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Winter Meetings interview with Bob Melvin

MLB.com

Q. What are your impressions as far as some of the things you've done this off-season, especially with the bullpen?

BOB MELVIN: That obviously was an area that we were targeting. Really true to form, how we come into these things, we take care of the target areas, and we already have gotten a couple of guys that are going to be instrumental for us.

Q. What are your impressions as far as some of the things you've done this off-season, especially with the bullpen?

BOB MELVIN: That obviously was an area that we were targeting. Really true to form, how we come into these things, we take care of the target areas, and we already have gotten a couple of guys that are going to be instrumental for us.

It doesn't mean we're done, but we have a way of going after what we feel like the deficiencies are. I think to this point we have two good signings -- or one trade and one good signing for us.

Q. How did you feel about losing a guy like Ryon Healy?

BOB MELVIN: You know, it hurts. You have a guy that's been in your system and comes up and is impactful right away, part of a core group of guys that have played together before. Actually, when I called him after the trade, he was with the group of guys at Pinder's bachelor -- or leading up to the wedding thing. So maybe our timing wasn't great.

But you have to balance it with what you have, and we have two guys at the corner positions that was going to preclude him from being out there very often. We wanted to create an opportunity for K.D. to get some DH spots too. So even though he was a good -- we liked him a lot and he was productive, you have to look at -- you have to give up some quality to get some quality too. So I think it was more about guys blocking him.

And you know what, I'm happy that he's going to get an opportunity to play every day and play every day in the field because DH was not his favorite spot.

Q. How do you think Khris Davis will handle those DH duties?

BOB MELVIN: He likes the DH time. He doesn't want to do it every single day. I think in the outfield he does well enough for us, certainly tracking balls and so forth to where we'll get him out there some. But you also look at numbers and whether or not a guy can be productive in that spot, and he has been productive in that spot. I don't think it will be a problem for him.

Q. The front office has been pretty clear a right-handed hitting outfielder is now on sort of the shopping list. Is that something you feel is a real need? Or what do you think about the potential guys you have already?

BOB MELVIN: Yeah, I think depth is something that you always need. So if nobody gets hurt, I think we'd be okay. Certainly Pinder did a good enough job for our expectations for him to be able to play both corners and do it well.

We also have Mark Canha that can do that as well.

If nothing happened, I'd be comfortable with the guys we have, but if we do add another guy, you know, you're never going to go a complete season without some injuries. Certainly when guys struggle some, you're always looking for somebody else to pick up where guys are struggling. It's a target area for a reason, but if it doesn't happen -- and I'll always say this anyway -- that I'm comfortable with the guys we have.

Q. With the rotation, it seems like it will be status quo maybe. What kind of makes you believe that they could be better next year?

BOB MELVIN: We have some depth there too, and we have some guys coming. We feel like Sean Manaea is going to be better. Kendall has a chance to improve. Jharel Cotton. Daniel Mengden was terrific. Paul Blackburn coming off his injury, he'll be good for us too.

Then you have guys like A.J. Puk, Logan Shore, Kaprielian who we got that's coming, who had Tommy John. We have Jefferies too. We had a really good draft last year. So the guys that are here now, we're comfortable with, and we feel like we can hold down the fort for the next group of guys that were part of last year's draft, and we feel like they're going to be a big part of our future as well.

Q. What's your understanding of Kaprielian's status?

BOB MELVIN: Knock wood. There have been no setbacks. From what I understand, he's about as hard working a kid as you could possibly have. So he's taking this seriously. He knows the rehab is very important when he comes back, and we've heard -- his makeup, from what we've heard from people around the league, certainly with the Yankees, is off the charts.

I know he's rooming with Chaffee this year too. I don't know if that helps or hurts, to tell you the truth. I'm kidding.

Q. Is he a potential option this season?

BOB MELVIN: I don't know. I mean, it -- maybe towards the end. Maybe a little bit of a long shot. And maybe guys like Logan Shore are probably a next year type of thing too. Who knows how it plays out? But we really felt like, when they made the trade, that that was a guy we had to have in the trade. So whether it's the year after that, we still feel like we're in good shape with the guys that we have.

Q. You talk about being kind of set at the corners, which is why Healy is expendable. You hear Billy yesterday say we're going to build with those guys as well as some others on the roster, what's your reaction as a manager?

BOB MELVIN: I haven't heard that a lot from him over the years. When you look at the three previous seasons we've had that have not done too terribly well, it's all about waiting for this group here. So in the meantime, you have to augment with some one-year guys to hold the fort down and try to keep you competitive because we knew this group was coming. So the three seasons before that, we were very successful. There had to have been, for a number of reasons, a little bit of a teardown, and then try to fit some pieces in until this group was ready.

So when he talks about these guys aren't going anywhere, this is kind of a group that we've been waiting for, and that time is now. So it's an exciting time, I think. As you saw toward the end of the season, we played our best baseball against some really good teams, and there's a reason to be excited about these guys.

Q. Who else are you excited about for next year? You mentioned some of the pitchers, but from a position player standpoint.

BOB MELVIN: The corner guys, we're excited about certainly. Fowler is a guy that we're really intrigued with. And everything's going well with him injury-wise too to where we feel like he'll be a full go. And hopefully by the start of the season, he'll be able to hopefully be out there the brunt of the time.

That's one of the other reasons we're looking for another outfielder is, if that's not the case, you want to have some depth as far as that goes. He's a guy that we're really excited about, and rightly so, if you look at the track record and the numbers he's put up in the minor leagues, his age, his skill set. Pretty exciting guy.

Q. They've also been pretty vocal about how they intend to keep Khris Davis. How capable do you feel like he is, not just on the field, but being around those guys?

BOB MELVIN: If you know him, and you're around him every day, he's probably not the most vocal guy to the media and probably one of the most outspoken guys, but he's one of the better liked guys, and he fits in with anybody. He's a star that just doesn't really look at himself like a star. He just likes to go out there and play and go home and come back the next day and do the same thing but be there for his teammates. The numbers that he's put up, it would be very difficult to lose a guy like that, especially in the place where we are, where we think this is the start of something really good for us.

Q. Bruce Maxwell has had kind of an eventful off-season. Have you contacted him, and what's next as you go forward?

BOB MELVIN: I have texted with him a little bit. You know, the process is still playing out. So I really can't speak of what the timeliness of that will be. Hopefully, we can get past this, and he moves on and comes to Spring Training with this behind him, but I'm not sure that's going to be the case. Just trying to do the best he can to stay positive. It's an unfortunate incident and made a mistake. Hopefully, he can get past that.

Q. Ohtani has landed in the same division and you may be facing him --

BOB MELVIN: I noticed that, yeah. Maybe even Opening Day, right?

Q. What is your impression about him as a pitcher and as a hitter? Also, how do you guys prepare to face him?

BOB MELVIN: Well, we're not prepared yet. We'll take a look at some video, and maybe we'll see him some in the spring. They could try to hide him from us a little bit. It's not rare that a big time free agent comes into our division. So we've been dealing with this for years now, starting with Pujols. It certainly adds to their team, both offensively and on the pitching end, added another left-handed bat that they probably needed. Top of the rotation guy.

But until you actually see him and see him perform, there's some uncertainty. But there's a reason that every team was on him and wanted to get him because he's a very talented guy, and you don't see two-way players like that.

Q. (Inaudible) didn't play position but I'm sure (inaudible). How difficult is it, do you think, for a guy to do that?

BOB MELVIN: I think this is probably -- it's a little unlike Micah. Micah was a good-hitting pitcher. This guy is just a real hitter, from what I understand. So being in the National League, we could pinch-hit Micah a little bit. He tried to come back as a hitter afterwards, and it didn't go kind of in the fashion that he wanted it to.

So I think this is a different scenario in that this is a true two-way player, at least it looks like it. I wish I had the problem of how to try to figure that out. Obviously, the Angels do right now. But I don't know that anybody has come to the big leagues that has been quite like this yet. So I think there will be some wait-and-see how they're going to use him.

Would I like to have that problem? Obviously, I would, but I don't know that you've seen a true two-way player to this point come to the big leagues like him.

Q. Bob especially is a Bay Area guy. I know last year you were super enthusiastic. What was your reaction with the sort of snafu with the stadium?

BOB MELVIN: It obviously stunned everybody. I can't speak for the dialogue with Peralta and so forth, but they definitely felt like they'd done enough, had enough conversations to feel like they were confident in the site.

Now, I think any time you do something like this in California on land that's not yours, that's somebody else's, there are going to be some hurdles. The first one is kind of tough to take, but my guess is, kind of sitting back and looking and see what the options are, and I'm not 100 percent sure that they're done with this site. Maybe you come back and take a look at it from another angle.

And if we do get through this one, there's going to be more obstacles too, more hurdles. So it's not shocking that there are some hurdles. Maybe the timeliness right away of this one, and I think everyone is a little disappointed by it, but it doesn't mean there's not going to be some tenacity in going about trying to get the stadium done regardless.

Q. One of the managers you played for was Buck Showalter. He's managed, I guess, four of you guys that are here this week. What did you learn from him that you've taken to your job?

BOB MELVIN: Yeah, I learned quite a bit from Buck. Right away as a player, when I played for him in New York, he was the guy that came to me and said -- you know, I wasn't an everyday player, so he tried to prepare me for the roles he's going to give me. He would come to me a couple days ahead of time and said, this is where you're going to play, this is who you're going to play against and why. It made me pretty confident, if the manager has confidence in you against certain guys, then it kind of elevates you as far as the psychology goes.

Always very prepared watching him on the other side. He's a guy that you're constantly worried about because you know that he's not going to miss anything. The way he handles his bullpen is terrific. He's just one of the great managers really of all time. Not only did I learn a lot from him when I was a player for him, but I continue to learn from him watching him from the other side.

Q. Your coaching staff is a little different now -- Christenson, obviously, Matt Williams. What do you think of this group you have now?

BOB MELVIN: We've been really good about promoting from within and for good reason because Lip finds good coaches, and you want people in your system to feel like they have a chance to make it to the big leagues.

In this case, we went outside for a couple of guys. Matt Williams is a guy that I've been with for a long time. I played with him. I was a coach on the World Series team when we won in '01. I was a manager there when he was an owner. So this the fourth time we've been together. I know a lot about Matty, and I think Matty is going to be good for our younger guys because everybody knows who Matt Williams is for a number of reasons. Not only for the numbers he put up and the career he had, but for the tenacity that he took in his work ethic. I know that's going to rub off on our guys.

I know right away I got calls and texts from some of our guys about it's tough to lose Chip, but to bring in a guy with this quality, has the type of presence that he does, he's going to be really good for us.

And as far as Al goes, we've needed a true Spanish speaker. We've had to augment with any number of guys that -- so to have a Spanish speaker on the staff, with Matty being the corner guy, I was more of a middle guy. Everybody you speak to in the game speaks volumes about how he deals with players, his disposition, and that's awfully important these days, where now you're trying to reach players with any number of younger players that you have. He has some familiarity with the guys we got in the trade, Mateo and Fowler, in particular. So all those things kind of added up to bringing him in as well. So we feel good about the two guys we've added.

Q. So in a way you have two. How will you divide it up?

BOB MELVIN: Matty will the point guy. I think Al with his experience, especially in the middle, they'll work very well together.

Q. And will Aldrete remain in the outfield?

BOB MELVIN: With Canha there, he can help out in the outfield. And Ryan Christenson in the outfield too. We have any number of guys who can help out with these roles. Used to be with coaching staff it was more stay in your lane, where I think we have versatile guys within our staff that can help out in different avenues, and I think that's a plus.

Q. Who's the base running coach? Is it Ricky?

BOB MELVIN: It's going to be Al and Aldo. Aldo will still do some of that. But I think Al being the first base coach and couple that with Matty being the third base coach, those two guys will take the point.

Q. Matt Williams, people think about that humble home run track that he had, no nonsense. What does that say about him, symbolic?

BOB MELVIN: That is who Matt Williams is. I played with him. That really kind of typifies who he is. Put your head down, run around the bases, pretend like you've done it before, and he did it plenty of times. Now, the game's changed a little bit, and he understands that not everybody is going to do it like he did, but that's just kind of who he was. I think everybody took notice the way he played and the way he prepared. That was typical Matty.

Q. Bob, three years ago at this time we were coming off a season where offense was really down. A lot of people were saying that speed is going to become a big part of the game again. And that obviously didn't happen. It's turned out to be power. What role does speed play in the game today?

BOB MELVIN: There's still a dynamic for speed definitely. I mean, with power pitchers now that are maybe a little bit slower to the plate, where you want to try to take advantage of being able to steal bases at times when it's the optimum time to do it. Just because power has certainly come to the forefront here recently, I don't think makes us kind of take off where we want to be as a base-running team.

Certainly teams, like the Orioles are built just purely for power, but we have some guys in our organization now where we feel like we can take advantage of the base running part of it, guys like Mateo coming too, and we're going to be a little more athletic probably than we've been in the past.

I do sit here every year and say we're going to run more, hit and run more, so forth, and so on. It's based on the type of team that you have, but when you go into Spring Training, you don't want to completely turn that part of it off because, when you're a young team like us that doesn't want to rely solely on power -- and I don't think we can rely solely on power -- there's different avenues that you can be productive in, and I still think base running is one of those areas.

Q. Five or six managers this year have never managed before. Wondering what you think that says about the job the way it is now compared to when you started.

BOB MELVIN: I think that goes into what I was saying about guys like Al Pedrique that have good relationships with players. I think that's awfully important now.

Back when I played, the manager was kind of like this entity that you just didn't even -- like when I was a rookie, I didn't go up to Sparky and sit down next to him and talk to him for 15 or 20 minutes before the game. That was kind of a guy that I kind of stayed away from, where that's not the case now. I think with younger players, prominent younger players, you're trying to create more of a family-type atmosphere now.

Part of our job as managers and coaches is to maybe integrate more in the clubhouse than things that go on maybe in the past. I think in any walk of life now you're looking to find out what's the best way to do things, and I think a lot of baseball now is looked at you've got to have good relationships with the players. I think that's why you're seeing that now.

Q. If you look at a lot of the new managerial hires the last few years, you're not really seeing catchers. Do you think that's just a random thing? Because for a long time, catchers make the best managers.

BOB MELVIN: Right. Well, I think part of the whole relationship thing now too is a big part of it and how guys relate to players, not necessarily the manager is the guy that just relates to players. I think that was more of a strategy thing with catchers that they saw the game the way future managers did in the past and kind of had that train of thought. I think now relationship with the players and making sure everybody's happy and getting along is a big part of it as anything now.

Q. Do you think analytics play a role in that in that position players and pitchers maybe think more like catchers as far as just knowing the game that way?

BOB MELVIN: I think potentially. I still think the catchers stand out a little bit as far as understanding the strategy of it just because that's how you're conditioned to watch it. But I don't think it's imperative that you have to be that guy. You can also augment with coaches on your staff that maybe look at it a little differently too.

Q. How is Triggs?

BOB MELVIN: Coming along. I haven't heard anything that would suggest there have been some setbacks. What kind of timing as far as when he's going to be on the mound again, I'm not 100 percent sure, but I haven't heard anything that would suggest there have been some setbacks with him?

Q. Is that kind of wait and see once he's healthy, then decide what sort of role you might want for him? How did you see Manaea putting things together, and what upside do you see?

BOB MELVIN: I think the upside is still there. For the first time in his career, he went through a tough period. I think he's going to be better for it to look through some struggles, look at things differently, maybe video, maybe pitch selection, stuff that came pretty easy to him for a while. And I think he was a little bit worn out at times last year too. It was a long season for him, and you could see the velocity was going down at times. And he had to deal with nagging injuries for the first time in his career too. I think a healthy Shawn Manaea is a guy that's going to pitch at the top of anybody's rotation.

Q. So many of us look at the analytics in the front office and are guided by that. How much has your job changed in the last few years with the advancement in that?

BOB MELVIN: Mine? We've been kind of on the cutting edge of analytics for quite a while. So my job hasn't changed a whole lot. Maybe some different information. Now you're seeing velocities and launch angles and some stuff you're looking at that are new, but as far as dealing with analytics, I've been dealing with that since I've been here. My job hasn't changed.

Maybe some of the other places you're seeing some guys have to do things a little bit differently. And I think that's one of the reasons too that you're seeing some younger managers too that maybe some of the older school guys weren't as able to -- reluctant to adapt to some of the analytics, and now I think maybe some of the organizations are bringing in some younger guys that they can start along those lines.

But it's something that, from the day I got here, has been important to our organization and continues to be.

Q. Significantly different than, say, when you were in Arizona or in Seattle?

BOB MELVIN: Certainly from Seattle. Arizona started to get into it some. But not -- but once I got to Oakland, it was on a different level.

Q. Does it present a challenge in balancing that with the human touch, the interaction with players?

BOB MELVIN: Always, yeah. And I think you're seeing now too that some of these analytics are actually brought to the players in trying to make them better, and as a staff, it's our job to be able to present this stuff to them and do it in a way that you're not confrontational, but we're trying to make them better. Not only them better, but if we make them better, we make ourselves better. You're seeing more and more of that in the game too.

Oakland Athletics