Winter Meetings interview with Rick Renteria
Q. How has this been, a little bit of a whirlwind?
RICK RENTERIA: Very interesting. Very interesting. This is my first actual Winter Meeting, so I've been able to sit in and listen to the scouts and the information-gathering process.
There's a lot of hard work going on behind closed doors, so to speak. And I think it sheds a little bit more light, more understanding for all of us who are on the other side of it. We think we know everything that's involved, but until you're actually in there watching it work, there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
Q. We talked to you last week, moving forward, have you started doing things like lineups in your head, anything --
RICK RENTERIA: You know what, actually right now we're just -- Brandon and I have been going over the idea of how we're going to run our Spring Training, the circuits that we want to incorporate, the things we want to talk about. And I'm sure here in a couple of days we'll start sitting down more aggressively and maybe looking over structuring a lineup and things of that nature.
Obviously taking into account past history of the players and whatnot, and quite frankly, still having an idea of how you project them and where they're going to be in your lineup. I know people have talked about guys possibly not hitting in certain spots because right now they're young, but they happen to be put in a more pressure situation. But it's all a growing process.
As I mentioned earlier, we play in a tremendously strong division, which I think is great for us because I think that the club and the players individually have a chance to really learn a lot about themselves and what it's going to take to ultimately get to that winning conclusion. And there's a lot of clubs in the division that are now playing very well. And we want to be a part of that.
And the challenge is for them to come to the ballpark every single day and when it's all said and done, hopefully we come out with a victory, first of all, but the opposing team says, they don't quit. And we're going to keep fighting, and no matter what happens we're going to keep going after it for 9 innings. I think that's a big process, a part of learning.
Q. Do you have any lead-off guys in your head?
RICK RENTERIA: That's a great question. You know, I know over the course of his career, Stroppy has led off quite a bit, and has some significantly decent numbers in that spot. But as we continue to put together the club and see matchups and things of that nature as the season progresses, we'll see where we are at.
Q. Do we need to talk to him, did you mention that, or try to get a feel from him?
RICK RENTERIA: Not yet. A lot of those conversations I'd like to have more one-on-one in person. I think it always comes off a lot better when you're having face-to-face conversation with the players. I think it's more important -- they can read my face, if they think I'm happy about it or not happy about it or things of that nature. But I think I can express what we'd like for them and from them personally a little bit better.
Q. Have you got an update at all on Fujikawa?
RICK RENTERIA: He's doing better, obviously. Came off that -- he's doing well. Obviously he's on our roster and expected to keep moving along. So we'll see where he's at.
Q. You mentioned Spring Training, anything potentially unique about your first Spring Training as a manager and anything you're stressing because of the youth of the team more than a veteran team?
RICK RENTERIA: You know, I think -- I'll be honest with you, same things we worked on in other organizations or same things that we're working on here, and probably no different than any other club is working on. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel. But I'm trying to make sure, just like every manager does, is make sure that they understand the importance of the actions they're taking during the course of Spring Training in terms of their practice, their pickoffs, things of that nature. They shouldn't be surprised that if we don't execute one, that they're going to do it again, you know, just like everybody else.
So it's going to be important, I think, that once again, as we've talked before, if you can't do it in practice, what makes you think you're going to do it in front of 35, 40,000 people.
Q. Is there a fine line, though, you want to instill confidence in these guys, yet you want to reinforce fundamentals and not make it a boot camp?
RICK RENTERIA: Once again, I think the level of intensity that you're working with when you're doing the work that you're doing are two different things. I know how to set my feet. I know how to cross over. I know how to receive a ball with two hands. I can do all those things, and I don't have to go at it a hundred miles an hour. But I need to know how to do it properly.
It's not necessarily a boot camp, and that's some of the things when we talk about playing the game, if you're trying to do something that's correct, it shouldn't feel like a burden. The reality is it's something you're supposed to do.
Now, the question is, maybe, how do we present it so it doesn't seem like it's boot camp? That's a different question. I think there's ways of articulating it.
Q. How do you stay away from micromanaging guys, and also delegating in a group of guys that you don't even know that you're going to have to get to know as coaches and as men?
RICK RENTERIA: Well, you know, having spoken to all of them, you kind of get a feel for who they are. I think that there are things that one is going to want for them to bring to the table in terms of certain things we might want them to incorporate in working with the players, in a particular department.
I think that obviously as the manager, I still have a voice in watching everything that's going on, if there might be something that needs to be addressed. Obviously I don't want to do the addressing in a particular department, I want that individual to do it. But I might share my observations, my ideas as to what might work. Obviously they have to have to autonomy to do what they do.
I hope it doesn't sound like it's micromanaging; I hope it's just communicating. Coaches have asked me, I'm trying to do something with a particular player, it's not working, what do you think I can do with them? I'm very open to that with the coaches and the players.
That's a great question, because you can get to a point where you think you have to do it all. But the reality is we have everybody that's supposed to do their particular job. But we can still help each other. I can still voice an opinion or idea.
Q. I had a conversation with Joe Maddon years ago before Tampa turned it around and instead of lamenting playing in the American League East, he said it will make me a better manager, it will make them better, playing against those uniforms and payrolls. That sort of sounded similar to what you said.
RICK RENTERIA: I didn't realize he said that. But I think that when we were kids, I think we talked about it earlier in the week, when you're a kid you're growing up and you're playing in the neighborhood, and you've got the older kids out there playing. You want to play with the older kids.
So I see us as the guys who want to play with the older kids and want to take advantage of it and use it. It can only make us better if, if we don't make excuses. If we look for the things that we're supposed to look for that allow us to gain some footing in moving forward. We can always make excuses for why things aren't working out. I'm not an excuse maker. Either we're going to do it or not. The bottom line is we have to find a way to get it done and that's it.
Q. In the course of reaching out to players, have you talked to Justin at all, his future?
RICK RENTERIA: Right now the way I see it and the way he sees it, is he's a Cub and we're going to move forward as Cubs, obviously. And when I spoke to him he was very excited about the proposition of the upcoming season. Just like we talk about, like with every player. He came off a high-strikeout year last year, a lot of innings, and he's looking at continuing to build on that, as we are. And I think that the club in and of itself is obviously, with him on it, is much better.
Q. How much does it help having Bosio?
RICK RENTERIA: Tremendous. Here's a guy that's been in the game a long time, who obviously has developed a tremendous relationship with a lot of pitchers on the club. And a lot of them obviously respect him and love him. It's great to have him returning, having had a situation where he's had some success in moving guys forward in their development as far as pitching is concerned.
And once again, he's another guy that's part of the kids that have been coming up and things of that nature. It's nice to have a little bit of that stability with us.
Q. You talk about communications with the players, I heard you call all the people in the front office. How important is Bill in keeping that communication alive between the coaching staff and the front office?
RICK RENTERIA: As I said, I was asked earlier how different is it in the Winter Meetings because it's my first one. You see all the homework that goes on behind the scenes. Sometimes you may not appreciate how much work is put into it, and why those guys wear it on their sleeves when things don't go well. They have high expectations of the players that they look at and that they sign and they draft and they acquire.
And as a team we have to do our job to try to hopefully take the development, and work those guys through the system and help them improve and hopefully bear fruit at the end of the day.
I think it's really important for us to know, just like a player needs to know, you don't win with one guy. You win with a whole team. And conversely you have the whole organization, and I think that's important. And I think that's a great question.
Q. Does Brandon being on the bench help?
RICK RENTERIA: A lot. I think here's a man that's been in the organization for the last couple of years, he knows the players. He knows a little bit of the in and outs of how the organization has been kind of molded together the last couple of years. And he's actually a very bright baseball guy. I think people might not realize how bright he is. I spoke to a lot of people before he actually became our bench coach and he was spoken of quite highly. And when I spoke to him I could see why.
Q. There are three guys elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday who had a very minimal amount of rules. Have you thought about how that presentation to the club will go in spring as to what the rules of this club will be?
RICK RENTERIA: Well, I know I want them to hustle. Everybody has a different definition of hustle or effort or what have you. It's crazy for any manager or person of authority, quite frankly, to lay out certain rules and regulations if in the end it's kind of tough to follow through with them, because then you end up losing them altogether.
I think that the things that we talk about when we get to Spring Training in terms of what we'd like them to do or not do, we'll address then. But I'm not a big rules guy, per se. I think that they're young men who have responsibilities. Hopefully when we share what we believe those responsibilities are, it will overwhelm whatever limitations I want to place upon them in certain things.
There's going to be certain expectations I have with them between the lines. And there are going to be certain expectations that obviously off the field we're going to want to address. But I think we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Hopefully there won't be too many bridges to cross because we touched on things before.
Q. Have you talked about the instant replay? I know the managers are meeting and talking about that tomorrow.
RICK RENTERIA: I haven't thought about it. Obviously over the last six years it's been used a lot in different parks and different scenarios. And there are instances where you think that you would like for it to be in play, obviously, because everybody talks about getting the call right. I think there are things that I'm sure that they'll be cleaning up in terms of minimizing the time it takes for if there's an objection to a call, that they will come in terms of what they decide is the right call or not.
Q. The front office has talked about acquiring a reliever for the closer's role. What is your philosophy, do you think it's essential to name a closer?
RICK RENTERIA: Obviously we're a club that's in transition. So I think like in any baseball club, roles are defined over time and they're established by the players that are out performing. And I think over time they chip away about what they are or who they're going to be about.
I think you need to use your bullpen according to the situation. I think traditionally you want roles established for every pitcher. But I'm sure that everyone in this room has seen times when you have a particular guy that's closing, and you say it's starting to fall apart, I want to do a change here. And you don't because you feel like either, one, I'm going to destroy this person's confidence in the role that he has; two, if the other guy that you bring in doesn't do the job, how are you going to get chewed out because you had your closer in? That's baseball. That's the beauty of the game.
I think everybody does need to know that the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning are the highest leveraged parts of the ballgame. Hopefully as time goes on we'll see who and what falls into place where, as far as how we're going to use that.
Q. In your experience is managing the bullpen the hardest part of the job?
RICK RENTERIA: I think it's the most critical part to winning the ballgame. I think the idea sometimes that you leave your starter in a little bit too long or you don't use a particular pitcher in a particular situation against a situation in a matchup. I think all those things at the Major League level, especially, having been here for the last six years, you sit in there, you study the matchup situations with opposing hitters and pitchers, and you give yourself the best chances with the guys you have.
And obviously I think that sometimes -- I don't know if they call it a quick hook, but sometimes it's better to take the guy out a pitch too soon than a pitch too late. But I think every situation allows you to give yourself a little more room or less. As time goes on we'll see where our relievers are at. I obviously have to trust them all when I use them, otherwise I wouldn't use them, quite frankly. And they shouldn't go in there thinking that I don't believe in them. I put them in there because I think they have the ability to get an out. And hopefully we have enough information behind it that allows us some freedom and comfort knowing that's the right decision to make.
Q. Could you follow-up on that closer, could you go into Spring Training without someone set and just have a competition?
RICK RENTERIA: I don't know why that couldn't be the case. I know coming in here you have Strop in the organization, that someone might be considered a closer, these that type of guy. After looking at him obviously he's one of those guys.
But once again, once we get to that bridge we'll cross it, see where we're at in terms of the arms we have and as a collective, talking about where we're at. Seeing how we view these guys in a particular role.
Q. How much does speaking Spanish help you in your job communicating?
RICK RENTERIA: Obviously if it's to try to be concise on the message, obviously it's going to help me a lot. I'm hoping that what we're going to try to do, whether it's English, Spanish, I don't know Korean, I don't know Japanese yet, but hopefully that the message -- they understand from us ultimately is that we really believe in them and we trust in their capabilities. And that hopefully when we're speaking, if I have to inspire somebody, I hope I have the words in which to do it with. That's going to be the difference.
But for the most part we know the game is about the players. And ultimately is it going to help me? Yes. We have a lot of Spanish-speaking players. It's going to help me, absolutely. But I hope the ultimate message is that we believe them and be behind them.
Q. Would you encourage Spanish-only speaking players to learn English for our purposes?
RICK RENTERIA: Oh, absolutely. For sure. Look at me, I'm speaking both languages. I don't think you should hold back or limit someone's ability to learn a language. If it helps us in our careers or positions that we have to use it.
I wish I had more -- now that I'm thinking about it, I wish I could speak more languages. But the reality is beyond speaking a different language, the message has to be clean and concise, clear. I could speak both languages and if I don't articulate an idea or concept the right way, it doesn't matter how many languages I speak.
Q. How do you look back on the past couple of months, from say the end of the season to now, must have been crazy?
RICK RENTERIA: It's still like -- I'm still in that craziness right now. I went literally from the season ending to having my hip replaced a week later to having interviews at home for about a month. I went from a walker to crutches to cane to the point I was able to start traveling two weeks ago. I'm still in the middle of it. Quite frankly, I don't mind. I haven't really taken a breath, but that's okay. I'll recover, hopefully, next offseason.
Q. Is there any timetable you know for him coming back?
RICK RENTERIA: I couldn't tell you a timetable right now. I think we're going through the process of evaluating where he is physically. But he's coming along, and coming along well.
Q. In Chicago it was before you had a chance to look behind the scenes at Wrigley. You've seen your office.
RICK RENTERIA: They're working inside the clubhouse. They're actually working in the whole ballpark. I wasn't able to go into my office, but I was able to go into the clubhouse, go into the video room, see where guys are going to congregate. There's an area in there where they relax a little bit. And quite frankly, I'll be there more than my office because I'm kind of a busybody. And hopefully they don't mind it.
But in any case, listen, it's much bigger than I anticipated, quite frankly, coming from the visiting side. And you guys have been in there, it's much bigger (laughter).
Q. Do you get to check out the postgame media room for press conferences?
RICK RENTERIA: I don't think I did.
Q. You say you haven't learned Japanese yet, but have you seen Tanaka play on a video?
RICK RENTERIA: I haven't seen his videos yet.