Winter Meetings interview with Bud Black

Q. Can you rank where Padres may be?

BUD BLACK: I wish I could add some clarity, but as you know, I think these things are discussions between general managers, discussions between teams take a lot of twists and turns along the way. And I think with this particular situation and this particular player, again, it's been widely reported, but unless you're really unless you're A.J. and Andrew, and those two guys, the truth and the real conversations are between those guys and what is happening. Those of us in baseball operations and those managers, we don't we're not privy to everything that's said. But, again, I can't add a lot of clarity. To be honest, those three fellows probably can as much. I do know as far as A.J. and our group, I know that a lot of hours the last three days, working on things with numerous teams, as you guys are well aware of during the Winter Meetings, that hasn't changed since day one or even prior to me. Our guys are working.

Q. As far as getting a bat, are you optimistic that

BUD BLACK: I am, I'm optimistic. I think that, again, I think A.J. has come in and has evaluated the roster. He's looked at our Minor League system. He's looked at our Major League club. He's looked at our pitching. He's looked at our position player group and he feels, like a lot of us, that another bat or two combined with our pitching can make a world of difference going into '15. And I think where we have some strength in our Minor League system at all levels of players who are getting closer to the Big Leagues and some of our Major League players, there's some possible moves to be made.

Q. If you have to explore the trade market which seems to be the route you guys are going, certainly trading asset for asset isn't ideal, but is it possible and will you lobby hard to retain your top two, your top three starters, specifically Cashner and Ross?

BUD BLACK: I think in a scenario that works best for us that would be the case, to keep those three guys, to keep Cashner, Ross, and Kennedy. I think that is something that A.J. would like to do. And in the trade market itself, I think there has been some momentum to have that happen, keep our guys and still acquire. So I think that's the intent, I really do.

Q. When you hear a name, do you plug them in, getting excited, or do you wait until it's done?

BUD BLACK: I wait until it's done. Again, experience tells me that until it's done don't get me wrong, now, it's fun to hear names and hear concepts and hear players. And you quickly think about a lineup or your club. There's no doubt about it. But until it happens, and I know that, again, there's a lot of hurdles to jump and other things to work through to get to that point of finalizing a deal. I've had over the years, even as a player, you hear about your team making a trade or a free agent signing, and it doesn't happen, you get a little bummed out. So I don't get to that point where I get too high. And I don't get too low, because things can change, things can flip in a minute.

Q. How do you feel about subtracting a catcher possibly with one of those guys, Yasmani being farther away from knee surgery and Rene having the year he had, and Austin coming up again soon?

BUD BLACK: I think it's been documented that we feel good about those three guys. Those are three really good players. And two of them have performed in the majors, Yasi and Rene. And Austin we feel is coming fast. I think right now he's going to be able to come to Spring Training with another year under his belt, last year in Double A, to really make strides to get closer to a big league catcher. Now, the complete game, the offense, and some other things, he's a little bit behind. But that can happen fast, too. But those three guys are well regarded by other clubs. And at times you have to you have to move from strength to help your club. We feel good about all those guys. And I know that there's clubs that like all three of our guys. And how that plays out, I can't tell you right now.

Q. How important is framing when you decide who's behind the plate?

BUD BLACK: Catching analytics, catching metrics, obviously, has become very popular, to analyze that and study it. From my perspective as a pitcher and what that means to a pitching staff, it's important, it's important. With Rivera specifically, graded out as one of the best in the National League and all of baseball. And Grandal's metrics are very good as well. And I think Hedges, where he is, watching his career unfold, watching him in Spring Training, watching video, hearing our scouts, our evaluators talking about him, he's right there, too. Again, we feel as though all which is an advantage for us, all three guys are very good in that department. And it's I think it's proved out. Statistically what that means to a pitching staff, what that means to the ball strike ratio, what that means to the overall development of young pitchers and pitching performance, it's real. It's real.

Q. Did the lower strike zone this year impact your pitching staff at all and working with them on how to approach that?

BUD BLACK: I think that are you saying that the strike was called at the bottom of the zone more than any other year?

Q. Data shows that it was, yes.

BUD BLACK: I think I've also noticed, I think we saw this in the World Series, that the ball at the top of the zone and hitters being able not to, for whatever reason, handle the velocity at the higher end of the strike zone was real, too. I think a combination, I think, lower called strikes is a good thing and pitchers being able to use velocity at the top of the zone and a good thing, as well. But, again, I think from a pure technical standpoint catching the low pitch, any catcher will tell you or any baseball person will tell you it's an art, it's hard to catch a low fastball, the proper way to get a strike.

Q. You've had a couple of pretty high priced guys that you went after in Tomas and Sandoval. What do you think the perception of the ballclub has to do to change to get these guys to sign here considering the ballpark, the area, San Diego?

BUD BLACK: Again, I don't know whether it's the perception. I don't think the perception kept those guys from signing here. I think, again, I don't know I think we were in the ballpark financially. I don't know whether we're there to the extent that the other clubs they might have came down to money for those fellows, Sandoval or toe mass, I'm not sure. Probably a better question for them. I think probably to your broader point, we've been able to attract pitchers here and not free agent hitters. I don't know whether the ballpark plays a factor in that, I'm not sure. Somewhat, maybe. I think more than anything we have a lot to offer here in San Diego. But, again, I think that if you ask all players, pitchers or position players, I think this is a desirable place to play.

Q. Were you involved in recruiting Sandoval and/or Tomas?

BUD BLACK: No. I did not talk to those two guys, no.

Q. The negotiation deadline is tomorrow on Kim, what would be your thoughts on that?

BUD BLACK: I was down at the ballpark when he came in. I think that, again, I know that A.J. and our group met with Kim and his representatives. As far as I know the meetings were positive. I have not been updated within the last 24 hours on that one.

Q. What would he bring to your team?

BUD BLACK: A low 90s fastball with a good slider. He's got a good arm. He's got a good arm. I haven't seen him pitch life. I've seen video. Going from what our scouts have seen, seeing him life, he's got a Major League arm. He's got a good arm.

Q. Have you met him?

BUD BLACK: I met him three or four days ago. Good guy. I liked him. Good smile.

Q. Would you be in favor of trading one of your front line pitchers to get a hitter in there?

BUD BLACK: I think all those questions about would you depends on the player. Depends on the player. If you were to ask me specific players, I probably wouldn't comment on that. But off the record, you and I having a beer, I might say, yeah, I might.

Q. If the deals don't work out, is there any backup game plan that Alonso and Grandal would be position players, not catcher, but first, third, left, in the worst case scenario?

BUD BLACK: Yeah, if nothing happened or the roster that we have now, we would go with. And that would be Grandal probably, Lee in a capacity to play first, to catch. The switch hitting component helps Alonso at first a little bit. He would get his time behind the plate. Rene would get his time behind the plate. What we saw in the middle of summer last year. Again, as the season unfolds, a lot of things develop. We didn't know that Alonso was going to get hurt, which opened up a lot of at bats for Yasi at first base. We would make it work. Whether we would experiment with Yonder in left field, he played in Cincinnati a little bit, we would explore. But in December those are concepts that you talk about behind closed doors, about possibilities. But we haven't with the catching and Yonder, we have some versatility there.

Q. Understanding the roster can still change and probably will, what do you do at the top of the order? You certainly can't go through the entire year with someone at a sub 300 on base percentage. In terms of a table setting

BUD BLACK: You know, in baseball today one of the hardest things to acquire or develop is the true leadoff hitter. A guy who takes pitches what you would write down all the qualities of a true lead off hitter, there's not many out there. So for us we'd have to look at the combination of speed component, the base stealer, on base. We'd have to each and every night, depending on the matchup, you'd like to give yourself the best opportunity to put the best guys at the top of the order. You look at our group now, if nothing does happen, Solarte, switch hitter, gets on base, limited base stealing, doesn't run. Will, you know, if Will bounces back, Will has a double threat of the power and the base stealing component. If the on base comes up, it makes sense for Will. But on the current roster there's not an ideal leadoff hitter.

Q. Is there added pressure to make a deal here on your own home turf?

BUD BLACK: I don't think so. I don't think A.J. feels that. The guys in our room don't think that.

Q. How important is it to add an outfielder?

BUD BLACK: Well, I think our needs you look at guys who hit in the middle of the order, in most cases those come from a corner outfield position or corner infield position. Normally the guys in the middle of the diamond aren't middle of the order hitters, and we need sort of middle of the order production. I guess it's important. That's what we're sort of going for. That's important for us this offseason to add to our lineup.

Q. Do you hear names like Aoki or Ishikawa?

BUD BLACK: Yes, I do hear those names, along with a lot of other names, for sure. Those are two nice players, at different points in their career, but very proven offensive players. But those are interesting names and those names have popped up in some context.

Q. Can Alexi handle shortstop on an every day basis or would he be exposed over time and maybe a little bit more suited for coming off the bench or did he even surprise some people internally with how well he handled the position to carry on his arm, range?

BUD BLACK: If you were to break down Lexi's last six weeks, I think he proved that he can do it for at least six weeks, right, which he did. So then you ask yourself, hey, can he do it for six weeks if he did it for six. And you keep going on that theory. A lot of times you don't know what a player can do until you put it in front of them. They might rise to that level of performance. But I think we all know Lexi and what he can do, I think, with the glove, at that position it's premium. And we were impressed. So, again, Lexi did great work. He proved it over a six week period. As of right now we might see it. We're going to have to see it, in a combination with bar necessary, and if nothing else changes those two guys.

Q. Can you talk about the influence Barmes may have on your infield. And bar mouth came over from an organization that uses data extensively for positioning, what will he find with your organization in that respect?

BUD BLACK: Well, Barmes brings a very steady, dependable glove, solid range, good arm, very good defender, still at 35 years old. He's in great shape. Still runs well. His feet are good. Arm has strength to it. So I think defense first for him is what we see. As far as the defensive metrics that the Pirates use, they're one of the teams that if you look at all 30, they weigh a little bit heavy on shifting. Where we are, I'm not quite sure where we fall in the realm of the other 30, but I'd say we're a team that probably lends a little bit toward shifting more than most. But to him specifically, you know, I might ask questions to him about what the Pirates did, what his thoughts on some National League teams and National League hitters, why the Pirates did this and that, pick his brain. The guy is 35, he's been around, he's been a good defender. But our system of defending I think probably falls in line with most clubs.

Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're going into the last year on your contract, right?

BUD BLACK: Yes.

Q. Has there been any discussion of an extension? If not, how comfortable or uncomfortable are you going into the last season of your contract?

BUD BLACK: No, we have not. And I'm comfortable managing. I think those of us in this game realize at certain points contracts will be worked out if they're going to get worked out. But, no, I'm comfortable with this. I think we've seen over the years a lot of managers go into the last year, head coaches go into the last year of a contract and everything is fine. It's all good. I'm good with it.

Q. I guess along the lines of losing a job, Renteria hasn't really spoken publically, is he hurting really bad? I know you know Joe Maddon. Can you think of a tougher spot to be in for a game.

BUD BLACK: To your point, yes, we have spoken multiple times. And to be quite frank, I know both fellows, they're both very dear to me. Actually I was with Ricky seven years, I was with Joe seven years, different points obviously of our careers. But I think I can't speak for Ricky, but he'll speak at some point, I'm sure. Ricky has a lot of pride. But he'll be the first to tell you that he knows this is a business. We're grown men. But, again, it was a tough one. It was a tough one for everybody, not only Ricky but and Joe to take on that position. And even the guys that ultimately made that decision it was tough, too. I think it was a tough one for everyone.

Q. Do you think Ricky will get back into baseball?

BUD BLACK: I think Ricky will get back into baseball, no doubt about it. I know from talking to Ricky, immediately a number of teams reached out to him to gauge where he was and what he wanted to do. I think there were some teams that wanted him to come right on staff right away. There might have been I don't know for sure, but there might have been a team or two that had managerial openings, if he wanted to talk about that, I don't know. But I know there were some teams that wanted him on their coaching staff. And I know that there are teams that want him involved as we get closer to Spring Training or whether in uniform or out of uniform to be part of an organization.

Q. What do you think of Kim?

BUD BLACK: I know that he has started in his past in Korea. I think he's capable of both. I think for him to come over here we'd have to evaluate obviously the fastball and the slider and the command of the fastball, whether he shows that he throws enough strikes and is efficient enough to be a starting pitcher over here in the States. Just watching him right now at video, it looks like he'd be a very capable of reliever, based on the slider, and based on his velocity. I think there would have to be some things that he would need to clean up to be thought of as a reliable starting pitcher.

Q. With Barmes, is there any consideration to making Jedd your third baseman and getting that project done?

BUD BLACK: I think with if you look at Jedd, Barmes and Alexi, and you're saying move one of those middle infielders to second.

Q. Third?

BUD BLACK: Move Jedd to third and let Barmes or Lexi play second? You could see that, but I think right now, I think for us to give ourselves the best opportunity to score runs I think we've got to keep Jedd at second, as it stands right now. And see where we go to third, whether it's Solarte or someone else. And keep Alexi and Barmes at shortstop. Lexi still has the capabilities to move around the diamond, whether it's the outfield, and use his versatility. But I don't foresee that happening, no.

Q. How about Dick Enberg winning the Frick Award? What are your thoughts on his job covering the Padres?

BUD BLACK: I saw Dick about an hour ago. And well deserved honor, no doubt about it. You look at the history of broadcasters and announcers and Dick's voice, Dick's call of games is legendary. You know his voice. Just like you knew Jack Buck's voice and Curt Gowdy, and Pat Summer all and Ernie Harwell, all the greats. Dick's voice is known. You know the voice. His work here, people ask me all the time, I don't hear our games, you know. When I see Pomeranz and I see Sweeney and Grant, I don't I just know what my neighbors tell me. And some of the players who come up in the clubhouse. Dick does a great job. Dick he's a Hall of Fame announcer, it's a well deserved honor. I think it's awesome. I think it reflects well on San Diego and on the pad ray organization to have somebody of that caliber calling our games.

Q. You don't go home and tape your games and watch them later at night to see them over again?

BUD BLACK: No.

Q. What A.J. said, a pretty good start is to contend for the NLS. The way your pitching performed last season, do you see this team being one or two moves away after doing that after seeing what Kansas City did last year?

BUD BLACK: You never know how a season is going to turn out, right? We talk about that all the time. And once you get into the playoffs, you know, anything can happen. We've seen that over the years, too. But it's encouraging to know how we pitched last year, both our starters and our relievers, especially now where offense is a little down, pitching is at a premium, both starters and relievers, that collective group wins games for you. We feel that we matchup with anybody. We matched up last year in the bullpen, what we did statistically, what we did on the field, same with our starters. If we score more and we pitched like we did last year, absolutely we can contend. And again we need bounce back years from the guys that are going to be with us, who were here last year. And if A.J. can add to the group some reliable offensive performers, absolutely we can contend, no doubt, no doubt about it.

Q. When you reflect back, when you hit .212 at about 110 games in the season, can you believe what you were seeing? Is there any explanation?

BUD BLACK: We talked about it every day. This is a process that we'd come in, we talked about it as a coaching staff. We talked about it as a team. We talked about it individually. No, it was a really rough year, especially the first three months, there's no doubt about it. And we're going to we'll continue to find those answers. We're going to do a few things differently in Spring Training as far as what we do on the offensive side. And you hope that, again, that every year is different and guys bounce back. And you change the complexion of the lineup with a couple of new names, and bring a couple new guys in, and the whole dynamic changes that can generate a change.

Q. What kind of things differently offensively in Spring Training?

BUD BLACK: Want me to get real technical or just generic?

Q. Go deep.

BUD BLACK: Well, again, I think

Q. What's the concept early?

BUD BLACK: Kots brings an element of freshness to our staff. He played with a number of our guys. But first of all, very sound, knowledge base of hitting. Very I think he's going to be able to communicate approaches to certain players, individual I think there's some individual things that he's going to do with certain guys that I think could elevate their game. He's competitive. His competitiveness, his fire I think will rub off on some hitters. As far as Spring Training, you know, we're going to do some more things on the field, not I wouldn't say less time in the cage, but Kots wants to do more on the field. There will be not only live arms but more machine work. And different types of drills and fundamentals that we're going to do on the field. There might be a little bit more extra hitting. There's a numbers of things that we've looked at.

Q. Do you think you've taken full advantage of having the meetings here, having home court advantage?

BUD BLACK: You know, once you get up in that suite you could be in Nashville, Orlando, Dallas. That doesn't change. But it's nice to it's nice to turn on the television and whether it's ESPN, the local channels, the MLB Network and see shots of San Diego. It's pretty cool. It's pretty cool. I find it hard to believe that the Winter Meetings haven't been here since 1985, right? It's crazy. This is a great spot. But I do know that not that I'm in the hospitality business, but I think we've hosted well, San Diego in general. That's everybody. Everybody here. I think the hotel has been great. I've heard a lot of compliments about the Hyatt, about the Hilton, about our restaurants, about our city. It's been great. It's been good stuff. I'm proud of our city. How about that?

Q. How long was it before you knew Gyorko was playing with that injury, that's why he was having such a bad start to the season?

BUD BLACK: Again, I knew well, the middle of the year when he had the plantar fascitis, that came on pretty quickly. He played it wasn't an extensive period of time he played with it. He tried to play through it for a few weeks, but it's tough, man. It's tough. But, again, Jedd the thing about Jedd, the last couple of years he's had some lower body injuries that we've got to clean up. That he's got to do a little bit of work in the wintertime, to get in a spot where those don't happen. You can't ever predict injuries, but you can do a number of things to avoid them. Not that he hasn't. But there's a number of things he's doing this winter that he hasn't done in the past.