Winter Meetings interview with Kevin Cash

Winter Meetings interview with Kevin Cash

Q. Kevin, looking back to this time last year, how much do you feel like you've grown and how much more at ease are you in the job and kind of knowing where you're at?

KEVIN CASH: Definitely more at ease. I mean, last year, I was walking around and didn't really know where I was going. Didn't know who I was talking to. A lot of introductory conversations. So there's much more comfort and even though this is a pretty big place and you can get lost a little bit.

But the comfort, we were talking about it earlier this morning up in the suite, it's just a different tone, I guess, for me personally. For everybody else, I think it's status quo, business as usual.

Q. You guys have already made some moves; some chatter you might make some more moves. How do you feel with what you have, and where do you think you could go if you do anything?

KEVIN CASH: Well, I think we feel as an organization we are really happy with the trade where we acquired the guys from Seattle -- Morrison, Farquhar, and Miller.

Brad Miller is a guy that we were talking about at this time last year that never came about, but we were talking about him. And that just shows how relentless our guys are -- when we like somebody, we are going to try to continue to pursue them. And obviously he fills a spot for us, and we really like the potential of his bat.

Logan Morrison -- both of them are versatile. Morrison, obviously he can DH, first base and play some in the outfield. That's going to help us.

But I think with those two guys, adding left-handed bats is something we could have used at different points last year. They made that move right when the season ended.

Q. You said something last week, talking about shortstop and competition, and you kind of made it sound like Franklin and Beckman were still in there. Would you clarify that he's really going to be your guy --

KEVIN CASH: I think Tim Beckham did a lot of good things for us last year. He's going to come in competing for a job. He's going to be competing for opportunity to play. And the same for Nick Franklin.

Brad Miller is a guy that we feel, you know, he's going to help us in some capacity over the course of the year. And we would like for somebody to kind of take the reins and become our shortstop. We were kind of in a similar position last year, and Asdrúbal Cabrera did that.

So hopefully we can figure some stuff out in Spring Training and each individual makes the most of the opportunities that they will be presented. We kind of foresee it whereas we are going to see some versatility because Miller can go to different spots. Nick Franklin showed a little bit of versatility last year.

It's going to be interesting and a little bit of a juggling act in Spring Training to get him at shortstop, to get him at second base, maybe get him in the outfield a little bit.

Q. Have you talked to either of them to qualify your position on that?

KEVIN CASH: We spent plenty of time talking to both of them even at the end of the year. I'm sure that they totally understand kind of where they stand and the opportunity that's ahead of them.

From talking to them, both seem pretty hungry at the end of the year to come in and get in shape and have a really good camp and make some difficult positions.

Q. You prefer that versatility rather than having one guy be the everyday shortstop?

KEVIN CASH: Not specifically. We do things where we try to balance ourselves obviously against (indiscernible) as a pitcher. And speaking about Brad Miller, there's not a ton that I personally know about him. Other than that, we like him a lot.

So we are all intrigued to get him in around his new teammates, see what he can do. If somebody takes the reins, so be it. That's fine. But I don't think we're ready to label one guy or want one guy just to be at shortstop.

Q. Any further thoughts about --

KEVIN CASH: No, still excited about it. I talked to him that day that we all spoke. He seemed to be pretty excited. I told him he needs to get down here or hurry up and get down because it's a little difficult to find places in Port Charlotte to live.

It seemed the trade was no big deal. He'd been traded before. He said once it's happened, it's like no big news. He's going to also be a nice complement to that left-handed side of our offense.

Q. We talked a couple years about different pitchers. Looking back at what Odorizzi did and what he can do to you in the future, how do you value (indiscernible)?

KEVIN CASH: Quite a bit. With all the injuries that we had last year, you could maybe make an argument that Odo's injury was the most devastating to our team that was on the field. We were playing really well and seemed like we were on a pretty good run.

Then when he hurt his oblique, we started scrambling a little bit. That's because he was so consistent, what he provided for us every fifth day. Lock that up with Archer, what they were doing, seven innings and giving us a chance to win every game, and Archer is deservedly getting a lot of that credit but, Odo was right there in line with him up until the injury.

He's a guy that's young and still going to continue to evolve. He really buys into Jim Hickey's approach and really buys into our front office's thoughts on how to get him to maximize his best stuff. When you have that type of buy-in, you know, we can really benefit from it because he's pretty talented, very talented.

Q. Kevin, speaking of approach, can you address the times through the order philosophy your club has, game by game, innings --

KEVIN CASH: You want me to go through every game?

Q. On a per-game basis, the innings and times through the order, you guys obviously led -- you pulled pitchers quicker than anybody.

KEVIN CASH: I pulled them quicker than anybody and probably took a lot of heat for it. But coming into the season, we felt that was the best chance for us to win. And I think looking back, when it works, it works, everybody's happy. And when it didn't work, there's some people that want to ask questions, which we understand.

But there were different reasons and different scenarios, so they are all individual. Take a guy like Nate Karns, young pitcher that is establishing himself in the Big Leagues. In a way, we were saying, hey, you're doing everything we need to ask from you, why are we going to let you fail or give him the chance to fail by just keeping him out there when we had a fresh bullpen.

But times through the order, we value that. Not to the extent of maybe what it's brought up on TV right now. But we do value it. But we also value kind of the eye test and how our pitchers are doing in that given start.

Q. So you're willing to let the eyes overrule data to an extent; there are guys pitching well, he may be working the fourth time through the order coming up.

KEVIN CASH: Yeah, definitely, we proved that. We let Chris Archer stay out there plenty of times late in ballgames, and along with Odorizzi. I will say, had we had Alex Cobb, had we had Drew Smyly, we probably would have been talking about different situations taking place and might not have been that aggressive with that veteran -- more veteran pitching staff.

Q. Have you talked to many of the guys, other coaching staff, maybe about some of the moves that have been made, feel any excitement?

KEVIN CASH: I haven't really talked to too many of them. Today everything is a text message.

There haven't been a ton of conversations. We all kind of communicate through text and said, hey, once we get through Thanksgiving and get through the Winter Meetings, let's touch base.

But through the text message, you could tell the guys just seem to be excited about getting ready to get back in the swing of things. This is about when everybody is done resting and ready to get back in the weight room and start hitting, throwing, whatever it is.

Q. Sounds like you were saying that pulling guys early was something out of necessity with all the injuries. So do you foresee that happening in the future?

KEVIN CASH: Well, I hope we don't have the injuries, for sure. But we are going to be aggressive with our bullpen because if our bullpen is as good as we hope it is, we are going to want them pitching a lot of big innings for us.

But it's a balance that we have to find as a staff because we also think that we have a very talented group of starting pitchers.

It's going to be hopefully a little different because of maybe the injuries that we ran into at the beginning of the year. If we have some healthy guys, we'll have to go back to the drawing board and discuss how we are going to approach each game and the different scenarios that present themselves.

Q. What qualities do you look for in the bullpen arms to handle that type of usage, if it's multiple innings per game, back-to-back, whatever it is?

KEVIN CASH: Two young guys that really stepped up at the end of the year, Alex Colome and Enny Romero, the resilient arms, to be able to bounce back and also be able to provide more than an inning of work. So many times now you see a lot of relievers that are one-inning guys and they are very successful.

We found by the way we structured our pitching staff, it would be very beneficial to have those guys that can go multiple or get more than three outs; have the five- and six-out guys.

Q. You said a couple times you're happy with the group you have, and you also know how your front office is diligent and relentless. Are you curious or interested to see what they might come up with in terms of adding somebody?

KEVIN CASH: Not really. I'm not curious because I feel like they do a really good job of keeping myself and our coaching staff in the loop. So you hear what's being discussed and they are on top of it.

It's a little awkward to say we want more, because that's what -- what are we saying to the 35 guys that we have coming in to compete. But I know that they are doing everything they can to make us better this year and also next year. And if something happens, we'll be excited about that, also.

Q. Obviously you like the guys you have, but you know how your front office guys work so many things, not curious like they were surprising you, but just, hey, who knows what you're going to have; come Opening Day, you might have a couple young hitters added to the lineup?

KEVIN CASH: Well, that would be better than having four or five injuries. Who knew then, but it wasn't good. (Laughs).

Q. I know you have to worry about your own team right now, but what have your impressions been of the Red Sox, very active, with Price and Young --

KEVIN CASH: Did they get David Price?

Q. It's official.

KEVIN CASH: Good for the Red Sox. A lot of good friends over there. John Farrell is one of my closer friends in the game, and then some teammates.

They are doing everything they can to go out and compete. We all know the American League East is a very competitive division, and it looks like they are just adding more to that competition with the signings that they have made and the acquisitions.

Q. Certainly you guys know where you stand financially and you're always going to be in a different position than the Red Sox and Yankees, but do weeks like this one sort of highlight that for you?

KEVIN CASH: Well, I think it does maybe outside of our organization. Inside the organization, I don't think it affects us at all. We know that the structure that we have in place, what works, will work, and we'll continue to compete really well against the other teams that are out there.

Q. The comfort factor, having had a year on the job, but specifically where do you think that benefit would be, that you know the league better or your own players better or your own decision-making process?

KEVIN CASH: More knowing our players and the relationships there. And then also I think the decision-making.

I mean, last year there wasn't much that we could fall back on or I could personally fall back on and say, well, you know, ten ballgames ago, this happened, this scenario played out. I didn't really have that.

This upcoming year, I will have experiences built up that I can maybe fall back on, and when we're making decisions in game with Tom Foley and I and discussing things as it's playing out, we'll have a little history to fall back on.

Ultimately we are in a better place as far as our relationships with the players. There were a lot of unknowns. I think we all did a really good job of kind of coming together. But it's going to be exciting to get back in there come Spring Training and see everybody and much more high-fiving and hugging and seeing how everybody is, how they did, their families, rather than shaking your hand and introducing yourself.

Q. So you mean knowing the players personally than knowing if somebody is good against a left-handed pitcher who is breaking stuff away?

KEVIN CASH: Basically you have a pretty good sense for that fairly quickly. A lot of times, the season is a little bit of a roller coaster. There were certain guys that would get as hot as they could be, and then the next month, they are not that hot. I don't think you can say, oh, I know this guy and when that is going to happen. But maybe you might know their mentality and how they are able to handle it when they do have those ups and downs.

Q. Given the market, a lot of the roster seems to change most years. Are there challenges knowing that maybe a third of the roster, that there will still be a lot of new guys even though you've been there a year, or is it good to have new blood, new energy?

KEVIN CASH: I think we always think, you know, we like the young guys, we like the new guys. They always seem to provide a lot of good energy. But the guys that will be back, they provide such a positive vibe in the clubhouse that I think they are very equipped to handle anybody that we bring in new or new addition.

It's a welcoming group and very quickly with the leaders on our staff or on our team, it will kind of show the way, and we get a lot of buy-in because it's such a good culture and such a good atmosphere.

Q. You saw a lot of the Yankees last year. What impressed you most about that team?

KEVIN CASH: The Yankees? We still specifically, you look at a guy like Severino, when he came up, he was pretty impressive. What Alex Rodriguez did after not playing for a year, he was a force. He really put it to us with a lot of big hits, big home runs.

But they are so dangerous offensively with the left-handed bats, the power. And also, wherever they are playing, but especially when you're playing in Yankee Stadium, we had some games that were decided by one swing of the bat, where it felt like we had control and we were in control of the game and then all of a sudden, blink of an eye, home run and the scores flip flop.

It's a potent group that seemed to be able to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and there's danger throughout the entire lineup.

Q. Looking at what they had in 8 and 9 with Betances and Miller, is it surprising to hear Miller's name coming up in trade talks?

KEVIN CASH: I've tried not to think about those guys at all. I got so sick and tired of seeing them. That's why I didn't mention it. You're talking about two of the elite of the elite.

I know what the Dodgers just did, but as far as a righty/lefty combination, I guess the argument now is those or two Kenley Jansen and Chapman. But we saw Miller and Betances too much. They are very tough to handle.

Q. How much has the strength and conditioning and medical staffs changed from when you were a rookie until now? Outwardly seems like there's a lot more sophistication of data and individualized plans. What have you noticed?

KEVIN CASH: Pretty much that. There's a lot of involvement. We feel like we have as good of training staff as anybody in baseball. They do a great job, and they were very much tested this year with the amount of injuries.

But the way they come in and stay positive and they stay innovative -- they are constantly at seminars. They are constantly trying to learn. They don't get in the mold, well, I've been doing this for 15 years and this is how we did it then. They challenge themselves daily to provide the most for our players.

Q. Going back to your development, when you say your decision-making, do you mean like strategic, like do you hit-and-run here or do you bunt here or pitching management?

KEVIN CASH: Looking back, I didn't have a very good sense for the running game when we were on offense. We made way too many outs on the bases, and that was due to large part, poor decision making by me. Hopefully, it was a negative then but we will turn it into a positive and learning from it. When to go and when not to go. I enjoyed watching that in the playoffs, even though it seems to be more magnified or different in the playoffs.

We know we have to utilize our team speed and we have to get buy-in from our players, and along with Rocco and myself, to communicate those best times.

As far as the pitching, that's going to continue to evolve. We've got to see who we have and our guys' health before we can really make decisions on how we are going to exactly run things.

Q. When it comes to that pitching, you guys obviously were pretty aggressive about getting guys out before the third or fourth time through. It seemed to work. Is that something that you see continuing or maybe becoming more aggressive?

KEVIN CASH: Like I said earlier, we are going to continue to be aggressive. But it's a combination of using our numbers, the information that's provided, and also how that specific pitcher is attacking the lineup that given night. There's so many variables in there.

But like I was just saying, it's tough to say, because we kind of came into the situation last year right when the season broke where there were so many injuries and that was kinds of, all right, we are going to do this plan because this is what we're working with and we're going to get the most out of it this way.

So we have to let it play out and see where we're at as far as health and how guys are throwing the baseball.

Q. What type of things are you looking for to say, okay, this guy is going to face the third time order, specific things, like even though the numbers may say he struggles the third time through the order, but I'm seeing something, what is that that may convince you to go against the stats?

KEVIN CASH: Well, you look at is he continuing to get ahead of hitters; is he continuing to get guys to miss; the hard contact. You try to evaluate all those things. And sometimes the numbers, what they are doing that specific night in the box score might not really show what's taking place on the field.

Erasmo Ramirez, we were very aggressive taking him out. But Erasmo, as the season went on, he proved that he was very much capable of going deeper in games. And we discussed it and we allowed him. There were times that we benefitted because getting that one extra inning out of him might help the next day.

So it changes. It fluctuates constantly. There's not one set rule. I know that there were times it seemed like it appeared that way, but that was really not the case. We try to factor in all the information and make a good decision.

Q. What have you heard on Cobb? Still looking like late July, early August?

KEVIN CASH: I haven't heard a specific. August is the month that I've been hearing the most.