Winter Meetings interview with Robin Ventura

Winter Meetings interview with Robin Ventura

Q. So as one of the writers tweeted out, there's a lot of ex-third basemen floating around the halls, including yourself. What do you perceive the --

ROBIN VENTURA: I'm not playing.

Q. I know, but you were pretty good. What do you perceive at that position at this point? I know we're far away from Spring Training.

ROBIN VENTURA: We're far away. Again, for us, you need to look for some offense. I don't know if that market free agent-wise is all that deep. But you have to try and get creative. I think that's part of coming down here and talking in a room, getting everybody in a room. Maybe some guys go out and talk to other people and kick some tires on some ideas.

Q. Do you have anything internal that you could turn to at this point?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think right now you're looking at Mike Olt, as something that's internal. Davidson would be internal. Again, you're coming down here with ideas. Is that exactly what it's going to be? That part, I don't know. But you come down here and brain storm and figure it out.

Q. Are you liking what you're hearing in the Meetings about the direction you guys might be going?

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, again, the dialogue that's in there of what you're talking about, some of it can be exciting if you actually do it. It does get a little intense of who you're talking about and what could possibly happen. We've been down here, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. A lot of it's just the dialogue that you go through and just the exercise of going through the what ifs.

Q. There's some changes you guys made already, adding two new catchers. But even with minimal changes past that, do you feel confident that the team can improve just by some of the guys who had off years last year coming back to normal?

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, it's a possibility you could do that, but you're also trying to not just have that be the avenue you're going to take without exploring other things. For us, we feel that there are guys that can play better, and as a team, you can somewhat make yourself better by just going out there with the same group and do that. Do you always want to do that? I don't know if that's always the case.

Q. Robin, could this be one of those Meetings where the best deal that you made is one that you didn't make?

ROBIN VENTURA: I mean, that's always going to be a possibility of the one that you don't make. I know people like to float around Chris. For me, that's not a good trade. For me, that's one that wasn't made that -- not that there was one that was offered, but any time his name is brought up, it's very hard to replace that. I haven't even -- in the rumors of it, I haven't even heard anything that sounds good. I would like to keep him in the fold. If that's kind of what you're talking about, yeah, the one that's not made.

Q. (Indiscernible) has also come up. Is it kind of tough to hear? You obviously need offense, but robbing Peter to play Paul is a tough concept?

ROBIN VENTURA: It is tough. Any time you're going to go out on the market to find somebody, you're pretty much going to be looking for guys just like that, and when you already have them, it's difficult to try to let those guys get away.

Q. How tough has it been, Robin, for so much change in the organization over the last years? How tough has it been for you to manage when there hasn't been that continuity of position players?

ROBIN VENTURA: That happens everywhere. I think we're in a point in baseball right now, with the economics of it, that guys do change, and they're not around very long. If you do have them under contract, there's times that you unload it or change it or add or subtract. I think any time you're dealing with people coming in and out all the time, it becomes more difficult, the fluidity of it, but you make it work. It's been this way for a while.

Q. When projecting your pitching staff, would you put the guys that you have out there with just about anybody in your division as far as looking --

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, with Ro's emergence into that top tier group, I think that's something we can count on. We can count on him going out there and, and you wouldn't look at it as being an innings limit or anything like that. You're going to let him go pitch. E.J. pitched well enough to get a shot at that. Turner's going to get an opportunity to do that. And so will Danks.

Q. Your pitching coach said a couple of times this week that he take the responsibility for what happened with Jeff. Obviously, he's not just the one guy. He's not the one throwing pitches. But do you like hearing that he's able to stand up and take that?

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, but Coop's not going out there pitching. I think you look at Coop as a stand-up guy and going out there and trying to get the best out of people. It's nice to say, but I don't look at it that way.

Q. When you're looking at filling your hole at shortstop, Saladino, would you be comfortable with going in with what he brings offensively, or do you feel like you need more?

ROBIN VENTURA: You would expect him to be better offensively. For him to get through what he did playing third base, he filled in a spot for us that's been a hole really for us for a while defensively that he was able to step in, not even playing that much third base. So he did a really good job for us at being able to get in there. Would you profile that as a third base offense? Probably not. But at shortstop, if you get the right pieces and move it in there, he could fill that spot and play very well. I think he's a smart player who does a lot of great team things that could make you a winning team.

Q. How tough was that season last year? Partially because of the offensive struggles, the defensive struggles at the beginning, and the expectations, you talked about that you fully embraced and it just kind of went sideways?

ROBIN VENTURA: You always want to embrace that. I don't think it's anything to be scared off of, but when it starts off offensively the way it did, and we had our -- I think we knew a little bit more our defense wasn't going to be quite as strong as hopefully the offense was going to be, but you do take chances at certain spots just to be able to get some offense in. That part didn't pan out.

Q. Was it made tougher because of the expectations going in, because of the good moves you guys had made in the off-season?

ROBIN VENTURA: Any time you see guys go out there and struggle at certain parts of their game, it becomes more difficult because of expectation, but you're also in a division that's very tough. Kansas City ends up winning the World Series. You see the emergence of what the Twins have as far as young talent, not just players, but pitching. Cleveland's pitching. I think at that part it becomes difficult.

Q. With LaRoche and everything he went through, has he gotten benefit from all the stats being reset to zero?

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, anybody would need that. There's been a lot of guys that have had bad years, and once you can clear it off and almost reset your mind as well as the numbers, it's not always easy going out there and looking up at the board, and it's not a very attractive number. You see it every time you walk to the plate. I think it would help him to just have it scratched out and ready to go next year.

Q. You were patient with him. Obviously, he has a track record. You want to be a player's manager, I assume. Assuming he's back, do you have less maybe patience?

ROBIN VENTURA: I don't know that there's less patience. He also has a track record that, if he has a stinker that's in there statistically, he does bounce back. So you count on that, and you go by how your team's doing and how he's doing. I don't know if it becomes just he's automatically on a short leash. It's how your team's playing.

Q. What did you attribute his season to, in a nutshell? The answer is, if we knew that, we would have fixed it.

ROBIN VENTURA: That's a good answer. Can I use that?

Q. Feel free.

ROBIN VENTURA: I'm not going to say it, but I'm going to use that.

Q. You know hitting. You know swings. You know talent. What happened to him?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think part of it, he had an injury early on, and it just never clicked for him. Defensively, it was one thing. He can play -- he's an outstanding first baseman. He's trying to learn how to DH. You got to really stay away from the excuses because he doesn't want excuses. There are reasons in there that you think probably attributed to that. You deal with it, but you don't throw it out there as -- you know, it doesn't make him feel any better.

Q. Might he play more first base this year, or would you envision the same sort of setup?

ROBIN VENTURA: It's probably the same setup. Josey benefited from DH'ing a little bit more, and there are times physically he needs to DH. If there's something nagging him, I think it's a positive for us that we have a first baseman like Adam that can fill in for that.

Q. What do you think about Jose being able to go to Cuba for the Goodwill Tour?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think it's great. He's excited to be able to go over there, and he's a great representative of baseball and our organization to be able to go over there. If you were going to pick anybody to go, I would definitely have him right at the top of the list.

Q. Would you experiment around with your outfielders? Is anybody guaranteed their position going into Spring Training?

ROBIN VENTURA: There's room to move people around, and I know guys have been open to it. When you start seeing a kid like Trace come up and do what he did -- you know, what he can do defensively changes the game a little bit. It's always been about his offense. I think we saw enough there that it does become intriguing what he can bring to the table, and he might push that. He might be able to push the envelope a little bit to be able to move guys around and see what he can do.

Q. Would you worry about the sensitivity of the other guys being locked in, in their minds, to those positions?

ROBIN VENTURA: He can probably change that. You know, again, when you're talking about improving the club, you want guys that -- it's team oriented. If he's going to help your club win, guys might have to move around.

Q. Might he be the starting center fielder on opening day with Adam moving around?

ROBIN VENTURA: Again, we're going to have to go through Spring Training for that, but he at least put himself in the conversation of getting to Spring Training and seeing what it looks like when he gets out there and how he plays and how it looks. But, again, you're talking about a smart player that has moved himself into a position that we definitely need to seriously look at and see if we can get that out of him.

Q. So you're saying you'll give it a look for him in center. Will you give Adam a look in left?

ROBIN VENTURA: We'll give him a look everywhere, I think, for Trace. By all accounts, he's our best outfielder. So there's no reason not to look at him at all three positions.

Q. If you go to camp and it's Micah and Carlos at second, how do you kind of view that right now?

ROBIN VENTURA: Then it's Micah and Carlos at second.

Q. Are they going in --

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, they're going in to compete and try to win a job.

Q. There was a lot of criticism of the job that you did and questions on whether or not you would be back. Are you having fun? Is this fun for you?

ROBIN VENTURA: You mean like right now or --

Q. Not necessarily at this moment, but the anticipation for Spring Training, is all that stuff still fun for you?

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, that stuff's still there. We know that I have one year left on the contract. For me, I've never been one to seek more years if it's going to make me feel any better or the security of it. You come and do your job. I think that's part of being in baseball. Even as a player, if you have one year left, come and do your job. Do the best you can and try to enjoy it. That part's there, but it's just part of being in the baseball.

Q. Speaking of your job, have you seen an evolution in the role as manager in baseball over your time as a player and as a manager?

ROBIN VENTURA: The evolution of it? What you're dealing with it?

Q. Yeah.

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, the more technology, the more you're dealing with that. I think you have video. Guys get video. You're dealing with just the suddenness and the impact of a social media that creates a different element for a player. For me, it doesn't -- that part doesn't matter as much, but players care about that stuff. They're younger players, and they're coming up at a different age of how technology was created in their lifetime. At a younger age, it's all about they want instant gratification or instant news or instant feedback. It becomes a little bit different.

Q. Robin, when you get to Spring Training this year, when you look at the pluses and minuses of last year, what's the number one thing you're going to look to improve for the team overall?

ROBIN VENTURA: We'd like to score some more runs is what we'd like to do. I think, when we have the pitching that we have, whether it's the starters or you're looking in the bullpen, you feel pretty confident going in that those guys can be able to compete in our league and do well. Offensively, you need to score some more runs for these guys. So you need to find that somewhere.

Q. Have you heard of third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda?

ROBIN VENTURA: I have not.

Q. You haven't seen him?

ROBIN VENTURA: I haven't seen him, no.

Q. Scratch him off the list then?

ROBIN VENTURA: Don't scratch him off. It's only Tuesday.

Q. Robin, do you have any sense of whether there would be flexibility in the payroll if the team wanted to go out and make a big move?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think that's part of what we're discussing right now. When you get in a room and you start talking, there could be, but there was some flexibility in it last year. Whether it's going to be there this year, that depends on maybe what the deal is and who the people you're talking about.

Q. Robin, on the Alexei Ramirez situation, the door isn't completely closed if there isn't something else you find --

ROBIN VENTURA: No, it's not closed. Rick had a good conversation with him and explained what it was and more of the reasoning of it. It doesn't mean it's closed. It won't be what that original contract was, but it doesn't mean it's closed. So he still is a viable option.