Winter Meetings interview with Bryan Price

Winter Meetings interview with Bryan Price

Q. Bryan, given the news, or not news, or pending news, anything you can say to address this thing about whether he's being traded or in the process of being traded or discussions?

BRYAN PRICE: You know, really not. I think that obviously everyone know that is there's a lot of interest in several players that we have. I think it's just for me to suggest anything, I think puts everybody in a bad place.

You know, when you're a player, it's uneasy enough, you know what I mean? We go through this at the trade deadline at the end of July and now we have a bunch of players with names out there. So it's uncomfortable enough.

So if anything happens with any of our guys, it would be nice if it happened sooner rather than later, but that's just the nature of the beast. I wish I had more for you, but I think it would be reckless to say anything more.

Q. Even though I know you can't say anything, have you already taken a look at who you might have closing next season?

BRYAN PRICE: Yeah, way too soon. We have to have an opening in that spot. I think the thing is, let's say, if you want to pretend, in any place on our team, I think the one thing that I went into the off-season with in mind is the fact that there's probably going to be some different faces in Spring Training. I'm not just talking about six-year free agent signings and things of that nature.

I think once we traded Cueto and Leake it really did sign off on the fact that we were going to have to restructure, rebuild the roster to a certain degree to get back to the organization that's brimming and on the cusp of being able to challenge for regular Postseason spots and World Series.

You're not going to get immediately better if you trade an established, everyday position player or a closer or a starter. You hope to be better in the long term with what you get in the future, but I think we understand where we are organizationally. It doesn't mean you sign off on a losing season or whatever, but it does mean that there's probably going to be some changes. And with those changes, there's going to be some bumps along the way.

But I think we are going to end up being the type of team that people are excited about once the changes are made and get some players in there that can kind of revive us a little bit.

Q. How do you measure the success of a team? You always measure it by playoffs and Postseason. When you're not in that mode, what's considered a successful season?

BRYAN PRICE: You know what, that's an excellent question. I think when you come into an environment like this, you try to think about what are you really trying to say.

The one thing that I think is different than when you're going out in 2012 and you know you have five high-quality starting pitchers and, in our situation, Marshall, Broxton, Chapman and depth on your bench, I don't think you're going out on a limb saying you have a great chance to go deep in your division and go into deep into the Postseason.

I think when you're dealing with a young, inexperienced starting rotation and potentially bullpen, I think you can step up -- I can step up and say, hey, listen, we're going to push the other elite teams in the division for a championship.

Realistically, have to just show up and get better and play harder every day and see where things go.

Q. Probably took awhile to get used to not having Johnny every five days. Do you have to prepare --

BRYAN PRICE: I really haven't thought a great deal about it. I really do believe, I know that for those that followed the Reds or covered the Reds for several years, at least the last couple, know that you end up with the team that you have and you go out there and you compete as hard as you can with that group.

This point in time, we still have Aroldis. If we don't have Aroldis we have to look at between now and Opening Day what we have to step into that position. I think we have time to kind of figure out who our best -- right now, we don't have a lot of depth out of the bullpen. The bullpen is not a strength of our ballclub. Hoover had a terrific year. Chapman had a terrific year. And beyond that, it was really a lot of hit and miss.

Q. Safe to say a lot of the guys that don't make the rotation, you have a wide cast of characters that could make the rotation, but the ones that don't make it, they could go to the bullpen or are they more likely to go to AAA to keep developing?

BRYAN PRICE: Depends who you're talking about. The guys that pitched for us last year -- let's just put aside DeSclafani and Iglesias as two guys that most likely will be in our rotation next season. You look at Lamb, Finnegan, Lorenzen, Sampson, guys of that nature, guys are we feel that can start and, if not start, potentially pitch out of the bullpen.

The real challenge is going to be not putting a young pitcher that we feel can be a quality Major League starter and put him in the bullpen too soon and make that commitment, like a career commitment, that this guy is now a reliever because we want him on the team.

We put Stephenson and Reed, that type of pitcher in that same group as -- we might have some stopgaps. We might say, hey, this particular guy is not ready for the rotation but he can definitely help us in the bullpen. But long term, we still see him as a starter. That's possible.

But I do think we are going to have some good arms. Might be a little bit inexperienced, but we should have some good arms up and down the staff.

Q. If you have a young guy and, as you say, put him in that role, in a shorter-term situation, how much -- is that more productive in a lot of cases than keeping him in AAA starting to get that experience?

BRYAN PRICE: If they pitch at the AAA level and have some success, I think pitching in the Big Leagues serves a lot of good positive purposes.

I think the one thing for starters, if you're in the bullpen for a Major League club, you have to check your ego a little bit. You have to say, I'm in the Big Leagues, I'm not starting, but I'm helping the team as a reliever. You have to find a way to get a little bit off your cloud and get down into the fact that you have to do whatever it takes to help your team and your organization compete and be better.

There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with young guys that have a lot of confidence and self-expectation, but take a step back and pitch in a lesser role, just to keep them a little bit grounded.

So I think it serves a lot of good purposes. There's been a lot of guys -- we did it in Seattle a lot. We would segue guys that were starters in Tacoma and AAA and we'd bring them up as relief pitchers for us, and they would eventually come back into the rotation. It has its value.

Q. Was there any thought on your part to regain a relationship with Chip Hale, or were you satisfied with the current position? Was there any thought about reuniting yourself with Chip at all?

BRYAN PRICE: Leaving the position as the manager of the Reds and being Chip's pitching coach or getting back to Arizona? No. No, I'm a big fan of Chip Hale. But for me personally, I enjoy what I do. I think it was 14 years in various locations as a Major League pitching coach, and it was wonderful.

That being said, I like the challenge as a manager. I have to feel like I'm challenging myself a little bit more as a manager, especially with my lack of experience and getting into that position. I've embraced it and I've loved it.

It's been at times miserable to lose at the rate we did this past year. In the same respect, I think all of us are going through the process. I don't really want to take what I would consider at this time a step back.

Q. Was there any difficulty in the transition from pitching coach? I just talked to Dave Roberts about how he had to learn about pitching. So did you have to do anything to get in the mind of the position players to prepare for this?

BRYAN PRICE: Yes, and not as much for the everyday player. More so for the bench player. Had a really good conversation with Miguel Cairo who was an everyday player earlier in his career, but the bulk of the last five or six years of his career was as a bench player. And he was invaluable as a guy that would offer up the mind-set and the importance of Spring Training and regular Spring Training at-bats and how to keep -- how to have a sense of value as a bench player. That was an extremely important conversation.

It's like anything. It was a big step going from being a Minor League pitching coach to being a Major League pitching coach. I felt like I knew a lot about pitching. But when you go from an environment where you're developing pitchers to an environment where you're expected to win games, it's a big difference. There were definitely some things that I needed to learn through the experience and through conversations with players, but a lot of it was just going out there and managing the games.

Q. Over the course of just being in baseball, have you noticed a shift in what it means to be a manager? Do you think there's been -- has it changed, being a manager and what you've seen the manager needs to do?

BRYAN PRICE: A lot of changes. Great changes. I think we just change with the generations.

I know that when I was a young professional player that the generation ahead of me were talking about how they played the game harder and smarter and better and spent more time doing fundamentals and things of that nature. And I know that I'm of the generation that complains about the younger group, about them needing to focus more on doing X, Y, and Z, and it will continue on down the line.

I think that it's way more communicative now. I just think that with all the social networks and things that you can do to stay in touch with your players -- unfortunately I don't think people talk as much anymore. I don't think there's many personal conversations. I don't think there's as many phone calls. I think we react quite often through text messaging and things of that nature, and I don't think that's for the better.

However, I just think it's the environment, and if you don't learn how to communicate with young people in the way that they are most comfortable, then you're going to lose them.

There's a ton of changes. It's a completely different game and you can't expect young people with tons of money to show the same maturity that you would have from a young person or a veteran player that was making $12,000 a year and working at JCPenney's selling slacks in the off-season and making ends meat. It's just a different environment.

Q. What kind of person is he in the clubhouse --

BRYAN PRICE: Actually relatively quiet. I think he's unique in his own way. Takes a little while to get to know him. But he's a good kid. He's a fun kid. He's got a great sense of humor. He's a good guy.

Q. With Lorenzen, he's spending a lot of time this season getting bigger and stronger, a lot of gym time. How will that help him go the distance this year -- or next year?

BRYAN PRICE: At times you look at Michael Lorenzen and his workouts, that's more like a guy that's going to play center field or linebacker or something like that. It's always hard to say that there's one way to train. His training is probably more strenuous than most pitchers. But he's proven to be extremely durable.

It's hard to walk a guy away from a workout plan where he's completely invested in getting a good result. It's just probably different than a lot of ways that a lot of pitchers would work out in the off-season.

You know, I think he's a terrific prospect and a kid that can help us in a lot of ways. When you don't have to teach a work ethic to a player, you always feel like you have the advantage; that you're going to get the most out of that kid.

Q. Did you take anything specifically from Dusty about pitching staffs or handling a clubhouse, anything specific that maybe you were influenced by him?

BRYAN PRICE: Yeah, a lot of things. Dusty, I always say the first thing I remember about Dusty when I started to work for him was his ability to multitask, and I would say that probably isn't my greatest strength. I need to be focused in on one thing at one time.

And he was great at, I'm sure still is, maybe being in one conversation but being able to be a part of something else that was going on and being able to stay connected with all the right people and having a sense of what's going on in the clubhouse at the same point in time knowing what relief pitcher may need a day of rest or what position player may need a day of rest.

He's really good at making sure he had a finger on the pulse of everything that was going on with the ballclub. And that to me was something that I always need to remind myself is that you really have to get out there and get out and about with these guys and get to know them more than the surface stuff. He was really good with that.

He's also extremely organized. He used every minute of his free time. When we went and traveled across country, he was the entire time taking on the advance report, writing down the notes he wanted to have with him on the bench. Very, very particular things, and he didn't forget anything. He was always taking notes to remind himself of the next time he was in that environment.

One thing I've found with managers I've worked with, and I've worked with very good managers, is they are all very, very bright. Lou Piniella, Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove and Dusty Baker, very, very intelligent people. They don't take anything for granted, and Dusty is the same way.

Q. Can you put your finger on what's so likable about him?

BRYAN PRICE: Yeah, I think that he's Dusty Baker, which means he's a 40-plus-year, 45-year Major League player, coach and manager who has had great success as a player and as a manager and as a hitting coach when he was with the Giants, who relates to all different types of people, all religious, ethnic backgrounds, different experiences. He speaks fluently in Spanish.

He just gets it and he covets information. He wants to know more about his players and their lives. And he's always reading something that's going to make him smarter (laughing). He always covets information. And he's very approachable. He doesn't carry an aloofness that a guy of his experience has had at this level.

Q. What are your impressions of Cody Reed the first time you met him?

BRYAN PRICE: I saw him on video, saw him pitching both in the Royals organization and then with us. He's a stud. He was pitching all the way down through the playoffs for our club in AA, and our people just raved about him. I know the feedback we got from Kansas City. They just hated to give him up.

Sounds to me he's a mature kid for his age and he's a mature kid from a pitching standpoint from his limited experience in professional baseball and a guy in our organization we definitely could feel be a guy, an impact pitcher for us as a starter.

We've seen Finnegan, we've seen Lamb, and I'm very excited about both of them. There's one more piece to that trade that could help us, and I anticipate him helping us at some point next season. I'm thrilled about three lefties. That's pretty sweet.

Q. All the Minor League guys, looking like an offensive line.

BRYAN PRICE: Yeah, we talk about our young pitchers, and you just start -- we don't talk about the young guys that may have been in Dayton or Billings or Arizona. We have good ones here, too. You start clicking off names from Daytona, Pensacola and Louisville, and it's a laundry list of guys that we think are going to help us this year, not just in a basic, kind of a tryout situation, like we had a lot at the end of this past season. But guys that can come up and actually impact our teams when we're winning games.

Q. Having that youth, core of youth, possibly more youth headed your way, does that give you optimism?

BRYAN PRICE: Yeah, you know, there's growing pains, and growing pains doesn't mean you have to lose 98 games or you have to set a number. You still have to look at a season for what you have and what those players should do. I do think that that's how you evaluate a manager or a head coach or a coaching staff. You look at a team and you look at what they have on the field and decide what should that team have done with that talent.

So when you have young players, if they are athletic and they are talented and they have an understanding of how to play the game, you can set some higher expectations on how many games you can win.

But we have to take a look and see what we have and see what our expectations can be moving forward. But it's an exciting time if you're willing to pause, if you're willing to pause and say, hey, we don't know exactly what we have but we like the potential. I think there's reason to be excited.

Q. On that note, is it hard when you know there could be some more moves coming and you can't quite make a mental lineup of who you have in your everyday eight?

BRYAN PRICE: No doubt. No doubt. In our environment, it is one of those situations where I don't think we really have a real grasp. I think we do know there's some certain -- some for-certain players we know we're going to have and pitchers.

But it's exciting to think what we could find, but I don't think at this point in time we're even remotely close to thinking what a rotation or lineup could look like. I'm as vague with that as anything.

Q. When you went from a first-year manager to being a second-year manager, what was the biggest benefit of that experience for you?

BRYAN PRICE: It was managing those previous 162 games, and the thing when you get an opportunity like this, I think that the first thing you tell yourself is don't screw it up. You don't want the team to be worse off because you're managing the club as opposed to the guy before you or somebody else that was an option.

The other thing is that you have to stay true to what you believe in as a manager, and you have to learn, because you'll make mistakes or you'll do things and you'll go, oh, boy, given that opportunity, I might do it differently the next time.

And so that was really the benefit of year one is that we had a pretty good first half and a really poor second half. And then we had to deal with things. But I thought we dealt with them the right way. We can make excuses about what we have on the field and who is injured and who is affected and who isn't, and in the end it really doesn't matter. What matters is you go out and play the game as hard as you can as prepared as you can for as long as you can.

Unfortunately, sometimes you have to take solace in down seasons if the guys played their tails off.

Q. Another one of the young guys, doesn't seem like he's that far away -- with Robert, how far away is he from being in that mix right now as we look at it heading into 2016 or a little further away?

BRYAN PRICE: He should be. This is a kid that started in AA and moved up to AAA and pitched better in AAA changeup, which was a certifiable put-away pitch. One of the things that Robert got away from a little bit the previous year was the ability to land a second pitch for a quality strike, be it a curveball or a traditional straight changeup. So it made him really a fastball pitcher.

And as you get into the AA level, fastball-only guys, starters tend to struggle a little, unless they are true power sinker guys. The ability to get back on top of the curveball and throw it for a strike and have a swing-and-miss pitch or a certifiable third pitch as a starter was really important. I think he satisfied those challenges.

Now, it's really experience in staying on the attack and being able to be a little bit more conservative with the number of pitches thrown per hitter. When you have a swing-and-a-miss pitch, sometimes you have a tendency to over-expose it because you don't want the ball in play when a good fastball down and away or straight changeup or strike-breaking ball might get you one pitch out.

But that's just young guys learning how to pitch. When he gets a little more economical with his pitches, he'll get better as a starter.

Q. What's your take on Mike Leake?

BRYAN PRICE: He's terrific. Whoever gets him is going to have a guy that takes a ball every five days and is going to pitch 200-plus innings, throw strikes, work quick, handle the bat, field his position, be prepared when he takes the field.

I think we've always appreciated pitchers that stay healthy and pitch innings. And as much as he doesn't look like some guys that are bigger and throw harder that people sign long-term and give a lot of money, if you don't appreciate the fact that you're going to get a guy that's going to keep you in almost every game and is going to pitch 200 innings and take the ball every five days like he has for six years, you're going to under-appreciate it.

He does have a special talent, and it's not a 95-mile-an-hour fastball, but it's a talent to stay in games and give you a chance to win. And for a team that's close to winning a championship, you have that guy pitching in the middle of your rotation, it's a beautiful thing.

Q. Do you keep an eye on like where Johnny and Mike and all those guys are going to land?

BRYAN PRICE: I do. But I'm not constantly on the Internet searching it. Imagine somebody is going to tell me pretty soon if some of our guys have gone elsewhere. But, yeah, definitely interested. It's great to watch Johnny Cueto throw a complete game in the World Series and pitch eight beautiful innings in the deciding game against Houston.

Those are his moments, but a lot of us got vicarious pleasure watching a long-term Cincinnati Red kid go out and help a team win a World Series. So that was pretty special for all of us.

Q. As you said, still fluid and a lot of stuff to happen before Spring Training, but as you start preparing for going to Arizona, midseason is where you all kind of made that point of, okay, a lot more young guys coming up, but does it change at all the dynamic of just how you do things in Spring Training next year compared to last year?

BRYAN PRICE: Yes, it does. I had a question at Redsfest that the Reds need to spend more time on fundamentals. We all spend -- these guys are there. That's all we do before our games in Spring Training is focus on fundamentals. We go out and stretch at four o'clock for a seven o'clock game and work on fundamentals, not just hitting but guys doing ground balls and double plays and taking balls off the bat and doing all the things you need to do. Pitchers are bunting in the cage and on the field.

There's only so much you can do. But with young guys, so much more of it is situational play and it's experience of handling different situations. We talk about it in every sport, being able to anticipate what's going to happen before it does is a key to the growth of any player in any sport.

Those are the things that I think Spring Training will change for us a little bit, a lot more situational play, a lot more offensive play with an infield-in situation or a first and third situation, and baserunning, reads off the bat, things of that nature that younger players have yet to experience enough of to feel like they are necessarily really instinctive. There will definitely be changes in how we go about our business in the spring.

Q. Seemed like last year there were struggles, you only had X amount of rotation spots opening. This year it seems like you have more openings and more possibilities. Is that going to be more difficult?

BRYAN PRICE: You know, I don't think so. I think in this particular case, talk about the past, the value of competition, Spring Training, really, if you're a really good team, there's really not that much competition in Spring Training, right? Last year we had four guys that were non-roster guys that made our Opening Day roster.

Competition is great if you're a young team, a young, inexperienced team that is going to have to grow a little ways before you're ready to win a championship. That's good. And these guys being hungry to fight out, you learn a lot about people when they are competing for jobs and competing for roles. I think those are all positive things.

I don't think it makes it any more difficult because I think what we want is a few angry guys in AAA that are trying to pitch their way up to the Big Leagues.

Q. Are there only X amount of guys that you can have prepared to start the season in the rotation and have more competition?

BRYAN PRICE: I see what you're saying. In Spring Training, getting them started or giving them a chance.

Q. Last year you had seven or eight guys, didn't have enough split squad games, and now it seems like there's more spots open and there's a larger pool.

BRYAN PRICE: There's no doubt about that and I understand your question better as far as the sense of being able to evaluate everybody equally.

Q. Does it start early?

BRYAN PRICE: Well, I think we're going to go into it with an understanding, kind of, I don't want to say a pre-conception, but somewhat of an understanding of the guys that we're familiar with that pitched for us last year.

But for me, I think it's open season on spots on our ballclub and from a pitching standpoint, I really do. I just think there's too many question marks. A lot of the young guys that got opportunities last year didn't pitch terribly well. We walked too many and weren't terribly efficient. Now they are going to be better coming into Spring Training for that experience.

But we didn't have a lot of young guys that got that opportunity and seized that opportunity and created a spot in a situation where they almost had to pitch their way off the team, and that's what creates this open competition.

Q. You need a guy at the Big League level, and you have to start him every day, but as far as pitching, between a guy taking those knocks at the Big League level where you know this may be beneficial for him versus waiting a little longer, obviously a guy like Robert, a few years ago, Homer, there were several years before he got really firmly established. How difficult is it, even for a very talented pitcher, to get to that point?

BRYAN PRICE: It's tough, because Homer is a great example of a kid that came up and pitched and he would make a handful of starts and then get sent back to the Minor Leagues. And then the question is, is that serving him? It's certainly serving the team because you don't like to have guys go out there and get beat up one time after the other.

However, you do have to make a commitment to allow somebody to fail enough to get where they get comfortable and show you the best of who they are. It's so rare to have a position player or a pitcher come up and play the same way they were playing in AAA or AA.

What you find with pitchers is they try to be too perfect, pitch on the corners and off way too much, they throw a lot more pitches.

But once they either get roughed up enough or learn enough or get prodded enough by their staff and teammates, they finally begin to say, oh, I get it. I need to be more aggressive in the strike zone, and that's what you start to see the successes. So it's a challenge. It's a challenge, because the ownership, fans, teammates, you get tired of going out there and losing the same way with the same starting pitchers time and time again as they try to get their fitting.

A fine line on making a decision on when to pull the plug on a young guy and get him back to the Minor Leagues.

Q. Cingrani going to be a bullpen guy?

BRYAN PRICE: Yes. How about that? I can say yes. No, he's a bullpen guy for me. I just see him as a bullpen guy. Like to see the breaking ball and the changeup evolve, but I like him as a bullpen piece because he had success against the right-handers.

And what we need to see, we need to see him get some of those lefties out the way he did earlier, and now all of a sudden you have an impact bullpen piece.

Q. I know it's too early to even really know, but it does look like, at least right now, outfield seems like a position where there's an opportunity for some younger guys. Obviously Yorman, unfortunately with the injury he didn't get a chance to be part of that last year. It's a long ways away, but does it look like that's an opportunity, as well, for some younger guys to head to Spring Training knowing they at least have a shot at that spot?

BRYAN PRICE: Yeah, and you would never want to talk anyone into believing they don't have a shot coming into Spring Training. Yorman jumps to the head of the class because he's out of options. There's a very strong feeling amongst our staff in AAA, in particular Tony Jaramillo, who is our assistant hitting coach in Cincinnati, that Yorman was turning the corner and then he sustained an injury, I don't know if it was a hairline fracture or something of that nature, to his shin.

But he's back playing winter ball. But Tony felt this kid was turning the corner and was about to become the type of player that we thought when we signed him as a young kid.

From a maturity standpoint, he's just older. He's got way more at-bats now. He's a guy that can do a lot of things in the outfield. Stealing bases, playing much better defense. He's the type of guy that if he comes in, has good winter ball, shows us something in Spring Training, you see him at least as a platoon player on your club in that situation.

That said, I'm not a believer in giving guys spots on teams because they are out of options. That's never a good business deal. Doesn't help the team to have a guy that's not a Major League player that's taking up a spot on a Major League roster because you don't want to lose him. I want him to come in and have a nice camp and show maturity that would suggest he should be playing.