Q. In general terms, what do you think helped in the second half, maybe some of the things in general terms to keep in mind with that?
CLINT HURDLE: I think the clear, consistent, active communication moving forward from the first day from their agent, their representative, we got a good translator in place, HK, Jung-ho's buy in, and then our staff and our players.
We did our homework. We had small, short sessions with the staff on things that were important and traditional for Jung-ho in his life, for Gong. They also versed us on the scheduling of the play that he had done, the routines in Spring Training, progression while he was there.
Basically just got in and talked with him, spoke with him, asked him questions, how you feeling, how is this working, try to figure things out as we go along.
At the end of the day, the best thing we did is we just treated him the way we would hope to be treated if we were in a similar situation. That's the golden rule. It turned out to be a very good relationship both personally and professionally for everybody.
We're very happy with the acquisition and his development, because he wants not just to be a great player. He wants to learn English. He wants to gain some independence and he wants to fit in and he's doing well.
Q. Did you pick up some Korean?
CLINT HURDLE: We all did. And we all found a soft language that we both work with much better. It's kind of funny that you can catch yourself speaking Spanish with Gong from time to time. We had guys working with him. He picked up Spanish and some phraseology much easier than English. We just did the best we could.
Q. How important to you guys is it to find a third starter, this week, if possible?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, you know, I think the urgency of a timetable right now, it can be overplayed. Spring Training doesn't start until the middle of February. Players, whether they're with teams or not, are going to work out and prepare because they know they're going to end up in Spring Training possibly with somebody.
It is on our to do list, and we want to get a guy in that's going to continue to make that the strongest rotation we can have heading into the Spring Training part of it.
We want to have some depth, as well. We believe we have some young men that are making progress and can be very well ready at some point in time next year, if not 2017.
But to bring a guy in -- we're looking at a bunch of different people, to bring a guy in with experience that can pitch innings, that can pitch well. It's not just about innings, it's about getting the opportunity to win ballgames.
It's probably at the top of our to-do list.
Q. Strange to say this about a team that won 98 games, but places where you might be able to pick up a game, your record within the division and getting ahead right out of the gate, have you talked about areas that you might improve?
CLINT HURDLE: Yes, those are two that we have. We always have a debrief session after the season, and we've shared thoughts on the areas we are going to target moving into every year with Spring Training, and we'll do the same then. Those are two that definitely got our attention, our record within the division. We have not had a clean April since I've been here. That is something that we'd like to change.
You know, do I believe we can improve in a couple different areas, also. I believe there's different parts that defensively where we can improve and different parts where our base running can improve. We targeted pitchers' hitting last year, and I got some people laughed at. Last year our pitchers won a game for us with the bat, and they never won a game for us the year before. Usually get out what you focus on and we have some areas that we need to get better at and we can get better at.
Q. What role do you see Josh Harrison playing next season? Would you like to move him progressively toward one position, or is that TBA?
CLINT HURDLE: I think it's TBA, and I'll tell you why.
I think if you would have in-depth discussions with players that have that versatility, four or five positions, I think initially all of them will say, I'd really like to play one spot. And after they play one spot, they find out, that moving around thing took a big load off. Just kept moving around.
And Josh has felt himself at times, right field, left field, second base, he would get in a rhythm that played well. Sometimes when you sit at one spot and that one part of your game doesn't work, it's a little different. Okay, I know I'm playing third; I know I'm playing short. And when that bat doesn't work, the challenge of moving around defensively, I just think it can provide a heightened awareness, it can drive a better focus at times.
So Josh is probably in both of those camps. I think we'll see what's best for the club and how we match up and set up. I don't have any lack of confidence of putting him anywhere on the field defensively, the positions that he has comfort playing.
Q. Have there been any thoughts in moving him to center, understanding I know you have an MVP winner in center, and not as easy a transition.
CLINT HURDLE: Discussions with legs, no. I think when you look at Polanco when he ran up there for the one game last year you think about it, when Marte goes and he's had a couple times when he's played center, whether it be in Spring Training, whether we sparked offensively, it gets your attention.
I think you'll watch the outfield continue to evolve and watch Andrew play; and whether that conversation comes at some point in time, you have to be an honest self-evaluator. And if it needs to happen, you'll have that conversation.
Right now I'm not so sure he's in the best spot for us based on the 81 games we play at home because I don't know if we have another defender that can play left field, with the ability that he showed in left field, with the outs he was able to get in left field. Could have there be a day? There could be a day.
Q. What did you see from Polanco in his first full year in the Big Leagues?
CLINT HURDLE: An improvement. I think it's been a very good challenge for him. There's been a lot asked of him. He's a young player that's been able to meet some demands on the fly at the Major League level, which is very challenging in and of itself.
I think we'll continue to see growth. I think he's becoming more comfortable with those long levers that he's got, those legs and arms. The game is quicker at this level and I think he's finding ways to shorten up his swing, shorten up his stroke, improve his sliding throughout last season, pitch selection.
A lot of growth, and I think there's still more growth coming. I think he's going to be a very good player, and I do think he's going to be a player that can change the game in a number of different ways.
Q. How about seeing Michael Morse for the time you did last year, would you feel comfortable with him at first base, or is that still a need?
CLINT HURDLE: I think we still need to look for a partner there, and you can get partners and you get plays if somebody gets hurt and the guy can get the bulk of the time. But going in, I think we will continue to focus on finding a left-handed bat possibly and really a complement, as well.
Q. What kind of input did you have on the sliding rule change that was discussed there? Will be discussed today?
CLINT HURDLE: I've had a lot of really good quality conversation with Joe Garagiola, Jr. and Joe Torre, based on the experiences we had in the 162-game season. And every manager has his own log to share with these guys.
Obviously a couple situations that we were able to talk in greater length about, you know, the slide at second base, we had two shortstops that went out significant periods of time.
They are doing everything they can to continue to tweak this replay program to make it better. They are in conversation right now. You've got to come up with terminology and words and a definition that can be put in place that makes sense, that simplifies it, as we did with the collision rule at home plate. It's got to go to the Players Union as well. There are a lot of moving parts.
But we are having conversation and I think for all the right reasons, we are going to try to make the replay system the best it can be.
Q. I know you can't discuss trades that may or may not be pending, but could you illuminate about Neil walker, being from Pittsburgh, on this team, and what it might mean if you -- if there is a day --
CLINT HURDLE: I think it would be more appropriate if I had those comments if and when that would happen. I would feel much more comfortable in sharing thoughts when they are appropriate to share.
Q. In free agency, what types of interest have you had?
CLINT HURDLE: We've had varying levels of interest. Mark has worked so hard, done so well. He's put himself in a position that for teams to look at a guy, man, that guy could make a difference on our club. We like him on our club.
Neal has said it since I've been here that when a player gets to a point where it's one-year service time, we need to check the temperature of the market and what can or can't happen and what the value might be at that particular time. There has been interest in mark.
Q. It's been said at the same time that Tony would be ready for the ninth inning if it did come to that. Why do you think he's ready for that?
CLINT HURDLE: You know, what he has shown, he's pitched in as tough of situations as everybody out there, but the closer, and sometimes more so than the closer, just a different number of innings. Sometimes that different number of innings does play for guys. I don't think that will be the case with Tony.
I believe the weaponry that he has is going to play in any inning. I believe that he's shown and proven to himself that he can get the best hitters in the game out, and he's done that. The track record speaks for itself. So I believe and have complete confidence that he would be a guy that we would look to give the ball to first in case we didn't have a Mark Melancon closing for us.
Q. Is your bench depth crucial to the way you like to play with more liberal rest patterns for your starters; is that going to be a necessity for the future?
CLINT HURDLE: It's something we do pay attention to because we found the value in it. We continue to try to be the best ballclub we can be by employing different patterns, the rest pattern being one of them.
As you dig into it more, we are looking to find optimum time of having a guy, how much can he play in a month and play at the highest level he can play at. Because the old-school way of doing things, you play them until they get tired, then you give him two days off. In retrospect, it's kind of crazy.
To have guys that can come and not just fill in but how they can go in and impact the game and you give the guy the rest when he needs it, I think it was big for us last year and I think it was something that will be greater instituted moving forward.
Q. How do you feel, irrespective of what role Watson has -- have you had any contact with Antonio or --
CLINT HURDLE: Neal has reached out to just about, well, all the left-handed relievers that are on the board. I think there's a part of this off-season that you just go and you have got to wait. As names clear and certain different levels of guys get taken or paid or whatever, see what the market presents, see the price scale that gets thrown out there.
Antonio did a very good job for us last year, finished extremely strong. Having Watson back, we were able to -- we're going to be mindful of potential left-handed relief help. We signed a Minor League free agent, very interesting. We've got Bobby in the fold, as well. And again, this is December -- what is it December 8? I lose track of days here. What are we, 9? December 9.
So, again, everybody -- some people see this as the finish line, and there's time in front of us. And sometimes you've got to have patience and sometimes it takes courage to have patience and see how things play out, who can be available.
Because a lot of positions, all of them think they are going to get paid -- it's kind of like musical chairs as you continue to move through the winter. Sometimes you need to get signed because grandma wants to know where you're going to play next year so she can get down before Christmas.
Q. When you see other teams making moves, is it hard to have patience?
CLINT HURDLE: I have patience. No, I don't feel that way. We need to stay focused on what we need to do and how we need to do it. There are certain things in this game that you can control and there's so many that you can't. You can't control how other teams spend their money. You can't control how other teams decide to trade for players. We need to stay focused and we've been steadfast with our game plan and we believe in the process we use in the off-season to build our player acquisition.
Again, early starts, I don't know if there will ever be a team that will win the Winter Meetings or the off-season part of it. We've shown the ability to be a pretty good team once the game starts to play.
Q. Alvarez, 43 home runs last year, the home run pool has been in a decline -- is that a concern or are there different ways to win?
CLINT HURDLE: There are different ways to win -- you try to look at trends and pay attention and learn from it, no doubt. We're never going to disregard. I think you have to look at the type of personality they have, the type of ballpark you play in, and the ability for guys' growth are the things that you can do with individuals to create a little bit more leverage, as long as it makes sense, are those the type of players that you have right now. If that's not part of the game, you have to find ways to maximize other ways of scoring runs and get more runs than the other team.
In and of itself, power, that's one way to win. There's a lot of things written in the Postseason that power is not always the answer. You just need to be smart. You need to be smart and you need to be aware and you need to pay attention.