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Winter Meetings interview with Buck Showalter

MLB.com

Q. Do you see Austin Hays in your Opening Day outfield next year?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not necessarily. He's got a chance to contribute in the future when it is. We think it's kind of when, not if. Good kid. Presented himself well. Obviously had one of the best years of anybody in the Minor Leagues in baseball. He's a strong contender for Minor League Player of the Year throughout baseball. He didn't win that, did he?

Q. Do you see Austin Hays in your Opening Day outfield next year?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not necessarily. He's got a chance to contribute in the future when it is. We think it's kind of when, not if. Good kid. Presented himself well. Obviously had one of the best years of anybody in the Minor Leagues in baseball. He's a strong contender for Minor League Player of the Year throughout baseball. He didn't win that, did he?

Q. He was runner-up to Conejo.

BUCK SHOWALTER: He played better than he did. No, he's a good kid. We were excited about him and the progress he made, like a lot of the kids down below. We had a lot of really good offensive years out of the minor league people. About four or five of them really jumped forward.

A real tribute to Jeff Manto and Brian Graham and the job those guys did all over the system last year. We had a lot of guys really jump forward, especially offensively.

Q. What do you think the chances are this club could make a significant trade or two?

BUCK SHOWALTER: That's a question for Dan. Is he here behind me? No, we're just -- right now we're spending a lot of time getting the mini camp together because we have to have those invitations issued by Friday, I think it is. So as far as -- depends on what you define as "significant." A lot of things happen here that don't look significant, and then you look back on them in September, and they're very significant. We'll see where that takes us. There's a lot of stuff. People kind of feeling their way around.

This moves so fast now with the texting and the email. You don't see near the people in the hall you used to. But there's a lot of things going on because perception -- you try to figure out the difference between perceptions and reality.

Q. Buck, is the organization's mindset, as far as you know, changed at all when it comes to Manny Machado or for that matter Zach Britton or any --

BUCK SHOWALTER: I honestly -- as opposed to lying to you. When someone says honestly speaking, does that mean you lied to me last week? Frankly, I should say I'm not -- we're not talking about that all the time. I'm not involved in a lot of that, what's really going on. That's Dan's situation and Dan's prerogative and his communication with people.

When it gets to the end, I'm kind of like what if something happens? What are you going to do? I'm grinding the six-year free agents that we signed, pitchers, and some of the utility infielders, and I'm looking from within at what we have and what we're going to do with it.

But if there's something that's going to change drastically the construction of our roster, then I'm sure I'll be brought into it.

Q. Did Manny express a desire to play shortstop to you?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Always has, since the day he signed. I think out of his respect for J.J. Hardy -- and one of the reasons why we brought Jonathan and him up early is because the chance to play alongside J.J. and really jump start their development in a lot of areas.

Manny has not only respect for J.J. but also for Tim Beckham and other people.

To say that Manny and I haven't had conversations about it over the years, I wouldn't be truthful. I think you guys know that I try to have guys hear from me about things, whether it be Tim or whether it be Manny or whether it be a Ryan Flaherty or Chris Davis about something, anybody.

Obviously, we're not there yet, but it's something that Manny -- I found that players need to know about that, not February 15th or March 15th. They need to know about it back then -- Manny's capable of playing both real well. And I think so is Tim.

Q. So what will determine where Manny plays then? Depends on another move you guys make?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Next 48 hours. No. Listen, you know, I've got a real gut feeling about how it's going to work out, but I want to make sure we cover all the bases before whatever direction we go in. It's good to have the strength there for those two guys, guys that are going to play shortstop, and it's a good problem to have.

Manny and I have certainly talked privately about it. I know him having the experience he's had there in the big leagues, I think he's got a real respect for the -- of what it takes to play there at the major leagues. I think he played it for almost a month, as you well know, and it was a different challenge for him, but he's capable.

Q. You had the opportunity to do that with him for a while last year as well when J.J. was hurt, and you chose not to. You went with Jonathan or whatever. What would be different this year than last year?

BUCK SHOWALTER: J.J.'s not here if we did it. That was it. J.J. was coming back at some point. I just thought Manny was, and is, so good at third base and will be again, that the timing wasn't right.

Q. So if he at this point, obviously, there's speculation where he would be, but if he is with you guys --

BUCK SHOWALTER: He'll be at third or short. Not there yet.

Q. Yeah.

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not there yet, publicly anyway. You know I've had some pretty good conversations about it even recently.

Q. But short is at least in the possibility phase?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Oh, sure. So it is with Tim. I'm hoping that some of our other kids, the Sardinas kid, I'm really hoping to get a look at in the spring. He was real young and kind of got back on the map with us.

I know he signed very quickly with us.

Q. Buck, you've talked about wanting to upgrade the defense. How else do you do that? Other than if you -- if you move Manny to short, do you worry about defense slipping at third? Then you guys go out and get more defensive-minded players?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I'm not committed to Manny going there, but there's some other things we're pursuing, especially in the outfield. I thought we -- I thought Trey came leaps and bounds. He was so -- he's actually turned into a pretty good outfielder. I know what we're going to do in right field is a question, for instance, where mark would fit into the equation.

The problem is, if you look at our schedule and the way the game's going, most people are going with 12 pitchers. So now you're talking about a catcher and you're talking about Santander. So you're talking about one spot left. The premium on that guy being very versatile, and I think the value of that player in the game today is becoming real, real valuable to teams.

Most teams are able to develop somebody like that from within. We're not quite there yet.

Q. How necessary is it to have a left-handed hitter in the lineup?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I think one of the challenges we had the last couple months, how much right-handed pitching we saw. Right now we're running seven, eight right-handed hitters out there. I'd rather run a good right-handed hitter out there than a bad left-hander. But it is something we'd like to balance our lineup out there more. Dan and I have talked about it.

Q. Would you look into maybe rest Adam a little bit more if you're able to?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Yeah, if that person -- we're talking about this one person. Santander can't play centerfield. That's the point I'm trying to make to you. Where does that come from? Trey or Brugman? No. That's why this other piece is very important if you have a decision about how it's going to play out, especially if you look at our schedule.

Q. Is moving Adam to right field a possibility?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not at this stage. He's not -- you know, I think he's a very capable and solid centerfielder for us.

Q. Buck, with a guy like Manny being out there, is it as simple as an organization coming to a decision and saying we're going to go in a different direction? You know what I'm saying?

BUCK SHOWALTER: First of all, I'm not going to assume that what you said, that it's out there. Just because somebody talks about it doesn't mean -- I think a lot of that gets way overblown. I also know the reality. I've got a feel for what's actually going on. I'm not in on every conversation, thank goodness.

No, I think you -- when I first came here, you want to be consistent with the message your fans and to the people that live and die with everything the Orioles do. I'm hoping we can continue to do that because it's something that we've been proud of here for the last five, six, seven years. So we'll see where this all leads. But you do want to have a definitive plan.

Good fans like we have, if they kind of know what the end game is with things, whether it's us last year, the year before, the year before, they just -- they want to sell themselves emotionally to you, you've got to be honest and frank with them. Because economically, our ownership has been great. They've been as supportive as any time in Oriole history, if you really want to look at it, financially and everything.

So that's an excuse if you want to -- somebody brings up something the Yankees do or the Red Sox do. Last time I looked, the Red Sox won the division the last two years. I mean, I don't get jealous or whatever. That's the nature of the game. It's economically. I'd do the same thing if I was them, but we can't let them creep in here if it was an excuse.

Q. How about Stanton and the Yankees, similar to what you're saying right now?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Yeah, it's not the first time that teams with that kind of economic power have done that. Chris Sale and Price and Yankees have done it and probably going to do it again. God bless them. They should. I know their fans.

But we can do it, we've just got to stay on task and on message and know who we are and who we're not.

Q. Buck's, Manny has been around since 2012, and I think we sometimes forget he's 25 years old at times. For a 25-year-old kid, to hear his name and things like that. Have you had a chance to reach out to him? Are you going to?

BUCK SHOWALTER: We have those conversations all year long, some casual, some not. They sit down to them while they're having a meal or playing chess. You always keep that dialogue open. You want to know what they're thinking, what they're feeling. You don't assume they're handling something well or not well. So I'll continue to try to communicate.

I try to put myself in players' shoes. What would I want to know? It's the unknown that drives people crazy and things that are out of their control. Manny has earned the right to be in control of a lot of things in his life and career. And he's got a good feel for it. But I still would not assume things like that. So there's that possibility.

If I knew how -- what are you going to say to him other than just be a sounding board? I don't know how things are going to work out for any of our guys. He's not the only one in the last year of a contract (laughter).

Someone asked me about it, and I said, how are we different than players? I know coaches who didn't know what they were doing when the season ended.

Q. You were bringing it up kind of, but as far as --

BUCK SHOWALTER: What was I bringing up?

Q. People without contracts next year.

BUCK SHOWALTER: Why should coaches -- coaches and managers to some extent, trainers, players. There's a lot more people on our club, every club, that don't know what's going to -- that life and the season and the game has in store for them each year. It's an honor every day I get a chance to do this.

As I get older, I realize how lucky I am, even more so. Where life and baseball takes me, I'll deal with another time. Right now my focus is on the 2018 season and see if we can get back to competing.

Q. Would you like to manage the team in 2019 and beyond?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Sure, sure.

Q. Buck, the Yankees had good offensive numbers against you guys. How do you think about --

BUCK SHOWALTER: You reckon? I was there for every one of them. Thank you for reminding me.

Q. How do you combat Stanton and Judge and those guys?

BUCK SHOWALTER: We pitch better. Pitcher is on top of their game, the pitcher wins. You don't believe me, watch the playoffs. The teams that were playing in October had the best pitching staffs. It's nearly as complicated as everybody makes it. We pitched well until the middle of May. When we had our depth tested and some other things, it got away from us. If you make real good pitches to those guys, you get them out. If you make bad pitches, they go a little further than everybody else is hitting them.

I'm glad they haven't changed the rule where the further you hit it, you get a run and a half, a run and a quarter. Can you imagine? If they had one of those skeet ball things where the further you hit it, the more points you get. Don't give them any ideas in the competition committee. Could you imagine a stadium like -- of course, the Yankee stadium, as little as that ballpark is, they don't need any help.

Q. Buck, you mentioned people being on the last year of their contract. Do you think that for players in the free agent market, that it is an added obstacle for you guys that maybe there is that uncertainty beyond this year, whether it's the teammates they would play around or whether it's you or Dan?

BUCK SHOWALTER: That would be a good question for them. It may not be a positive, but at the end of the day, I think, in our situation, I think we can out opportunity a lot of people, especially in the pitching department. And that's what people want. They want an opportunity. So those are the people that we have to kind of focus on that means something to them regardless of the division or necessarily what the roster may look like.

I think they're more -- I don't think players look at it that way. Agents might and give some advice. I don't know. I haven't been in there. I don't think it's a detriment. I don't. I hope it's not.

Q. You talk about being fortunate that you get to do this every day during the season. You've actually been a manager for the Orioles longer than all but, I think, three managers in baseball with their teams. When you think about that and think about that longevity, what it might mean the next few years, what are your overall considerations as far as the future?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I haven't thought about it other than knowing how fortunate and lucky I am to be in Baltimore. I think everybody knows what I think of the city and the organization and the people that I've come to know. But as every day passes, it's another great honor. So I don't -- what goes down the line -- stay focused on the day-to-day operations of what my job is and try to stay focused on what we have and making it the best we can be. If we can out-relationship people or out-prepare, out-organize, out-taught -- you know, whatever. We need to do the things that we can make a difference in. What we have to do to make up the difference with some challenges that we have because of the division we play in.

Q. What's Sisco got to do in Spring Training to show you that he can take over the mantel there behind the plate?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I really very quietly think, because of the way J.R. is, John Russell, I think we have one of the best catching instructors in all of baseball, and I really lean on him. John has shown a real propensity for taking whatever weaknesses may be perceived or reality in a catcher and really -- so when he tells me that he thinks he and Austin wins -- of course, we all know what we have in Caleb -- he thinks a lot of them. Unfortunately, you need four or five in today's game, really four. And I know Dan and our front office is really trying to -- Francisco left us, Pena. We were hoping to get him back.

I think that the continued growth as a thrower. I think he's going to be fine receiving. I think he's going to be fine with his fingers as he grows. But it's a tough place to cut your teeth in the American League East and have that confidence with pitchers that really don't know you and you don't know them in some cases.

So Caleb's there and John's there, and I think he will be as good as he's capable of being, and he will come as quickly as his skills allow. He's a good one.

I don't even think about his bat. That's just -- it's catching it, throwing it, fingers, and having the confidence of the pitching staff. We lost a good one in Cassie, but through that comes a good opportunity for some guys. I wouldn't underplay Wentz. I wouldn't underestimate Austin. He's got our attention, especially the things he's been able to do recently.

Q. Are all your coaches under contract?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I think so. Some of them, their contract ran out in October, some of them in December. But I know I was talking to one of the coaches whose contract had run out in December who had gotten it the last week or two. I think they all have them. Whether they're -- I don't think any of us are in a position to be holding out right now.

Q. Buck, why has longevity become so rare for managers in a single spot?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Has it? How long was Joe there?

Q. I'm sorry?

BUCK SHOWALTER: How long was Girardi there?

Q. He was there ten. But it was rare when you look around the landscape.

BUCK SHOWALTER: How long was Terry with the Mets?

Q. Six years.

BUCK SHOWALTER: Is that all? It seemed like longer.

Q. He came the year after you.

BUCK SHOWALTER: I like to think the shelf life of managers, they're not sitting up there with owners every day, there's a different dynamic. I think it kind of runs in cycles. Some of these guys that have been hired this off-season, I expect them to be around for a long time. They're a really, really impressive group. It's good for the game and good for -- I thought Joe did a great job and John in Boston. They were tough. Part of me was kind of glad that you don't have that challenge next year, and then all of a sudden you see who they replaced them with, and you go, geez, nothing is going to change, two really sharp guys. Maybe you'll be asking them that question in ten years. I wouldn't be surprised at all.

Q. Japanese player Ohtani signed with --

BUCK SHOWALTER: How do you pronounce that correctly?

Q. Ohtani.

BUCK SHOWALTER: You all have been getting that wrong. She's got it right. Did you know that?

Q. Ohtani, yes. Now he's with the Angels. You guys will face Angels in May or June.

BUCK SHOWALTER: I'm glad he's on the west coast, not on the east coast.

Q. How do you make plans to prepare to face him? You guys possibly seeing him as a pitcher and a hitter both?

BUCK SHOWALTER: We've had -- I know Mike Snyder and some of our guys have been over in Japan off and on the last two years. We were already talking about it. There's still some unknown first time you face those guys and try to pitch to them too, see how that works out. There's some unknown there, but I think the good news is we're not playing him the first week in the spring. There will be some time to gather some information on him because people love sharing information if you ask the right people.

Q. Do you think it's possible for a player to keep as a two-way player in the major league level?

BUCK SHOWALTER: You know what, everybody wants to say no, but I've watched a lot of him the last couple years, as a matter of fact, and he has the ability to do it. I think, when it all went down, I thought for sure they'd be DH'ing him. But you wonder sometimes he becomes such a good pitcher they don't want to take the risk of losing him physically or something. It's not like in elementary school you had that ghost runner beside the plate, and you just hit and stood there. You ran too good. You didn't have to do that. He's a good one. He'll be fun to watch. Great for baseball.

You think about the things that came out when Ichiro came over and Matsui, those are the two guys -- when I went over to Japan, they stuck out like a sore thumb. They were, I thought, so much better than the rest of the league. And then everybody started getting third and fourth and fifth players from there, and there was a dropoff. The pitching has always been solid, and here's a guy that can do both.

Q. Buck, you were talking about the managers. How challenging will it be for Boone and Cora to have no experience and go into those two markets in your division?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Overrated. Aaron's got plenty of experience in New York. Think about his pedigree with his dad and brothers and playing in New York. He was a great hire for them. And Alex is always -- he's always -- he's been a great brain picker, so to speak. I didn't want to say nose. He and his brother both, I talked to them a lot over the years. I remember talking about running the Spring Training stuff. They have a thirst for knowledge and things to prepare. He'll be do well there because both of them will think about the weight of their words before they say things. They'll have great player relations.

They both have a really good background as a player and from some other phases of the game that come. They're going to be really good. Like I said, Joe and John were so good there for a long period of time, and they hire these two guys, and they're impressive. I was at a banquet last year that I survived the east coast purge. That's how I was introduced. I'm going, what are you talking about? Then Philly, both New Yorks, Boston, Washington. It's working its way down the coast.

 

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