Winter Meetings interview with Ron Roenicke

Q. Straight to Spring Training?

RON ROENICKE:  No, Spring Training doesn't start until the 19th. So, no, I have a week, week and a half at home.

Q. How are the discussions this year compared to your other years? It seems different in that you've got more of a team than a lot of other teams.

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, I think with first base being probably the main thing that we had to address and filling that spot pretty early, we basically have got our team.

Q. Are you feeling good about that?

RON ROENICKE:  I feel good about it. Yeah, I think last year we came in and we were trying to get a first baseman. There were a couple other guys that we tried to get and we didn't get them and ended up with two veteran guys that we felt good going into the season with those guys, but it happened pretty late. So I think knowing what you have right now going into it, now he plugs in with some pieces, bullpen, looking at bullpen a little bit.

But I think it's great going in this early in the off‑season and knowing what your team's going to be.

Q. Will you play Lind against lefties, or will you go for a right‑handed option there?

RON ROENICKE:  Well, I think Doug's always looking, and it just depends on what we can get. If the right‑hander isn't available that we think can get those at‑bats, then we'll see what Lind can do.

Q. Will you play Luke over there more?

RON ROENICKE:  Well, we've talked about it. I think in Spring Training the idea is to let Luke do it a little bit more so we don't get into the season and then we're uncomfortable putting him over there too much.

So I think with Luke, knowing what he can do offensively in trying to make sure that when we put him over there he's got enough experience and he's comfortable enough that he won't get hurt, then I think that makes that move a lot easier for me.

Q. Last year you covered the right‑handed opposition at first base, and then your back‑up (Indiscernible). What is your options backing up over at third base?

RON ROENICKE:  We picked up Jimenez early on, and he's a great defender. I don't know if you guys remember the series that he had against us when he was with the Angels. It was unbelievable the defense he played. He had a nice year offensively in Triple‑A, so I'm good with that.

And also with Hector Gomez, good defender at third base.

So I think with Aramis being at a point in his career where he's not thinking about playing 155 or more, that we have a couple of young guys that can fill in for him.

Q. Is Jimenez third base only?

RON ROENICKE:  First base, can play some second.

Q. So he could take over a little bit maybe?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, I think he could. I think Doug's still talking with people. But I think as we stand right now, yeah, that would be a guy that can do it.

Q. You guys think he's ready for the Big Leagues?

RON ROENICKE:  Oh, yeah. I think he's got enough experience there that we know what he does as a defender. The offensive part he seems to be getting better with the good year at Triple‑A last year. So I really liked him when I saw him in the series that he played against us in Milwaukee.

Q. What is your impression generally? I know this isn't fixed in stone, but the direction? It looks like it may be tougher than usual?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah. I think with the Cubs, with their young guys and where they're at, they play us tough anyway. But I think with the rumors that some of the people that they have a possibility of getting, you look at a division with every team, the possibility of being in the playoffs.

So any time you go into a division that way, you know you're going to have to put it together and play a great season in six months. I believe we had a nice four months last year, and we need to do that for six months.

Q. You go back with Joe Maddon, what is he going to add to the Cubs?

RON ROENICKE:  Joe has a great feel for the game. Joe will get the most out of his players. So the young players are going to really, really be able to permit ‑‑ to me, anyway, going to be able to advance in a hurry and get to ‑‑ whatever their potentials are Joe is going to get it out of them. The veterans, he knows how to handle both.

This is a guy that has great feel for the game. So whatever potential they have as a group, Joe will get it out of them.

Q. Unless there is a trade or some surprise free agent signing, it looks like you'll be largely the same team you were last year. Do you think that's going to fly with your fans that there weren't big changes after what happened at the end?

RON ROENICKE:  Well, I think we had a bad month, month and a half. I think for four months I'm sure everybody was happy with what we were doing. You have the young guys that have a year's experience. You have a whole team that's been through a very tough time there at the end of the year, and hopefully that makes them stronger. And to be able to put it together for the six months.

Q. Considering it is basically the same group, how do you get past the negativity of that finish? Is it merely it's a new year so you turn the page or is it a little more complicated?

RON ROENICKE:  No, it shouldn't be. It's a new year. These guys ‑‑ from year to year everything changes. Even though you may have basically the same group, it still changes.

So I think we get into Spring Training ask guys feel comfortable and hopefully we get off to a decent or a great start like we did last year, and it's forgotten. It's the same thing as a slump during the middle of the season where you think guys are aren't going to bust out of it, and all of a sudden, something happens and they bust out and they finish up well. So I'm looking forward to it.

It was such a tough ending, that we're ready to get back to playing the kind of ball that we think we can play.

Q. Without further issues to the roster, who could be the closer right now?

RON ROENICKE:  As the team stands right now, figuring that Frankie, we're not going to resign Frankie, Broxton would be. So we'll see what happens and what's available. And I know Doug has been busy already. Not just right before he came here, but he's been busy all winter looking at this.

Q. Losing Smith and Jefferson (Indiscernible), what is your feeling on whether you have a closer or whether you lose a couple of guys?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, I think you go in having a closer, and then with work and how often that they're out there, not just every day in a row, but how much I'm putting on them ‑‑ especially you saw early last year with the start we had, and we had a lot of close games, those guys really got used.

So I think if that's the case, Smith is throwing well, I have no problem with putting him in to save a game. Jeffress with what he did for us last year, I don't have any problem putting him in there for a save. So I think it's good for those guys to have a little experience when we can get it to them. And if, hopefully nothing will happen, but if there's an injury, then we know that guys are comfortable doing that job. It's not an easy job. It's more getting comfortable with the job.

Q. Broxton is a success story for you. Is that a big factor (Indiscernible)?

RON ROENICKE:  Yes, and I think with getting him last year knowing we had another year on the contract, I'm sure that was a lot of the idea. Unless we got something this year or Frankie was back again, then we'd have to rethink it.

Q. In your mind, how much is riding on Ryan Braun's thumb, allowing him to be Ryan brawn of old this coming season?

RON ROENICKE: Well, he's important like a lot of our guys are. If he could just have the first half he had last year, which basically came in with the thumb in the same spot. We didn't know what it was going to be like. If he could do that for the year, we'd be very happy with what he did for that half of the season. Aramis coming back, and hopefully keeping him healthy is key. Because when you're at that age and you have injuries, it's still hard to perform.

Q. What can you realistically expect out of him at his age now? His power has gone way down. He disappeared last month too. What can you expect from him?

RON ROENICKE:  It's hard to say. I think with ‑‑ I know he's going to work hard this winter. We talked a while ago, when he was making the decision what he was going to do with the contract. I think if we can keep him healthy, I think he can have a good offensive year. And I think we will see power from him. It's just when you have injuries and especially to your legs, two years ago it was a knee, last year it was a hamstring, I don't think he can recover from that and still be the same type of hitter.

Q. Did he surprise you by coming back?

RON ROENICKE:  I don't think he really surprised me. I think he likes it there. I think he thinks we have a chance to win, and he's a big part of that lineup, especially if he's hitting fourth. To try to be able to drive in enough runs, and I know he went cold there at the end, but you have to have guys who can hit with people in scoring position, and he's certainly been a guy that's proven over the years he can do that.

Q. Will you play Scooter against lefties?

RON ROENICKE:  As of right now, I would say that Scooter's going to play against lefties, and we'll see what happens. We'll see what the rest of the bench looks like. Then see how Scooter handles it. But the guy can hit. I think it's a matter of him seeing a lot more left‑handers getting confident doing it. There is no reason why he shouldn't be a good hitter against both.

Q. You see guys on the roster who can develop into more vocal leaders in the clubhouse?

RON ROENICKE:  I think some of the younger guys will eventually. Lucroy has kind of started making that transition from a young guy to a guy that can handle that. Then I think with the veteran players that we have that I thought did a good job last year for us with Aramis. Frankie was really good with the bullpen. So Carlos is continuing to mature and figure things out, and he really helps, especially with all the Latin players that we have.

Q. How much of a role do you think Darnell Cole will play, especially with your three young guys, Segura, Scooter and Khris? They're all free swinging guys that don't walk a lot. Do you think he can help them through that or is it just the way they are?

RON ROENICKE:  No, that's part of the reason why we made the decision with Darnell was because we do think he can help that. Darnell is familiar with those three guys, and I think with those guys having a relationship with them already, I think all three of those guys are willing to listen and get better. I think Darnell with his make‑up and his communication skills, I think it's going to be a good fit.

Q. How does Parra fit in? If Braun's thumb is okay, how does Parra fit in as a fairly expensive (Indiscernible)?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, he is. But we know ‑‑ we hope nobody gets hurt. But we know if somebody goes down he's a guy that can play every day that we like out there. We were just talking up in the room, and Doug was talking about it's not a problem to get them 300 at‑bats. But the problem is how to get him his 450, 500 if everybody stays healthy. That's very difficult to do. There are other teams that are batting with those same things. It's a nice problem, but it's tough on him if he's a guy that's not out there playing a lot.

Q. You don't see Chris Davis as a platoon player, do you?

RON ROENICKE:  No, he's not a platoon player. But he's a guy that maybe I need to give a little more days off so you don't get to the end of the season where he breaks down and can't finish a season for us. Parra allows me to give those guys more days off when I think they're a little worn down.

Q. When the big free agent pitcher signed and people start to look at the next tier of guys, would you be comfortable with trading one of your starters if it improves you somewhere else or would you rather keep those five guys?

RON ROENICKE:  Well, six guys.

Q. Six.

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah. If we move one of them, we have to get something back to where that's an option. Not maybe necessarily in a trade, but something maybe a free agent, a guy who can go and do it. Losing Estrada now takes away a guy that we know if somebody goes down can use Estrada. So if we make one of those deals to get a piece we really like, then I'm sure ‑‑ we've talked about it, and Doug knows what we need to do if that happens. But I like the starters.

We rarely get through a season with five guys, so that sixth or seventh guy becomes very important.

Q. Would you consider putting Jimmy in the bullpen if the other five starters are healthy in Spring Training?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, I think that's a possibility. I think sometimes with the young guys, sometimes to get them in the bullpen and the more they're there in the Big Leagues and pitching games, they get more confident. I think in the long run we think he's a starter. But for right now I think that's not a bad way to help them develop.

Q. Right now are you not counting on Thornburg and Harrison being ready to help you at the start of the year?

RON ROENICKE:  I don't know enough medically where they're at to really comment on that.

Q. Because that would make a huge difference in your arms in the pen if those guys were back?

RON ROENICKE:  It's hard to say and count on both of them being back at the level they were when they got hurt. Jimmy was never the same coming into Spring Training. So it would be hard to say, hey, we're going to count on these guys and they'll be back and they'll be good. Doug realizes that, and that's why he's looking at the bullpen.

Q. So you have to prepare your bullpen as if you won't have them so you don't get caught short if they're not ready?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, I think so or maybe one of them comes back. You figure one of them is going to be there, and if both of them aren't, great.

Q. How many more pieces do you think you need?

RON ROENICKE:  There are not a lot. So we've got basically your closer and your 8th inning in between Smith and Jeffress and Kitzler's back to handle whatever role he's going to be in. So the arms out there are good. I mean, we like what we have, and now you add a couple more pieces. Losing Duke changes things again. Smith maybe goes back to a little bit more lefty‑righty, and like he was at the beginning of the year last year.

Then we'll see if we're looking at a lefty up there or just on video before. So whether another left‑hander fits better than a good righty, I don't know at this time.

Q. A free agent guy? Are there other good choices?

RON ROENICKE:  There are definitely some choices. Relievers are getting more expensive all the time, like everybody else is. It's more specialized, and I think bullpens are more important in today's game than they've ever been. So that's what we're looking at. Or maybe there is a piece to trade to get somebody we really like. But that's ‑‑ I know Doug's working at it hard, and all the guys up there are looking at a lot of people.

Q. Did Zack send you a fruit basket or anything for getting $15 million? He really took that opportunity and turned it into something, didn't he?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, he did. Good for him.

Q. Did you have any hopes you'd be able to keep him?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, absolutely. And he would have liked to have stayed. But when somebody offers you three years at that, you've got to take it.

Q. Do you have your eye on any surprise guy from the system in Spring Training?

RON ROENICKE: That's ready for our team?

Q. Or maybe close that maybe might open your eyes a little bit?

RON ROENICKE:  I don't know. There are a couple of young guys that I like, bullpen arms.

Q. Like Goforth?

RON ROENICKE:  Goforth. And I don't know if the other guy is probably not ready. But I think Youngman's coming as a starter, and I'm trying to figure out what to do, where Bradley's going to end up. But they're still a little bit off, so they're not immediately. Maybe it's a half a year before some of those guys will be ready.

Q. One guy we haven't talked about is Segura. What are you expecting from him?

RON ROENICKE:  Well, we really like how he finished up last year, the last month. We've had some conversations. I had some with him at the end of the year. We had another one with Doug. He stayed there in the off‑season and had the baby, so he was there for a while. Had a conversation with Doug, and it went well.

So I think just mentally and maturity‑wise, I think he's in a lot better place than he was last year for a lot of the season. So I'm hoping he comes back and has another great year. If not, Hector's there, and (indiscernible) is coming.

Q. Rivera's on the 40?

RON ROENICKE:  Rivera's on the 40, and I've seen him play a few games, and had a good offensive year, really his first good offensive year when he went to Double‑A this year.

So hopefully that is a guy that ‑‑ like I talked about six months or maybe it's a little bit more. But defensively he can play.

Q. Is is he Segura doing anything this winter?

RON ROENICKE:  There are plans he could be playing somewhere in the middle of December. But we haven't had that conversation with him to know exactly what he wants to do.

Q. If he did do that, would he work on some changes?

RON ROENICKE:  There are some things that he has talked about. We talked about with him at the end of the season that he's going to try to do a little differently mechanically. Now I don't know whether you're able to work at that during winter ball or not, but he knows there are some things he needs to do.

Q. So he has a new baby?

RON ROENICKE:  He has a new baby, yes. Born, like, I don't know, the 25th or something? Or 20th of October. Somewhere in there.

Q. Do you think that could be ‑‑ I mean, you never get over the loss of a baby. But do you think that will be something that can help?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, absolutely, it can help. Who knows how hard that was on him, what he went through last year. I know before that happened he wasn't playing the type of ball that he wanted to play. I don't know whether you get through that or not or if it ever goes away, but this will definitely help.

Q. Maybe a new year will rejuvenate him a little bit?

RON ROENICKE:  I think everything. I think everything. I think he's going to come in and be hungry. I think he needs to do that. Whether he plays winter ball or not will depend on where he is. If he's feeling good and feels like he needs to do that again, we just talked about it, and Doug thinks it's okay for him to play this year. So we'll see if he makes that call to us and what he wants to do.

Q. But you guys would let him play this year?

RON ROENICKE:  We talked about, yes, we think that would be good for him if he did. Not if he wants to. He doesn't need to do it. If he wants to.

Q. But you guys are open to it?

RON ROENICKE:  Yes.

Q. Have you talked to Gomey in the off‑season?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, talked to Gomey a little bit when we got Darnell. We were looking at hitting coaches, and I think he's holed up and making some music or whatever he's doing. That little music studio he's got out of his house.

Q. He may leave baseball to become a recording star.

RON ROENICKE:  Who knows.

Q. You like having him on your team though, don't you?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, I do. I know he takes a lot of effort on my part, I know. But I like him and he loves to play. He's a good teammate. So those guys, the effort you put into them, I enjoy it.

Q. He's kind of an energy epicenter of your team, isn't he?

RON ROENICKE:  Yeah, he is. I wanted to be challenged a little bit more by becoming manager, and he's one of those guys that's challenged me.

Q. But you get rewards out of it though, don't you?

RON ROENICKE:  You do. I've seen a lot of improvement in his game. And from the first time I saw him, he's turned himself into a great player. We still need to be more consistent with him to get through a whole season. But he's come a long ways