I was lucky enough to get a press pass for the MLB Winter Meetings this week, and it’s really been a great experience. I recapped Monday’s action in a post yesterday, and here’s the happenings from today.
3:37 CT – John Farrell, Red Sox Manager
A disproportionate amount of the questions aimed at Farrell had to do with the Blue Jays, asking things along the lines of if he coached any differently down the stretch with Toronto, how he felt about the Blue Jays making moves right after he left, if he thought about returning to Boston last season, etc. Farrell had the same basic answer for all the questions: he was fully committed to the Blue Jays and now he is fully committed to the Red Sox. He did have an interesting quote, where he said that he thought every job in the majors was a training job, and that managers aren’t really tied down to one organization.
As far as players appearing in the World Baseball Classic, Farrell said that the team has not been informed about which players will be participating in the World Baseball Classic, although he did allude to the fact that he expected both David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia to play.
In terms of free agent players, Farrell said the team is looking for strong reputations as far as being team players, something he saw in recently-signed Mike Napoli. As far as free agent pitchers, he said the team is not tied down to a certain style of pitcher, they’re more concerned about performance, the stamina to go late into games, and health.
He also noted that the team’s right fielder may not be your prototypical right fielder, since the team is looking for strong defense, another center fielder, as opposed to a major power bat. Additionally, Farrell said that the team was looking for a lefty bat, although they weren’t locked into anything. Fittingly, the Red Sox signed Shane Victorino exactly one hour later to play right field.
Talking about infielders, Farrell said that the team would not by playing Jarrod Saltalamacchia at first base. He also thought that Will Middlebrooks can eventually develop into a middle-of-the-order bat, but he’ll be in the back half of the lineup for now.
Farrell also talked for a while about pitchers. He said that John Lackey got back into the swing of things at instructionals last fall and is expected to start 28 to 30 games this season. If he were to convert any reliever to become a starter, Farrell said that Franklin Morales, not Alfredo Aceves, had been discussed internally as a potential starter. Aceves is likely to be used as a late inning reliever or possibly a long man, said the coach. Junichi Tazawa and Mark Melancon are expected to manage the later innings, and Andrew Bailey will remain the closer. Daniel Bard has a longer way to go, said Farrell. Farrell has faith that Bailey will return to form, saying that last year wasn’t the real Andrew Bailey, since he was injured and trying to rush to catch up.
Lastly, Farrell discussed two young pitchers, Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster. He said both will start the season as starting pitchers, since that’s where the team sees both pitchers’ futures. Each pitcher’s role with the major league team has yet to be determined.
3:58 – Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks manager
Just as John Farrell got an overwhelming number of questions about the Blue Jays, Gibson received a bounteous supply of Justin Upton trade questions. He said that he doubts the team will get an offer they can’t refuse on Upton and that the Diamondbacks will not contend without him. It’s unclear, though, if those are just Gibson’s wishes or GM Kevin Towers’ wishes. Gibson did laugh off his final Upton question, saying that there are plenty of other players on his roster that have been rumored to be on the trading block for several years.
When asked about his young pitchers, Gibson didn’t really have one favorite between Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, and Tyler Skaggs. He said the team is happy with all three’s progression and actually asked all of the reporters which pitcher they thought was the most polished.
Gibson also said that newly acquired Heath Bell will start the year pitching in the seventh inning. He called Bell “iron-armed,” saying that he though Bell would benefit from returning to the West, where he had success with the Padres. He said that as long as their starters could get the team through six innings, the team would be in good shape with J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, and Bell.
4:09 – Mike Matheny, Cardinals manager
Matheny looked back at his first season as a manager, saying that that his “philosophy going into (the season) was to not get in the players’ way.” He’s learning more and more about managing, which is the nature of the job. He thought the season went well, but it could have been a lot better. After all, as he said, building a team is about building championships.
He did also mention that free agent decisions will likely be made sooner rather than later. Now that he is in his second year of managing, he said that GM John Mozeliak comes to him more often to speak about personnel decisions.
Matheny said that the back spots in the rotation along with the starting second base jobs are very much up for grabs. As for whether Kolten Wong has a chance at winning the spot, Matheny said he hadn’t seen enough of him in person, along with other prospects Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez. That trio should have a chance to get a lot more playing time this spring training because of the World Baseball Classic, whether that be with their own country or replacing Cardinals that are off playing in the WBC.
4:23 – Ron Gardenhire – Twins manager
Gardenhire opened up this interview session by saying that the reason the Twins played so poorly last season was because the couldn’t do the fundamentals: pitching, catching, and not making simple mistakes like walking a lot of batters. One of the bigger problems was defense, which wasn’t helped by the departure of Denard Span.
On the subject of pitching, Gardenhire tabbed Glen Perkins as the closer, saying he hoped he’d get to use Perkins in that late-inning role 50-60 times. He also said that he didn’t have an exact plan for Kyle Gibson, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, although team officials will sit down and discuss that soon, probably including some sort of inning limit.
Gardy was asked whether he was expecting any big improvements, and he said there’s never any assurances in baseball about roster improvements, but that GM Terry Ryan is working to improve the organization as a whole. He even said he wasn’t assured that he will coach again next year, although he is hoping for an extension and hoping to end his career with the Twins.
One of the more interesting notes Gardenhire shared was that the club was looking to collect more hard-throwing pitchers like Alex Meyer, recently acquired for Span. This is a big change because the Twins have historically collected softer-throwing pitchers with more of an emphasis on control and command.
Finally, the manager did add that you can’t stop players from playing in the World Baseball Classic because it’s important for them to represent their countries. Joe Mauer is one of two players to be named to the US team so far.
4:44 – Joe Girardi, Yankees manager
Unsurprisingly, most of the questions Girardi got had to do with A-Rod and his hip injury. Girardi said that the injury is especially concerning because this injury is to his left hip, and he’s already had work done on his right hip. The team’s budget, however will not change because of Rodriguez’ surgery (which should keep him out until at least May, perhaps into June), so don’t expect any extravagant spending on infielders. Eric Chavez remains centrally on the team’s free agent radar.