Winter Meetings interview with Chip Hale

Winter Meetings interview with Chip Hale

Q. What do you think of your new pitching staff, Chip?

CHIP HALE: Well, obviously with the help of Mr. Kendrick and Tony and Stew, we were able to improve our pitching staff. Obviously Zack Greinke is a huge acquisition for us. And just his willingness to come to play for us, and realize that the guys in the field last year play the right way. And that's one of the things he indicated to me -- obviously the amount of the contract, that helped. He's excited to be our club, and that helps. Being able to acquire Shelby Miller is another key with Zack, Shelby, Patrick Corbin coming back fully healthy this year and Rubby and Robbie, it's pretty exciting stuff, starting stuff.

Q. How excited are you about actually writing their names on the lineup?

CHIP HALE: Very excited. Very excited. Especially we'll see how Shelby swings the bat. But we know Zack Greinke can swing the bat. We can put him in the eight-hole and do some fun stuff like that and change our lineup around a little bit. That's exciting.

Any time you can put those two guys down there in the pitching spot, we talked a lot, if you get into a situation where you're not playing as great as you want to, you always know when those two guys pitch, they have the track record to get you out of some issues.

Last year we had some problems when we got on some losing streaks, we were not able to stop them. Obviously Zack is very proven in that area and I think with our defense and our offense, Shelby record-wise, we'll improve a lot.

Q. Zack brings so much more to your club other than just on the field; what he can do in the locker room.

CHIP HALE: I think so. I think he's not a real vocal leader, but he's a leader by example. He's a student of the game. He is always interested in what we're doing, whether he's pitching or not. He's going to be able to help our young pitchers. And that's one thing he indicated to our pitching coach is that he feels like he can be that missing link, not necessarily being a coach, but a guy that's a player and that's done it and can prod some of the younger guys and move them along to become better pitchers.

Q. Safe to say he'll get the ball opening day?

CHIP HALE: Yeah, I would say that's not going to be an issue this year (chuckling).

Q. Ender hit a lot of lead-off last year. Any thoughts how that will play out?

CHIP HALE: It's hard, any time you make a deal to improve your team, it's going to hurt. If you get a guy of Shelby Miller's quality, you're going to lose guys that you really like. All three guys, were guys in our organization that we really care about. We feel like we're a family or whether you're just drafted. I've been with our team for five, six years in the organization, and it's hard to lose family members.

As you said, last year, he led off a lot but probably pushes A.J. Pollock back into that lead-off spot, which he's very good at. I've said since I got the job, A.J. can hit first, second, third, fourth, fifth. He's a very versatile hitter, player. I think our best lineup right now is probably him in the lead-off spot.

Q. There's an old adage that you have to part with something in order to get something. Is that a fair assessment of what you did?

CHIP HALE: Yeah, that's kind of what I just was saying before, it hurts. It hurts you that you have to lose players to gain good ones. We did give up some good players, and we wish them the best. I think especially with Dansby Swanson, just coming into the organization and getting the opportunity to go back to Atlanta, I think where they are building the stadium is exactly where he grew up. So it's kind of a nice thing for him.

But yeah, you lose guys that you like. But that's all part of the game. And the best trades that are made are good for both teams. So we're hoping that this trade will help us obviously and hopefully it will help the Braves, too. That's the greatest thing about basketball.

Q. Where do you see Hudson sliding in right now?

CHIP HALE: Yeah, we are going to talk with Huddy. I know he has some thinking that he might want to be a starter. We're going to talk to him and see what his feelings are, maybe do what we did last spring and let him get lengthened out a little bit and see where we are with our rotation.

But right now, if we were to go to a game tomorrow, I feel very comfortable with him pitching the eighth inning, like the end of the season, he was really starting to get on a roll. I think he was finally getting comfortable in that role.

He's a guy that if Brad Ziegler is not available, he could definitely close a game. I like him down there, but as we did last year, we'll sit with him and do what's best for his career and our team.

Q. A manager told me this past season that he rarely has to make, quote, unquote, gut decisions, because he and his staff have used data and gone over most scenarios beforehand. Is that true for you?

CHIP HALE: I think some of it's true. But you can say that all you want; I truly believe once you get in that situation and once that decision has to be made, you have to trust your gut. But you're going to trust it because you have done all your homework. If you haven't done any homework, then you're just sort of guessing. If you do all the homework and look at all the numbers that are given to you, who is hot, who is not, all those things that you can look at on a piece of paper, then your gut will react well. If not, it's just flipping a coin.

So I think there's some truth to that but you still have to trust your gut.

Q. Where do you stand on the third-time-through-the-order numbers for pitchers?

CHIP HALE: I think it's interesting. I think obviously the numbers show that the hitters are much better third time around. I think if you looked at our staff, for example, with a guy like Greinke and Miller, that's probably not going to hold as true as other guys.

And if your bullpen can hold up, you know after the second time around that there's probably a good chance you're going to have to have somebody ready if you want to stop the damage.

So I think those are things that are coming around, and you have to look at them and you have to look at your staff. You may have a guy on your staff that that's not true. We say those things but every person is an individual.

Q. I was talking to several managers and pitching coaches about why they are not getting more Bob Stanleys, guys who can go multiple innings in the back of the pen. A good point that was brought up is that in the old days, you could count on tomorrow's guy is probably going to go eight or nine. Now that you have a few guys who can do that, is it easier for you to build that type of pitcher?

CHIP HALE: Yeah, definitely. If you know that Zack Greinke is going to pitch tomorrow, you know you'll probably go multiple innings with a reliever and have the next day off, if not the next two, if it's Greinke, Miller, Corbin. Two of those three should give you length.

You're right, it would be easier to do that. I think one of the issues, also, is that you have so many hard throwers in the game now and they can maintain that velocity by only throwing one inning.

So now you bring, just like the Royals made famous, the seventh inning guy throws a hundred; the eighth inning guy throws 97, and the ninth inning throws 98. You have got three guys like that you can keep healthier by pitching them one inning. If you have someone in your bullpen that performs well for two or three innings, you can do that.

Q. And you wouldn't do that?

CHIP HALE: I think if the guy presented himself but it would be tough because you would have to count on somebody going deep the next two days or something.

Q. David made some great strides last year, he had some peaks and valleys. How comfortable are you putting him out there against good, left-handed starters?

CHIP HALE: That's a great question, because that obviously came up when we talked about moving Ender, because Ender was a guy that we used against left-handed pitching. By the end of the year, unfortunately Ender's numbers were not where they started against lefties.

So David really worked hard last winter and played winter ball and faced lefties and wanted that opportunity. Most of the year he was disappointed that he didn't get the opportunities to play against lefties. The time he did was when Ender went down for the hamstring injury. He did okay at that point.

I think this year, would he hit fourth behind Goldy against lefties? I'm not sure of that. But I do want to give him the opportunity to play every day, and obviously the tough match up lefty, I'd probably get him out of the lineup against.

But I think we're going to talk about it obviously as a group, coaching staff, front office. But I think just talking in the room up in our suite, we do feel like he should get the opportunity to play more against lefties.

Q. You liked what you saw from Socrates Brito?

CHIP HALE: Socrates came up and did a really good job for us. And you have to be careful, we know that. You have to be careful what you see in Spring Training and you have to be careful what you see in September. Sometimes you can't make judgments about that.

One thing I was saying earlier is that he's got the right heartbeat. He knows how to breathe. Nothing seems to be too big of a deal to him. He was able to perform really well.

And so we'll see, when you get in the midst of August and that grind, how he plays. But I'm very comfortable if we broke camp with those four outfielders being Tomas, Brito, Pollock and Peralta, we would be very comfortable with that right now.

Q. Where do you see Brandon Drury fitting in?

CHIP HALE: That's going to be a nice battle. Last spring, kind of the theme of our camp was competition. I think we still have a lot of competition between second base, third base and short stop. So I mean, you've got Jake Lamb, Nick Ahmed, Chris Owings, Phil Gosselin, you have Drury in there. Drury can play some third, some second. We can mix him around at both positions.

And guys are going to earn it. Last year Brandon had a fantastic camp, as you remember, we got him out of camp fairly early because we knew he was going to start the year in AA. This year, it's wide open. If he has that camp, he's going to be starting somewhere on our team.

Q. Getting back to Pollock, are you set with having him lead-off?

CHIP HALE: I think we're losing Ender right now. Depending on what else Dave and Tony and De Jon and everybody in the room, when we go back to Phoenix, if there are other moves that they are able to make. Just looks like to me right now with the personnel that we have that A.J. is our best option at lead-off. And that's what we talked about, if you have a guy like Zack pitching, Zack hits eighth, you put your second lead-off hitter in the nine-hole now, second time around, Pollock has got some guys on base. So that's nice, too.

Q. What do you think happened with Tomas in the second half?

CHIP HALE: I think he just didn't play a whole lot. He didn't play basketball for a year and a half, as we know. Came over from Cuba. Young guy, married. And he really, really busted it to play third base in Spring Training. I think we gave him every opportunity to make the team as our starting third base man.

Jake Lamb beat him out, so he didn't have much experience in the outfield. But physically, he was really beat up from that Spring Training. So he actually was say savior when Jake Lamb went down and played third base man. And as you remember, as Ender started to heat up and obviously A.J., there just wasn't a whole lot of at bats.

Basically the second half of the year, he became a platoon guy in right and I think it was hard for him. It was very difficult. He's working very hard this winter. He's definitely our starting right fielder right now and I think he's going to grasp that and we're going to see a big improvement.

Q. Guys like Delgado, Anderson, where do they fit in the scenario having added Greinke?

CHIP HALE: Again, the pitching staff, it's going to be a lot of competition. Robbie Ray and Rubby of course would fill out our rotation if we broke right now. Last spring, Archie earned a spot on our rotation. Our bullpen is going to need to get solidified.

We are pretty happy obviously with Ziegler and Hudson, and Delgado was a savior last year. He was able to get us out of numerous fifth, sixth inning situations with guys, runners in scoring position. Hopefully with the added length of our starters, Patrick included, maybe Delgado falls into that seventh inning.

So we have a lot of arms and they are just going to compete like heck in Spring Training and we'll decide what's best for the team. Godley is another one. Does Godley fight for a fourth or fifth spot or does he become one of our go-to guys in the bullpen.

Q. He started later in the year.

CHIP HALE: That was purely because Zack had pitched so many innings. The great thing with Zack now is he's been trained as a reliever with the Cubs when he was with them in the Minor Leagues and he's been trained as a starter with us. So he's got the ability to go either way.

Q. What would you have in terms of starting pitching depth, Archie, Chase --

CHIP HALE: Who would be there? If Godley were to go to the pull between, it would be Archie, Shipley. I think Shipley is probably the farthest away of those guys because he hasn't had the opportunity. But college, good athlete like him, you never know where he's going to jump up in Spring Training.

So they are all going to fight it out. You're not going to go through a Major League season with five starters. Might be eight, might be ten, might be 12. So we are going to have to figure that out. That's something we're going to have to figure out in Spring Training.

We have some depth that people really don't know about in Kane County and Visalia that I don't know that we can turn to this year. But in future years, I think these guys are going to be big names for us and hopefully we can jump up and see a little bit of them in Spring Training, too.

Q. With the length these guys give you, Greinke and Miller, can you see carrying an extra position player?

CHIP HALE: Last year we played with 13 pitchers most of the year and 12 position players. I think this year, we feel more comfortable, at least right now sitting here, on paper, going with 13 position players, 12 pitchers. And that obviously will be seen in Spring Training in we can do it.

Q. Hamstrung you a little bit.

CHIP HALE: It did at times, of course. But that's all part of the game. We were very blessed last year with the versatility of an Aaron Hill, guys like that, who came off the bench and were able to play multiple positions. We were for the most part, knock-on-wood, we were healthy.

Q. Do you have a number in mind for Patrick's innings?

CHIP HALE: Well, we'll have to look at it. But I mean, if he can get up into 150, 175 area, that would be great. And he wants to. As you guys know if you talked to him last year, he was very frustrated at times we took him out. He could throw 75, 80 pitches in six innings.

We're going to push harder. Obviously the one thing that we always do is we listen to our trainers, we listen to our players, and as long as their arms are feeling good, we'll keep running them out there. But that's why we need the depth, if there are some issues.

Q. Going into Spring Training, does Wellington start as your No. 1 catcher?

CHIP HALE: He definitely earned that spot last year. We have a nice mix now with Chris Hermann, who was picked up from the Twins, who is a left-handed hitting catcher, or back up right now. We'll see. We haven't seen a whole lot of him. And he can also play first, third, left, right. A lot of versatility, more of a National League-type player. Does he catch, second catcher or is Tuffy Gosewisch. Tuffy will be coming off knee surgery and he's been rehabbing in Phoenix and busting it and he looks good. So that will be a nice competition there, also.

Q. What are the plans for Oscar?

CHIP HALE: Oscar, obviously finished the Fall League, and he's now our property after the rule five situation. He's a young guy that needs to play every day and that will have to be decided with the Minor League people. Will he come to camp? I assume he is. He played with us all year. I feel like defensively he can catch in the Major Leagues right now.

He really needs to work on his offenses and he needs a year whether it's starting at Visalia or Mobile. I don't know where they are going to start him. It's an awkward situation for rule five guys. It's not easy. We tried to keep him as active as we could, but I was really glad he got to play in the Fall League.

Q. I know you didn't have him in the organization for awhile, but did you ever have the chance to talk to Swanson?

CHIP HALE: Oh, yeah. When we drafted him, when we signed him, I guess would be better, is he came to Phoenix with his family. We had a dinner, my wife and a bunch of the front office people were there. He's an amazing individual. You walk in the room and he sort of commanded the attention; you have a Hall of Famer in La Russa and Dave Stewart, and this kid, he's a very, very, very good kid, great player. Like I was saying earlier, whenever you make trades like this, it hurts. It hurts to lose these young kids.

But we're trying to do something right now in the next year, two, three, four years, and we want to get it going, and this is a young pitcher that we were able to obtain. He's a 25-year-old guy, and we knew we would have to give up people that we didn't want to. And shoot, we wish nothing but the best for him. We were actually over at Vanderbilt yet talking with his coach and Tony and myself and Butcher. Hopefully can retain some kind of relationship with him. Wonderful individual.

Q. What do you think of the program and the talent they are producing?

CHIP HALE: We sat in on one of their team meetings, and I called my wife after and said -- my daughter is a senior in high school. I said, "I wish she could meet one of these fine young men over here and start dating them," because it was almost -- it was amazing. Every one of those young men were really good kids, and just the way they handled themselves, what a great program.

Q. What were you doing over there?

CHIP HALE: We went to talk to Coach Corbin, Tony. We have a relationship with him. He came to Chicago to hang out with us a little bit. We're always trying to learn, doing different things, watching what they were doing as a group. It was pretty cool.

Q. As far as Dansby goes, how much does it hurt to lose a guy like that? I know it takes something to get something.

CHIP HALE: It will hurt. He was No. 1 pick in the country. So we knew that. But we're at a time right now where we feel like we want to win it right now and he's going to take two or three years to get up. This is a guy that we needed.