Winter Meetings interview with Ron Roenicke
Q. I asked Doug this yesterday too. Do you have a priority starters versus relievers in terms of what you think is most important to this club?
RON ROENICKE: As far as what we're trying to do in these meetings?
RON ROENICKE: I don't -- we've talked about it. I think it's more as to who's available that fits in. I think obviously any time you can get a good quality starter, that's important. But I think, if what we're looking at isn't that much better with what we have with our young guys, then all of a sudden it becomes more important to look at in the bullpen because there are holes in the bullpen. There aren't holes in our starting rotation.
We've got actually one too many starters, if you count Narveson with the young guys, and then we've got six guys we're going to choose from.
Q. But you had said on the season you had sort of made the case for adding a veteran starting pitcher to pair with Yovani somewhere in the top half of the rotation. Has your view of that changed?
RON ROENICKE: No, but there's lots of things I think I would like, but I think with what our budget is going to be at, Doug has certain things that he can do. So no matter what is out there and what we would like to have, we still have to make decisions on what we can do.
I can name a lot of the free agents out there that I would love to have on our team. Is that really a reality that it can't happen? Probably not.
Q. Your club led the league in runs scored last year. You don't really have to do anything offensively, do you?
RON ROENICKE: I don't think you have to do anything offensively. I always think you try to improve on what you have to make sure you're still as good last year. First half of the season, we were just okay offensively, and second half we took off. I want to make sure that we're solid the whole season where we know if our pitching staff does their job, that wove got a chance to win most of those games.
Q. There area a number of reports looking at your club showing interest in Josh Hamilton. I'm not asking you to affirm or deny, but it would just seem from the makeup of your club that you wouldn't be headed in that direction at all.
RON ROENICKE: Like I said, with all the names that are out there -- Josh Hamilton, can we get Zack Greinke back, can we get Dempster in? There's a lot of names that I think would work.
Josh, you would think, well, where does he fit into the offense that we already have and what position do you put him at? We are good offensively. That's one area where, even though I say that we still are trying to improve, we don't need to. We don't need to make any changes in what we have in our regular players. And Josh comes at a high price.
Q. Ron, other than Gollardo, those remaining names you gave to starting pitchers, which ones have a foot in the door, and which ones got to do something in the spring. How would you divide those remaining candidates?
RON ROENICKE: Really with the five guys that we have that are going to fight for those four jobs, Estrada is a guy that's shown he can do it. He pretty much was there all last year. The year before, he had those starts when Zack was hurt.
And I think we have a little better track record of what he can do. So I would have to say that I'm counting on him to be that same type pitcher. We could put him on the rotation.
But saying that, we go into Spring Training, and you look at a guy like Peralta with the upside he has, and if he's lights out there, he certainly should be on our starting staff. But there's a case for all the guys. Fiers, there was a length of time he pitched all last year. And the guy that came up and really impressed us with stuff in a short period of time.
So I don't know that you can necessarily rank him although Estrada to me has shown over a longer period of time that he can be a consistent starter.
Q. Are you a championship caliber club with that group of six guys without adding?
RON ROENICKE: If they pitch the way they did last year for that short period, yes, we are. That's asking a lot for four guys to be able to do what they did two months over a six month period is asking a lot.
Q. Are you expecting Narveson to be completely healthy and ready to vie for a job?
RON ROENICKE: I think he's going to be healthy. I think the issue is probably going to be how's his command. He threw a couple of simulated games before he shut it down in Arizona. He was fine. One of them was really good. The other maybe not so good as far as command.
So I think if he comes back and he's strong, which I expect him to be, the big issue is going to be can he put the ball where he wants to.
Q. Is having a lefty in the rotation a matter of importance or not so much?
RON ROENICKE: I don't think it's a matter of importance, but it is nice to have a left hander. When we had both him and wolf in our rotation, you can do some things to set up against the guys that really swing the bat well against right handers, and it does make a difference.
Q. I know you have some teams in your league -- in your division that have like left handed, like Cincinnati with Votto and Bruce and guys that you try to negate a little bit if you can.
RON ROENICKE: It makes a difference.
Q. Do you know Ryan Dempster at all?
RON ROENICKE: Not at all. I hear some things, but I don't know him.
Q. You haven't spoken to him?
RON ROENICKE: No.
Q. Last year you had talked to Aramis Ramirez before you came here?
RON ROENICKE: Yes, I had.
Q. Have you talked to any free agent players?
RON ROENICKE: No, I haven't.
Q. As we stand here today, are you pleased with the new composition of the bullpen?
RON ROENICKE: Yeah, I think so. We have some pieces we need to fill, but we've got some young guys that we're looking at that have a chance to be on that bullpen. Whether we go with seven or eight guys there, some good arms.
And so I think the competition in Spring Training is good to see who's going to pick it up and who's going to fight for that job because, basically, when the pressure's on, you want to know who you can depend on, and there's pressure on these guys to try to make our team. When they're fighting for something in Spring Training, it's the same feeling as what they're going to have to do during the season.
Q. Is there something tangible you can take from the end of last season and how well you played into next season?
RON ROENICKE: Definitely. I think with what we did to make that run at the end showed these guys with the team we have that we can win. If we hadn't gone on that run and we finished whatever we were, ten games under .500, I think there would be a lot of question marks going into the season on whether this group can really win. There shouldn't be a question to that now.
Q. Ron, how much success has the franchise had, thanks in part to what the sounds have provided as a minor league affiliate?
RON ROENICKE: Well, we've had -- we've had a lot of success in the short time I've been there, as far as the guys we've been bringing up from AAA. To the point where it surprised me.
Last year, when we had to bring up all the starters, I knew there were some good arms, but I didn't think they'd all throw as well as they did. So that's a credit to the staff there in AAA to getting experience there. Thornburg coming from AA.
Any time you can have minor leaguers that come up.
And I said this before. It wasn't just coming up when we were still ten games under .500. All of a sudden we got in it this race, and those young guys not only performed, but they won in tight situations where we needed to win and needed to get back into it, and they did their job.
Q. Ron, what's the pros and the cons of if Segura is the starting shortstop?
RON ROENICKE: The pros would be the ability that he has -- tremendous range, great arm. He's going to keep getting better. Offensively, he's really swinging the bat well in winter ball now. Hopefully, that propels him into next season, gives him confidence.
The cons would be he is a young guy. He is basically unproven. He didn't spend any time in AAA, made the jump from AA up, which is difficult to do, very young age. So you would wonder if things don't go well, which they're going to at some time. He is going to struggle. I know he struggled at the beginning of last year and ended up swinging the bat a lot better to where his average is pretty good.
But there's going to be some bumps in how he handles that at a young age, is going to be interesting to see. I like his confidence, his cockiness, but I also like the fact that he's a worker. So he's not exciting guy.
Q. He's clearly demonstrated the potential to be a long term, big league shortstop for you?
RON ROENICKE: I think so. I think, if you look at the arm strength and you look at the range that he has, I think you have to assume that he's going to get better until he's well into his upper 20s. So if he keeps improving, this guy, there's no reason for him to not be a good shortstop for a lot of years.
Q. How would you characterize the potential of getting something done, either here in Nashville or the rest of the off season, and if you aren't able to do something, are you content with the makeup of your club starting in April?
RON ROENICKE: Well, I'm going to have to be content. So it's Doug's job with his crew, with Mark Attanasio overseeing and everything, to figure out where we are financially, how much we can do, and then to maneuver those pieces around.
Yes, I think there's some areas that we can improve our team. We all know that. And it's a tricky situation with what our payroll is going to be as to how much maneuverability that Doug can do and how creative we can get. If there's something that comes along that Doug can do that definitely makes our team better, he's going to make that move.
But if there's nothing there that jumps out at us and we think that we can compete with what we have, which we do, then I think we just -- we stay with what we have.
Q. Ron, a lot's been made of Zack Greinke, I guess, unique personality and some of the issues he's had in the past with anxiety and depression. What was the guy that you got to know like?
RON ROENICKE: Zack was one of the most interesting players that I've had and one of the most enjoyable players that I've had. There was a couple things there. He's brutally honest. And he's going to make some comments at times that you're not going to be happy about, and then he turns around a couple days later, and you talk, and all of a sudden you're laughing and really enjoying the guy.
Most of the cases, all the conversations we had were something that, when it was done, I was like, wow, that was impressive. And he's like that. He's interested in a lot of things. He doesn't care for a lot of fluff talk. He doesn't care how the weather is outside. He wants to know how his slider can get nastier. That's what he wants to know.
When you talk to him about those things that interest him, you're in for a great conversation.
Q. How do you see that kind of translate on the field, that personality? Obviously, I cover the Dodgers, the Dodgers have been linked to him, the whole big market issue. I guess it's kind of being thrown out there again. How do you think his personality is reflected in the way he plays?
RON ROENICKE: Well, I think we tried to -- we tried to go out of our way to make him comfortable. We did.
Q. How so?
RON ROENICKE: Just making sure that he was in all conversations on what we were going to do, whether it was his workout routines, whether it was his bullpens, whether it was where he was going to stay in town. There was a lot of things I wanted him to make sure that he felt comfortable with the front office, with the staff, and with his teammates.
He fit in right away. It didn't take long. Spring Training, he was -- we have a lot of conversations of Spring Training before we start for the day. Zack was very vocal in some things, which I thought was great. So it didn't take long for him to fit in. And we've got an easy bunch of guys to get along with. But he liked it there. We certainly liked him and what he did for us as a team.
He's a lot of fun. You can talk to our guys that would chuckle at every quote that he would make and some of the ones in Spring Training, and there's not too many guys that are brutally honest to where it's kind of refreshing.
Q. Do you remember any favorite conversation you had with him on any topic, or you just walked away and kind of said wow.
RON ROENICKE: I can't remember favorite conversations, but I can remember one word where I talked about a certain way he was pitching and he didn't agree with me and basically told me that. I was a little upset with him for a couple days, and he came back in, and we talked about it again.
By that time, he agreed with me. But I can remember the quotes in Spring Training. They're classics. They are.
Q. Ron, you're friends with Dale Sveum still, I'm sure. The struggles that he's having and will probably continue to have as they till the field and get things right and plant new -- can he handle it in the second year? I mean, you know the man very well. A second year of similar results, is Dale up to that task?
RON ROENICKE: Similar results -- I think they're going to be better this year, I do. I think they've already done some nice things. I don't think you ever know that. I would guess that Dale would be fine, but you really never know that until things happen.
Coaching is way different than managing. There's a lot more on you, and I don't want to say you take it more personal, but before, when I was the outfield coach, I would take the outfield person. Now he's got to take the outfield, infield, hitting, and pitching personally. So it gets to you a little bit more because you feel like you need to improve every part of that game. And when you're not able to do it, it bothers you. I mean, that's your job to try to figure out how to get everything out of the guys in all areas of the game.
Before, I only had to figure out how to get the outfielders to play a little bit better, and that was easier. So you never really know, but with his personality, he's been through a lot. He understands the ups and downs. Sometimes it's fun to rebuild. Sometimes it's fun to see young guys and the progress that you get out of him, and all of a sudden you take a team that nobody expects to win and to do really well with. That's really enjoyable.
Q. Why isn't the central backing off its talent level and its pursuit of the crown to help him? I'm just kidding. I mean, the Central is no easy place for you to cut your teeth. It's no easy place for you to have your growth spurts. How can he make that balance of this is a really difficult jobs because of the division you play in and still feel good about the results -- the little results that he sees.
RON ROENICKE: I think some of that comes from the management up above. If they're telling Dale that, Dale, you should be winning right now, it becomes difficult. But when they're saying, hey, we're rebuilding. Just hang with these young guys, try to get him better, then that's what your focus is, is just trying to improve what you have.
Q. Ron, can you talk a little bit about Matt Gamel, his physical status, his role going forward.
RON ROENICKE: Physically, he's doing really well with coming back off the knee surgery. His role, as it stands right now with the team we have, we're going to try to get him more versatile. So he's going to play a lot of outfield in Spring Training, probably more right field, but some in left because Ronny doesn't play all the games in spring.
He's still learning first base even though he played it the year before and did a nice job there. So I think just trying to get him more versatile to where he can help us in any situation that comes up. If we have a right fielder that goes down, maybe he can play it every day. If something happens with Corey Hart, maybe he can play it every day. He's still able to play third base when we need him to play third base.
So being versatile is very important for him, and he wants to do it. He wants to do anything he can to make sure he's on that team next year.
Q. Ron, assess the risk versus reward of committing to -- inaudible.
RON ROENICKE: The risk to what now?
Q. To reward. We all know his background.
RON ROENICKE: I think last year pretty much we saw that we give him more opportunities to see his tools that -- I think he smoothed out a lot of things that he did last year. We've always talked about the tools where they're really off the charts on how good he could be. But I thought he put a lot of things together last year.
The power numbers certainly was there. I don't know if he'll ever truly be an on base guy, but if the average can continue to climb with what he can do running the bases, pretty exciting guy. Defensively, he's going to be good. He's always going to be good.
Q. Does it look like he's figuring stuff out?
RON ROENICKE: I think he is. He's still 26 years old. He's got some time to where you still think that he's got -- if he keeps improving, that this is going to happen for a few years. But I definitely saw improvements last year, and I think any time you do that, you're excited about what a guy he can be.
Q. Are you still thinking Aoki in the lead spot. Is he still feeling that way to you?
RON ROENICKE: I'm still thinking that way, but whether he's first or second isn't important to me. I still like him in that spot. The question is where does Rickie fit in better? Does Rickie fit in better with hitting second to where he's maybe driving in more runs, or does he fit in better leading off and then Aoki can move him around.
When Nori gets on, I'm not going to ask Rickie to bunt. He usually doesn't hit behind him to move him over a base. So there's pros and cons to both Rickie leading off or Aoki leading off.
Q. So you're still thinking about Rickie going back to leading off?
RON ROENICKE: Yes.
Q. What will determine that?
RON ROENICKE: I think we sit down with everybody we have and what we end up doing, if anything, in the lineup, and if pieces move around a little bit, you may decide, well, maybe this makes more sense.
And I think production also makes a difference. If Rickie continues to be an on base guy, does it make sense to get him in that leadoff spot and to have Nori bunt him over? Nori did such a nice job, he ended up driving the ball around the ballpark, that maybe that's not what we want him to do.
Q. You were kind of forced to move Rickie out of that top spot when he got off to that mad start last year, weren't you?
RON ROENICKE: Yeah.
Q. So you're assuming Rickie going back to being Rickie?
RON ROENICKE: I truly believe Rickie will go back to being Rickie. The ankle injury truly messed him up for half of the season last year. It's a tough injury to come back from when you depend a lot on your stride, how you land. There's a lot of things there that led me to believe that that was the reason.
Q. Ron, there's been a lot of talk here in Nashville about getting a new stadium for the Sounds. Would you like to see that happen? Does that affect player development at all?
RON ROENICKE: Are you trying to get me in trouble? I played in that same stadium. We could use a new stadium. It's a great city.
Q. Good baseball city, you think?
RON ROENICKE: Great baseball city. You get a new stadium, great baseball city. It really is. I had a great time there. They could have used a new stadium then. That was two, three years ago I was playing there.
Q. Mr. Ron, after another season of 200 strikeouts, what do you expect from Yovani Gallardo.
RON ROENICKE: Yovani, expect the same things from him. He's very consistent with what he does. The strikeouts -- I like the strikeouts, but I also like to see Yovani go deep in games. Sometimes he strikes out so many guys his pitch count, all of a sudden, we get to the seventh inning, and I've got to get him out of there. There's times I'd like Yovani to go eight innings. I don't know that going nine is all that important.
But deeper in games helps what we do with the bullpen and helps guys rest. Yovani has always been that consistent guy that you feel is going to give your 200 and whatever innings, which is important to a bullpen. So any time you have the 200 plus guys and they pitch with the ability that Yovani has to put up consistently quality games -- I know that quality start thing, they put numbers on it. I get it. But I feel a little different on quality games, and Yovani puts up a lot of quality games.
Q. What about Marco Estrada? He has a nice year, not a record, but it was nice.
RON ROENICKE: Good year. You're right. The record wasn't as good as he pitched, but he is consistent. He's shown that his command allows him to do a lot of things. He's also a guy that surprises you that he strikes out as many guys as he does.
But it helps when he gets himself in trouble, it helps that he can't strike out some guys and get out of big situations.
Q. What do you expect from him for next year?
RON ROENICKE: Hoping to keep a healthy, solid year. If he goes out there and makes all his starts, I think that's really important for him to do.
Q. Ron, not trying to get you in trouble here, but the stadium thing, just to revisit that for a second.
RON ROENICKE: Yes, you are.
Q. A downtown ballpark as opposed to a ballpark on the outskirts, the way it is right now for the sounds, is that a big deal? Does it make a difference in terms of fans coming, success and that?
RON ROENICKE: I can't answer that because I don't really know -- even though I played there a year, I can't tell you what would work better. I'm just not familiar enough with downtown, what happens there, versus the outskirts and maybe a little better area to build a park. I can't answer that because I just -- I don't know the city well enough.
Q. Ron, did you see enough of Henderson last year to say he's your setup guy? I know maybe you haven't got all your there might be more pieces coming, but with what you're working with now.
RON ROENICKE: If he ends up being my eighth inning guy to start the season with, I'm confident with him. But like I said, Doug is always looking to improve. If we can get a guy that's also that caliber of a pitcher, whether Henderson is seven or eight, we flip-flopped Frankie a lot seventh and eighth. Sometimes it has to do with lineup. Who's going to come up in the seventh, is it more left handers? Where does Henderson better fit, seventh or eighth? I don't want to lock him into one inning.
Q. Did you see Badenhop earlier, like sixth, seventh?
RON ROENICKE: I think that's what he is.
Q. Very similar style?
RON ROENICKE: Yes. The sinker, maybe off speed stuff a little bit more than Cameron, but strike thrower.