
Q. The playoffs. He's been around for a while and he's finally in the playoffs. Have you noticed him playing with extra spark?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He don't need extra spark. He doesn't need extra spark. It doesn't matter if it's Game 1 of the season or Game 3 of the playoffs. He is passionate. He is competitive, and when he doesn't do well, he's pretty hard on himself at times. There have been some situations during the course of the year that I have talked to him and his mentor, Terry Pendleton has really talked to him about that kind of stuff. He doesn't need any more energy than what he has right now.
Q. Can you describe just the improvement that Simmons has made as a hitter since the start of spring training last season? What is a reasonable expectation for him as a hitter as you kind of look at his career of what he would project like?
FREDI GONZALEZ: I don't know. I don't know what the projection is with him as far as a hitter. I think it all comes with getting at‑bats at the Major League level. We saw a guy, he doesn't strikeout. I think he's got one of the lowest strikeout ratios, or not striking out ratios in the Major Leagues for a young hitter.
But I couldn't put a number on him. He's so talented. Here's a guy, second year in the Major Leagues, maybe his fifth year or fourth year in professional baseball combined. He's got 17 home runs in the Major League level.
So I couldn't ‑‑ I don't want to put a ceiling on him, because I think you're still going to see he's going to have a long career, hopefully, barring injuries or whatever. I don't know. This guy, three to four years down the road, he may be win a batting title or has a chance to drive in 100, that kind of stuff. I don't want to put a ceiling on him. I think there is still a lot of improvement there offensively, and it's going to come from getting at‑bats at the Major League level.
Q. That ball Hanley Ramirez hit off Carpenter, one handed it, you know?
FREDI GONZALEZ: One handed it, both feet up in the air. That's how talented this guy is, and kept it fair. Created enough bat speed to hit the ball out of the ballpark. It's scary how good this guy is.
Q. Have you started to think about trying to pitch around him some when he's going like this?
FREDI GONZALEZ: You have to pick your poison, because the guy behind him is not chopped liver either. What we've got to do is not put people on base, especially late in the game, and that is no secret to anybody. You don't want to have base‑on balls in the 8th and 9th inning.
That whip that people talk about, I think that stands for ulcers for managers instead of people on base. But, yeah, you don't want to walk people. Because they'll put a big number on you.
Q. We've talked about Simmons' defense in a lot of different ways. We saw the between the legs tag there in Cincinnati earlier this year, last night. Is there something, does he get that tag down any faster than a normal shortstop? Anything special there?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He's special, a talented guy. I couldn't tell. You're talking about the Dee Gordon play? Obviously, on a stolen base, bang‑bang play, I couldn't tell. For me, that is the hardest. And the umpires will tell you, that is the hardest play for them to get. But after watching it on replay and watching it, he got it right. Simmons is amazing.
Not only that, the one that really stands out was that double‑play, first and third one out. We've seen those balls getting thrown into centerfield. I think Avilan gave him a pretty good ball to handle. He turns it. The guy runs okay going down the line. He's just a special guy defensively. Here's a guy, somebody asks me what is the best play you've ever seen him make? My patent answer is the next one because you just never know. He's got a knack. He's got a clock, court awareness, whatever you want to call it for the game that you can't teach. That's why when I answer your question offensively, I don't know. This guy is going to keep getting better and better.
Q. From what you've seen from Yasiel Puig to when he got called up to now, do you think he's been able to mature as a player and harness that aggressive style of play to become a productive guy even more so?
FREDI GONZALEZ: We came here, I think it was the third game I think he got to the big leagues. And he played well then against us. Then the two games that he played at home here in the playoffs, I didn't see the other stuff in between. But you read and you see the highlights and you see the TV, and hopefully he can mature and get past that because he's so talented that you want to talk about his talent. You want to talk to him about baseball, as a baseball player and not the other stuff. And I think that comes with maturity, it comes with growing up because he's a really good baseball player.
Q. Coach Don Mattingly has not ruled out the idea of having Mr. Kershaw will pitch in the fourth game or fifth game. What do you prefer?
FREDI GONZALEZ: Neither of them (laughing).
Q. How comfortable do you feel bringing Kimbrel in for multiple four out of five‑out saves in a row?
FREDI GONZALEZ: It all depends on going into yesterday. He hadn't pitched in five days. He hadn't pitched since last Sunday. We're going with the off day today, he felt pretty comfortable that he could handle that. I think tomorrow he could do it again. I think his pitch count was pretty low. I don't know how many days in a row we could do it. We've only done it with him maybe three times, if I'm not mistaken. Yesterday was the second time this year. We did it in the St. Louis series early on in the summer and then yesterday. But it all depends on his workload going in and obviously the next day.
Q. Before Carpenter gave up Hanley's home run, were you thinking about Craig going four out save there?
FREDI GONZALEZ: He was warming up. He was warmed up. He warmed up the whole inning, him and Carp, because it all depended on the situation. But, yeah, we were thinking that way. The way that we set up the seventh inning with the double switches, we made some double switches, and pinch‑run, we were trying to set up for him. You know, it's easy to say you bring in your closer for a four‑out save.
But in the National League, if the last out is made in Simmons spot, you create some at‑bats away from in case he ties it, then Kimbrel will go back out in the ninth if you have to pitch for him. If Simmons switches out, you're not going to (no audio) so there goes your four‑out situation.
When he came in the other day, he had six outs before he came up or seven outs before he came up. So you felt comfortable that if it did give up the tieing run, he could go back out there in the ninth. You guys follow on that? So it's a little harder to do in the National League than it is in the American League, obviously, for a four‑out save, because you don't want to take players out or your best defense out to do that. Sometimes you've just got to bite the bullet and hopefully somebody that you bring in does his job and you get somebody out.