Oct. 12 Joe Maddon pregame interview

Q. Game 4 starter?


JOE MADDON: Game 4 starter is going to be Jason Hammel. The difference maybe if we have to use him today, that may be altered for tomorrow, but right now absolutely he's the Game 4 starter.

Q. Just a sense of the vibe in this town and the excitement from your perspective and what you've noticed in the last day and a half or so?


JOE MADDON: Well, you know, you get to work here all year now, it's almost been a full year. Just driving by the Cubby Bear coming in today with our press conference last November, it's kind of an incredible thought. Anyway, within the city itself, it's been building the entire year. I live downtown, so I get to feel it daily, the response from the people, the fans, their support is incredible. So right now to be able to be in this position to be here in the first year with a young group of players and do as well as we've done to this point and bring a playoff game back to this cathedral for me I think is spectacular.

I know our guys are ready to do it. I think the whole city is ready for this. Our entire fan base because it really does extend. When we go to different cities it's kind of phenomenal to watch the kind of support that we do receive. For all those different reasons, man, I am very excited about this moment, very grateful to be in this situation, but the fan base, the people of Chicago are pretty spectacular, and they do support us well. That's an understatement.

Q. So if you had to use Hammel tonight would you go with Lester tomorrow in Game 4?


JOE MADDON: Probably not.

Q. Curious, the wind is going to be blowing out to right and right center. Does it change the strategy when Wrigley Field is a big ballpark as opposed to a small ballpark?


JOE MADDON: Not necessarily, just obviously the ball gets up in the air. We've seen this ballpark plays the biggest and then sometimes the smallest. I think if you average it out this year, I would say it played a lot bigger than it did play small. But the days the wind is blowing out you can take advantage of it, but you still have to hit the ball first. Both pitchers are very good today. That's going to require hard contact, ball in the air. I haven't looked at it specifically yet but I heard it's going to be blowing out to right field. I don't look at things like that. Game in progress, okay, do you not want to make an out on the bases because somebody might hit a three-run homer? That's the old middling philosophy there. I'd don't know. I'd have to look at it once I get out there. But for me, going into the game, let Jake pitch, attempt to play our normal game and see how it plays out.

Q. When you made the switch with Addison Russell and Castro, what did you think about -- what made you think that Russell's defense was going to be a better one at shortstop? What's impressed you about him?


JOE MADDON: Last Spring Training I got to see Addison for the very first time, and as you asked that question, my first thought was I walked down from our clubhouse to this back field, and he's taking ground balls, and I had never seen it. I had never seen him, and I looked at it, I said, man, that is like the absolute right way to pick up a ground ball and throw it to first base. Why? Because it's extremely simple, no wasted motion, fundamentally sound. It was really pretty to watch, and this guy was 20 at that time, so that was very exciting. A season of progress, of course we're going to give Starlin every opportunity to go back out there and play shortstop, and there was Ponzie played a pretty good shortstop, also. But season in progress, just thought that we needed to in order to get our defense at the level we wanted to, we needed to move Addy over to shortstop.

With that, Starlin was outstanding regarding how he accepted the new assignment, how he embraced the new role and how he's made the adjustment to second base, and really how he's picked up his offense while he's done it.

So that one particular move right there probably more than anything we did this year set us up for this moment. The fact that Addy has played it as well as he has, the way Starlin has embraced the other side of the infield as well as he's done there, and then the offense coming back, I can't -- I mean, maybe Schwarber showing up and combining with Dexter in the second half, that really did a lot to boost our offense, but I love the pitching, the defense component, and I think that we tightened it up when we went and got Addy at short and Starlin eventually at second base, it kind of tightened things up, and I think we've played a better brand of baseball since then.

Q. As far as the impact, the first point on the board, what is your experience with that throughout the history of your postseason experience?


JOE MADDON: Yeah, the first run of the game. I like that every game. That's one of the things I talk about in Spring Training. I think normally if you can score first, that does permit your group to relax just a click. Now, the other day we didn't in St. Louis and we won the game regardless. But you're always striving to get that first run, and in a situation like with Jake pitching, if you get one or one-plus, obviously that makes the game a little bit more interesting on our side of things. But I think in general, every Major League team, I don't know how many people really preach it as much, but for me, the ability to score first always impacts the game normally in a positive way. Your winning percentage definitely goes up. It's just a better way to play the game from ahead as opposed to from behind.

We're looking to do that always, always, and now the other part is when you're the visiting team, the other team scores in the top of the first, I've always looked to at least answer in the bottom, trying to equal that thought out.

Q. Way back in Spring Training you talked to us about looking forward to getting to know the other managers in the NL Central and I believe Mike Matheny was one you didn't have a history with before. Now here at the end of the season do you feel you've gotten to know him more personally and gotten an idea of what his managerial tendencies are?


JOE MADDON: Yeah, I mean, you have to really spend some time in the other dugout checking out what they want to do on the other side. When a team gets a new manager, all the notes that you've written can just basically be thrown away because it's that pertinent.

I mean, I have a better feel or an idea of what they may do. That doesn't necessarily mean that I know exactly what they're going to do, but you feel a little bit more comfortable. That just goes for me with any manager on the other side. As I talked about, Brian Price had been a player of mine, Roenicke and I had worked today, and who am I missing in that -- Pittsburgh, I knew Clint for a bit, also.

Anyway, so yeah, you get a sense or a feel for what the other team may attempt to do. It comes down to pinch-hitting, comes down to bullpen utilization, even the point strategy you may attempt during the game. But it's more comfortable to me to at least have at least some experience working against somebody, just like when you face a new pitcher, like Garcia the other day, I had never seen him, so I was just trying to gather as much information as I could and really relying on what people were telling me at that point because there was no eyeball test.

I like the eyeball test combined with data, information, and I feel a lot better.

Q. How much do you think this team benefitted from really never being able to take their foot off the gas? You were always playing for something. In a sense you've been playing must-win games for weeks.


JOE MADDON: I agree. I really think that I've talked about this several times now. I don't know the exact date of the Giants series. It was in August. It was a four-game series here. I thought that was pretty much where we definitely turned the switch into that almost playoff mode, trying to win the division, being at least wild card eligible, but if you heard me before, it was always about trying to win the division first. I didn't want us to set our sights or have the goal become just being a wild card team.

So if you look at it from that moment, I think you could almost see a trend regarding how we played and what we did on the field, maybe how I utilized the pitching staff, the bullpen starters, being more apt to pull them a little bit sooner, all those kind of things I think kind of occurred right around them. So Jake is right. He's right. I think we've been in that frame of mind, in that mode for a while. I think it's necessary. Also, in conjunction with that, it was kind of around the time when we stopped bringing guys off of early work, all this extra work on the field. I really believe that a fresh mind really can equal a fresh body, also, so all those things kind of occurred. It was like the American Legion week was the middle of August at that time. All those things kind of I think jump started us to get to this particular point fresh and playing that kind of game.

Our guys really -- if you can be in the dugout prior to the game, our guys are expecting that kind of a vibe or that kind of a game on a nightly basis, pretty much from that moment on.

Q. With a great pitcher like Jake Arrieta on the mound, how hard is it to be sure that you don't have a greedy little Pedro Martinez moment?


JOE MADDON: You know, the thing with him is he's so -- he is so good, like I was not kidding the other day when I said his pitch count was infinity in Pittsburgh. You pretty much want to stay with that as long as you can. I think hopefully from the side if you do want to do something differently, there's going to be some kind of indicator for that. But believe me, man, for me, he needs to be out there as long as he can be out there and as long as the game is trending in the right direction, as long as I don't think he's tired or coming out of his delivery badly. Those are normally my indicators to take somebody out of the game. But a guy like him, you want to ride him as long as you possibly can.

Q. We hear all the time the guys' confidence level with Arrieta on the mound, but can you put your finger on something specifically that you see differently when he heads out there from the rest of your guys?


JOE MADDON: I honestly -- I'm not going to make a -- I don't. I really don't. I know that when I write everything down, I like putting his name in that lineup somewhere, whether it's eight or nine, and you feel pretty good about probably the way you're going to utilize your bullpen might be a little bit different based on the fact you expect him to go a little bit more deeply into the game.

The players themselves, though, I don't necessarily feel that. I look at him and I see the look and the repetition of delivery from where I stand in the dugout there, I can see the carry on the pitches from the side. Those are the things I'll be looking for, the strike throwing, throwing his fastball for a strike. I'm pretty consistent in how I approach watching all of our guys. There's different things for all of our pitchers that I want to look for. For him it's that carry at home plate, the reaction to the hit or the pitch will tell me the movements there. For the most part it's been there for the whole second half of the year.