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Winter Meetings interview with Dave Roberts

MLB.com

Q. How much did you pay attention, if at all, to the [Shohei] Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes?

DAVE ROBERTS: We were very in tune with both those -- with those players. I think I can speak for us and putting our best foot forward. They landed elsewhere, but I think that -- obviously, impactful players. But as an organization, you've just got to continue to move forward. We've got a pretty good nucleus already and obviously intrigued by those two players. But we're moving on.

Q. When you speak of this, you guys don't have too many glaring holes heading into 2018 season. What would you like to see and who are you targeting as far as acquisitions or changes being made?

Q. How much did you pay attention, if at all, to the [Shohei] Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes?

DAVE ROBERTS: We were very in tune with both those -- with those players. I think I can speak for us and putting our best foot forward. They landed elsewhere, but I think that -- obviously, impactful players. But as an organization, you've just got to continue to move forward. We've got a pretty good nucleus already and obviously intrigued by those two players. But we're moving on.

Q. When you speak of this, you guys don't have too many glaring holes heading into 2018 season. What would you like to see and who are you targeting as far as acquisitions or changes being made?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think the thing with our ball club, the pitching component, the athleticism, the youth, mixed with some veterans, you can always bolster the bullpen. I think that for us and our guys that we've been very good at kind of identifying guys with some upside in the pen.

You look back a couple years ago, Joe [Blanton]. Last year Brandon Morrow. So continuing to add depth in the pen, I think is important to have Kenley [Jansen] at the back end. But, again, it's hard to poke holes in our ball club, but as an organization, that's what you try to do.

Q. It appears Brandon Morrow is going someplace else. Do you think that would be such a vacancy when you guys put him on the roster, just so he could go someplace else?

DAVE ROBERTS: No. To his credit, he capitalized on the opportunity and pitched big innings for us, obviously and got some big outs. But you look at the guys we have, guys are active, guys are coming off injury, I still think there's a good deal of depth that we have in our pen.

Seeing Grany coming back on the left side and some other right handers that we have. So I think that the depth is there.

The way we match up to play the game, to shorten it, to count outs. I feel like we're in a good spot.

Q. Do you feel like you're in a much better position heading into next season than you were the last off-season, when you guys had (inaudible)?

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, you look at on the position player's side, guys that are young or youthful that have really emerged as impact players that we really didn't know we had last year. And to see Corey Seager to follow up the rookie campaign with another good one, to know that he's going into his third year and to see what Cody [Bellinger] did and Chris Taylor, getting [Andrew] Toles back, and to Yasiel really assert himself last year. The catching situation, I think you can argue is as productive as any in baseball.

Yeah, I think the pitching side, to see Alex Wood emerge, Kenta [Maeda] do his thing, and obviously the guys we have with Rich [Hill] and Clayton [Kershaw] at the top of the pen.

Yeah, I do believe that we're in a better spot than we were last year. This is a team that won 104 games, and you're still trying to find a way to get better.

Q. Dave, how do you envision -- I know it's December, but how would you envision the catching situation working out?

DAVE ROBERTS: Well, I think, again, as a sum, it's as good as anyone in baseball. Now you're sort of dealing with the individual successes on -- for both players that you've got to be sensitive to because we feel that they can both be everyday players. Austin's ability to play from second base, I think, helps him -- creates opportunities for himself.

But where we're at right now, having both those guys on board with the Dodgers being part of our club is important, is imperative, and right now that's where we stand.

Q. Dave, what do you envision Walker Buehler bringing to the club in 2018?

DAVE ROBERTS: I can certainly expect to see him as a starter. How things shake out in Spring Training will kind of determine where he starts, but for him to continue to develop as a starting pitcher. Got his feet wet last year, and I think that it was encouraging in a lot of ways for Walker -- the quality of hitter, the speed of the game, the preparation, being in big league ballparks, I think, all very good for him. But just continuing to develop. Again, we'll see how it all shakes out, but he's definitely a part of the solution.

Q. If [Toles] recuperates and is healthy, is he definitely your left fielder going into the season?

DAVE ROBERTS: Well, in a smaller sample two years ago, really played well on both sides of the baseball. So we expect him to be fully recovered going into Spring Training and to compete. It's not fair for us to essentially -- outside of Yasiel, Chris Taylor, who still has the ability to play in the infield and the outfield, dedicate 500 or call him an everyday player. So I think we still have to see a little bit more. But the skill set, a lot to like from Andrew.

Q. Where does Gonzalez fit anymore? Where do you see him that's still reasonable for him?

DAVE ROBERTS: I see him on our team right now, and Adrian, you don't get to be the player that he is if you can't overcome some adversities. Obviously, this is a different part of -- different time in his career, and you're dealing with injuries. But I've had conversations with Adrian, and he'll definitely bet on himself. He's healthy and looks to compete to get at-bats.

As we understand it, things can happen throughout the winter, but right now I don't see -- I see Adrian on our ball club and contributing.

Q. Do you have any updates on Julio [Urias]? How close is he?

DAVE ROBERTS: I don't. I don't. I know that about a month ago things were tracking the right way. Doctors were encouraged. So I know that we're a little cautious in trying to give a timeline for his return, but I know that we expect to see him pitch at some point in time this year.

Q. Within the division, Robbie Ray gave you some problems. You unlocked the code in the playoffs against him. What was the code? Are you prepared to reveal how you go against a player that dominated you?

DAVE ROBERTS: No, I'm not ready to divulge that. You know what, Robbie, obviously, is an elite pitcher. I think part of it is the short rest, something he'd never done in the playing game or in the wild card game. That was just one given night that our guys really put forth some really good at bats.

Q. Dave, the Astros picked up some pitch tipping from you guys in the World Series. Is that something that you guys at the time were concerned about, or did you feel like it was -- were you surprised to hear that?

DAVE ROBERTS: Wasn't surprised. We had conversations about that with you and trying to kind of pin it down. Obviously, we weren't successful. I think that's there's something to that, but there's also a lot more for me to execution, where I think that you could view that there just wasn't a lot of execution going on.

So I don't know -- I know there was talk about it, to tip pitching and things like that, but still borders on executing pitches.

Q. Dave, I don't know when as a player you might have thought about possibly becoming a manager. But when you're a coach, everybody wants to find out if their ideas, if their stuff is going to work. Is this personality-wise, what you thought this would be? Did you envision sort of how you handled it the way you thought you would handle it when you got the chance?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think that, as I became a coach, you start thinking about it. Maybe as a player a little bit. And you really never know how it's going to play out. But I think that empowering people, trusting people, having good people around you, having good players certainly helps.

And I think that me, by nature, I just love conversations, being challenged, forward thinking, things like that, that our guys, this organization kind of thinks similarly in that aspect.

So in that sense, yeah, it's played out like I hoped.

Q. Dave, having started your managerial career in L.A., big market, how challenging will it be, you think, for an Aaron Boone and Alex Cora, particularly in that division?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think the biggest challenge -- and I talked to both guys. The biggest challenge is for them to be who they are and trust that. I think that in a market, in a bigger market that I could speak to, you just have certain beliefs or thoughts or processes how you go day to day and how you kind of navigate a day or navigate a game or conversations with people, and you've got to be true to yourself because I think that sometimes it can get a little blurred with expectations, and that's a tough way to go when you're chasing results.

Q. What will you want when you're looking for a bullpen coach and just the vacancy that Bartow leaves?

DAVE ROBERTS: Did we announce that Juan Castro is gone too?

Q. No.

DAVE ROBERTS: Sorry, Joe. So we essentially have two spots to fill. How we're going to do it, Juan Castro is our seventh coach. He took a different position outside of the country. I guess we can assume what country. Castro. That and then the bullpen coach, so we have a couple of different positions to fill. So we're talking through that now.

Q. What vacancy does Bartow leave?

DAVE ROBERTS: Bartow, it's a big void. The ability to take information from the front office, and sequencing, game planning for the pitchers, specifically the guys in the pen, working with the catchers and with Rick Honeycutt, having a game plan each and every night, helping me kind of being able to deploy guys in the pen in the right part of the lineup and things like that. He's going to be missed.

Q. So Juan's taking a job in Cuba?

DAVE ROBERTS: Good guess. Good guess. A little bit more north. A little bit northwest. Mexico.

Q. You said Castro.

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, yeah, nice try, Andy.

Q. Fidel.

DAVE ROBERTS: That's my fault.

Q. Student of history, not geography.

DAVE ROBERTS: I'm a history major. I should have known.

Q. Alex Verdugo is a guy that throughout his career, his maturity and level has been questioned at times. How have you seen him grow this year once he got his major league stint?

DAVE ROBERTS: I've seen him grow tremendously. This guy, never questioned his talent, his work ethic. He's a young player. So there's some kind of judgment things that there's been some maybe lapses in judgment, but his character, work ethic has never been in question. But he's really grown.

Being around in September, seeing guys prepare each day, establishing relationships with the major league players, coaches, I enjoyed having him around. Sometimes in games I found him next to me more than I did his teammates. I enjoyed kind of keeping him engaged and our bench coach Bob Geren, but he's going to be a good player for a long time.

Q. Last year you guys had a significant increase in flyball rate and run totals as well. Was that something that you were able to essentially coach your players into? Was that a product of normal development? Or is baseball in a place where you're kind of where you are kind of game planning to create more power in your players?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think that's the -- that's probably the main point when you're talking about the pitching aspect and then the hitting aspect. So as far as our hitters understand information, and they read as much as we do. So when you're starting to understand that a ball on the ground is essentially an out. So they made adjustments in their mechanics, their approach to elevate the baseball that's going to turn into more flyballs, more homers, some swing and miss.

And on the other side, with certain guys that can elevate the baseball, spin rate characteristics, velocity, we try to promote pitching at the top of the zone. So you're going to get some more pop-ups and things like that against other teams.

So it's kind of the way the game's kind of evolved a little bit.

Q. Is there any kind of reluctance to tinker with guys' swings to fundamentally change how they may approach hitting? Or are you at the point where this has been proven to be a sufficiently coachable, adaptable tendency?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think it's you have to be open to changing, and I think that you can see the guys that don't adjust. They have a tougher time.

Speaking to the offensive side, as far as pulling the ball on the ground, with the information now, you have to adjust. On slug plays, on base plays. So you're seeing guys beat the shift by way of bunt or hitting the ball the other way, which the numbers do speak to. If you can do that on the ground, the averages are higher.

But still, elevating the baseball seems like the best way hitters can be productive.

Q. Dave, sorry to bring up the World Series again, but how long does it take to get over something like that, and how does it sort of feed the motivation for the next season?

DAVE ROBERTS: To get over it? I was over it, Jeff, just a second ago. Thanks.

Gosh, I don't know if you ever get over it. Especially you go to Game 7, and a lot of things could have been different, a pitch here, a pitch there, maybe change the outcome. But you still go through your mind and what you could have done possibly different to potentially influence it, but at the end of the day, it is what it is, and you learn from it.

You've got to get back up to the top of the mountain. It is good knowing that we have a lot of guys that have been part of some big games in the last few years, some very meaningful games, and there's a lot of value in that. So I'd argue that our guys are as hungry as anybody in all of baseball to be that close. We'll be right there in the mix again.

Q. What do you feel you learned from it?

DAVE ROBERTS: I'm going to get back to your question. This might be an easier question.

Q. Sorry, I couldn't hear you.

DAVE ROBERTS: No, I want to hear your question.

Q. How is Urias progressing?

DAVE ROBERTS: Julio is progressing well. I haven't got an update the past month, but he will be playing catch. He has been playing catch. Where he's at come Spring Training or when he's going to pitch as far as in a game, I can't speak to that right now.

Q. Let's do it some other time.

DAVE ROBERTS: Let's do it some other time, Andy.

Q. You mentioned talking to Boone and Cora. When you were interviewing for the Dodgers managerial job with a team that clearly had playoff ambitions, did you feel like you had to overcome any bias against first-time managers in order to be given that job? Are you surprised to see the number of first-time guys taking these teams?

DAVE ROBERTS: Am I surprised? Yes. But the guys that have been put in place, I think very highly of. I didn't put too much stock into my personal situation as far as opinions. It was more of it was going to happen quick and you're trying to connect with as many people within the organization as possible to get some type of momentum going into Spring Training. So that kind of was my path, then through Spring Training and here's the season.

So you don't have a whole lot of time to kind of take on other people's opinions. You're just really trying to get in tune with the players and the organization.

Q. Dave, are you surprised at how many young guys have found success as quick as they do? I know there's specialization now more than ever before, but guys at 14, 15, 16. Is that what we're sort of seeing now? There sure seems to be a lot of 21, 22-year-olds that are playing.

DAVE ROBERTS: I am surprised at that too, but you look at these players, and around the league there's countless players, 21 to 23, that are just so uber talented. It's fun to watch. I think that the game right now, the talent level is as high as I've ever seen it. There is a lot of coaching going on, and not to take anything away from coaches of other decades, but when you're having a 20, 21-year-old, 22-year-old playing in the big leagues and that veteran player is no longer on your roster, as a backup player, those kind of backfilled now by young players.

So the coaches are taking on roles that they love to teach and those type of roles, which they're meant to do their job. But the talent level is fun to watch. The game's in a great place.

Q. Is there a danger in looking at guys that are 26 and 27 and all of a sudden they're old and not necessarily -- there can be late bloomers, later bloomers. Is there a nervousness that you could actually miss on a guy just because it's taken them a little bit longer than some of these other guys?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think there's a little bit to that, but if you look at the teams that win every year, there's a balance. Those 27- to 30-year-old players -- and you look at our ball club, maybe even to 37. But you look at -- even the Astros, you look at the guys that were some of the glue guys that they had were those type players. So you mix those young Correas and those other guys, the Springers with some other guys, and we had that same mix.

A lot of good clubs have that, the Yankees, I mean, they're all kind of like that. I think those clubs aren't missing on those guys either.

Q. If Adrian [Gonzalez] is healthy and he is with you in Spring Training, would you put Bellinger in the outfield more or even permanent?

DAVE ROBERTS: The thing about Cody, which if you look at our roster, we have a lot of versatility. So Cody is right up there as far as versatility. And at his age, the ability to play anywhere in the outfield for the right player for the right reason, which makes sense for our ball club.

Obviously, Adrian under contract, proven performer, all star. We expect him to be healthy going into spring. So, yeah, if Adrian performs the way we would expect, then Cody certainly gives us that flexibility.

We've always been a team of depth, and it always sort of -- we always have to -- it seems like you always have to tap into it at some point in time. So right now on December 12th to talk about it, I think is a good thing for us.

Q. Has the organization told Cody, I guess, just to work on the outfield going into spring just so he's loose? Or is that just normally part of his process?

DAVE ROBERTS: I don't think that -- I haven't had that conversation with Cody. I think that's a part of his process, and he's a very intelligent young man. I'm sure he'll have his outfield glove on. When we get to Spring Training, we'll run him out there as well to see how things play out.

Q. Dave, there's a really talented group of arms in AA last year, Mitchell White, Alvarez. Have you had a chance to look at any of them? Any thoughts on if any of them you expect to see contributing next year?

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, well, obviously, at the top of that list is Walker Beuhler, and we mentioned him a little bit earlier. Mitchell White, abbreviated year last year with the random freak injury. But we saw him a little bit in spring last year, really big stuff.

Dennis Santana, another guy that has a big arm. Alvarez. So we've got some good things -- Ferguson, the lefty. So we've got some guys that could do some things. To what extent they're going to contribute with us, that remains to be seen for '18.

Q. If you go as deep as you did in the first season, does that change anything about Spring Training?

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah. I think that it's a shortened season, off-season. I think that we're going to manage the load a little bit. Actually, I was talking to a couple people in our front office and talking about certain players specifically about kind of backing off those guys and getting them ready essentially the last week of the season. So, yeah, just really being mindful of that.

Guys like Kenley, probably slow playing him a little bit, and also on the position player side.

Q. Do they have different report dates or something?

DAVE ROBERTS: They're going to have the same report dates as far as position versus pitchers, but once they get into camp, just kind of maybe put them on the backfield and take care of their arms and the position players, just kind of monitor their at bats, keep them off their legs a little bit more.

Q. Dave, next year is going to be Kenta's third year. I think he learned a lot this year. What do you expect from him next year?

DAVE ROBERTS: We expect him to be back in the rotation. And I think that the thing for Kenta is I think that he really built confidence in pitching out of the pen, and I think that that right there, I think will help him as a starter in the sense of abbreviating his preparation for a start.

In talking to Rick Honeycutt, when starters go to the pen and they have to get ready quicker, it helps them if they go back to that starter role that it doesn't take this long, long process to get ready and understand you can still go out there and perform. So I think that, with guys like -- and even Clayton, you know, to see what he did out of the pen and see how quick you can get loose and still be really effective, I think that there's something to be said for that.

But speaking specifically to Kenta, yeah, I think he's going to go back to being a starter for us.

Q. Do you see Maeda filling a role like [Archie] Bradley in Arizona? Not as a setup guy, but as an effective player out of the bullpen? Do you see something like that out of him?

DAVE ROBERTS: That's how we used him in the postseason. Bradley was essentially a one-inning guy for the most part. There were a handful of multi-inning stints for him. But with Kenta, I think for us right now, as the season starts, you we see the value for him to log more innings.