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Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia

Q. What do you think in general of what you guys have done so far with the bullpen and starters?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's a big step in the right direction. It's always tough to when you're trying to find pitching and to have to lose a piece as important to us as Mark Trumbo was. It's a little easier to sign a guy like Joe Smith, we signed as a free agent. But our deficiencies I think were very evident, probably for the last couple of years on the pitching side, to be able to have starters that can get you to your game and have the lead and hold those leads. And we were very poor at that for the last couple of seasons and we paid a huge price for it. Hopefully we're working back for that direction.

Q. What do you think in general of what you guys have done so far with the bullpen and starters?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's a big step in the right direction. It's always tough to when you're trying to find pitching and to have to lose a piece as important to us as Mark Trumbo was. It's a little easier to sign a guy like Joe Smith, we signed as a free agent. But our deficiencies I think were very evident, probably for the last couple of years on the pitching side, to be able to have starters that can get you to your game and have the lead and hold those leads. And we were very poor at that for the last couple of seasons and we paid a huge price for it. Hopefully we're working back for that direction.

Q. You still need to add to your rotation, maybe through free agency and get another guy?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, I think I don't think Jerry is done as far as trying to find pitching depth and adding to the rotation. And I know that he's he has a lot of things on the table that he's looking at. And if we're able to acquire, probably be important; if we don't, I think we're in a much more solid side on the pitching end than we were for most season last year.

Q. Albert and his progress?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Albert is he's swinging the bat. He's taking batting practice. He feels very strong physically. I think that I really feel that he's going to be the healthiest he's been, certainly from what he's been out here with us, probably a couple of years before that in St. Louis where he was banged up. I think the foot will be a nonissue. And I think that he'll take a lot of pressure off of his knee that kind of went hand in hand with having his foot issue. I'm going to be really surprised if he's not the healthiest he's been in a number of years. And that obviously is an important piece of what we need.

Q. How are you feeling about Hamilton this year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think Josh is going to move back to left field and just stay in left field. And I think he'll be more comfortable with that aspect as opposed to switching him to right field. But I do feel, from the way he finished up the second half of last season and made some adjustments that he understands what his role is a little more, what our team is about and what he can bring. And Josh is going to have a big year for us next year.

Q. What kind of role are you planning to give to Craig Gentry?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Did we sign Gentry? If we did, I like him, he's a pretty fast runner. Let me talk with Bob Melvin real quick and see what he has to say.

Q. I'm sorry, Oakland.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Gave me a heart attack for a second. I thought we signed Gentry and I didn't hear about it.

Q. What kind of bat do you think fits in that DH spot, a left handed, right handed, power? MIKE

SCIOSCIA: I think there's a number of ways to go because we have versatility with a guy like Kole Calhoun that can play first base. It can be on the defensive side, a corner outfield and first base, to a player that might be just restricted to a DH spot or a leftfield spot. And so as far as the bat being left handed or right handed, I think you're always happy to add left handed depth in your lineup. But there's also, as we go through the whole exercise of looking at rosters and possibilities, there's also a role for a right handed bat that can fit very nice.

Q. Do you think Albert is going to still need a lot of DH time just to keep him?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think we'll probably be proactive with that and do it on a hopefully preventative basis. Albert is at his best when he's playing first base. We're a better team when he can play first base and bring that defensive component to our team. We'll look at that first and just try to manage the health issue of how he feels on a daily basis. I do think we'll use him DH days just to keep him fresh, as we will a lot of our guys. But I don't think that he needs to be pigeonholed. And it's not in our best interest as a team to pigeonhole him in the DH, because I think he's going to be healthy and ready to play first.

Q. In an ideal word if he's healthy and ready to play first, roughly how many games do you see? MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't know if we have to put a number on it.

Q. Range? MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think that we're going to play 162 and hopefully you have his bat in the lineup for all of those in some aspect. What it turns out to be, I don't know if that's as important as keeping him healthy, swinging the bat in the batter's box. I don't know if it serves a purpose to give you a range. But I'm only telling you what I said before, we're a better team with Albert Pujols playing first base, because of the defensive aspect that he brings and also he rallies around playing the whole game, and I think he's Gold Glove caliber first baseman.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)? MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think C.J. is a guy that is working his way on to our depth chart. As far as breaking Spring Training and making our team, that might be a bit of a stretch. But I think we're very comfortable with the fact that at some point next year, if he makes the same improvement that he made this year in the Fall League to where he was during the season this year to the Fall League, and in winter ball he's swinging the bat well down in the Dominican. He will be in our depth chart, no doubt.

Q. A lot of talk about the home plate collisions and adjusting the rules. What is your opinion?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think everyone is in agreement that the mindless collisions at home plate where a catcher is being targeted by a runner, that needs to be addressed. And I know that will be addressed. I think that it's easy to say a runner has to slide. But on the other side of the coin, it's going to be difficult to contain a runner telling him what he has to do and let the catcher have carte blanche to be able to block the plate aggressively. And there will have to be some parameters around the catcher. It's a little bit of a dicey issue to work your way through, but I'm comfortable in the feeling that it will be addressed and addressed to a satisfactory level, where a runner can still be aggressive going to the plate with a hard slide and the catcher understands the need to have the ball in his possession and what he can do to tag a guy at the plate.

Q. You think that can be ready for 2014?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think so, yeah, I think it shouldn't be that shouldn't be anything that couldn't be easily adapted after you peel the paint off it and work your way through it.

Q. There's convergence of so many things, the ball, the runner, and how are you going to legislate how to react to that?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: It's a tough thing to put rules into effect. You'd be surprised how quickly it happens, how quickly a play changes just on your reading a throw as a catcher, and you're thinking, gosh, I don't know if I have a chance on this guy, now all of a sudden the timing isn't quite what you sense, and all of a sudden you have a play and you have to jump in and try to make it. It happens quickly, there's no doubt about it. But I think first and foremost, the mindless collisions at home plate where a catcher is not in the path and is really defenseless, that needs to be addressed and that will be addressed. And I think that is task one to accomplish. And then obviously in conjunction with that, get the parameters of what a catcher can and what's going to be acceptable that he can and can't do. And we'll move forward from there.

Q. You used the word "mindless collisions." Do you as a catcher believe you know when a guy is taking a freebie on you?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think the mindset of that play is definitely when I was growing up as a kid in Philadelphia, it was a badge of honor, you were expected to hang in at the plate, and the runner was expected to do everything he could to tag the plate. We're going back 40 years ago, but the mindset has changed a bit. I think what we're talking about now is maybe the catcher that is not at all in a position where he's obstructing or blocking the path from the plate from the runner, and the runner takes the liberty to hit him, just from instincts of saying, I think I'm going to be out, I'm going to go after him hard, when it wasn't necessary to do, I think that that mindset of a runner coming down third baseline can be adjusted and they can be trained to understand the need, their first instinct is to go with a hard slide and go to the plate. And I think that's doable.

Q. Matheny and Bochy were going to have a meeting. How did that go this morning? Do you favor the umpire having discretion?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think you're trying to talk about point Z right now, when really we're at point A. There's a lot that has to be dissected. I think that there's some solutions that are definitely will be put in place once everything is defined as far as what the need is of the play. So we had a great meeting this morning on it, and they're meeting now, they're furthering those discussions. I think it's just going to take some time to put together a format that is acceptable to everybody, that everybody is comfortable with. But they're not there yet. So whatever it turns out, as this process goes on, I'm sure there's going to be a lot of discussions on all the variables that they're talking about.

Q. Let's say it's 93 or 94 wins will get you into October. As of now, health, new pitching, do you guys have that in your mind, 16 more than last year, are you confident that that MIKE

SCIOSCIA: You know, I've never I think statistically I'm sure you're very, very accurate about the number of wins it will take you to get there. But our mindset is not to say, hey, our goal is 94 wins. I think that you're going to miss some steps along the way if you look at what I just referred to, point Z. You have to focus on the process day to day. If it means you play at a high level and win a hundred games, great. If it means you play your highest level and unfortunately you win 89, that's what it is. Detroit got into the playoffs with 88 wins a couple of years ago. So I think in our division, understandably, if you look how tough our division is going to be, you've got to work your way through it. What the magic number is going to be to get to the playoffs, it's one more win than the team you need to be ahead of to make it. I think that's what you focus on.

Q. Going back

MIKE SCIOSCIA: You're probably right statistically what it's going to take, but that's not what we're looking at as a team.

Q. You have to find 15 or 16

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's very if you analyze on the offensive side our season last year, although maybe we underachieved because maybe some guys were struggling a little. Still we scored enough runs to reach our goal. I think it's real clear we're going to be to go down very deep on the layers of our club to understand, our starters didn't pitch at a certain point in the game, some of our starters, C.J. Wilson had a terrific season. Some guys struggled to get us there. Missed Jered Weaver for a long time. I think there are components on our club that will come together. And we're very comfortable in the challenge of bridging that gap that you're talking about in getting there. It's definitely something we can achieve. And I think what Boston did is a great indication, two years ago, of what they did last year. I think we have the same potential to hopefully do what they did.

Q. Going back to the collisions at the plate, it sounds like what you're expecting for this coming season is some kind of a ruling, what you're calling the mindless collisions, as opposed to a final solution, it might be the college rule or something along those lines?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think you're going to work towards a final solution, but obviously with anything that you put in place you're going to adjust if there is a need to. Just like instant replay we're talking about. Obviously that's going to be work in progress as it comes into the play and comes into fold and you'll adjust things that you think need an adjustment. I think the same thing on the process of trying to find what the play should be, there will certainly be a lot of thought put into it. Some definite guidelines in place that if they need to be adjusted as this game moves on, they will be. But I don't think I think you're going to get close to what you think is by the start of the season, of some kind of consensus on a rule change that will affect the play at the plate, yes, I think that will happen.

Q. What's the worst collision you've ever heard of?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't remember the worst one (laughter). Well, I got knocked out at home plate. I've been dizzy. Chili Davis absolutely hit me the hardest, no doubt. And I managed to find a way to our dugout. Jack Clark helped me at home plate. I needed some help being taken off the field. I don't remember those, to be honest with you.

Q. You talk about the mindset years ago, and are we at a place where a guy doesn't block the plate, his teammate is going to be okay with it?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think that you've seen I think you've seen a bit of what's the word I'm looking for, de evolution of the aggressiveness of the catchers over the years. Some guys are going to be very aggressive and some guys aren't. But I think you're seeing a pattern of probably more catchers trying to make a play, and making a play and this isn't right or wrong, this is the evolution making a play like a Fielder does at the base, which is fine. It certainly wasn't I was very aggressive at blocking plate, because as we talked about, that's the way I grew up with it. I think it's probably some of the ways that catchers are making the you see catchers making the plays at the plate. It's evolved into that. I think it's probably more accepted in the game from your own teammates to understand, it's a tough play, you're trying to make it, that maybe catchers aren't going to put their bodies on the line as much as some guys have done in the past. It's not necessarily a bad thing. But I don't think the catchers are looked on or frowned upon more because of maybe some changes in the way that play is made from a defensive end. No, not from a team component, no. I know when you do make a great play at the plate, and maybe you do make a great tag and block a guy off, it's a great momentum swing in the game and can be uplifting. You can make those plays without putting your body on the line. I think that's what the game is trying to get to.

Q. We've seen lately Mike Napoli get moved from behind the plate, Joe Mauer, now because of the concussion. Do you see an evolution where teams, particularly with the lack of power in the game, where they find a catcher who is really a good hitter, just being more prone to moving them to another position?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: A couple of things, I think when you have a catcher that can hit like Joe Mauer or give you the power like Mike Napoli, that is a huge component to building offensive depth. Because historically, like if you have a center that gives you what Mike Trout gives you, historically you very rarely see that kind of production. When you get it, particularly from a catching position, from an offensive viewpoint it's huge. Because now you have other positions that historically are offensive positions, that you can build a deeper lineup with. I don't know if it's going to be I think in the National League there's probably more merit if you look at Buster Posey playing first base to keep his bat in the lineup instead of catching. Only so much you can catch. The days of Gary Carter when he used to catch, 150 games, 155 games, it was incredible to play at that level and catch that much. That took a wear and tear on his body. He paid a price on the offensive side. So I think there's a balance you have. In the American League it's easier to get to, where you keep that presence behind the plate and on the offensive side to put a better bat in for maybe 110, 120 games, but keep that offensive presence for the player and DH'ing the other 40. For the American League, I think it's easier to keep a guy like that in the catching position as a catcher. Joe Mauer is being moved out not because of any I don't think there's as must have worry about the physical strain, there's some other things you were talking about. But I do think that in the National League there's no doubt that there has to come a time where a player where you're just beating him up because you want to keep his bat in the lineup so much but you have to catch him. You have to consider what some teams are doing.


MIKE SCIOSCIA: He's done things that most players at that progression of Mike Trout are in Double A doing, and he's doing them at a Major League level, or triple League level, getting their first taste. He's been around a couple of years, and realize he's not even 23. He's this guy is just a kid. So I didn't see Ken Griffey, Jr. up close when he came up in Seattle when he was 19 and obviously had his Hall of Fame career. So I can't say a guy like this has never been around, because I think there are some instances of guys that did it. But I can only say from a personal perspective, I've never seen anyone this young that is this that has this much poise and the ability to do the things that Mike can do on a baseball field. I just haven't seen it. It's going to be hopefully fun to watch for the next 15 or 20 years.

Q. Where do you see Mike Trout right now in your lineup, transition him back to the lead off spot, or the No. 3 hole?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Fortunately I don't have to make the lineup right now.

Q. You're not going to answer?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No, I'll answer. I think a number of things for Mike Trout, if you look at what his potential is and what is the potential of the team, he has the capability of scoring a hundred plus runs and driving in a hundred plus runs for the season if we set the table well enough for him. I think in the American League in the lead off spot, where in the National League if you're always having pitchers bunting, he might get more RBI opportunities in the 1 hole. That's tougher to do, because your on base guys usually aren't 8th or 9th in the American League. So you have to look at that, factor that in as far as who do you want hitting in front of him? Some higher on base guys like Calhoun and Shuck at times in front of Trout last year, his RBI chances totally picked up when we moved him to the 2 hole, if you look at the raw numbers of it. So I think that his future is definitely anywhere 2, 3 or 4 in the lineup. Where he ends up this year, I just think that from a leadoff spot it's always sexy to talk about that type of leadoff hitter. But I don't know if it's as functional for Mike or our team if you're not setting the table for him. So that's probably why it bodes better for him to hit at least 2 and see where it goes from there.

Q. Does that change it at all with Mike?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: You have Howie Kendrick and you have Freese, so you should have enough depth. If Albert stays in the 3 hole, then you have Josh and Howie and Freese to start to deepen your lineup. So we'll see.

Q. Is Trout 3, Albert 4, Hamilton 5, is that a possibility?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think there's a lot of things we'll look at as we get into this. I just think the one thing I think you're talking about is Mike Trout better as a leadoff hitter. He's a great leadoff hitter if you're able to set the table with him at the bottom of the lineup. So that's one thing we'll look at and wherever it fits in for our team, we'll go for it, and there's a lot of different combinations you get with that kind of talent.

Q. You say meetings this morning. Did you hear anything about discussion about the new (INAUDIBLE)?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No, I haven't. Has anything happened? I haven't. I have not heard if there's any agreement or anything, but I know there's a lot of guys that are waiting for that decision. Did anything happen? Anybody know? Posting? Nothing. That wasn't even brought up in the meeting. The meeting wasn't about that. But if you hear something, let me know.

Q. What about the replay changes?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Replay is obviously going to happen. I think that there are some parameters that are set that are definitely going to give managers more tools than we've ever had in the past. I think the final format is being fine tuned, but there was a briefing on the system and we'll move forward and see how things go.

Q. Is it still going to have challenges?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes, right now challenges.

Q. You don't have to make the lineup today, two months until Spring Training, among the guys that you'll look at to lead off, are you looking at?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No, I don't think we're going to put any names to it. I just think that the question was about Mike Trout. If you want to ask about the whole lineup, there's a lot of different variations to look. We don't even know where our roster is right now, the final defensive roster. But I do think in respect to Mike Trout that it's important the groupings that are in front of him. If it's 8, 9 and they're not really decent on base guys, it might be best served to hit him in a position where at least he has a higher on base guy directly in front of him, plus connecting him equally as important to connect Mike one of the things that really helped Mike take off until Albert got hurt was to connect him with Albert Pujols, there were many times that he didn't get a chance to swing the bat. We want to keep them connected.

Q. You mentioned the Red Sox and they talked a lot about their improved clubhouse chemistry having a lot to do with their success last year. I know you're a believer in on field chemistry. Is that something you look at? You've got all these new faces in building a clubhouse chemistry that's vibrant and positive.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, you never go into a season not paying attention, not wanting good clubhouse chemistry. For the most part we have that. That pales in comparison to the on field chemistry that wins you games. You need mentoring, you need leadership, a lot of things in the clubhouse. I've been part of it as a player, I've been part of totally dysfunctional clubhouses that win championships. There are a lot of examples of different variations of things in the clubhouses that are really neither here nor there as to what the on field chemistry, the pitcher catcher relationship, the defensive chemistry, that's what wins games, and that's what you want to put your heart and soul into. There's the exception where you have the bad clubhouse chemistry and still win. Usually that's a cure all for any rough edges that might happen in the clubhouse, but I don't think it's critical, I really don't. I think that you've seen it, you covered a couple of those teams, didn't you? Why are you asking me, then?

Q. But you saying it means more than me saying it. MIKE SCIOSCIA: Okay.

Q. The DH itself, the managers seem to say that's above me, that's executives, it's not my place to really talk about that. I have had guys tell me in the National League we have had a 26 man roster. There's a concept to think is it fair to go to 162, do you have a thought on should it be universal at this point?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't know if you're going to see rosters expand past 25, I don't know if they have to, because that's part of the challenge of an organization, to find the depth and versatility it's part of a challenge of a championship season, to find the depth and versatility with 25 guys. If it comes to a point in time when the schedule is so demanding and players become so specialized it has to, for whatever reason, expand, I'm sure it will be looked at. I don't think the fact of playing interleague baseball really pushes to the point of saying we need a bigger roster. I think that when you we go to play a National League team, and we take a DH out of the American League team, it's a middle of the order bat, you're at a disadvantage.

Q. Do you think it should be uniform?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: DH everywhere or pitchers everywhere?

Q. Yes.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I would love it to be uniform. But the way it works now we're still functional, and if it is addressed where it becomes equal, then so be it. But I don't think I don't think a team is at any great advantage I don't think a National League is at a disadvantage going to an American League park. They add a bat. They don't have to worry about a pitcher. But the American League goes to the National League park, that's the big adjustment. That's where you need to use your pitching staff differently.

Q. Which way would you like it to go?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I grew up in the National League, and loved pitchers hitting and loved that style of game. But I've been in the American League as long as I have, I've embraced the DH and what it does with the bottom of your lineup. There's more things you can do as far as playing little ball than you can in National League. National League you get a 6 hitter, very rarely you're putting guys in motion. American League every inning is free, you always have situations that come up that can lead to more pressure on the offensive side and press your teams on the offensive side. So I've come to embrace that.

Q. A lot of talk about Tanaka this season. Have you seen his video, what was your impression of him?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes, I have seen his video. I think he's a unique talent and you can see why he's coveted. And there will certainly be a lot of interest in Major League Baseball, if all the details are ironed out that he can come over. I think much like a lot of the Japanese pitchers we've seen over the years, particularly in the recent past with Darvish, there was a lot of talent in Japan, and he's certainly on the top of the list.

Q. On your list?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: If it was my money I'd answer that. I think every team in baseball understands the talent that he has, yes.