Winter Meetings interview with Ron Roenicke
Q. We've talked a lot about first base with Doug all weekend. How do you feel about where that stands and the options that are being discussed up in the room?
RON ROENICKE: It's certainly an important spot for us and which direction to go. He's had contact with Corey to see where he is. We're trying to figure out if we can't bring him back, where we go, whether by trade or whether by signing a free agent. But there's a lot of discussion about it.
Q. Have you had a chance to lobby with Corey directly at all and talk about coming back?
RON ROENICKE: I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. Corey knows where I stand on what I think about him. And it always comes down to a decision on how much does he want to come back with us and we're finding how far off with the offer we are. I'm sure his agent has a lot to do with that.
He's a quality guy. And when he's healthy he's certainly a good player. There are some question marks. We know the recovery is coming along really well. I saw a video of him and he looked really good. But there's certainly that question mark there.
Q. What is the strength of your baseball team right now?
RON ROENICKE: Well, I think -- I was just talking with some people. And I think in all the areas that we've got a nice, solid team. I think you look at -- we were talking about up the middle and how you need to be strong up the middle. We're certainly really good behind the plate. We're good Segura, Carlos Gomez had a great year in centerfield, and they're not only defense, they're offensive players. I think with Ryan Braun moving over to right field, we see what the combination is going to be in leftfield and how that happens. And then it comes down to our young pitching and how they do.
But we know we're looking at some bullpen guys to try to get a little bit more experience. But the starters have shown that they can pitch really well in the Major Leagues. But can they do it over a six month period and then hopefully in the playoffs.
Q. Has Gennett proven himself as a Big League starter or does they have to prove that he can play?
RON ROENICKE: I think he has proved that he should have the opportunity to play every day and see where he is.
Q. Where does that leave Rickie?
RON ROENICKE: Well, we'll see. I just saw Rick and he's doing really well physically. But to say that Scooter, you're on the bench and Rickie is our everyday guy right now, I don't think that's real fair to Scooter. We may end up needing both of them, you don't know what's going to happen. And we've got to get Rick back to where he was.
When I first came over in 2011, before he hurt the ankle, he was a tremendous player, leading off and driving the ball, getting on base, stealing bases. So hopefully we can get him back.
Q. Can he play anywhere else?
RON ROENICKE: Well, that's the thing that we've been talking about. If he is platooning or whatever we're going to do at second base, he only is playing second. And it would be certainly helpful if he could play other positions, especially when you have the bench in the National League, and it's tough when a guy is committed to one spot.
RON ROENICKE: It's different, there's no question. I always thought that the National League really should have one extra player. You should have a 26 man roster. And that way your benches are the same. You don't use your bench that much in the American League, especially if you like your starters. In the National League you use them a lot. And it's pretty much every day.
There are some guys that are on your bench and they get an at bat or get a double switch or something almost every single day. So I really enjoy the National League, I would hate to see if we went to a DH all the time, both leagues. But I get it, I understand why you'd want to make it the same way. But I enjoy the managing so much in the National League.
Q. What role specifically or do you have a specific role for Smith or is it a work in progress?
RON ROENICKE: We don't yet. I got some text messages from people in Kansas City that really like his makeup, what he does. I think with the slider and the fastball and commanding them both, two main pitches, he does throw a curveball, also.
But Doug is thinking that he can be a starter. Whether he comes into Spring Training and ends up as a starter, reliever, I'm not sure of yet. We feel like the way that Thornburg pitched as a starter last year that he has the opportunity to do that. Where that leaves us with Will, we'll probably stretch him out in spring. If we need him to start, we think he can do it.
But he was very successful as a reliever last year, and he wasn't as successful in the Major League as a starter two years before that. So that's kind of where we are with him. We like him a lot.
Q. Is he more apt to be a bullpen guy?
RON ROENICKE: I don't think we'll change on what Will does, because of that, because of the need to have a left hander. I think if we think that Will should be a starter for us, I think we'll start him.
Q. One of the things that trade did was take away your leadoff guy. I've heard some of the names that are under discussion, and they all have on base percentages that you don't normally see in a lead off role. Is that an area of concern for you right now?
RON ROENICKE: Well, sure, I think anytime you have a guy in the lead off spot that you like and you try to replace it with somebody that you're not sure can do the job, we don't have people that work the count. And what we're hoping from, whether it's Segura, whether it's Scooter, whether Rickie comes back and ends up being in that role, which we know he has done it in the past, but Carlos, there's some arguments. Carlos has done it before. I kind of liked where he was last year, he had a nice year.
But Scooter and Segura are basically on bases generated by their batting averages. So I hope they hit .320, then their on base is going to be .350. I guess that's what we're hoping.
Q. Would Segura be open to it, wasn't he picky about where he hit?
RON ROENICKE: He didn't like third. That was in a spot he wasn't comfortable. He's fine first or second. But the third spot was, I think was putting a lot on him. And he felt like he had to drive the ball more, which is not why I wanted him in that spot. So I think he's fine whether he's first or second.
Q. If you resign Corey would you even consider him?
RON ROENICKE: There's a guy that has done it, been successful at doing it. I think we have to look at a lot of different things. And not say, well, this is going to be our guy and stick with him to the point where that guy doesn't succeed, not just for the team, but personally, for a guy to put him in a position, and if he's not succeeding at it, he would rather be moved out of there. So I think we have to keep some options open.
As much as I don't like to move the lineup around every day, it ended up last year where I did, a lot. But Aoki was basically, he was that one spot where I knew he was going to lead off. And then we were fine trying to mix and match everywhere else.
Q. Is that a tough guy to see go?
RON ROENICKE: Well, I like him, too. Not only I like him on the field, I like him off the field. He's very professional. You can't work harder and be more prepared than he is. But he's also got a great sense of humor, which most people don't see. And once you get past the language part of it, he's a very fun guy, and he's got a lot of personality. So I really enjoyed him.
Q. You lost all the Japanese media, too?
RON ROENICKE: We lost a big group, there. Things are going to be quiet now.
RON ROENICKE: Yeah, I talk about professionalism and quality person, and they don't get much better.
Q. After all these years of being around the game, the fine line, there's different levels of talent, different levels of experience, is smarter, harder has to be stressed but you really have to demand it?
RON ROENICKE: No, it can be, that's why when you're looking at what happened to us in May, you can't have those things happen to you. And like I said, even if you win two or three games there, when you're in a bad month, at the end that's what it could come down to.
Last year it was a disappointing year for us, we finished off pretty well, but I always look at what happens. We got off to a poor start for the three years that I've been here. And that was the topic with Doug is, how do we get off to a better start? Last year I know our record was okay in April. But we need to get off to a better start and our schedule to start the season is difficult.
Q. Up there, has that been talked about, are there any possible solutions to that problem?
RON ROENICKE: We talked about doing some things different in spring that maybe it's more at bats with guys. I still think it comes down to an individual basis. And I think Aramis, before he got hurt, was going to play a lot more in spring, because he wanted to get off to a better start. We talked about it the year before, and we wanted to figure out a way to have him start the season better, and we came up with playing him more in the spring, try to get you more at bats, and hopefully that will make a difference when we start.
But I don't think that's the same with everybody. You can't have a blanket statement and say give everybody more bats and have it work. I think individually you have to figure out with the player how do we best get ready for opening day. Is it the last week when you play nine innings sometimes, or what is it to get you to really be ready, not just physically, but mentally be ready to get after it.
Q. What's the plan, Ron, for moving Braun to right field? How will you plan that transition?
RON ROENICKE: Well, I've had a few conversations with him already on that. And he's receptive to it. I think Ryan enjoys sometimes being challenged. And I think going to right field certainly is a new venture for him. He's got the tool set to do it, no question. He's got good speed. He has a very accurate arm, a strong arm. And I think good judgment. And I think all of that plays into a right fielder.
We talk about the reasons why we're doing it. I think it comes down to Doug feels like we have a couple of guys we think can play leftfield and it's easier probably to find a left fielder than it is a right fielder. Hopefully Ryan will take to right field well and he'll have the whole spring to do it.
Q. Would you play him more? Because you generally don't play him a lot in Spring Training.
RON ROENICKE: It depends on where he is. Physically I want to make sure he's ready for opening day. And keep him healthy, but make sure he gets enough at bats to get ready. He's not a guy that needs a lot of at bats in spring. He's different than Aramis is. So we'll see how that goes. If he needs more innings out there to get used to right field then we'll play him more innings.
Q. Have you talked about how hard it might be on him playing next year with fans and with the background of the biogenesis, have you talked to him about that?
RON ROENICKE: He knows what he's up against, and he knew it last spring what he was up against. And I think the better he plays the more receptive that he's going to be to everybody.
Q. At home, you mean?
RON ROENICKE: At home.
Q. On the road it's not going to matter?
RON ROENICKE: On the road doesn't matter. But it didn't matter the first year that I saw him. That I was around him, he went to certain ballparks, and he was booed because he was a great player. I think part of it going to be that and part of it is going to be what he goes through.
When I came over and first saw Alex Rodriguez he was booed in every park he went to, because he's a great player. I think these guys are comfortable with that, they're on the road. But when you're at home it makes a difference.
Q. Do you think he's nervous about it, especially the home reception?
RON ROENICKE: Yeah, I think there's -- I think he's wondering what it will be like. I'm wondering what it will be like. So I think -- I don't think it will be an issue with the players. But I'm wondering what will happen with the fans. I've said this many times. You guys have heard me say it. This is a really good young man. He made a mistake, but this is a really good young man. He's not somebody that, if you are okay with people making mistakes, which I certainly am, you've got to look at what kind of person this guy is. This is a good guy.
Q. He's been less than forthcoming talking about what happened. We had talked to you during the season last year about whether you thought he needed to say something. And you indicated you thought he did need to say something. We haven't gotten much from him.
RON ROENICKE: I think what happened with him going back to Milwaukee was a nice step for him to take, but also the more I think about it, anything he says at this point about what happened is never going to satisfy everybody. All's it's going to do is start up new controversy. It's going to come across negative to somebody in the press, in the news.
And for him to have to go through that stuff again, to tell you the truth, I don't think he needs to go there. If he wants to, fine. I don't think he needs to go there. He can't get real specific on everything, anyway. So I don't think there's a reason.
Q. Why not?
RON ROENICKE: It's just what it is. I think there's things he can't say. And I think there's things he doesn't want to say.
Q. Because of criminal prosecution?
RON ROENICKE: No, I don't think so. I think the agreement that these guys have with MLB and the association, I think that there are certain things that they would rather them stay away from. That's been the case in almost everybody. Everybody makes their little statement or comments and then you go on from there. And I don't get what the reason is that everybody needs to know exactly what happens. I don't understand that part of it. Everybody knows he did some things he shouldn't have done, and we move on. I know you guys don't want to hear that.
Q. We hear from fans that they'd like to know.
RON ROENICKE: I know.
Q. You look at the comment section in our blogs, people say why won't he say what he did, when he did it and why he did it?
RON ROENICKE: Right.
Q. And when he stopped doing it?
RON ROENICKE: Yeah.
Q. A lot of people think there's been too many unanswered questions. And also you have to realize what happened with him afterward was way different than any other player with the lying and the saying the collector did this and that. There was some --
RON ROENICKE: There are some things that I don't know if we know completely what happened and why he made comments. And to be honest, I really don't need to know. I don't need to know. He made a mistake. That's all's I need to know is how is he going to be when he comes back. How is he going to go about his relationship with players, with fans, with management. I know he's going to be physically ready to go after it. He's a hard worker. He's a good, young man. Really that's the bottom line, is this is a good young man.
Q. You're betting on a big season from him?
RON ROENICKE: I sure hope so.
Q. You're going to have a whole different level of decision making this year with the replay?
RON ROENICKE: Yeah, we're going to learn more about it tomorrow morning. They're going to tell us what to expect and so I'll know a lot more tomorrow on what goes on and how we're going to have to go about it.
Q. You've been skeptical on that system?
RON ROENICKE: I still am.
Q. You still are?
RON ROENICKE: Sure. Absolutely.
Q. It seems as though the managers have enough to do already?
RON ROENICKE: We do. There's a lot that goes on during the ballgame. And we don't have conversations with people that are on a monitor looking at plays like they do in football. That's a huge advantage to have somebody else tell you what to do. It's huge. We're not going to have that advantage.
Q. You almost have to, because otherwise how would you know which plays --
RON ROENICKE: I agree. Just our eyesight in looking at things.
Q. And judgment?
RON ROENICKE: I guess.
Q. Good luck.
RON ROENICKE: Thank you, I'm looking for it.
Q. Do you figure the first four spots in your rotation filled?
RON ROENICKE: I think so. I think somebody is going to have to pitch their way of out of probably those spots.
Q. You know Gallardo won't, so it kind of leaves Willie and Estrada, doesn't it?
RON ROENICKE: Yeah.
Q. So you're looking to fill one spot in camp?
RON ROENICKE: Yeah, like I said, I think the way that Thornburg pitched, I think he's going to certainly get a really good opportunity to do that.
Q. Has he got the best foot in the door for No. 5?
RON ROENICKE: I think to start with. I think you need to do it that way. And then we'll see what these other guys can do.
Q. Just because he was so good when you started him?
RON ROENICKE: I think so. I think anytime you give a guy an opportunity to do that and he pitches the way he does, I think he needs to get the first opportunity.
Q. And then the other guys in camp, if he doesn't do well, there's other guys you'll look at?
RON ROENICKE: Yes. And I think also there's always a move that can come up that surprises you, maybe it surprises Doug and all of a sudden it's right there in front of him and he knows he can really improve our starting pitching and he does it.
Q. You mean from outside?
RON ROENICKE: Yeah. And I don't know those things. I don't know what can come up. And things do come up in a hurry.
Q. He knows if he picks up another guy?
RON ROENICKE: Right.
Q. I know the bullpen is very important to you and every manager and it seems like Doug's efforts there are being held up by first base. For what reason are you eager for first base to get settled and do you think that will happen here?
RON ROENICKE: Well, I think we're eager to see what Corey wants to do. And I think with the conversations that Doug is having with us and where we are with Corey, it would help us moving forward if we know what Corey is thinking, where he's at, and then from there, you know, you try to figure out whether by trade if it's not Corey, by trade, which sometimes you have to maybe move a pitcher, and that opens up a spot. Or by free agency, how you can fill that.
Q. If Corey comes back and Thornburg wins your last spot, you're going to have a remarkably right handed team, both offensively and pitching, especially now that Nori is gone. Scooter would be your only projected left handed pitcher. No left handed starters, it's very right handed.
RON ROENICKE: I think offensively it doesn't bother me at all. Since I've been here, our winning percentage is better against right handers than left handers.
So for me to say I wish we had more lefties in the lineup, when I know we don't hit left handed pitchers, is, I guess, not smart for me to feel that way, because why would you want to get worse against lefties, when you already hit right handers well. Your righties hit right handers well. To add left handers on because it has to be a left hander, I think you get the best guy you have for that job. I think whether he's left handed or right handed to me doesn't matter.
RON ROENICKE: No, it's a good division. We know what we're up against. We know everything has to go right. We certainly can't have any injuries we had last year. But that's okay. That's okay. It's fun when you're not picked to win something and you end up having a great year. That's really nice to do.
Q. You guys will probably be considered a major underdog, too?
RON ROENICKE: We know going in that's where we're going to be.
Q. You look forward to that kind of challenge?
RON ROENICKE: I look forward to all challenges. If you ask me whether I'd rather have a team of all super stars, yes, I would. But I like the challenge of it. I like the challenge of young guys with talent and trying to get them to perform.
There's sometimes when guys that don't have talent, they make it to the big leagues, usually they've maxed out. They figured it out themselves. But it's the guys with talent that come up, or maybe they've been with somebody else and they can't figure it out now you get them and you try to figure them out and try to get them to perform, I enjoy that.
Q. How was the wedding?
RON ROENICKE: Really nice.
Q. Was it just you and Rickie from the team?
RON ROENICKE: And Mark.