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Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia

December 13, 2017

Q. Do you feel more popular this year than ever before for any reason?MIKE SCIOSCIA: No. Is that it? Q. What are your feelings about the general functionality of a six-man rotation in modern Major League Baseball?MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's in talking in more narrow terms, like our situation,

Q. Do you feel more popular this year than ever before for any reason?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: No. Is that it?

Q. What are your feelings about the general functionality of a six-man rotation in modern Major League Baseball?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's in talking in more narrow terms, like our situation, it is certainly something to consider. As far as where Major League Baseball's going with starting pitching, if it's more functional to have a six-man, I think it totally depends on the makeup know of your team and your rotation. Some guys have proven that they're not as functional with too much rest in Major League Baseball and some guys thrive on the extra day.

So I think that there's a lot of variables still to say does it make sense or doesn't make sense, I think in individual cases with teams it's going to make more sense than other teams. So in the broader sense where Major League Baseball's going from a six-man rotation from where they went four to five 50 years ago, I don't know if we're at that point or not.

Q. As far as your own roster, the suitability for that, are you still assessing it or what do you think?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: It's certainly something to consider, yes.

Q. Could you see yourself on opening day unveiling a six-man rotation?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't think we made any decision yet, but there's a lot of things being considered.

Q. Have you talked to any of other starters about this concept?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Not so much as to -- I think if we get close and we think it's something that's going to help us, I think we will totally introduce it to everybody, so we can keep their understanding how that whole mechanism in your rotation can work. But at this point we're internally trying to assess it and see just see where we're going to be.

Q. How much of a challenge for you do you think it will be to balance both of Ohtani's endeavors next season?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't think it's going to be a challenge, I think it will be an opportunity to use some creativity. I don't think that it's going to be a situation where you have to do this or you have to do that. In baseball you much rather have parts you're trying to use than to try to find parts to use. So I think with Shohei there's going to be a balance there of pitching and hitting, and we'll assess it and go into Spring Training and have an idea and make sure he's ready in Spring Training with enough at-bats, and certainly pitch counts will be where it needs to be and hopefully hit the season, hit the ground running.

Q. Are you handling Spring Training any differently at the start because of the elbow injury?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No, I think that's -- I think that's pat him and our understanding is there is no restrictions at all going into Spring Training and he'll get down there in plenty of time and be ready to go.

I like your tie, man you out-tied me. I thought I had the tie, I would win the tie game but I don't know that one's pretty good.

Q. Do you expect him a normal like six turns through in Spring Training?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I would think that Spring Training is a little bit, a little tighter this year because of report dates. But I think that in most of the projections we have and with split squads and the availability to pitch in the minor leagues, to be ready, that you're looking at, you would be looking at definitely six starts. I don't think we would go any shorter than that.

Q. Do you feel confident that he can be productive enough to hit all year or is going to be a sort of a month to month evaluation with his offense?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think that any player is when they're struggling they might lose a little bit of time, when they're doing well they might get more time so how that flow's going to go we don't have a crystal ball but we definitely have the confidence that this guy can swing the bat, that he can impact you on the offensive side and also be a frontline starter. So there's a lot of things to consider.

Q. Last week of this season you said that offensive improvements were definitely needed for your club as it went to 2018. Obviously Ohtani has potential at the plate, but do you feel like further offensive improvements are still in need?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes. I think one of them is signing Justin Upton. You saw Justin Upton hit what 30 how many home runs last year he only had five or six for us.

Q. I'm not sure, he hit a lot though?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: He hit a lot but I'm saying for us. So you're going from left fielder who hit six for us to hopefully a left fielder who is going to hit 36 for us this year. So some of it is I think some of it is starting to fill that basket, but do I do see more and I think we'll get there.

Q. Do you think that having a deeper lineup could give you the opportunity to give Pujols maybe a few more days off, and if you do that, he could be more productive when he does play?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: With any player you're going to balance days off with not breaking their rhythm if they're going well. I don't think -- I certainly don't think there's anybody on our roster that was run into the ground last year. Guys when they needed days off, they got it. We had a lot of guys that played a lot of baseball, but I don't think it will be any different than any other player.

Q. How important do you think it is for Albert to improve his physical conditioning this winter?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, he's working on it. I think he will. I think a lot's been said about Albert and a lot's been said about the minimalization of driving in runs. But I can tell you that's an important part of our of what our team needs and Albert drove in a lot of them for us last year. So as far as like where he needs to be this year, sure, I think that he's going to get a full offseason of conditioning and as opposed to rehab, so you would expect that to lead to him coming into Spring Training with a little more strength than he maybe had before when he was rehabbing. How important it is to his production, he knocked in over 105 runs for us last year and if he comes in he's a little strong earlier because he's in better shape, you can look for the same production.

Q. What's your understanding of Ohtani's elbow situation?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Just no restrictions with Shohei. The only understanding we have is really just something that's behind him. There's no concern, and there's no restrictions. He'll be full go in Spring Training.

Q. Does the idea of a possible six-man rotation help with him in his transition do you think?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: It's something we're considering. I think, as we just said, I think that some rotations function better with pitchers pitching on normal rest, five days' rest which has become the norm. Or I should say four days' rest, pitching on the fifth day. Some guys certainly have a track record of being more effective when that happens. With Shohei, there's a lot of things we're going to consider about how many starts he's going to get and where he's going to fit in our rotation. We haven't made any determination but certainly something to consider.

Q. Billy has described the six-man idea as sort of moral responsibility he feels to keep pitchers healthy and if keeping them on a more elongated schedule will keep them healthy, then he feels like he has to do it. Where do you stand on that sort of issue?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think it's something we're considering. Billy has in our conversations hasn't said anything about something he has to do, that we have to do. It's something we're considering.

Q. Do you think it keeps pitchers healthier?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: There will be less workload for a pitcher. I don't think you ever put a pitcher out there at risk. There's a lot of pitchers that have handled 200 innings a year, 33 starts, and never looked back. They're fine with it. And there are some pitchers that have a problem getting to 170 innings. They might, it might be neutral as far as keeping some guys healthy, but make them less effective, it might be a positive in keeping some guys more effective or excuse me, more healthy or healthier and might make them more effective.

So I don't know if there's any macro that you're going to set up right now and say it's definitely going to be best out of a six-man rotation. It's something we're considering and there's a lot of things we're considering.

Q. How difficult would it be to go all or most of the year with a 13 pitchers and only 12 position players? If that's part of a six-man rotation?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: If we make that decision I think that Billy's already put in a lot attention, if that's the route to go, into what the makeup of your roster would be. And there's a lot of teams in our league that had three-man bench all year, which is what you would be talking about. So it can be done.

Q. Your team has suffered a lot of pitching injuries in recent seasons?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes and before, before then very few. For 17 years before then or 16 years before then, so.

Q. So should I take that to mean that you believe it's an aberration?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think that there are some things that have happened with our staff that could be cyclical. I can guarantee you that every year we look into it to see what's going on, and how we can improve and we have done this since day one, that I've been here, and the last two years there's no doubt that some of the things that happened were extraordinary in a rotation. We looked at this from about every angle you can, have some very, very bright people looking at it, and when there are some adjustments to be made, we have and when it's been worked out that it's just a cyclical thing that happens in pitching, there's not much you can do about it. But yeah, we have looked at it, no doubt.

Q. Has there been any consideration of using him the way you did sort of as a spot starter, (inaudible)?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, there's a lot of different ways that I think Shohei can be used and we certainly want to get him out there as many times as we can to have him pitch because he's a premium talent on the mound, and we're going to try to get him as many looks as we can in the batter's box because he can really hit. So we're going to consider a lot of different things.

Q. Could you share a couple of those better ideas you've had so far?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, there is a lot of things on paper that we're looking at but right now this could change in two weeks, could change the first month of the season. It could change at any time. The only definite is we're certainly committed to getting him a look as a two-way player, as a hitter and a pitcher. Now how many at-bats that translates to, how many starts that translates to, we don't have a crystal ball but we're going to work through it.

Q. Where do you see him batting in the lineup?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Let's get him out there and get everybody together and see where he fits in.

Q. How do you plan or what is his daily schedule for Spring Training camp?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: He's going to have a schedule much like a regular player, where we do defensive fundamentals in the morning, we'll do individual skill work and also we'll do team fundamentals before we hit. At the time that we have done our individual skill work, our team fundamentals, guys have thrown their bullpens, every pitcher will do his conditioning and be done for the day. Shohei's day will continue with batting practice and bunting and all the things you need to do in the batter's box, the baserunning component.

So he won't have any longer day than Michael Trout or Andrelton Simmons, because this is what a regular player does, for instance, but instead of taking ground balls at shortstop, Shohei's going to be working on fundamentals that a pitcher uses. So the timing won't be any more, it will be like a regular player but it will be, there will be a little more workload for him to get ready than anybody else that's in our rotation, obviously.

Q. Have you thought about him hitting on the days that he pitches?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: He's only done that one time I believe.

Q. No, about a dozen times.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: His last game in I think he did it, but very rarely has he hit on days that he's pitched.

Q. That was last year. Two years ago when he was hitting he did about 10 or 12 times?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Right, but it's --

Q. When he was healthy.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: But yeah, that's less than half a start. So I think that the thing about being an American League team if you commit to that, and you forfeit the DH from the beginning of the game, there are some certain strategic things that can come up and be -- and not work, but we're not going to rule it out.

Q. You're not going to rule it out?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Not going to rule it out. Not going to rule anything out. There's a lot to sift through.

Q. Given the amount of information available now do you think the modern day player understands the game better than players in previous generations or do they just use different language to talk about it?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think, like all of us, we understand like what we have been seeing now why it's happening and a lot of things have been quantified for us that weren't 20 years ago. I think that a Major League player has access to a lot more data than ever. So from the coaching component it's important for us to take the data, see how we can a play it, and to each player's game, to make them more proficient and a lot of the data is not really going to be functional to a player, wins above replacement, all the things that we're talking about that are kind of in the macro are not really going to affect the player.

But the amount of data he gets specifically on exit velocities if you're a hitter, spin rates if you're a pitcher, these are all applied that quantify things that a lot of even hitters were kind of trying to surmise as they were in the batter's box. Where do I hit the ball the hardest, what pitch should I look for. A lot of this is much easier for them to get that information and grasp it now. So it's all important.

Q. So your answer is for the most part yes, you think they do understand the game better?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: They understand why some things happen, yes. There's no doubt. They understand, like they understand not only do I hit the ball harder when the pitch is in this location but why they hit it harder. The swing analysis has again a long way in the last 20 years and now it's even taken some huge steps forward in the last two years.

So all this is making players better prepared, the information helps them to maintain a my level of play that is hopefully more consistent, so I guess the short answer is, yes and our job is to take the information and really translate it into a format that players can apply and one thing about being in the batters box, if anybody here's ever played baseball you understand the need to react and not the need to read. If you give players too much information that is filling their mind and they can't get in that zone they want to be in, that can be counterproductive so it has to be balanced.

Q. Ohtani is, he's very fast also, is that something that you can really utilize as a tool or do you want to kind of protect him a little bit in that sense?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No, I think that if he is going to play baseball, he's going to play baseball. Like any player, you want him to go out there and play as aggressively as they can. So if he's running the bases, just like the rest of our guys on the team, you want him to you know the bases aggressively and he does have very, very good speed. What situations come up where you might be able to utilize his speed, that remains to be seen, but if he's playing baseball and he's DHing and he's on the bases, he's a runner. He's not a pitcher, not a hitter, he's a runner. So we want to apply that.

Q. Other than talent, the ability obviously to hit and pitch at an elite level what do you think are the factors that have kept a two-way player from emerging before? Is it the wear and tear on the body, is it not enough hours in the day to polish those skills?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: As close as we got I think that Boch used Bumgarner I think one time to DH in a game, we haven't seen much of it. Back 50 years ago when there was no DH, pitchers hit on the day that they would hit. I think it is a difficult proposition to do two things at a Major League level as far as being a high-level pitcher and then flipping and being a high-level hitter, which you have to be because of Major League hitters on the team, there aren't many of them. There's only so many of them and most of these guys are really proficient. So you have to be better than those guys to warrant getting at-bats.

Why it hasn't happened as much, I have to think about the physical demands of what it takes to pitch a ballgame, and also most pitchers were on a four-man rotation, so there wasn't a lot of time in between, 50 years ago, for a guy to get into the lineup and play another position and just didn't happen.

So historically you have DH's that are really, really good hitters and most pitchers aren't going to hit better than your DH, so it probably hasn't come to the surface as much, but we'll see. I think with Shohei, what we're projecting him to do is going to be very unique and it could be something that's extraordinary. So we're going to take it one step at a time and we'll see.

Q. What do you think the obstacle of that has been convention you have a guy like Micah Owings with the Diamondbacks, terrific hitter, pitcher as well, but it doesn't sound like except for some pinch-hitting appearances here and there it was much for a push for him to get regular at-bats?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: It's tough to do when you're a pitcher. It's easier said than done. There's recovery time, there are times when you're not feeling good, plus to really gauge it, you are talking about as a pitcher, is a pitcher going to be able to pitch and get 600 plate appearances to really see if he has an impact. That's a tall order.

So I think just the functionality of, are you going to pitch and still be able to hit or are you going to be like the kid from Cincinnati playing the outfield and coming in and pitching a little bit. There's different, there's probably different balances you have to look at. So why it hasn't happened, I think that it's tough. Will Shohei be starting a trend? I don't know. We'll see. To be proficient in Major League level at pitching and hitting enough to where you're out there getting 400 plate appearances and starting 30 games, that's a tall order and I think Shohei knows it, we know it, and we're going to see how this thing blossoms.

Q. You're a fairly old-school manager, what finally got you around to the idea of trying it?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Define "old school".

Q. Older than 45.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, my age is older, but I don't think you ever stop growing in this game. I don't think you ever lose your creativity in baseball in this game and I think that this is an opportunity for all of us to get creative with a special two-way talent and that's what we'll look to do.

Q. There's talk already about Spring Training and you've been thinking about the starts and whatnot. Has there been any discussion about transitioning Shohei from the Japanese style Spring Training, which is much more intense but with days off and they use that, those days as recovery days. Is he going to have to slow him down a bit and then has there been a discussion of that?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Our pitchers, we have built-in days off for guys even though our schedule might have a day, you'll see our guys are go through very limited work out. I've never heard of a pitcher saying they don't get enough days off in Spring Training. These guys, it's a Life of Riley, it's nice. Do you know what Life of Riley is, are you that old or are you not old enough?

So that's not going to be an issue. There's certainly a there's definitely a benefit to a recovery day, our guys, we do it all the time and just try to pace guys up to where they have to be when the season opens and Shohei will be no different.

Q. So there will be a dialogue with him?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We're starting to get information from him, we have already talked about to whatever extent we could what his usual routine is to get ready in bullpens, get ready for a season, and we'll continue to get information and put together a program that is tailor made for him and that's what we do with every pitcher.

Q. How did you find out about the signing and what was your reaction?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Billy told me and I was excited.

Q. What kind of second baseman would you like to have?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: You talking about Shohei at second?

Q. No, moving on. You need a second baseman, I think.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, we're looking at depth in a number of areas. I think we have some guys that started to improve as second basemen, Kaleb Cowart made a lot of strides, but I think our overall team and our overall depth on the offensive side needs to be addressed, and if there's going to be somebody at second base that can be a little bit more of an offensive force, I know that Billy's going to consider it. But certainly not with breaking down what is a core strength of our club is our defense up the middle. We're terrific up there and I don't think that Billy wants to mess with that chemistry.

But that being said, there's a need for offense on our club, that's for sure.

Q. Speaking of core strength, do you think Kole Calhoun was totally healthy last season and what are you expecting from him?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think if you looked at some numbers, it wasn't as down as you think. I'm talking about internal numbers. But he definitely came back and said he felt great. He was running well. So all the markers were to say he was over that surgery he had in the off-season a couple years ago. But I don't think his season was that out of balance to question was he a hundred percent or was he healthy. Every player's going to be a little nicked up but I think Kole did a lot more for us and when you look at some of his internal numbers, they're really close to what you would anticipate.

Q. Is there anything that Martin Maldonado has been told to do to prepare for another 120 games next year as opposed to the first time last year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think can you train to be an astronaut all you want, until you get to outer space you don't know what it's like. He's done it now. I think he understands what he needs to do and what he needs to do to be ready for his season and I think he trained well and I think he held up well. He played a lot. There's no doubt. When you play that much, especially on the offensive side you're going to feel it a little bit because your arm's going to get tired, we have all been there. I thought he held up remarkably well and in the things he needed to do behind the plate he did on a nightly basis.

Q. Who do you envision batting leadoff next year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Let's wait until we get all our pieces together and then we can kind of juggle them and see how they're going to fit. As a team I think it's pretty easy to see where some of our shortcomings was, our on-base percentage wasn't what it should be, our slugging percentage, our walk rate was fine but our batting average was low as a team which affected some of those other numbers. So if you look at our general OPS and what we're looking for, we're looking, not as much OPS but just on base from a guy who leads off, and then we can move it down and get to the middle of our guys, with guy on base hopefully and see how it goes. But who that guy's going to be right now it's a little early to see.

Q. How concerned are you about the trying to replace what Yusmeiro Petit did last year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Y was incredible for us. I think that there's other guys who are going to get an opportunity to do some of the things that he did. It's definitely one void that we feel very comfortable with we can fill but it's not, certainly not taking for granted what he did because he was remarkable for us last year.

Q. Where do you see Jim Johnson fitting into your bullpen?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think that Jim's a guy that has a lot of experience, his arm is still really good, I think there's some things from analytical basis that we feel we can do to help him. And all the other markers in his game are good, his velocity is good, he spins the ball very well, so where he fits in, again, let's see what the whole unit looks like and then we can take one step at a time.

Q. What you do mean by analytical things you can help him with?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's some things like just on his some of his pitch usage, some of his spin rates on different grips, things that maybe a pitcher doesn't sense they're not as proficient as maybe they feel they are. Or some things they feel is not working that really does lineup to work much better. This is kind of the analysis I think that's helped a lot of guys on our staff.

Q. What was your relationship with Josh Paul like?


Q. What do you think makes him a good bench coach?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't know if I can say it exactly the way I feel it, but we have like a big brother-little brother relationship. I shake my head at him sometimes and I think he gets pleasure in kind of poking me a little bit here or there. One thing about JP is he's got a tremendous baseball intellect. He's very bright, he's hungry to learn, and I think that his personality blends in just with our group of guys and what's important in setting environment. So we're excited to have him.

Q. Is this like coming next season going to be more like an, I don't know, an experiment season, like testing season?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I sure hope it's not an experiment. I don't want, I don't know if we want to be experimenting with a championship run. But I think in regards to having a unique player like Shohei, there are going to be some things that we're going to look at that maybe haven't been done in baseball here in the United States, but it's things that he's done in Japan, so therefore our comfort level that's going to be able to come and compete is very high. I don't look at it as an experiment. I think like any player can you call any season an experiment where you're trying to shuffle a lineup or you are looking at some things, but we have a real good idea that Shohei's going to be able to do the things that we're going to ask him to do. Hopefully it's going to be very, very successful season for us and lead us to a championship and he's going to be part of that for sure.