THE MODERATOR: First question for Mike.
Q. Mike, Jaime was just in here, and I asked him, and I would like to get your opinion on this, too. How is he a different pitcher now than he was before he went through all these injuries, whether in the stuff that he has or maybe in you what you see in the approach he has?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, I think the stuff's pretty similar, maybe the consistency of the stuff has improved. I think just like with anybody else, you go through enough adversity, you're bound to grow from it if you're paying attention, and he pays close attention; he's a sharp guy. I think through all the things that he's been through, just like any of us, you have a greater appreciation for things like health and opportunity, and you realize that this stuff is so rare to have these opportunities; and I think he's just grown, I think, in just a natural way, because he has had quite a few set-backs and quite a few things that he's had an opportunity to learn from.
With that being said, the stuff is very similar, though, the sinker, the deception, it's all just about him being able to be out there on a consistent basis, which, you know, that lends to going in the direction of consistency as well.
Q. Mike, as a former catcher can you talk about the challenge and how you went through with the pitcher when there is such familiarity? I mean 19 times in the regular season your teams have squared off, so that it looks different without overthinking and changing too much that you get away from what made you successful?
MIKE MATHENY: No, I think without question it's something that happens, especially late in the season. You've seen each other a lot, and there are adjustments, but there are also trends that you are noticing at a particular time, so when you watch our guys go through their studies, most of the time they're studying recent stats and they're seeing tendencies that are going on right now and then trying to beat them to the punch. That's what they're doing with us as well, not necessarily taking the entire work or body of work over a long period of time as much as what's going on right now.
I think there is a lot to be learned, if you're paying close attention, to maybe what were they trying to think right here, what's their thought process; what's their approach. And has it changed because a certain team has pitched them a certain way or has another team had a lot of success pitching them a certain way or vice versa. It's always kind of a cat-and-mouse game when you know the opponent as well as we know each other, and I think it's just who is going to be one step ahead.
Q. We see Molina is in the lineup, we got an sense that might be coming yesterday, but how close of a decision was that and how confident are you that he's -- in what he's going to be able to give you?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, not a close decision at all, to be honest with you, and that has nothing negative to say about Tony Cruz. Tony has done an incredible job, right down through the push in September. We couldn't have asked Tony to do any more than what he did, offensively. On the defensive side and serving in a leadership role for our staff, he has really taken advantage of the apprenticeship he's had over the last several years with Yadier Molina, but when Yadi is healthy, he's going to play. And watching him go through the paces of catching and throwing and hitting and even some live stuff, everything looks right. So when he's right, we want him on the field.
Q. Were Greg Garcia's home road splits the kind of the factor that had him starting Game 2 or was there other motivating factors that had him over the other guy?
MIKE MATHENY: We like him home, road. It doesn't matter. We just know that when he's on, he's going to give us a great chance. He has all season. He has for the majority of his career when everything feels right, and he's in a good spot right now, and we want him on the mound.
Q. Mike, Trevor Rosenthal has been so good for you. He was developed as a starter obviously in your system and has thrived in the bullpen. What did you guys see in him in the minors that made you think he might be better suited for relief than starting and why has he done so well in that role in these last few years?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, don't have this conversation with him because he gets all excited about talking about starting. We like his role as a reliever and we love him closing out the games for us, and he had just an unbelievable season this year. And I think every pitcher who has grown up, most of them have as a starter, there is still something about that role that keeps them thinking about it. But I think Trevor has become very comfortable with what he does for our club coming in to shut the door. It's all about stuff. Now, does he have the stuff that possibly could be translated, once again, don't tell him this, but that's always one of those things that you could see, because he has the change-up; he has the breaking ball, and obviously he has the velocity and it's just a matter of the consistency with it, which is also what has made him so good as a closer. It's not just hard velocity. It's being able to throw behind in the count change-ups and breaking balls and also know the league and when to work outside the zone. But he's done a great job of getting ahead this year and figuring out ways to put guys away.
Q. Your decision to put Stephen at first, I know it's a small sample size, but how have you seen him improve at that position, and we saw him a lot of times start there, but end game in the outfield. Do you see him now as a full-game option at first base?
MIKE MATHENY: First of all, we are trying to take advantage of the Stephen has done at first base where he has earned our confidence. More importantly, it's what he's doing at the plate. It allows us to put a Randal Grichuk in there and kind of mix and match. How it looks late in the game, it will just kind of depend on how the game goes, but we want to keep as many of those bats in as long as we need to, and then we will have some options as we move later in the game defensively, but have no reservations right now with Stephen and anxious to kind of watch him develop.
Just a great student of the game, and I think when you start taking guys outside of their comfort zone at this level and still watch them be able to -- I don't know if it's just separate, he's got his offense, and then he's able to go out and do what he has to do defensively, and I've seen no change in how he goes about his business. Jose Oquendo has done a great job in continuing to prepare him and work him to the point of gaining confidence and all that being said, very comfortable putting him in there right now and we'll just keep watching.
Q. Mike, if we go back to spring training you guys entered and you weren't even sure what Jaime Garcia would be able to contribute to this team. Now to be excited that he's starting Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series, do you remember at what point in the season like the confidence was there for you that you knew, like, okay, we can basically bank on Jaime, we're excited we can count on him instead of like we're still just not sure what's going to be happening?
MIKE MATHENY: No, I think injuries happen in this game. Doesn't matter who you are; it can happen at any time, but really where we went, in our minds at least, and how we prepared is that we will take every start we can get from Jaime Garcia and then we will just see how it plays out, and you've got to have some options, not just for Jaime, but every one of our guys. We had to have some guys in AAA that were ready to go in case it didn't work well, and there were some uncertainties heading into the season, heading into Spring Training, but Jaime put those to rest early on; had a couple of setbacks. We had guys ready, came back, was very good, had a setback. We had guys ready. It's just kind of the process that you have to have in place, but I don't think there was like this overall change of thought by how we watched Jaime compete. We know that when we get him, when he's healthy, he's going to give us chance, and that's exactly what he did.
Q. Mike, just curious what was it like to fill out a lab today when you had all your bullets available to you?
MIKE MATHENY: It's been nice. It's been nice down the stretch here, too. We had guys push real hard to try and get back and give us as many options. And then just realize that we're going to try and do what's best for the club and just a lot of selflessness in there, that guys understand and appreciate that, okay, this is the role I'm going to serve today. I'm going to do it with everything I got. If I'm going to be designated to the bench early on, I'm going to be the best guy off the bench, whether it's defensively running the bases or coming in for a big at-bat. I think that just takes a certain thought process and a certain clubhouse culture to where guys do get outside of themselves to the point of putting us ahead of the individual.
It's fun to watch, because then you can't just help but appreciate the way they go about it and appreciate it when they do come through and get something big done for us.
Q. To follow up on what Jen said, how many different positions do you think you have kind of set up in a way where you might replace them, either because of Holliday's health and finishing out the game or going for a defensive choice, like with Piscotty, and how did that influence your decisions with the lineup and the roster, especially when it comes to like Mark Reynolds who we have seen used a lot in the defensive role late in the games?
MIKE MATHENY: I'm not sure we need to kind of list out which guys we're planning on substituting for at any particular time. I think the overriding answer would be how things look at the time, what our game situation is, where we feel we may need to make a change if something looks different. We go ahead and use one of our options, or if we decide that, we just feel that one particular person might bring a strong suit or somewhere in the middle of the game something doesn't look like with one of our players, we're going to make changes. With that being said, I think everybody saw through September, at least those who follow us closely, there were some positions where we would try and go ahead and increase our defense. And we did that actually from the beginning of the season. We had more options in September, but overall we're not afraid to go ahead and make those defensive changes especially if we feel we can improve in a couple of spots maybe with one move, which we have done. So Mark Reynolds plays into that. Quite a few of the other guys do, too, who bring great defense to the game every night.
Q. (Away from mic.)
MIKE MATHENY: A lot of consideration into every guy starting. But overall we're just trying to figure out what's going to be our best offense up against a very good pitcher.
Q. Mike, from your experience as a player and as a manager, the decibel level is always high for Cardinal games, but what type of impact have you seen it have on players during playoffs and have you seen players impacted positively or negatively by the decibel level?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, we love the noise. Actually, the worst thing is when the place is empty and you can hear everything everybody is saying, and that's the worst atmosphere. Not what they're saying, but it has a "dead" vibe to it.
So the louder, the better, I believe; and I hear the same thing from our players. They just want an exciting atmosphere, and you just get caught up in it. You get caught up in the buzz of a regular-season game a lot of times with the Cubs. They have a lot of people that show up here. We send a lot of fans up north to Chicago, and it just creates a different feel. And the guys -- I believe both sides thrive on it.
Sometimes, you know, just even making that loud crowd quiet becomes loud, and it's just so much fun and so unique to the postseason, and I imagine this series is going to be just like that all the way through.
Q. Have you seen people impacted by it, either positively or negatively?
MIKE MATHENY: I see everybody positively. Yeah, the greater the noise, I think it's just so unique and so special that I think guys feed off it. We've done it all season. We're so fortunate to draw as many fans as we have all year, and it's a radical difference.
A lot of people want to talk about our record at home, but I think instead of having people cheering for us, it's just the energy and something that we keep trying to encourage our fans to bring and, we believe that we feed off it.
I haven't seen many cases where I see a guy intimidated by the noise. It's something that they've had a good deal of in the past, no matter what level they've played at before, but it is, it's just different in the postseason. But it's a good difference.
Q. Even though the games usually come down to players executing, as an individual competitor and manager, do you relish the in-game chess match with Joe Maddon and how all the decisions are magnified in the playoffs and your role in that?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, a lot of it, once again, comes down to us doing our job like we have done all season. We've faced them many times; they know some of our tendencies. We think we know some of theirs, and you just try and take as much information as you can to make the best decision you can, and then it does come down to individual execution.
I don't think that that's heightened any more. Once again, I think for us to get here, we had to go about a certain style of baseball, and for us to radically change that -- now, there are some things you think about differently in a short series, but with that being said, overall, our general philosophy is to go out, going to make good decisions to let these guys go and thrive and put them on the stage to do things special. And we feel we have the kind of team that can do that, but part of that is our responsibility to make decisions when we need to make them, do our homework and make sure that we're ready and trust that we get it done.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike.