Q's and A's with Maddon, Friedman
Here is a partial transcription of Thursday's pre-spring press conference, as provided by the Rays PR staff:
PRESS CONFERENCE AT CHARLOTTE SPORTS PARK
Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman & Manager Joe Maddon
On what he will strive for this spring training:
“I was talking about it a lot with the coaches, we had a little bit of a meeting and I really want us to emphasize getting off to a better start, obviously. A good start is a priority. The other thing I really want to talk about is to finish games strong. We gave up a lot of games late last year, even during the course of the season. The 11 game losing streak at the end of last year was difficult, so start better, and finish better. And I also really want to point out the really fine line between winning and losing in this league. We won 84 games last year, down from 97 the year before that. If you look at a lot of the games we lost, easily 10 games that we could have won. I really want our guys to understand and to emphasize the little things. To win in our division you can’t get behind Toronto, Boston and New York early and expect to come back.”
On whether or not there is a different feeling coming into this spring & expectations:
“It is a different feeling coming in. Last year I was trying to tone things down a little bit and not have us get kind of swelled about it. Coming into this season it’s getting ourselves on our feet and understanding that we definitely can make it back to the playoffs this year. Now how we’re going to do that is the big thing. In reviewing the previous season, how do I explain that to our players, how do we get this done? Of course we want to win at least 11, 12, 13 more games, but how do we do that? So from my perspective the emphasis really is we have to go back to fundamentals. I’m always going to talk about that. For us to get back to where we have been, which I thoroughly expect that we will and we can do, we have to better at the little things.”
On roster being fairly set and the positions on the field that are not set:
“We have a lot of very capable players in our mind that can impact us offensively and defensively. We put an emphasis on complete players and we feel like we have a number of guys that we’re going to take these six weeks to go through and figure out the combination that we feel like helps us win the most games.
Obviously the second base, right field situation is one that is going to evolve as we get into spring but something that Joe (Maddon) and I have been talking about the last couple of weeks. In our mind we have two catchers that are coming off slightly disappointing years that I don’t think they fit with how talented they are and so we are not looking at that really as a competition as much as having two guys that we feel are very capable of helping us win a game. The catching position is different than others in that you don’t see catchers catching 150 innings. So both spots are very important to us and we’ll get into the season and find out who helps us that night. We think both guys compliment each other well.
Obviously second base and right field is going to be something that we spend a lot of time thinking through. We really like the names on paper and so we’ll go through and try to figure out how those guys best compliment the players around them and put them in a position to a.) score the most runs possible, and b.) prevent as many runs as possible.
On roster being fairly set and the positions on the field that are not set:
“I think Andrew covered it pretty darned good right there. We like all those names out there including Rodriguez, Zorilla, and we’re even looking at making Brignac a bit of a better second baseman too. We’ll wait to see how it all plays out, get the guys in camp here and give them all an opportunity.”
On payroll possibly decreasing next year and being a distraction:
“It’s hard to say. We’re just going to play it like we always do and hopefully we’re going to be in a good position come middle of June to July and into August. That’s the kind of stuff that’s up to Andrew and from my perspective I try to keep it from being a distraction. I don’t want it to become a distraction, so for me we just need to play it straight and get off to a good start, like I said. If we are playing well and we’re in a good position I think all that stuff is going to eventually take care of itself.”
On comparing Wade Davis to David Price:
“Wade was brought through our system very methodically. As everybody knows, David’s ascent to the major leagues was rather quick. So just from an innings perspective it’s a little bit different. Wade’s in a much better position to take on a heavier load in our mind. So in that respect it’s different. He’s in a position, in our mind, to put 200+ innings together. He’s extremely talented, and he worked his way through the system very methodically and when he got to the major league level in September he pitched extremely well. One of the things we talked about in meetings yesterday with Wade Davis wasn’t the very good starts he had; it was the bad start he had in Boston and the way he bounced back from that. He processed that start and focused on the process of it and how he can get better and it was a very unusual feel for the game at the major league level for such a young guy and it was really impressive and something that stood out to us. As we’re going into spring it’s a situation that it was going to be a competition for the last spot in the rotation but obviously what Wade did last year has left quite an impression on all of us.”
On having a young rotation:
“We have some young veterans there and we have some younger guys like David (Price) and Wade (Davis). The interesting thing about this group is the fact that all of them are capable of 200+ innings this season and that’s kind of unusual. So in regards to being stretched out in a physical sense, they are that; being stretched out in a mental sense may be a little bit different.
They’re an interesting group. The fact that they are young together, with Shields being the gray beard among the group, is going to be kind of fun watching the dynamic among the five of them. But the part that’s most comforting to me is the fact that they’ve all been stretched out and it presents a little bit different as the season begins because of that.”
On 2010 season and playing in the AL East:
“I think that one of the most important things we have to do in the front office and also with the staff is at the end of each season really critically analyze the previous years team. So when we sat down at the end of the ’09 season we felt strongly that we were better than an 84 win team and now it didn’t help us in ’09 but it certainly helped us in shaping our thought process this offseason. We feel like we have a very talented team. The most talented team, in our opinion, in Rays history. With that we feel confident to be able to play competitive, meaningful games in September. With the AL East, I think, there is no team in baseball that can sit here today and say that they expect to win the American League East, but we feel like with the talent we have on hand that we’ll be in a position to be playing those meaningful games in September. I definitely don’t think there is an urgency as much as we have a very talented team. I don’t’ think there needs to be any added pressure because if guys just go out and do what they’re capable of we don’t need guys to exceed that to be able to be in that position. But again, one of the most vital things that we can do, and we have to do for our long-term well-being, is keep one eye in the future and one eye on the present. We’re looking forward to this season.”