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Winter Meetings interview with Brian Snitker

MLB.com

Q. This off-season it's been a little bit different but these last couple weeks feel a little closer to normal when you kind of get to feel like you would normally at this point in time?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, I'm still trying to figure out how I'm supposed to feel. No, it's been good. I think the timing of this event is pretty good. I was talking to coming down yesterday. Usually we drive down here to start Spring Training, and you got that feeling coming down the other day, kind of got excited, anticipation of a new season and all that. So it's been good.

Q. This off-season it's been a little bit different but these last couple weeks feel a little closer to normal when you kind of get to feel like you would normally at this point in time?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, I'm still trying to figure out how I'm supposed to feel. No, it's been good. I think the timing of this event is pretty good. I was talking to coming down yesterday. Usually we drive down here to start Spring Training, and you got that feeling coming down the other day, kind of got excited, anticipation of a new season and all that. So it's been good.

Q. Been able to develop a pretty good rapport with Alex already?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, this has been a good time just to spend some time with Alex and a lot of new guys. It's been interesting, it's really like it's nice to get to know and talk to Alex and see where he's at and it's been easy. He's been a really easy guy to talk to.

Q. And he's relying on a lot of what you say because he is unfamiliar with a lot of these guys?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, I knew that going in. I talked to him at the press conference. It's like, you got a lot of people to meet and a lot of people to get to know and it's a big job that he has before him, and I think that it's been good to kind of share my insights or feelings about players and what we went through last year, and the experiences that the young guys got, which is very valuable.

Q. You kind of look back on last year and maybe the win total didn't get to maybe the exact number you wanted, but at the same time take a step back and maybe see the progress within the season?

BRIAN SNITKER: Exactly, because I said you can't replicate what these kids went through, the young pitchers, the young players. We can put them in Triple-A they say they're not ready, all this, but you can't replicate what they got to experience last year, and that's pitching in Major League games. I start thinking about that even driving down here that all of them. When you talk about a guy making the starts, pitching a Major League season, they all did. Whether they started in the minor leagues, they pitched a full Major League season.

And it was good because they all could have made their next start, which is a really good thing for a young starter because it's a long year, it's a lot of starts. I don't know if any of them missed a side in between, and even a guy like Ozzie, that he played a full Major League season, and it took a lot getting there, but all his rehab and everything that he did the year before. So it was a long year for him because he spent a lot of time rehabbing down here and then playing the full season was good.

Q. Talking about young guys, how about Ronald Acuna, is he going to have a chance to play?

BRIAN SNITKER: Oh yeah, absolutely. I said last year, when they would send him over, I was like, if you want this kid to have a breather, don't send him because I'm playing him. He probably made our club out of Spring Training last year by fence-jumping. He's an exciting kid. It's going to be exciting again to get him in our camp this year.

Q. What was your relationship with Walt Weiss when he was here last time and then --

BRIAN SNITKER: Not a lot when he was here last time, because I was managing in the minor leagues and I knew Walt and managing against him two years ago, and just getting to know him then, what people said about him, the guys that played with him, guys that were here coaching. The guy is just a baseball guy. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge and it's been fun these last few days just hanging out and getting to know him more too.

Q. Is it valuable to have two former managers on the staff?

BRIAN SNITKER: Absolutely. I think it always is. I thought that when I was coaching third base that it benefited me by being a manager out there doing that, doing the job, because it's just the thinking, the game process and things like that are different when you manage. Having guys that have been through it at the Major League level is going to be nothing but make me better.

Q. Alex talked about the analytics that they used there in L.A., and he said, we're going to provide that information, we're not going to force it upon them. Have you got a sense of how things might be different from an analytics standpoint this year?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, it's been real interesting to me because I told him, hey, I'm 62 years old, and I spent my entire career relying on my gut and my eyes and getting to know the people that Alex has brought in, it's been enlightening to me, because this is kind of where we're at and where we're going in the game, and I've spent the last couple days up in the suite talking to those guys, and they're showing us the information and there's a lot to it. It's very interesting for somebody like me that's -- I don't have that background.

So it's going to be real beneficial, and the thing they preface everything by is, "We're not going to push this on you. We're going to give you information." And now I kind of get what I've been reading about, what I've been hearing about with the analytics side of the game, I'm already understanding what that's all about and now as these guys say, we're going to get the information and get it in the players' hands, it's kind of like you see what they're talking about.

It's going to be good. They have already shown me information I think that the players are really going to latch on to it, and it's going to be good for them, their careers, day in, day out workings of us playing the game. It's going to be very useful and it's going to help a lot.

Q. Is it kind of up to you to decide maybe what guys you think that information is beneficial to or who it might be almost overwhelming to?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, and players are going to give us their feedback too. We're going to present, you present it all to them and hen ultimately they're the ones that decide what they're going to use. Us too. As a staff we'll get together and I think each guy that has their area or whatever are going to know little things maybe that they want and how they want to present it to the guys. So it's going to be something that it's going to be new to all of us, I think, and again it's going to be very beneficial to all of us.

Q. You talked about the possibility of starting the year with an eight-man bullpen. Obviously the drawback is maybe your bench is a little bit shorter. Have you developed a preference within the last two years either way?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, I think probably the eight-man bullpen fits us because just with the use that we have in our starting rotation. I think we're going to need that flexibility in the bullpen. You learn how to run the game, it's different, I think, in the middle innings is where you really feel it. A guy's having a rough outing in the 4th or 5th inning, and all of a sudden we get down there and we have to use a guy out, now you're later in the game and you're short-handed, but it's something that you just kind of learn to live with and manage around, and as you play teams and you see in the industry it's pretty much what everybody's going to is that eight-man bullpen, and probably right now that's what's going to benefit us the most.

Q. Kind of felt do you feel like maybe over the last couple years once they got to that third time through the lineup maybe you did pull guys maybe earlier than you would have 10 years ago or five years ago?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, and I think a lot of it is because I think every night is a different situation. Every starter is a different situation. I don't think you, you're going to have to use your eyes and your gut a little bit in making those decisions. There's information out there that I think is going to be -- you're going to be more aware of that data now and the situation, because it's that's kind of where we're at and it's out there. It's not anything really new but it's just, we're finding all this information out that the third time through or the individuals. But there may be a given night where a guy, sometimes guys are tired with 75 pitches and some guys at 110 are just kind of finding their groove maybe sometimes. I think you have to realize that also on that given night.

Q. If the season were to start tomorrow, who is your rotation?

BRIAN SNITKER: Well, from where we ended last year Folty, Teheran, Gohara, Newcomb and then we're going to look for, probably look for a five. And there's going to be competition throughout the whole club this year, I think. I don't know that that -- we have some options in guys. Simms came up and I thought did a pretty good job. We saw Max Fried. There's some other, the young guys, the Sorokas, Allards, guys like that that are going to be in camp. It's going to be a fun Spring Training for us because we're going to get to see a lot of these guys that we have been talking about and now they're kind of burst on the scene and we'll see where they're at.

Q. Fried tore up the Arizona Fall League?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, which is good. Again, a kid that added innings to his arsenal for this year, after everything he's been through. And he ended the year healthy, so that's a really good thing. If we can keep guys healthy, and you get them on mound that I think all of them have the skill set to do very well.

Q. Some young names you obviously named as a potential for the fifth, do you have preference? Would you rather a veteran maybe be looked at?

BRIAN SNITKER: We'll just wait and see. I don't know that I have a preference. We got a long way to go until Spring Training, so who knows what might happen. Those are all names, those are guys that are in our organization now and ones that we'll look to, barring any trades or anything.

Q. Through 2017 and you have a clubhouse that obviously wants to win and a front office with a plan that doesn't necessarily lend itself to that, that year, how do you go about navigating the two sides of that?

BRIAN SNITKER: Well, when we start a game our intent is to win it. I don't think, to a man, that anybody's -- I think we feel like, we felt going into this year after the way we finished the year before, that we weren't rebuilding, we were out to win. There was some things that -- some games that we let get away. I think that just we didn't make enough plays a lot early in the year to win a few games, win some games that we should have. But I think that with the guys, I think everybody that's going into this is going to feel like we can contend, we can be a team that does well.

So I don't think anybody's going to think, look at this, as you talk about the rebuild and all that. I think the guys to a man are going to go out and feel like that we can be a factor in it.

Q. The word "rebuild" is a touchy word for a lot of other organizations. For the Braves is it something you embraced the word and the process?

BRIAN SNITKER: I don't really -- for me I don't think about it that much. The thing I liked is that we're getting our young players that we have had our eye on for a few years now are starting to surface in the Big Leagues. I don't know, you can term it any way you want but it's like we're starting to get our young guys in the Big Leagues. We feel really good about that and we're going to give them the opportunity to help us win games.

Q. With everybody who came up last year and everybody you mentioned who can come up with this year, does 2018 feel like it could be the culmination of that youth movement?

BRIAN SNITKER: It could be, yeah, and I think you're going to sees our young guys, we're going to have guys coming every year for awhile. I think there's going to be guys that are just matriculating up and putting themselves in the Major League picture. All those young guys came up last year and I thought they all handled themselves very well. They all felt like I think they were ready. I don't think anybody was awed by the situation and being in the Major Leagues, and I was impressed with how every one of them came up and handled themselves.

Q. With Acuna you mentioned before last spring he could have maybe made the camp if you were given the option. What do you feel like he has to show this spring to make the majors early in 2018 or even out of camp?

BRIAN SNITKER: Well, I think he's just has to do what he does. I mean, like I say, last year he came in as a very impressive young man, I was most impressed about the adjustments he would make on the fly and in at-bats and again the kid's skill set defensively, what he brings offensively, the potential is going to be really good. We'll get him down there and he'll be part of the mix and see where he's at.

Q. Last year at some point you guys talked about Wisler being a reliever. Aaron Blair moving forward, is there a plan for him maybe just keep him as a starter?

BRIAN SNITKER: Well, I don't know. Right now I think that both -- again, I did mention those guys, those guys will be in the fifth starter mix, both of those guys and we'll kind of see probably where they fit, whether it's starting, out of the pen, and just the best chance to help our club is the biggest thing I think is how we can utilize those guys to help us win games and where that is if that's starting, if that's relieving, we'll just see how the team shakes out and sets up as we go through the spring.

Q. As you look ahead, maybe you add a veteran reliever this winter, but do you like that depth in the bullpen, you saw what Sam Freeman did last year, Winkler, I mean you add that to Viz.

BRIAN SNITKER: Viz and Minter, again, another one that could have pitched the day after the season was over, which is a really good thing, everything he came through. And you're looking at Viz and Minter and Jose Ramirez had a full season as a Major League reliever, and you see what you have there in those guys, and if you could add to that, that's a pretty good bullpen. We'll be looking to do that, I'm sure. And who knows, there may be some guys in the minor leagues that step up and fill those roles also.

So you can't have enough. I mean, I know that. I mean it's just, you got to have a lot of depth in your organization pitching to get through that season. And so we didn't know really that much about Sam Freeman coming in, and as the season progressed he came up and the responsibility that he undertook, that was, he had a really good year and we feel really good about him going into this year.

Q. In 2014 offense was way down, it was almost like 1968 again. And a lot of people were predicting speed was going to become a big part of the game again and instead we got all of this power. Why do you think that happened and what role does speed play in today's game?

BRIAN SNITKER: Well, I still think if you, that speed can, I would like, I like having the guys that can run. Having the speed, it's just, you play these teams and it's like you try and get a ground ball and sometimes it's almost like a mistake, it's either a broken bat or a mis-hit ball because guys are going up there trying to -- you talk about launch angles and all that and there's a lot being made of it, and guys are big strong guys that can hit it a long way, and that's exactly what they're trying to do. It's like guys don't care about striking out that much any more.

I think it's just going to depend upon the makeup of your club and how it's put together. For us we're going to need the speed, and we're going to need to be taking the extra base and go first to third on singles and run the bases smart, things like that, because you look at our club and there's not a lot of, we don't have a lot of power. So we're not one of those guys but the athleticism and is going to play a part I think in us being successful.

Q. When Brandon Phillips was traded last year, both of you indicated a possible reunion for 2018. Is that still a possibility?

BRIAN SNITKER: Alex and I haven't went down that road yet but I think any, anything's possible. When Brandon went over there, did a good job at third base for us. We asked him to play third and he did. He did very well. I think as an organization we're going to explore all the options.

Q. You look at all those options do you have a preference for Camargo whether he's in the lineup every day and possibly a third baseman?

BRIAN SNITKER: I think it's a good, he provides us -- the fact that he can, we saw him play third, he plays it so well that that's a possibility, too. It's just the kid, there's another kid that young kid that's really grown up the last year. Physically, mentally, and I look at him and I think he has a potential to be an everyday Major League player at some point. Depending on what we do or what direction we go, he's a nice player to have on your club.

Q. Last year at the Winter Meetings we talked about Dansby Swanson hitting high in the lineup playing a prominent role for your team, but you ended last year with Ozzie Albies stepping in your number two hole. Are you confident in Albies being that prominent hitter at the top of your lineup, one or two?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah.

Q. And what would the plan be for Dansby in 2018?

BRIAN SNITKER: Well, things change as we go. You start the season with a plan and with a lineup, and then things have a way of working themselves out and things change. I think it was another -- again, we forget I think, too, with Dansby that he had going into this year he had a year total, I think, of professional experience. Because that first year he didn't do a whole lot. He didn't play a whole lot.

So that was a big year, it was a big year for him last year. Now he's going to go into this year a lot more prepared, I think a lot more versed in what to expect when we get to Spring Training. Last year he probably thought he did but then it didn't go like we wanted. Earlier in the year he had a lot of hard-hit balls that were caught. To his credit he kept working, he kept playing, went down, came back, and finished the year okay.

So we like Dansby a lot and I think again we like all the young players last year, it was a really beneficial experience year for him.

Q. Any chance Ozzie's going to play some shortstop?

BRIAN SNITKER: You never know. The fact that he has played shortstop just gives you more versatility over the course of a game if something happens. You put him over there and to finish a game or something like that, that it's not like it's a big deal because he's been over there before.

Q. Have you ever had a chance to talk to Dave Roberts or anybody about the use of analytics?

BRIAN SNITKER: No, I probably will at some point in time, but it's part of the game. It's here and it's been here, it's been really eye-opening and interesting for me the last couple days to talk to the guys that Alex has brought in. It's interesting. Very interesting.

Q. Is it easier to accept it, too, when you see the success they have had elsewhere especially when the Dodgers used it heavily?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, no, right, it is. It's legit stuff. I'm seeing things that -- I think the thing that I think it's going to be a really -- it's for the players. How they break things down. It's not going to be negative stuff to these guys either, it's going to be things that can help them to get better and it will be up to them, what they want to grab hold of and use, but I think there's going to be a lot of guys that I think that some of the information that they're going to give them is going to be, it's going to be good to them. It's going to be good for them. It's going to give them another avenue to try and to improve their game. So I think they're going to like it.

Q. Nothing but positive?

BRIAN SNITKER: Nothing but positive is going to come out of the whole thing. They made it very clear they're not going to ram things down your throat, but there's information there. I understand now they talk about the manager getting it in the hands of the players, what to give them. I think that you talk to them as they learn it, they understand it, they're going to know and probably want more in some situations too, but it is very interesting stuff.

Q. You mentioned about Dansby and his struggles last year. Do you think that would be a cautionary tale for the organization going forward about bringing a guy up too quickly or would that change anything?

BRIAN SNITKER: I don't think we brought him up too quick. Again, I think he was ready, he proved that he was ready, it's not, I mean guys they don't, when you, he didn't surprise anybody this year. Pitching coaches, they see video and they know how to attack him more and that's you talk about making adjustments, that's what all that, you talk about making adjustments, that's part of it. That's what it is. You play these guys every year, you're going to -- and he's going to be more versed in facing the pitching. He's going to have seen them more. He was facing a lot of guys for the first time and I think last year was good for him. It was a good experience, he's going to be more prepared this year when we go to Spring Training than he was last year with having what he went through last year behind him.

Q. Are you disappointed Dale Murphy didn't get into the Hall of Fame?

BRIAN SNITKER: Yeah, I'm a big Murph fan. He's been a friend for a long time. I was pulling for him.

Q. Curious about you started out with SunTrust last year, brand new stadium, second year going in, did you find anything or that you learned about the stadium or things that you might be able to use? It's kind of an analytical and also a manager's feel?

BRIAN SNITKER: No, I think everybody was, when we left Spring Training everybody was excited to get there and just take batting practice on the field and to play on it. The ball, it did, it traveled pretty good early and then I think as the summer went on it wasn't like this is a launching pad by any stretch, you still had to hit it, and I think it's an honest park and I don't think the ballpark's going to have any -- I don't think we're going to have to do or retool or look at our club so to speak as tooling it to play to our park. I think that it's an honest park and I don't think there's a guy out there that would say they didn't like playing there home or road.

Q. Second year you guys going to feel more comfortable?

BRIAN SNITKER: Absolutely. I think that's just natural we're going to know more what to expect. We left Spring Training and guys were talking, couldn't wait to get out there that first day and hit on the new field. That's what everybody was looking forward to. Then as we played, it's just kind of became it's our home ballpark.

Q. Did you imagine you would be one of the most tenured guys so quickly?

BRIAN SNITKER: I know. How about that? (Laughing.) I've seen a couple of the guys and it's like -- and you still see those guys, I enjoy like talking to Terry Collins and he knowing all them guys for a long time, and but it's kind of I'm looking forward to meeting the new guys too.

Atlanta Braves