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Winter Meetings interview with Walt Weiss

Q. You've talked to Thompson about this in the last couple days. How much more comfortable are you now a year later, and how has that translated in terms of these meetings and your input and your ability to contribute?

WALT WEISS: Well, the biggest difference is I know our club. A year ago I was not very familiar, if at all, with our club. Having spent a year with them, I got a good feel for who we are and what we need to do, how we need to get better, the design of our club. So obviously I have a lot more input on those types of things this year compared to last year.

Q. You've talked to Thompson about this in the last couple days. How much more comfortable are you now a year later, and how has that translated in terms of these meetings and your input and your ability to contribute?

WALT WEISS: Well, the biggest difference is I know our club. A year ago I was not very familiar, if at all, with our club. Having spent a year with them, I got a good feel for who we are and what we need to do, how we need to get better, the design of our club. So obviously I have a lot more input on those types of things this year compared to last year.

Q. Can you touch on in general the rise of managers that are coming in without previous experience and the success that they're showing? What do you think about that?

WALT WEISS: I think you're seeing some good baseball people being hired. The game is the game. That's never going to change and guys that have been around the game and have played it their whole lives, I think the learning curve as far as managing a game and staying out in front of a game is one of the easier adjustments. Not that it's easy, but that's something that we're all familiar with. The other parts that go along with managing a club and being responsible not only for your players, but your staff and front office and entire organization. Some of the things that go along with that are more challenging at times. But you're seeing a lot of good baseball people being hired, so it doesn't surprise me.

Q. It's often with the Rockies you expect good offense, but right now with the move you made yesterday to get Brett Anderson, it seems like the pitching is very much a strength, the starting pitching is very much a strength. Do you agree, and how much does that how much better does it make it for you going into the season?

WALT WEISS: I feel like we've taken a big step with our starting rotation. We started the 2013 season with four guys out of our five man rotation missing either all of '12 or most of '12. So it was very precarious way to start the season in regards to your starting rotation. This year we got three guys that have really stepped up, and I think they've taken a big step in their development. De la Rosa, who has been around a little bit longer, but de la Rosa and Chatwood, in particular, and Chacin. We're in a much better place, and then adding Brett Anderson on top of that, I feel like that's probably one of the areas of our club where we've taken the biggest step.

Q. I know they went over the replay today with all the managers. Now that it's been explained kind of what things are going to, what do you think of the system in place, and how do you think it will affect you in managing what you'll have to do?

WALT WEISS: Well, I think the bottom line is regardless of how you look at it, I think there is going to be a system in place that allows us as an industry to get the calls right. I think the umpires want that. Everybody wants that. The fans want it. And they've worked hard. That committee has worked really hard to try to work out the kinks in the system. And it's brand new. It's probably not going to be perfect. But I think it's the right thing to do. I think they've done a really nice job of putting this thing together. There may be some trial and error. I think that's expected. But I think they've done a really good job of putting this thing together, and I think it's going to go well.

Q. What about Justin Morneau and what he brings to this ballclub even though he's an older veteran?

WALT WEISS: I'm not officially allowed to talk about Justin yet. I can say that I think he's a really good player and I think he's got a lot left. But officially he's not ours yet.

Q. Okay, what about your bullpen? Do you feel confident with Rex just being your closer for this year?

WALT WEISS: Well, we've got some options there. We brought back LaTroy Hawkins. We threw the ball really well last year. He's a power arm for us. We have Rex also that can close out games. We're still looking to make our club better. That is one of the areas that we're looking at. I think in the end it almost always comes down to pitching. I feel like, like I said, we're in a much better place than we were a year ago. But we're still looking to make our club better in that area.

Q. Having managed it at Coors Field and in a different setting than as a player, how big can it be home road, and there is that dichotomy that you're going to be in low scoring road games, why or is the bullpen becoming more paramount now in your experience as a manager?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, I think that's got to be one of the formulas away from Coors Field. We've got to be able to put our game as way with our bullpen. Because the fact of the matter is we tend to play lower scoring games on the road, and that's how it's been for 20 years. I think that's a formula for us. We've got to get powerful late in the game. We've got to get good late in the game. We've got to be able to put those games away, and that's what we're trying to do.

Q. How do you replace Dexter in centerfield?

WALT WEISS: Dexter was a dynamic player for us, a great kid. We talked about moving Cargo over to center. I think the philosophy behind that is Cargo was one of the greatest assets we have as a club. We're talking about putting him in a position in centerfield to impact the game more and take advantage of that skill set that he has. I think he's one of the best outfielders, period, in the game regardless of position. So I don't have any concern about him playing that position. That's what he came up as a centerfielder. We slide him over. We have some young kids, as we sit here today, that are going to get that crack at left field Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon. We brought in Brandon Barnes who brings a lot of energy and a right handed bat against left handed pitching, a guy that can play centerfield. So, you know, we feel good about where we're at in the outfield.

Q. With Todd Helton now retired, Troy Tulowitzki kind of becomes the leader and the veteran type leader of this team. How do you feel he'll be able to handle that particular position?

WALT WEISS: I think the time is right for Tulowitzki. I think it's somewhat of a perfect storm at this point in his career. I think he's seven years in, and he's ready for that. He's ready for that. With Todd leaving at this time, I think, like I said, it's all lined up for Tulowitzki to take on more of a role that way. And he did that last year. I thought he took great strides in that area last year. It's tough when you get hurt, and he's had to deal with that stuff; that wears on you mentally. But I thought he really stepped up last year as a leader and was a great encourager to some of our young guys, and that's going to be needed again.

Q. Other than staying healthy, what is the next step for him in his career?

WALT WEISS: You guys that get to see him like I do know he's one of the elite players in the game, really a special talent. It's an asset that most clubs don't have, that type of dynamic player at that position. But Tulowitzki does everything he can in his power to stay healthy. The guy prepares and goes through a tedious routine to try to maintain his health and put himself in position to play every night. He's had some tough luck, you know. But it's not for the sake of not preparing well or doing what he can. Hopefully that luck comes around for him, because this guy has truly been a special player.

Q. With Cargo moving to center, is there any concern he'll be worn down physically because of the size of your ballpark? I know you guys have been reluctant to play him in multiple positions. If he goes to center, do you want him to stay there and is there concern that he might get worn down or his legs get tired?

WALT WEISS: It's something that's been the topic of conversation. We want to be careful. And that's my job. That's my job. Not that you can prevent every injury, but it's my job to give him a break here and there and save his legs, because he is going to be running around that big outfield in centerfield. And that is a bit of a factor. We talked about it. We'll stay on top of it. But I think Cargo is excited about it. He's going to come into spring training knowing that he's going to have to do that and play that position. He's ready to do it.

Q. Can you touch on Arenado's first year at third? And do you see him developing into one of the premier third basemen in the league?

WALT WEISS: I told our guys all year, it's as good a young third baseman that I've ever seen break into the league. He was that good this year. He's one of those guys that's just a baseball player. He loves the game. He loves to practice the game. He's a very gifted defender. There is offense in there too. There's going to be power, some solid power numbers at some point. But he's a good hitter. He's a little streaky, as young hitters tend to be. But he's a staple for us. He had an incredible year. I'm glad he wasn't overlooked for that Gold Glove, because I really thought he was the best there was.

Q. You think the best place for him offensively in the lineup is more in the middle? Middle? Fifth or sixth?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, with our lineup I don't think he's going to hit in the middle of our lineup right now. But, yeah, you're looking at six, seven, and in that spot, which there is no shame in that when you look at our lineup. But I think he's going to impact the game offensively too.

Q. Jordan Pacheco had a rough season. Why and what is his future from a positional standpoint?

WALT WEISS: Jordan had a bit of a rough season just because, I think, more due to the dynamics of our club and the way we put it together. There really wasn't a spot for him to get consistent at bats on our club last year. I thought it was really important that toward the end of the season we sent him out and he got to go down to Colorado Springs and catch. Then when he came back up, he got to catch some games late. We feel comfortable with him at that position. That is his best position. Because of the way our club was made up, he didn't get a lot of opportunities to get behind the plate for us in the last couple of years. But that is his natural position. He's comfortable back there. The pitchers have a lot of confidence in him, and he can hit. You know, it was tough last year because he got intermittent at bats. It's tough for anybody to hit under those circumstances. But this is a guy we trust back there. I think the pitchers do too which is even more important.

Q. Michael Cuddyer has been a good player for a long time. What was it like to see him get the recognition last year? Won a batting title, also a Home Run Derby?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, an incredible year for Cuddyer, and couldn't happen to a better guy. This guy is as good as it gets, in my opinion. A true pro. And it's nice to see those types of guys be rewarded by the game. He had a hell of a year. I don't know if you could dream up a better year than Cuddyer had. Then on top of it he's a tremendous leader. He's huge for our club. He's going to be huge for our club in 2014, but he's a special guy.

Q. Do you see your starting catcher eventually changing positions? I know there was talk of him maybe going to first?

WALT WEISS: Well, we feel like there's been enough improvement back there with Wilin, that he's going to be our catcher. From 2012 to 2013, he made strides. Still needs to get better. One of the biggest factors when we talked about moving him to another position was trying to get his bat in the lineup because he's a run producer. He's a dynamic offensive player with tremendous power. So we're looking for a way to get him another 100 to 150 at bats. I'll have to be creative maybe in the ways that we do that because he changes our club in the lineup. As we sit here today, that is probably some games at first base. For the most part, he's going to catch. But I'll look for ways to get his bat in the lineup because of the changes.

Q. Related to that, how does that impact Pacheco? Is he going to see time at other positions as well?

WALT WEISS: He could. Jordan is another option at first base at times. He's done that quite a bit for us. Last year that's where he played most of his games. Jordan is an offensive player. He can hit. So, yeah, that is another option for a guy like Pacheco going to first base at times too.

Q. How about D.J.? How has he developed as a player and where do you see him?

WALT WEISS: I thought D.J. did a heck of a job for us last year. He's another guy that's a really tough kid. He grinds through the tough parts of the game. He's a winning player. He's a pro at a young age. We talked about Cuddyer. He reminds me of probably what Cuddyer looked like at his age. He's that type of kid. Just has a knack to find a way to beat you. That's what D.J. is so good at. He's just got a really good feel for the game, great instincts, plus defender and gives you a really good at bat. He really did a nice job for us last year.

Q. Is he entering spring today starting second base?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, I think he's earned that. We've got another kid in Josh Rutledge who physically is a very talented player. Had a rough year last year. It was his second year, and there is a reason why they call it a sophomore jinx. There is a name for it. So it's a tough year, that second year. I think Rut felt some of that, but we still feel really good about him. He's got power speed combo that you don't see very often on the middle of the infield. He's learning a new position last year which made it even tougher on him. But he's a very talented athlete that is getting better as a baseball player. He's another guy that could play a very big role for us.

Q. Is he a super utility guy for you?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, as we sit here today, he's probably in that role. But he's a guy that could play his way on the field because he's very talented. With the set of tools that he's got, you have more patience for those guys that have the tool set that Rutledge has. So we still feel like he's an impact guy for us.

Q. With Rosario, because he was catching, it's hard to put him right in the middle of the lineup because he's going to miss 45 games or whatever. Have you thought about where he might hit in the middle of that order, making Morneau kind of player X, but how the middle of that order looks for you?

WALT WEISS: I see Wilin a lot like last year where he was five or six. I think last year he hit sixth more than he did fifth. But we ran a lot of different lineups out there last year because of injuries. So he floated a little bit. But I think as we sit here today, that's where I'd see him.

Q. Again, today, the left fielder more than likely be the strong candidate to leadoff?

WALT WEISS: Strong candidate to leadoff. Now we start talking about left and right and different match ups maybe and that will tend to change. But, yeah, as we sit here today, I think the left fielder is probably the strongest candidate to lead off for us.

Q. You'd prefer D.J. stay at second. I think I know the reason, but why is he for you profiled better there at second than leadoff?

WALT WEISS: You know what, I think D.J. profiles really well as a number two guy because he handles the bat really well. He can move runners. He tends to execute the game very well. So that's a natural spot for him. Maybe you can hit him down lower in the order in the eight spot and get him to turn that lineup over for a National League club. He's going to give you a good at bat. That is the bottom line. But he does a lot of things that are conducive to that in that second spot.

Q. You make a ten win improvement off last year. But you spent your life as a winning player. I think you had one losing season, maybe two. Do you sense not the culture so much, but is it starting to turn the other side now where expectations are greater and it's not enough to just improve if you're the Rockies? Do you feel that? What is your role in leading you guys to this next step?

WALT WEISS: Well, it's my job. It's my job to put our guys in position to win, to create a culture that perpetuates winning. That's what I'm trying to do. That's what we're trying to do as an organization. I do feel like we made a lot of strides in that area last year. We weren't perfect. We had some rough spots over the course of the season. But I'm really encouraged by the way we finished. And I don't even know if our record was that impressive the last four to six weeks. But I know that we competed as a different level, I felt like, down the stretch. We lost some really tough games. We hung in on some tough games and one them when we were shorthanded. I just saw a different level of competitiveness, particularly down the stretch. So I feel really good about the make up of our club, the personality of our club, the guys leading our club. So I think that is another area where we're getting better.

Q. You got really good years from Jhoulys and de la Rosa, and a pretty good year and from Tyler Chatworth. What do you expect to see out of them, and what will they do to repeat that this year?

WALT WEISS: All three of those guys had a very good season. I think in Jhoulys' and de la Rosa's case, I think they had two of the better seasons ever for Rockies pitchers. When you take it all into consideration, it's tough to say that de la Rosa is going to repeat what he did, because it was a phenomenal season statistically. But I think he took a huge step and Jhoulys did. He's a young guy that went to another level for us. Chatwood probably took a bigger step than anybody from where he came from. Three formidable guys. I feel pretty good about having those three guys in the mix, and bringing in a guy like Anderson. Like I said, I think that's one of the areas where we've made the most improvement.

Q. As a guy who played shortstop for a long time, what is your take on the trend toward a lot more with some clubs scheme defensive shifts?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, you know what, I probably play fewer shifts. We'll shift at times, but all things being equal, I tend to play I'll play strong pull more than I will shift. We'll shift on certain guys, but for me, they're extreme cases. We have a lot of data that we go off of. But a lot of it depends on, obviously, personnel, counts, the scoreboard, they all play a role. But all things being equal, a lot of times I'll choose to play strong pull as opposed to shift. But we did play shift quite a bit last year.

Q. Do you shift a lot per individual batter?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, a lot of it is just we go off of spray charts and a lot of information that is available to us. I think a big factor is how we're pitching guys. Do you have the ability to get them to hit into the shift? Is that a challenge for us? All those things you have to take into consideration.

Q. Do you see the NL West still being a division with lots of parity? There have been several different winners even though the Dodgers went crazy at the end.

WALT WEISS: I think there was a lot of parity up until the All Star break, and then the Dodgers played out of this world and they ran away from everybody. But I think there is parity. The Giants won two out of three World Series, now two out of four. But the Diamondbacks are always competitive. The Padres have gotten better. I think there is a lot of parity. The Dodgers are very, very talented, no doubt about it. That showed up particularly in the second half last year. I expect it to be tight.

Q. Would it surprise you at all if you guys step up to make a big move this year?

WALT WEISS: Well, it'd probably surprise a lot of people, but not me. It's tough. It can be done. We're going to have to go worst to first, and then it's been done before. The bottom of that division was tightly packed. We came in last place; that is the bottom line. But there were a couple games separating us. Other than the Dodgers, the parity still existed. I think we're getting better. We're making our club better. We made our club better down here specifically. But I expect it to be a tight division. I expect us to be a part of it.

Q. How much is that related to Tulo and Cargo playing? I mean, Tulo's injury was a fluke. Did you get a better handle on how to handle his leg issue, and how do you keep them on the field for whether it's 140? Do you have a goal in mind for how many you'd like those two to play?

WALT WEISS: I don't have a specific number. I think ironically Tulowitzki, when he missed his bulk of the time, it wasn't his legs which had been a problem for him in the past. He broke his rib. So there's not a whole lot you can do about that. But there is no question we've got to keep our horses on the field. Again, we do everything we can to try to prevent injuries. The players do the same with their routines. Some things are unavoidable. It's tough for us to overcome. I think it's tough for any club, but it's tough for us to overcome major injuries to your core guys. I think we got exposed a little bit last year when that was the case. But at the same time, the silver lining was we had some young guys that came up and really made an impression and are looking to win some jobs, some everyday jobs because of it. So that was the silver lining to some of our horses missing some time last year.

Q. Will you have a plan with Tulowitzki like you did last year where you look to give him days again?

WALT WEISS: I'll give him days, but I don't think it's going to be the same type of plan. Last year he was still in spring training. He was still feeling his way through it and playing a little guarded. So the circumstances were a little bit different. He feels great now, especially his legs, which had been the biggest issue for him. So he's at a different place than he was a year ago. So I don't think it will be quite the same circumstances that we saw last year.

Q. Last year you had a couple of really heavy use guys in Belisle and also Lopez. A whole lot of innings for them, and sometimes the numbers took a hit. Do you feel they'll bounce back this year, and do you look to use them a little less?

WALT WEISS: Well, yeah. I think that was another area where we started to get exposed a little bit when our closer went down, guys got slotted maybe later in the game. Guys went to the post. There is no doubt about that. But they're put in some tough situations because we were thin in the bullpen. That's one of the areas where we're trying to get stronger this winter. If we can get stronger in the bullpen then those guys are not going to have to be used as much as last year where guys are playing a variety of roles in that bullpen. Some guys are pitching multi innings, and then they're pitching late in the game. A lot of guys wear a lot of different hats in that bullpen last year. They got through it, and they battled through it, but it was tough.

Q. Can it affect a player's psyche if a guy is constantly being injured?

WALT WEISS: Yeah. I mean, it's a tough mentally when you've been hurt quite a bit. And I've had my share of injuries when I played. It does take a toll on you. I think all it takes is having that one healthy season to get over that hump. But a lot of it is you have no control over. Guys that played the game hard and played the gamer day and compete really hard, those guy probably tend to get hurt more often. So it's that balance. But it can wear on you mentally if you're taking multiple trips to the disabled list. But you can turn that around quickly with a healthy season.