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Winter Meetings interview with John Gibbons

Q. It's had to have been a fun offseason, a couple of significant adds to this team?

            JOHN GIBBONS: It's been big. Of course Russell Martin came on first. He's a guy that everybody in the organization wanted to be able to get. That was big to set the tone. And of course Donaldson and Saunders, who knows where it goes from here. It's been a big offseason for us at this point.


            Q. When you look at your lineup and how you configure it, do you see Martin getting two?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, Russell would probably be the ideal 2 spot for us. One thing about him is he's a complete player, a real good behind the plate. And can really handle the bat. Might be an ideal spot. We haven't figured that out yet. But we have time. But you look at our lineup, it's pretty strong. Donaldson, another guy alluded to Russell, we didn't know if we had a shot at him. That kind of happened real fast. I'm not sure we really pursued him from the get‑go, and everything started developing. But chance to acquire another All‑Star player.


            Q. When you look at the potential OBP you have, two through five, however you configure it with Martin, No. 6 and beyond, those guys should be able to get a lot of opportunities. Based on what you have now, who do you like behind that group to make sure you capitalize on potential opportunities you're going to have?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you know, depending on what happens with Navarro, Dioner can really hit, you know, Saunders. We're not sure how it's going to be play out at second base. We figure there's going to be a lot of opportunities. If guys like Eddie and those guys leave guys on base, they'll drive them in themselves.

            We had a strong offensive lineup last year, it's really strong this year. It's our strength. But we still need to upgrade and get stronger in the bullpen, because that's a key part of any team. And Alex is working on that right now. We'll see.

            Offensively we're pretty good.


            Q. Do you think you have enough in the bottom third of that order to keep things going?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, yeah. I don't see why not. If you look at it, we think our top of the lineup is as good as anybody's. So they're going to do a lot of damage, those guys alone. 1 through 9 is rarely all great players. They have to hold their own and keep the lineup moving a little bit.


            Q. Would you like to keep Navarro, to give your more options?

            JOHN GIBBONS: I love Dioner, and picking up Russell, that's of course ‑‑ that makes Dioner the odd man out as far as catching goes. But he did a great job for us. There's definitely a place for us. He can flat out hit. I know there are teams that want him. I'm not sure where he'll end up. If he's here I'd love to have him.


            Q. When you were in Arizona did you see Dalton Pompey and talk to him out there and how did he look?

            JOHN GIBBONS: The day we got out there he got injured in the first game, did something to his ankle. He didn't play the remainder of the week he was there.


            Q. Did you talk to him?

            JOHN GIBBONS: No, I didn't get a chance to talk to him. He's going to come in and compete for the job. He showed us enough last year. If he needs more time, he needs more time. But we all think he may be the guy. We'll see. And of course then you have Pillar, those guys that come in and also compete. And we'll see where it all ends up.


            Q. Are you intrigued a little by (inaudible) and the fact he can run and do different things?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, you need that on your team. Ned Yost was on here before, but Kansas City, late in the game, Dyson, late in the season, they can steal a base, and scoring position, and won a lot of games this year. You can have a guy that comes off the bench late, he can serve a valuable role for you, and maybe he's the guy.


            Q. You guys obviously still have some moves to make and it seems like the bullpen is an area of focus. Would you prefer to keep Cecil and Loup kind of in their current roles and find a closer from outside the organization?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I mean ideally you get that closer that's done it before. He's been really good. Robertson is a guy out there right now that's done that. But whether you can sign a guy like that, who knows. I think Cecil could do it. I think he had four or five of them last year. But still he's untested in that. He's pretty valuable coming in the 7th or eighth inning, too, but, what we're able to acquire. There's no question we need to strengthen the bullpen, that's for sure.


            Q. If you keep Navarro, does Martin ‑‑ are you going to really give Martin an opportunity in Spring Training?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Well, that's still up in the air, too. Alex talked to him early on and he said he would like to try to catch him. Still that's not easy to do. So we'll see. If Dioner is here, he could spell Russell little bit. Plus DH Dioner. And play some first, and Smoak that will be competing for a job. If he's out there, then Eddie could had. We have some options, but there's still ‑‑ even through the moves we have now, there's still a lot of things up in the air.


            Q. Coming out of Spring Training, did Dickey have a big say on Tollie being there. Did he express that to you?

            JOHN GIBBONS: No, if you remember, we went down to the final week of Spring Training, we went to the minor leagues, and split the game, Dickey told us either way he could care less. He didn't want to get involved in that. There was a clear‑cut difference that toll I was comfortable with him. And he got the nod on that, because he had done it before. And he was a little bit better at it. It's not an easy thing to do. Russell has got the kind of hands he could probably do it. But it would be a quick learning process.


            Q. Catchers get beat up back there at the best of times. Would it be preferable to not have your No. 1 catcher have to worry about dealing with the knuckle ball as well as all the other stuff?

            JOHN GIBBONS: I don't know, it might be preferable. I think ‑‑ I'm not sure, but you look at can a guy do it or not, is he good at it. And that's he's doing pretty good for us. You saw that in Dickey's first start when he came over to us, it was kind of rough. You have to make sure he has a guy he can throw to.


            Q. How concerned are you about maybe having to replace Bucky?

            JOHN GIBBONS: We'd like to have him back. I don't think the door is closed on that. He had a big year for us last year. And one of the most sought after guys. Especially with guys like Cruz coming off the board. If he doesn't come become we'll miss him. He was good defensively. That's the way the game works. He's out there, as he should, shopping around. You only have so many chances to become a free agent in your career. He's doing what's best for him. It would be a loss, but I think picking up Saunders, a change of scenery will really help him out. We're looking forward to having him, too.


            Q. Would you recommend to Alex to bring in one or two short‑term starting pitchers, just to give you some insurance at Spring Training, as some of the young guys take a step back or something?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Well, every team battles depth problems. That's one area when we traded Happ the other day, that eliminates one more. So always in the back of your mind do we have enough depth. He's trying to bring up guys, Hendriks, that he could be a guy like that. Fallback guys that could possibly do that job, Estrada is one, Redmond is another guy. You can never have enough. We were pretty lucky with the numbers we needed last year, our starters held up pretty good. But that's kind of a rare year. I know he's going to try to bring in some guys, but the quality guys that can come in.


            Q. If you stretch Sanchez out as a starter at Spring Training, could you late in camp bring him back and put him in the pen again?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, you could do that. And like I said, before, everybody is looking forward to seeing what he can do as a starter. We think he can be a real good one. Depending on how the bullpen shapes up, it could come down where we're a better team in the bullpen, if we have to do that, we'll do that. And time is still on his side to become a good starter, anyway.


            Q. In terms of relievers you have internally, guys who aren't Estrada, Redmond, Loup, Cecil, who are you curious to see, guys that might have an opportunity to make an impact next year?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Well, if you think about it, the only guys you know going in, you have Redmond, Loup, Cecil, and those guys, Estrada. It's really kind of up in the air. Hopefully they bring in a couple of new guys, and hopefully they're proven Major League pitchers. Other than that it's really a crap shoot.


            Q. Do you have expectations for Delabar to come back next year?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, he's still on the radar. We figure the offseason he gets rested up and comes back. He's in the plans, if they comes off the bench.


            Q. As far as the rotation goes, do you think that last year can be the jumping off point for Hutch and Stroman, are you expecting improvement from them in the coming season?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, I think the sky is the limit with both those guys. Hutch coming off the Tommy John. I thought he had a great year. He had extra stretch in the middle of the season he struggled, but the way he finished and the way he started, he's a young kid, I think he's only going to get better.

            And Stro, Stro had really an incredible year. The he really dominated some pretty good teams. Which isn't easy to do for a rookie. Yeah, we think those guys are going to get better. I think just being in the Big Leagues, more experience, will have better results. We feel good about them. The big question now, is Sanchez a guy that stays in the rotation or ends up in the pen. We've got to see how the pen develops.


            Q. Given the changes that were made with Donaldson and Martin, this clubhouse will have a very different personality. The group doesn't reach its goals for a couple of seasons like you did, what kind of benefits can having a change of personnel in the clubhouse have on the group?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I don't know. We don't know those guys as teammates, those kind of things. Everything we've heard they're both gamers. They're great competitors. That will definitely help us.

            I don't think the clubhouse was what cost us the last couple of years, we just didn't play well enough. But you get some guys that have been proven winners, we talked before, this group, here, very few guys on the team, two or three of them have even been to the postseason of the you add a couple more guys, that can only help you. So we'll see. Anytime you can sign a couple of All‑Star caliber players, you've got to do it.


            Q. Do you believe in the value of playoff appearances contributing to an individual's experience and what he can bring to the team? What are some of the attributes with Martin and Donaldson will bring?

            JOHN GIBBONS: I think what happens when guys have been through it before, when the going gets tough, they've been there, they know how to act, they know how to react. And how to respond. Those kind of things. So we had a number of young guys on the team that had never been through it, really trying to make a name in the Big Leagues, period.

            Anytime you bring in ‑‑ the more winners you can bring in the better you're going to be.


            Q. A little bit of a crap shoot getting the right mix of players, looking at the talent you guys had, there was plenty of it, compare it to Baltimore or Kansas City. Those teams, wasn't that they had more talent, it seemed the right mix of talent?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Well, those are both good teams. And they had their strengths. They both were strong on the pitching side and both really good defensive teams. But I can speak from experience with the Kansas City team, they were over there when they brought a lot of young kids, there was something different about those guys, great competitors. All that was on their mind was winning. I think that went a long way for those guys. But you can't do that unless you have the talent to do it. You look at the pitching staff, especially in the bullpen. But it makes things easier. I definitely think it helps, if you've got a tight anytime group in that clubhouse.


            Q. You've got a few younger players that you're counting on, guys like Sanchez and Pompey and even Norris to a certain extent. How important was that for them to get their feet wet and for you as a manager to see how they perform on the big stage?

            JOHN GIBBONS: I think guys are all trying to make the Big Leagues. That's the No. 1 goal. And I think the sooner you get them there, so they experience that, I think that's the biggest thing. Get that out of the way. Now those guys can go home and say I've been here. It's magnified. There's more pressure. It's still the same game of baseball. When they come back up, the next time, it's like I've done this before. It's not the shock the first go around. That always helps. Pompey, I think it will do wonders for him. He played the last of the season for us every day. You could see he had the talent, but until he got out and could show that. I think he had to gain a lot of confidence.


            Q. He was pretty much aware of the comments that you made not that long ago when you said if the season began today you would be my center fielder. Do you want to discourage him from thinking that keys are being handed to him, he still has to work his tail off?

            JOHN GIBBONS: It's not going to be handed to him. He's got to compete and have a good Spring Training. But I think he was big ‑‑ the other question, we had no idea what he was going to do. But you don't know what he's going to do in the Big Leagues. This way we got to see it. It wasn't like he was facing ‑‑ he was facing, as far as the pitching goes, the cream of the crop of the Big Leagues and did a nice job with it. That really kind of opened it up to everybody, maybe this guy is our guy quicker than expected. But he's got to take the approach and show up at Spring Training, saying I've got to win this job.


            Q. How much is Kevin in the mix? We awesome good moments and maybe not some good moments. He's shown defensively he's a player. Where do you see him fitting?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Kev could be on the team, too. He's got a shot. Kev's always, always been really good in the minor leagues. He's been in the Big Leagues, he's played really sporadically, and that's tough to do for a young guy. His final go around in September, he was getting better and better. He's a guy that we think through experience and more time on the field he's going to be the player he was in the minor leagues.

            Yeah, there's definitely a spot for him, too. We feel good about what we have out there. If Melky doesn't come back, we have to fill in some others, we have some guys, that they may not do what he did last year, the first couple of years, but they have enough talent to piece it altogether and still help us out.


            Q. You got to see Norris and Pompey in September, you didn't get to see Devon Travis and he's a guy who's been in the minor leagues, hasn't been in the Big Leagues yet. What do you expect from him?

            JOHN GIBBONS: We'll see what he is. I talked to Brad Ausmus and Jim Leyland, and they said this kid can really hit. He's got a chance to be a real good hitter. So, yeah, we'll be hearing from those guys. Put a lot of stock in it.

            But he's a young kid and he's got to ‑‑ may not be ready, either, we're hoping in the near future he's the second baseman, the guy to go to. He's got to come to camp, and if he lights it up, who knows. If not, that's okay, too. Time is still on his side.


            Q. What about Kawasaki, are you planning to have him back?

            JOHN GIBBONS: I'm not sure where that's going to go. We love him. He's done a nice job for us these last couple of years. Talking to our bench coach, he went to the team that went to the All‑Star Team, Kawasaki was the sideline reporter (laughter), interviewing guys. Who knows, if not as a player, he might come back in your guys' job. We'd love to have him. Who knows what's going to happen.


            Q. At the beginning of this offseason second base seemed to be a strong emphasis, at least for us in the media. With the additions you've made with Donaldson and Martin, does that make second base less of a priority for you guys to find another big piece to put into that mix?

            JOHN GIBBONS: I'm not so sure that piece is really out there. It really fits us. But it's really no different than going into ‑‑ last year you look at our offense, we were going to go with Ryan at second base, and just hope he gave us something offensively. And then as the season went on we thought we need more offense in that spot. So we ended up setting him down.

            Again, this year, another very good offense, probably stronger, we'll see where that goes. It's a constant debate. If you just get great defense, can you cover yourself offensively. Yeah, you hope so and you'd like to be able to say yes, but then you do need some kind of offense.

            Izturis coming back from an injury, who knows what he's going to be able to do, what kind of mobility he's going to have. We could run up to one of the guys ‑‑ we could bring somebody in, but I'm not so sure that guy is out there. That is still up in the air which is the best way to go, strictly defense or get a guy that gives you a little bit of both.


            Q. Do you think how much you use Reyes because of the beating his body took, especially at home?

            JOHN GIBBONS: It might make some sense to give him a little more time off. Not a lot. We need him out there and he loves to play. But I think you'll see a couple of extra days here or there, might do him good. He might agree to all that. But a six‑month season would probably do him some good.


            Q. Janssen and Alex, it's talked about under the right circumstances, late January, if the price is right, there's a chance that he could come back. But he's still a little upset about the way his last two months played out. Is there anything you could have done to change that or is it just the food poisoning and the result of that? Is there anything you would have done differently?

            JOHN GIBBONS: No. Looking back, we brought Sanchez up, we kind of laid out a plan, I told him, This is how we're going to do it. And Sanchez is pitching really, really good. Casey struggled after the All‑Star break, with the food poisoning or whatever it was, he struggled. And the name of the game is getting results.

            I know he and Alex talked about the contract during the season a little bit, too, they couldn't come together on anything, apparently.

            But I have no hard feelings for the guy. I hope it's likewise. He had a nice career, really good career. He's very reliable. Who knows, come January or ‑‑ I don't know when, maybe he could be back. But at least I thought I explained how we were going to use Sanchez. If he had been so‑so, it might have been a little different. Casey had his struggles in the second half of the season, as well. We're basically trying to win a game.


            Q. What have you heard about the new surface that you guys are getting? Did you have any feedback to the team about the old rug?

            JOHN GIBBONS: You know, that's been brought up a lot about the turf there. To be honest with you, maybe I don't hear it. I never really hear much complaining out of the players. I do know turf beats up your body, the give on it, the cushion or whatever it is. These guys don't bitch and moan about the playing surface.

            This new stuff, I don't know a lot about it, other than it's supposed to be better. But really, there's no excuse. So you live with it. If you need an extra day or two off, maybe you take that. I don't think it's really been an issue.


            Q. You now have a fourth hitting coach in as many years, for veteran guys it doesn't make a huge deal, but for some of the younger players, that have so many different voices kind of instilling their philosophy at the plate. Is there any concern that the guys are going to get messed up with all the different voices they've heard?

            JOHN GIBBONS: No, I don't think so. But the group we have now, the veterans, they'll know what to do. Probably, really, Ryan is the only guy that's going to affect.


            Q. Pillar, maybe?

            JOHN GIBBONS: Pillar a little bit, maybe.

            No, I don't think that's a big deal. It's not ideal, you don't want to do that all the time. I don't think that will be a factor.


            Q. What about the bullpen coaching spot?

            JOHN GIBBONS: We'll know in the next week. We've got a pretty good idea who it's going to be. Nothing has been announced yet.


            Q. (INAUDIBLE)?

            JOHN GIBBONS: He can go get them in that outfield. He can steal a base. He's a good baserunner, yeah. Big center fielder out there in the Comerica Park, you'd be glad you have him.


            Q. Started with the lineup, but thinking back to that, would you ideally like to have someone like Saunders or Smoak or some left‑hand swinger break his way into that group of right‑handed hitters?

            JOHN GIBBONS: You know, I mean, if you look at the guys we have, Eddie and Bautista and Donaldson, it's not ideal, you'd like to break some things up, like we did last year. I think it made us a little stronger.

            What it does, it forces the hand on the other side if you've got a good left‑handed hitter, as far as using the bullpen. But we're going to run our best lineup out there from the top, stretch it out as far as we can. And if it's all right‑handed, so be it. Like I say, it's not what you'd call a balanced line, but it's a dangerous lineup, regardless.