Winter Meetings Day Three

Today was my third day at the MLB Winter Meetings. It’s been a few days of a lot of transactions and a lot of news. Check out my recaps of the first two days. Without further ado, here are the rumblings I heard from Day Three at Opryland. Remember, everything below is from what the coaches and other sources told me.

2:06 PM CT – Jim Leyland, Tigers manager:

Leyland said that it would be tough to run a closer-by-committee for a full season, but it did work in the postseason for the Tigers. And since it worked in the postseason, Leyland said he’d be willing to try it out in the regular season. Ultimately, he’s willing to make whatever moves he has to move to win the game. At this point, the team is unlikely to re-sign Jose Valverde, especially as a closer. Leyeland did mention that the team has been put in a great place to succeed with owner Mitch Ilitch’s financial flexibility.

Leyland was asked about young outfielders Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia and potential playing time in the majors. He didn’t give any specific details on either player, but he did explain the process of how they will decide. He said first the team will decide if they’re ready to play in the majors, then if they’re ready to play every day or in a platoon split. Then, the team has to consider whether it’s more beneficial for the player to be playing every other day or get 500 at bats in the minors. He said the biggest key for Garcia will be how well he responds to adversity early on in the year.

One final note is that third base coach Gene Lamont will be moved to the bench coach for two reasons. For one, his knee has been acting up lately, and standing up for a whole season was going to be a bit of a help concern. Secondly, Lamont now really becomes Leyland’s second hand man, as he will spend the entire game at next to the manager.

2:19 – Clint Hurdle, Pirates manager:

Hurdle had a lot to say about James McDonald. For starters, he said that if McDonald pitched in the second half the way he did in the first half, he could be a lock down number three starter. I thought it was interesting that Hurdle chose to put his ceiling at just a number three starter. This season, Hurdle said, will be a fresh start for McDonald, who shouldn’t have to worry about if he is a first-half or second-half pitcher (he won’t half to worry about being a second half pitcher).

Last season, Hurdle thought McDonald made a lot of small improvements, but tried to bite off a bit more than he could chew. He really needs to work on three main things: throwing first pitch strikes, getting batters to chase and miss pitches, and not get too caught up in all four pitches. Hurdle said that McDonald sometimes forces all of his pitches, even when he only needs three to really pitch fine.

Hurdle was asked what he might do about his bullpen in Joel Hanrahan ends up traded, and he laughed at the notion of needing a proven closer. He said that most closers start out in a different role and end up in the ninth inning. More importantly, he’d rather have big arms that he can use.

The manager was asked a lot about his outfielders and reiterated that Andrew McCutchen was one of the best in the league. He wasn’t perfect in the second half, but of course, nobody has an OPS of .900 in every month of the season. He also said he was excited for Travis Snider, Starling Marte, and Gaby Sanchez to have a full season with the Pirates. He said that Snider was just starting to get in the groove before he had an injury. As for Sanchez, he said that the team saw him as an every day player. Hurdle also said that the team will soon discuss how much more Winter Ball Marte needs to play.

Hurdle mentioned that the team was looking to build around continuity, and that Russell Martin would be a great fit. He said the team needs to perform much better in the second half of the season. Additionally, he said that he wouldn’t stop players from competing in the World Baseball Classic, since he isn’t the person to dictate that. He did say, though, that he just wanted to hear why each player wanted to compete in the tournament.

Lastly, Hurdle said that he hadn’t talked with hitting coach Jay Bell about how to improve Pedro Alvarez’s ability to hit for average. However, he did say that he expected a boost in hitting to come from Alvarez soon, as 2013 would be his first full season with Pittsburgh. Hurdle also noted that Alvarez knows he can hit better for average, but that the team can take an on-base risk with a player that can hit so well for power.

2:40 – Yankees Source:

According to a source with the Yankees, Brian Cashman was very upset that the Russell Martin ended up signing with Pittsburgh. The source also said that Cashman thought the team would miss Martin a lot and that the team did not prioritize Martin highly enough.

2:42 – Terry Francona, Indians manager:

Tito said that if the Indians add another power bat, the team is going to run a lot less. However, if the team does not have the same power from the middle of the lineup, he will let the faster runners free.

Obviously, Francona got a lot of questions about the Red Sox. He said that Cleveland is far different from Boston, because in Boston it was ‘Win or go home.’ However, things are far more lax in Cleveland; the team is a lot younger, but they will still contend. He also said that he’s sad the way things ended in Boston, but that doesn’t change the great times he had with the team. Additionally, he said that he thought the 2008 team was the best team–Josh Beckett just wasn’t entirely healthy and the team ran into a buzzsaw in the Tampa Bay Rays. Jokingly, he did say that Boston’s biggest weakness was their manager.

Tito noted that building relationships with his players is key to a strong season, so he is going out of his way to meet as many of his new players as possible. He hasn’t met all of them yet, but he did say that the World Baseball Classic taking away some of his players will hurt the chemistry between his new staff and the team.

The manager also noted that he really did miss baseball last year, especially when spring training rolled around. As for his role, he said that his main job was to get the best out of his players. However, over a full season, he thought weaknesses in talent would show.

The last thing Tito said was that the team would look a lot better with Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister back healthy. The team needs all the pitching they can get.

2:57 – Mike Scioscia, Angels manager:

Most of the questions for Scioscia had to do with his outfielders. Scioscia announced that Mark Trumbo would be playing left field and Peter Bourjos would be playing left field. Trumbo only played left field last year because Torii Hunter was better suited for right field. He also noted that the roster right now is far from complete, so any other lineup situations would be purely hypothetical.

For now, Scioscia did say that there would be a rotation of outfielders playing the DH spot. Namely, those players would be Kendrys Morales, Vernon Wells, and the starting outfielders Bourjos, Mike Trout, and Trumbo. Scioscia sounded optimistic about Wells, saying that injuries have slowed him down the past two years and that his talent is far above his production level lately.

3:04 – Eric Wedge, Mariners manager:

One of the bigger things Wedge emphasized with his younger players was adding strength. He mentioned that Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, and even Hisashi Iwakuma needed to add a bit more strength. He said that Smoak needed to get stronger while staying lean, and that his ability to hit breaking balls and to all field would be key to continue from the last five weeks of 2011. As for Montero, Wedge said that he wouldn’t be catching every day, but that Montero still needed to improve his technique and flexibility, along with his strength. Iwakuma really needed to get more confidence and acclimated to the American style of baseball, plus a little more arm strength.

With Montero not playing every day, Wedge noted that the team was looking to add another catcher.

For his two final notes, Wedge said that his DH would likely be a rotation of players, giving them a day off in the field. His philosophy is to use a rotation of players, unless the team has a thunderous bat, which the Mariners do not. Also, he said the Mariners moving the fences in would help out the team realistically and psychologically. Wedge said the ballpark would be fair now.

3:16 – Mike Redmond, Marlins manager:

Mike Redmond talked a lot about changing the culture in Miami, saying that the team would focus on the small things like execution and hustle. He also noted that the team would need a laser-like focus starting in Spring Training, and if they focused purely on baseball, the team would be fine.

As for his style of managing, Redmond said that he was aggressive in the minor leagues, and he would be aggressive in the majors, unless things changed. He said that he would be very flexible as a manger and wanted to study the players as much as possible, since information in the majors leagues is very deep, especially compared to the minor leagues.

Redmond didn’t have many exact things to say about his lineup, saying that he had about fifty different lineup scenarios, but he did say that he would have Giancarlo Stanton hitting fourth and newly acquired Adeiny Hechavarria hitting eighth.

Redmond did also say that he loved energetic players; he didn’t get how players couldn’t get excited playing a three hour game. His mantra is that he always wants to manage to win the game. He just likes to get fired up out there.

3:39 – Bud Black, Padres manager:

Black mentioned that last year was tough on the pitching staff because of several injuries. However, with Jason Marquis’ return and the potential addition of another pitcher on a one-year deal, the pitching staff would be better. The key for this team would be health.

Offensively, Black thought that this was one of the best teams to hit in San Diego in a very long time, and the same starting lineup will be around next year. The last three months were great for this team, and they should carry over into next season.

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