Q. Can you talk about Albert Almora and just the ups and downs he's gone through for such a young kid now to be on the Division Series Playoff roster?
JOE MADDON: Of course, he's had a lot of personal situations that have come up in his life that's handled extremely well. I think he's a tough kid. I think he's very tough. I think emotionally he's got everything under control. I think he's fearless and that's a big part of why he's on this particular roster. He's also a good player. But when you're going to add a guy that's that inexperienced, that young, you really want to validate the character component of the personality. We feel really strongly about him. So I have no problem with him playing in any of these games, I think ready to do it.
Q. Can you explain your lineup strategy tonight and is Jorge Soler healthy?
JOE MADDON: He is. What part would you like me to explain?
Q. The rest of it.
JOE MADDON: Okay. It's pretty typical of what we're doing all year. Dexter is leading off. The first four guys are pretty much static. I put five hole Russell Addison sitting on 95 RBIs right now and but I think he's got the second most of all the shortstops. "Jeyward" is sixth. I like that combination. But I what I like to do is go right left, right left, whenever possible. Makes it more difficult to match up on the bullpen side on the other from the other direction. So you see switch hitter, right, left hander, switch hitter, right, left-handed then we go right, right, to the pitcher. So I always like to spread it out that way if it's possible. This is pretty much a heavy defensive lineup for us, too. If you look at it.
With Javy in there, playing second base today. With Jon Lester, with all of our starting pitching, our starters have been so good and it's been -- I've been hearing all this stuff about our defense and it was good, I didn't know it was that good. But you don't want to run away from your strength and our strength is to catch the baseball and turn a batted play into an out. So we have done that well. So you see our best defensive team on the field right there and beyond that it's pretty much a static or a normal offensive situation.
Q. Talk about Zobrist and him coming around the last couple weeks and what you have seen there and how important that is to your lineup.
JOE MADDON: You're right, he has. I honestly think that we have talked about it a lot for the folks that have not been around, just giving these guys rest, being able to clinch as of right around the middle of the month, which is really unusual, we have been able to spread out the work, give guys, get guys off their feet. And I think with that he has gotten stronger. I just think he's gotten stronger. He's got his second wind, he's coming off of a really good Postseason last year. I know Zo is absolutely in the moment all the time. So it's really good to get him looking like he did, the ball starting to come off the bat hot again, the home runs are starting to fly. So, yeah this, is, he loves this time of year.
I remember even back in 2008 I think it was last week in Detroit he was hitting some balls in the stands there also in Detroit, just if you take care of Zo because he takes such great care of himself. He and I talked about this in spring training, it's just fortunate that we're put in the position that we were right now regarding being able to give guys rest. But talked to him about it all year. Listen, man, we got to pick days off, out to give you days off, and we have. So, I would like to believe it's a combination of how well he takes care of himself and the fact that we have been able to give him some time off.
Q. Much of this will be repetitive, obviously, but can you talk about what you see as the strengths of having Kyle Hendricks pitch a Game 2 in Wrigley Field for you?
JOE MADDON: Well, he's been obviously done really well here. The fact that he can't keep the ball on the ground. The thing of it, the anomaly, the part about our ballpark that I think looking from the outside in you always think you look at the numbers on the wall and it's such a hitters ballpark, but a lot of times it is not. Just based on wind direction. So you have a combination of a lot of times the wind is favorable for a pitcher and then when the ball's on the ground has a pretty good chance of being caught based on our defense and the structure of the field. So it's just speaks to his abilities is what it does.
When Kyle's really on, which he's been on most of the season, you see a lot of really well located fast balls with extraordinary movement. And then on top of that an outstanding changeup. Curveball and then he's added a four seam fastball with elevation. He's really made it much more difficult for hitters to narrow him down. So, he's done a wonderful job here, he's a very bright young man, he knows what he's doing out there, so, yeah, I really think his skill set plays in a lot different ballpark, it really fits in here well.
Q. Can you describe Jon Lester's demeanor, on and off the field.
JOE MADDON: Can I describe it? His demeanor is Jon Lester-esque. He is, Jonny is, I think a lot of it is internal. He's a thinker. I think he's constantly analyzing what's going on in front of him, whether it's on or off the field. He's definitely his own man. He's I don't want to say set in his way, he's just strong minded. I think on the baseball field, the synergy between him and David Ross is really fun to watch. Because they really do compliment each other so well. So I just think Jonny, if you talk to Jonny, if you get to know him a little bit there's this quiet moment there might always be a pregnant pause in the conversation again because I think he's a really, he thinks everything through extremely well.
When it comes to baseball you look at his ability to recreate his pitching motion, he's a real strike thrower. I really believe that he's one of the guys that if you look on a body basis he can really throw a strike when he wants to and there's sometimes when he doesn't want to know and he doesn't. Repetition of delivery, he's got the cutter, slider, whatever you want to call it, it's really the location. So it's his personality is kind of quiet, but he's very, very confident.
Q. With Kyle, is there like one moment where you can look at and say, well, that's kind of where the turning point was for him where it really clicked in?
JOE MADDON: I'm always big on complete game, complete game shutouts. We were struggling for a bit there and do have I this right, that 123 pitch performance, was that a shutout? It was, wasn't it? I think he had a 122, 123 pitch performance that turned into a shutout. I know there was a lot of good stuff going on to that point. But like last years, the previous year, Jake in Minnesota like 120 pitches something like that shutout and man he took off after that.
When you really stretch a starting pitcher, a young starting pitcher mentally and physically and they achieve, it really can set them on a real positive forward path. I think that's what happened with him. He really knows or knew then that he could do that. He can pitch more deeply into the games effectively. I'm not just a six inning guy, I'm not just relegated to 90 pitches, I can do more than that. I think when that occurred, he ran with it in the best possible way. So I think that one particular moment, I don't know exactly when it was, I can't remember off the top of my head, I just know that we needed those innings out of him and he did that several times for us. Where we were kind of beat up and he went out there and pitched deeply into games. A little bit more pitches than he normally would but he was therefore us. So I think all those moments combined pretty much have gotten him to the point where he's at right now.
Q. You stay in the moment as far as man beginning an individual game as good as inning I've ever seen. Has that changed for you this year as opposed to last year in the playoffs because of how well your starting pitchers have done and how much trust that they have built up with you or is it just, you know, I'm managing this game?
JOE MADDON: You're really good. You always have good questions. If you look, what is our one of our major splints on this particular ballclub is starting pitching. Our bullpen has been good because our starters have been so good. Now you get to this time of the year when you have to be somewhat less tolerant of the starting pitcher and get him out for the relief pitcher, you're seeing that all over the place right now. But that has been our strength is the starting pitcher, Jon Lester pitching deeply into games has been a strength. Kyle, just talking about Kyle and Jake, and Jonny Lackey and then Jason, they have all been there deep into the game, so specifically to answer your question, yes, it's all about the moment and things may have to change and you have to pay very close attention, you got five days to win three games or five games to win three to move on to this next round of the tournament.
So, yeah, you have to be less tolerant, you have to be in the moment, but you also have to be mindful of what got you here what is somewhat and really try to evaluate what's going on right now, what is happening out here. The guy that I'm going to bring in, do I know absolutely certain that's going to be better than the guy that I'm taking out. It's always the question. I was asked earlier today about watching what's going on with bullpens and the guys that are here all the time I tell them everything the same thing all the time is that the one thing I worry about the most on a daily basis is bullpen. That's it. Lineup construction is relatively easy. That's kind of static. When it comes down to how you're going to manipulate your bullpen nightly and who is well and who are you pushing too far and who can handle what kind of moment, what's the best matchup for them. That's the biggest concern on a daily basis. And I promise you that's where I lose most of my moments over is that. So probably less tolerant, yeah, right now, I would have to say that's true, but don't forget that a big part of a major part of your success this year is starting pitching.
Q. You just sort of addressed this, but there's been lot of discussion about bullpen use, closer use, do you believe in definitive roles for those guys and do you adjust in the Postseason based on the elimination aspect or anything like that?
JOE MADDON: I've always been into, the definitive role, we haven't really had a straight seventh or eight inning guy here. We haven't done that pretty much in my previous experience with the Rays it was the same way. So it's nice when have you a closer. I tell you why, then you only have to put together eight innings. Because you know this guy's got the ninth. When you don't have that guy then you're trying to piece together nine every night and that becomes a little more difficult. Part of the matchup situation in the bullpen is the fact that when you're constantly matching up you get guys up for a situation and it doesn't arise. Thus you warm them up and then don't use them. So that really takes its toll on some pitchers physically over the course of time. Those are the kind of things you have to pay attention to, even though the guy didn't get in the game he might have got up twice and that can impact how he's going to be his success on the next day. So all these things have to be considered.
Conventional roles, I'm not into it, I think that leverage moments are, I think your skills versus this group of hitters is much more important than whether it's the 7th or 8th inning. I want to know if it's three righties and this guy's much better against righties, and he's normally pitched, used to pitching in the 8th inning, but that group's coming up in the 7th. Put him in there. And then there might be a better array of hitters for this other guy in the 8th. I don't know. But I do believe that you don't have to be static and just put this guy in because.
Now last point with that, if you have absolutely neutral relief pitchers, they're good against righties and lefties, go ahead. I mean that's easy. That make it very easy. If you look at Kansas City, the last couple years I know there is a lot of criticism, but those guys were good against anybody. So it was much easier to put those guys in the 6th, 7th, 8th, inning going into the 9th because they could get anybody out and you have to keep that in mind too.
Q. One of the improvements made in the off season was contact ability on the offense, is that a skill that becomes even more important in the Postseason due to the high concentration of top-tier pitching?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, we have been talking about it for -- we talked about it a lot in Spring Training, as you know, and then we came out of the chute and did really well and then May, June it kind of went away a little bit. We talked about it again post All-Star break, we got better and then we made another plea coming into September. When we got to the point of knowing that we're going to be in the playoffs, relatively early, I wanted the guys to make a push to work on things. Again, I label it kind of like a Spring Training situation only based on work, not to whether we try to win or lose a baseball game. Of course you're trying to win. But work on things. And we did. So I'm a big believer in that. I'm not the guy, I don't like strikeouts. I don't mind a strike out with a nobody on and two outs, go ahead. Hit a ball in the gap, hit a ball over the wall strike out. Run around first base on two outs I try to drive a gap. Go ahead and strike out. But you want to put the ball in play. You want to move it.
Strikeouts are not created equally. I really disagree with the person that says they are, because they're not. If you're in the dugout, and it's a 1-0 game, a strikeout could be a good or a bad play based on the situations I just talked about. So, I do like contact. I like it in different situations, and you have to work on that and nurture those kind of things and guys have to have it's more of a mental adaptation as opposed to physical. You really have to make mental adjustments in order to get better at doing those things.