Winter Meetings interview with Ryne Sandberg

Q. You talked about this a little bit yesterday, just about the, I guess, uncertainty of how the roster's going to look. I'm just curious how that affects, since we don't know what it's going to look like, what you're going to be able to do as manager and playing time and all that? Does that stuff go through your head or not until the roster's complete?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, first of all, I just see after the last couple seasons, and primarily last season, I see a need for change and to get some youth in there and some energy and athleticism.

So with that going forward, kind of anxious to the process and anxious to see what the roster does look like with those changes to get the guys together and to work on the style of play that we need to do. Sometimes with younger players, that can be an easier process having them adjust to a style of play and to playing the game a certain way.

Q. I was going to ask, does it make your job more difficult then if there are hurdles in the way of that or stumbling blocks that you can't put the younger players out there and see that?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, that's yet to be seen on what the roster is. But with the goal of the organization to get younger, that is what this winter is all about, and that's what Ruben Amaro is trying to get done and heading that direction.

So, like I said, I'm on the anxious side of things to see how all of that turns out and to see what the roster is.

Q. Is it disappointing to hear Pat say that (Indiscernible) probably won't contend for the next couple of years?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, you know, he said probably might not contend. There is a process there, and there is a way to build it to where we all want it to be, and you have to start somewhere.

Like the bullpen last year was young players that had to prove something. They had energy and youth on their side and they were successful. To have that a little bit more on the field on a regular basis, and to get that process started building a new core group and get that started, I think that's necessary. With some veterans sprinkled in there, if they happen to be here, that's not all bad either.

Q. Talking with Ruben and other team officials, what is your confidence level that there can be change made at this point in time?

RYNE SANDBERG: I have some confidence because of all the communication that Ruben's having with several teams with interest in our players. It's hard to say what the timing might be on things, but I know that it's our goal to achieve some of those things and head in that direction with the players that we're talking about and with the interest that seems to be out there, I think I'm optimistic.

Q. Given that you came up through the ranks as a Minor League manager, and a lot of people talked about your skills in a developmental atmosphere, do you think being a Major League manager with having that experience maybe in another similar atmosphere where the focus is not necessarily win/loss record, do you think that experience might help you in a developmental situation with a younger team?

RYNE SANDBERG: I think so. I think coming up through the Minor Leagues still the focus is on winning and winning as many games as possible with the talent that you have and get the most out of the players and have the players improve and have an organization and a team start with some youth and get that process going in that direction. I'm anxious for that. I think with that experience that I've had with the younger players, I think that would be a good thing.

Q. Like you said, as a Major League manager, your goal every day is to still try to win that game and to win as many games as you can. How more difficult will your job be if a guy like Hamels was no longer a part of your club? Do you let yourself worry or even follow closely with what's going on there?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, I follow what's going on there.

Q. Yeah?

RYNE SANDBERG: I know with any of these players that Ruben wants a deal that's going to be good for the Philadelphia Phillies going forward. Any way that he can help the process and have players that will help us, not only this next year but in the future, that is the goal.

So once again, for me the game starts with starting pitching. Right now to have Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee and Jerome Williams. Right there, that's a place to start.

There's no way that Ruben's going to just give away a player. I mean, we'd have to be wowed to give up a guy like Cole Hamels, which would be a wow that would help us with the process and go in the direction that we want to go.

Q. Do you wonder or worry about if you'll be allowed the opportunity to see this rebuilding process through? You see a lot of managers starting their career, they get to rebuilding teams, and rightly or wrongly, they don't stick with them. Ultimately they leave or they get fired because the win/loss record isn't there. Terry Francona, for example, or Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, these guys, they have bad teams, they lose, if they don't last, are you worried that you're going to have the opportunity to see this whole thing through knowing how the managerial job works?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, I'd say after last year that this is the necessary thing to do is to get young and get more athletic. I think that helps in defense. That helps in scoring runs. It also starts to form a new core group. So with that being necessary and being a part of that, I'm excited about that possibility of seeing that started.

Q. Kind of along those lines, are you concerned at all, I guess, with the way that the roster is constructed and some of the issues the franchise faces that you don't have the opportunity to maybe highlight what your best skills might be as manager? Do you worry at all that because you guys are kind of stuck with the roster as is at the moment that --

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, I think coming up through the Minor Leagues, it was about development and seeing the players get better and to see teams get better as the seasons go on. I think I have a base for that. So those become goals. I've been through that before, so I have a mindset for that. Always thinking about the players, and to see them get better and to see the team play better. I've been through that before, so that would be the mindset there.

Q. When you look back, you've had some time to reflect on your first full season, is there one thing that you really would like to change? Maybe not on the field, but something you did or something you've learned from?

RYNE SANDBERG: No, I'd say overall I learned a lot, and I experienced a lot. There were a lot of situations that came up that I experienced, and I think all in all, we stayed together as a group and the guys came to the ballpark every day, got their work in, and they played hard between the white lines. We actually played some of our best baseball there in September against some teams that were fighting for the playoffs.

So you live and learn, and I learned a lot. There would be adjustments that I'd make going forward in the things that I've learned.

Q. Have you prepared yourself at all that you might have to reduce some veterans' playing time? How Ruben talked about depending on the situation and the younger guys on the roster that that might be a reality, is that something that you've given thought to?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, it depends on who those roster guys are and, once again, it's about winning the game that day in a lot of regards. If we have a veteran player that is still the guy and still for the betterment of the lineup and the betterment of the team, I think that's the route you go.

Some of the reasons for making trades is to free up some playing time for young players for the betterment of the team, and other players, they'd be nice to have because they're still good, quality players.

Q. The organization's desire to move Ryan Howard has become very public. Are you worried that if he's still with the team in Clearwater it could be a distraction?

RYNE SANDBERG: That's something that would have to be talked about and dealt with then and to see what the strategy is there. Actually, for him to have a full, another off season under his belt if he's with us and to see what he can do and to see how we utilize him and what his playing time is, that would be some discussions and some strategy there.

Q. Hamels obviously has a lot of control over where he might go. Have you talked with him about his view of playing for the Phillies rather than the possibility of being dealt elsewhere?

RYNE SANDBERG: Ruben's talked to him, and he's aware of the situation. He's also been told that he's a Philadelphia Philly. If that would change, then he would be told that that was changed. But for the most part, he was on board with the scenario and the situation that he's in. Sounded like he was game to be a Philadelphia Philly, and if something came about that was for the betterment of the organization, then he was in favor of that also.

Q. For those of us who saw his numbers last year, what can you say about what was it like seeing him every fifth day?

RYNE SANDBERG: He was light's out. He had good stuff. He made adjustments, but he was on a string of games that was outstanding. Really found his fastball, throwing 94, 95 at times, which improved his other pitches, but he was dominant.

Q. You mentioned Ruben would have to be wowed to move Hamels. Do you expect him to be on your roster on Opening Day?

RYNE SANDBERG: I'm just waiting to see through this process to see what comes about. Whether Ruben gets wowed or not is yet to be seen. If not, then he's on our pitching staff, and we build some more starting pitching depth around him.

Q. Besides starting pitching which you had mentioned earlier too and even overall youth, what do you think are this team's biggest needs?

RYNE SANDBERG: Starting pitching still remains, for me. Really, that's number one for me. If we got younger and played defense with starting pitching, our bullpen should stack up to be very good. Again, with some options there. But, still, I think starting pitching is number one. And you said the number two was to get younger, so those are the goals.

Q. Well, I mean, getting starting pitching, given your depth, is easier said than done. Last year Buchanan kind of came from nowhere to fill kind of that role. Do you have any names or ideas of guys who might fit that kind of profile this year? I don't know if any of the guys you drafted last year could. Are there any guys that you want to see in Spring Training that aren't on the 40 man right now? Is the starting pitching all going to come from outside the organization?

RYNE SANDBERG: There is a need for us to get some starting pitching through outside the organization. There is a need there.

Noel -- is it Noel? Yeah, he's impressed the organization with where he's at. I don't think there is any real need to rush him, but as he comes along, he'll be watched along the way as a guy knocking at the door. But for the most part, some of that will have to come from outside.

Q. Would your reluctance to give up the importance of starting pitching, is your reluctance to give up (Indiscernible)?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, it all depends on what you get back. So Cole Hamels, there is an asking price there that would have a wow factor to it, and could be very important pieces going forward this year. So if that doesn't happen, then hopefully we have Cole Hamels back.

Q. To what extent can you weigh in in these discussions with Ruben, if a player that would be coming to you theoretically would be young, Minor League players that you can only see through video?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, we all know the need that is needed at the Major League level. We're all on the same page there. We've had numerous discussions there, so there is a strategy for youth now for this up and coming year. So there is a strategy there and there is communication there on what the needs are and what the goals are.

Q. I'm thinking mostly of your comfort level. When you were a Minor League manager, you had seen a lot of these possible acquisitions play. But as it is now, you're just relying on reports. Is that a completely different dynamic for you?

RYNE SANDBERG: Yes, yes, but with the people that we have involved and the communication that we have, you get a pretty good picture of the talent out there. And being around the game in the Minor Leagues like I have, in the Major Leagues the last couple of years, I've seen a lot of the players.

Q. Do you think some of your veterans might be a little unhappy that the team is into rebuilding? I'm talking about guys that have been outspoken about winning like Papelbon, Cliff Lee, those types. Do you think they could be disgruntled and that could be a challenge for you?

RYNE SANDBERG: I think that's all a challenge in a process like this and the possibilities. I think you look at each individual and make a judgment there on who would be on board and who would be good influences on young players. I think there is a lot to be said about that and the strategy there.

Q. But if the players a good influence and he's on the roster?

RYNE SANDBERG: Then he's probably not a good fit.

Q. Do you think there could become a time this season when you have to take a look at Ken Giles as the closer and might that be a struggle in getting the ball from Papelbon in that role?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, depending on the roster, and depending -- I'd say if Papelbon's on the roster and if he's the closer and he's closing like last year and he's the closer.

Q. So performance based. Because he does have that option of 49 games, 48. With Cliff Lee, are you expecting that last year was kind of an anomaly and you can get 30 starts out of him or are you having to maybe prepare to have to fill in starts for him given his age?

RYNE SANDBERG: We're all optimistic that he's feeling fine like he says he is, and that he'll be ready to go and be durable like he's been in the past. So that's the report, and that is the word from him that things are going well and we're counting on him to be ready.

Once again, that's where pitching depth, and depth in the starting pitching comes into play. Another reason for starting pitching depth.

Q. What do you think Maikel Franco is at this point in his career? Do you see him as a third baseman coming up this year? Does he still have work to do?


Q. Yeah, Franco, I'm sorry.

RYNE SANDBERG: We'll see him in Spring Training and we'll talk about where he's at. We have some options there.

Cody Asche came along fine in the second half of the season. He's a good young player, left handed hitter.

Maikel came up and showed what he could do defensively and struggled offensively. So those two guys could be a good problem to have going down, but they're both young players, and players that should be in the mix going forward.

Q. If first base were to open up at some point, could Franco stay at third? Could you ever put a first baseman on Asche? Because Franco is a very good defender at third?

RYNE SANDBERG: That's where some versatility with Cody could really help him.

Q. Would you ever consider him at first?

RYNE SANDBERG: That would be a consideration, yes.

Q. Have you guys talked about it?


Q. So he might try different positions in spring?

RYNE SANDBERG: Possibly, yes.

Q. Could Utley slide over?

RYNE SANDBERG: That's another option. That is another option. Darin Ruf, Utley on occasion, on occasion.

Q. What about Cody at second? He played it in rookie ball. Is that door closed?

RYNE SANDBERG: There is some debate there, but to add a little versatility to Cody, whatever the combination could be, could be good for him going forward.

Q. You might take a peak at him and get him at first?

RYNE SANDBERG: Yes. Left field is another option.

Q. There was so much attention those three days when Howard sat. Is that potentially going to be a scenario that's going to have to be addressed going into the season, the fact that playing time might have to be reduced to get some of these guys like Franco, and Asche?

RYNE SANDBERG: Once the roster is set, if there are decisions like that would be made, those will be decisions that have to be made beforehand. Be up front with it, and once again, make up lineups and play players for the reason to win games. Also, if it's about getting at bats for a young player with a chance to win the game, that's other things to talk about.

Q. Have you talked to him at all during the off season specifically about the possibility that he might not be the true, everyday guy?

RYNE SANDBERG: No, just kind of waiting to see what plays out and what happens. It's hard to have some conversations when you don't know what the roster is going to be.

Q. Have you talked to any players?

RYNE SANDBERG: Yeah, I've talked to some, yeah.

Q. Going back to Utley. The aging curve is often not kind in the 30s. You defied it for most of your career to a certain extent. How difficult is the wear and tear playing middle infield once you get into your 30s?

RYNE SANDBERG: Yeah, from 35 on it becomes a little different game out there. Things catch up with you a little bit. You lose a step here and there. You have to make adjustments with where you position yourself and things to make adjustments.

I think Chase made some good strides the last two winters with his off season program of continuing baseball activities throughout the winter time, and he had a very good, healthy year last year, knock on wood. And he's sticking with that program. So he was very durable last year, and expect the same.

Q. How much of it is adapting your off season workouts to kind of compensate for where you are physically at that age?

RYNE SANDBERG: Yeah, you have to do some things differently. I remembered starting to take batting practice right after the New Year's when I got older just for bat speed. So there are adjustments that players have to make around the 35 year mark.

Q. As you look at the rest of the NL East, where the Phillies are now and where you're trying to get, how much of an uphill climb do you feel it would be? How quickly can this team reload to get back?

RYNE SANDBERG: That's a good question. It all comes down to making smart baseball decisions and having personnel that's the caliber that you can build around. And how long that takes, I wouldn't know. But I've seen other teams do it in a two or three year period. That's possible. I think starting the process is the first step.

Q. Do you feel this is step one? Where do you think you are at this point?

RYNE SANDBERG: Well, we haven't done anything yet. So as soon as we get to Spring Training to see what that roster is and see what the process allowed us to do as far as reaching some of our goals, we'll see then.

Q. Would you be disappointed if you got to Spring Training and the roster is essentially the same, maybe except for a guy or two?

RYNE SANDBERG: I think I'd be a little bit surprised. Just basing that on a lot of the conversations that Ruben is having with clubs about our players.

Q. Speaking of Ruben, what kind of things did you learn this year about the manager/general manager relationship at this level that maybe were different from when you were managing at the Minors?

RYNE SANDBERG: Just to have a good communication level and support each other, be on the same page. That comes with daily communication, and Ruben's very good at that.

Q. Was it any different than the Minors? Just that there's more scrutiny, maybe the moves made more of a difference or was it about the same?

RYNE SANDBERG: About the same, about the same really.