Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, you know, there's a lot of things that Jerry is working on, and I think the important thing about this time of year is really not only who you're targeting but the contingencies. Those guys have put a lot of time in and a lot of effort into getting us ready to go whatever direction negotiations take you, whatever direction these Winter Meetings take you. We're very, very comfortable and confident in the team that we're going to have. I think there are already some things that were vastly improved on from where we were in September. We'll see where this leads.
Q. Any concerns from a rotation standpoint, numbers and maybe some of the quality, as we get through right now?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, we have right now a couple good guys to build around when you talk about Jared and you talk about C.J. Obviously there's some young guys coming up, guys like Garrett that are obviously going to have opportunities, Jerome Williams. But when you talk about the Greinkes, you talk about a lot of the other pitchers that are still out there right now with some question marks as to are they going to be part of your team or not, you know, there are things you have to prepare for.
So yeah, starting rotation is obviously the heartbeat of your club, and I know that Jerry is putting a lot of time and effort into it. And I think as we're waiting for that to hopefully develop and get a little more get solidified, there have been some great additions that we're very, very excited about.
Q. What dialogue, if any, have you had with Zack over the winter or maybe in the last week or two?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: The dialogue is really going to be between Jerry and his agent. I think Zack was very comfortable here at the end of last year, pitched very, very good baseball for us. Free agency is complicated. Right now we're at a stage where I don't know if there's as much clarity as there are in some other areas that are going on, but he's certainly a guy that I know that they're talking to.
Q. So have you talked to him at all?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I talked to Zack at the end of the season.
Q. (Inaudible). Would that still be a little bit of a disappointment for you?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't know if you ever are going to say, well, this is disappointing and that's disappointing. You want to see what direction negotiations take your team and what direction Winter Meetings take your team. I think we're going to have a strong rotation with or without Zack. Naturally we'd like Zack to be part of it because we saw where he was and what he did for us last year, but if it plays out that way, then obviously that's important. If it doesn't go that way, I think there are some names that Jerry is certainly there's some names that he's in negotiations with that hopefully are going to make our rotation where it needs to be.
Q. How do you feel about the bullpen right now?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's terrific. I think that when you look at a guy like Ryan Madson and you look at adding him to what Frieri did and Jeff's development, and you look at Downs, there are so many situations where we didn't hold leads the way we needed to last season. And I think going into this year, if everyone hits the ground running as far as our bullpen, we're going to hold leads at a much better rate, and that's going to definitely influence where we finish our standings.
Q. If he's healthy, is (inaudible) the closer?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, there's no doubt that he wants to be and has the potential to be. But I don't think we have to make that determination right now. I think that where Ryan is is certainly one factor. Where Ernie is, if you look at Scott Downs who had saves last year, where Kevin Jepsen is, our bullpen is much deeper right now, and that's encouraging.
It's always easier when that one guy emerges and can be the closer. If that is what materializes, great; if it doesn't, then we're going to hold leads in different ways and have the good arms to do it.
Q. I know you're focused on your club but there hasn't been a great amount of activity in your division. Does some curiosity take over there?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think you said it right the first time. Our focus is our club. We're in a tough division. I think the people that really have underestimated the AL West over the years, and we've encountered that time in and time out to tell you how tough our division is, it certainly manifested last year. I think if you look at the tough road it is to get through our division, you have to be strong and be a good club, and we weren't quite we didn't play at quite the level we needed to. So what's important to us is playing to our level, not what some teams are doing or not doing in our division. When it's all said and done, the AL West is going to be tough.
Q. What kind of pitchers are Haren and (inaudible)?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think Danny is one of the best competitors I've ever seen on the mound, although you might -- a scout might evaluate him in the stands and see his stuff isn't quite as crisp. And it was three or four years ago, it's still good and he knows how to pitch.
I think his ability to understand what he needs to do, his ability to get back in the counts, his ability to put hitters away is still there. It might not be quite as brilliant as it was maybe three years ago, but he can still pitch and pitch at a high level. You're not going to find anybody that competes better than Dan Haren on the mound.
Q. Was any of that crispness coming back last year after he got over the back thing?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: His command definitely improved, and I think that he's understood that maybe he's not quite -- where one number the last couple years was 90, 91 with him, now it's maybe 88, 89, it's not a huge dropoff. But his ability to command the ball improved, and as you saw that his production was much better.
Q. You mentioned the AL West with the Rangers and the Mariners. How important is it for teams to have resources to spend in free agency because if you take a step back all of a sudden the Rangers or Mariners are leaping ahead of you financially?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think to be honest with you, the way you stay competitive is going to be to grow your own, and I think the resources that are applied to signing free agents, the resources that are applied to growing your own talent in the Minor Leagues is critical because we have lost picks in the past with signing free agents to fill voids, and it works in a negative spiral.
The resources, not just applied to free agency, that might be a quick fix, but in the long run it might set you back a bit. We've always been very aggressive in giving us great teams, and at times you're going to pay a little price for that when you do miss that draft pick here and there in the Minor Leagues. So the resources in my opinion don't show up in the free agent market as much as it does to be able to sign that talent and sign more of that talent and have that talent supported through your Minor Leagues to make an easy decision to bring a guy up that's productive, that's a minimum salary player as opposed to somebody that's going to take 10 times that much but do the same role.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the stigma that prospects have coming out of Jersey, Pennsylvania, and what Mike Trout did to kind of help those guys?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think it's pretty simple, and in talking to scouts, East Coast kids are definitely -- you have to project them more. West Coast kids are going to reach their ceiling quicker. Some of the kids reach their ceiling at 18 on the West Coast because they're playing year round. East Coast, when I grew up in the '70s, you went from baseball right to football, and you went to basketball, and you just dropped that and went to another one and played a limited amount. So to project East Coast kids is probably more of a task. I don't think anyone had any trouble projecting Mike Trout. I think if you looked at any scout, he was playing at a high level from an early age. I don't think there's a stigma. You look at some East Coast kids that are in the Hall of Fame, a guy like Mike Schmidt. This guy was an all around athlete that I don't think was too much trouble to project what he was going to do.
Once you sign and you're in the Minor Leagues, it doesn't matter where you came from, it's just a matter of where you're going and where you're improving. I think a good player development system has that element of patience for kids that maybe aren't quite as polished because they've only played maybe 30 games a year or 35 games a year growing up, as opposed to 130 games, which a lot of kids in warmer climates are. It just takes a little more projection. I don't think the stigma is there. There's certainly kids who are more polished in California, Texas and Florida, and that's to be expected.
Q. How will the loss of Torre Hunter impact your team on and off the field?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's no doubt it impacts our club. I think when you lose a presence in the clubhouse -- I think we have plenty of guys in the clubhouse that are a presence, and they'll absorb that. I think what we have to carve out is that No. 2 spot that was that Torre just fit like a glove. He took that role and he just ran with it and got back to his roots of being a young player coming up and getting into a situational game and played at a high level for us. That's what we have to, I think, be able to replicate, and hopefully we will.
Q. What are you thinking for the 2 hole?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's a lot of guys we can revisit, but I think if you look at where Eric was and where Howie was as they moved on in the season and got more comfortable, there's certainly going to be some spots for that. Where we end up at the end of these meetings and going into Spring Training will have a lot to do with who's going to hit in the No. 2 spot.
Q. Do you still have Trout leading off next year?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's definitely things that we've talked about. If you look at Mike Trout and where he can hit, he can hit anywhere from 1 to 4 in your lineup. Where you're going to get the most production from Mike, he fell right into lead off hole and was just natural, but you certainly want to set the table for Mike, and I think as a lead off hitter, there's certainly an argument to saying how much are your 8 and 9 guys getting on for Mike to be able to justify putting him in that spot. He might be suited to hit second in your lineup if you had the right combination.
I think there's a lot of lineups that you can roll around right now. The one I think I think the one thing with Mike that was incredible was really the number of RBIs he had or really maybe not getting as many opportunities as some guys, and that's something you would definitely explore when you're putting lineups together.
Q. What do you think Bourjos can do offensively?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, I think Peter had a good 2011 for us. If you look at how he did particularly in the second half where his on base percentage improved, I think you saw some power evolve. Pete's obviously a presence in the outfield, but he still needs to bring us some offense, which he's definitely capable of doing.
Q. There's some people that may not have seen a lot of Bourjos that go, hey, you have somebody that's a better center fielder than Mike Trout?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: On the defensive side, yeah. I think Mike has the tools to play an incredible level of center field, and with experience I think you'll see Mike improve on some things as a center fielder. Not that he was really deficient, but you're going to see some routes that are going to be cleaner. It just happens with experience. Peter had a little more time to play in the Minor Leagues and work on some things and is probably a little more polished in center field right now than Mike. And I think that says more about Peter's ability than it does to say any deficiency that Mike has, because Mike Trout is a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. But Peter plays to a special level.
Q. How disappointed were you that Mike did not win?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, disappointment, but the guys would have gold gloves throughout every position that are certainly deserving. Mike will -- he's going to get his fair share.
Q. I'm assuming you will play him at left, Peter in center? What is the overall reason you would say, one or two reasons, and is there something to be said for exposing Mike a little less to some of the rigors defensively?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, there's still walls in left field.
I don't think that's as much to where you think the pieces fit that give you the best defensive look you can have. You know, Peter is very polished on stopping at first and third, he's got incredible range at center field he's going to play, and there's some things from a center fielder look that Peter is going to give you that gives you a chance to have a really dynamic outfield if that's the way it plays out. Mike in left field and Peter in center, especially in our park, are going to give you range plus out there, and you know, we'll see how things unfold.
I don't know if it's if your question is taking pressure off of Mike going to be one of the reasons why we would go with that alignment? I'd say no. I'd say he can play center field every day. We wouldn't shy away from that if that's going to make us a better team.
Q. Would you give Pete some time in right just to look out there?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, hopefully Mark is going to be good for right field, Trumbo. But we'll play him at right field if you're going to be worried about it. (Laughter).
Q. No, Trumbo played a lot of left last year.
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, that's because of Torre. But when you're looking at Mark in right, Mark throws well, too. I think it's particularly in our park, if you were going to do something, I think it's going to be much easier from a stadium aspect to play right field at our park.
Now, from baseball strategy wise, there's more pressure on a right fielder than there is on a left fielder. I think we'll look at Mark.
Q. You want Mark to stay away from that cement down there in the left corner?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't think it'll do that much good to tell him to stay away from it. He'll go in there harder.
Q. Astros joined the AL West for next year. Your experience, obviously you need hitting and run production, but do you try and look as a manager for veteran experience? What are the qualities that stand out to you for a true DH in the AL?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: You know what's funny, you take whatever your team is, and if you have that one DH like a David Ortiz or a Travis Hafner that's going to be in that spot every time, so be it. If you use the DH, which we have for many years with kind of rotating some guys through, then that's what you do. But the one thing I've found is I think there's much -- there are many more things you can do on the offensive end with a DH in your lineup.
In the National League, you know, you find with the seventh or eighth hitter, moving a runner really doesn't make a lot of sense. Later in the game you can pinch hit. You can play little ball from the second inning if you want to from the bottom of your lineup. So there are so many things that are opened up to your team to do with the DH that don't include the home run, includes a lot more of just playing baseball, and that's what I really enjoy.
So I think that I'm sure Bo is going to find that out with Houston, being able to do some things with the bottom of your lineup from the first inning on that just really doesn't make a lot of sense to do in the National League. If you have that one DH, you have that one DH. That's it.
Q. What do you think you can get out of Vernon Wells this year?
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, you know, Vernon is a guy that we've seen struggle for a couple years. I talked to Vernon over the winter about it. I think that for him to find his comfort zone and get into his game, he's a guy that's much more talented than he's shown in the last couple years. Part of him was slowed a little bit with the groin injury in '11, and then last season with the thumb. It's been frustrating not only for Vernon but for us as a staff because of the talent. You still see the bat speed there. You see a guy that can play at a higher level, and you know, we'll see where Vernon is. But he's been very frustrated, also.
Q. With Trout and Peter and Mark in the outfield
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, you guys are giving me hypotheticals if that's the way we're going to start, and I think I said let's see where we are. But if the people that you had talked about are in there, that's the way we'd want to go. I'm not ruling anything out.
MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, Vernon didn't play every day last year, and as I said, Vernon is a talent that really when he plays at his level, his playing time is always contingent on how he plays. He's played at a very, very high level his whole career. He struggled a little bit for us, but when he plays at his level, there's no doubt that he can help us.