Winter Meetings interview with Dave Roberts

Winter Meetings interview with Dave Roberts

Q. Any closer on the Kenley or Justin?
DAVE ROBERTS: You know what, there's been dialogue, and, you know, obviously it takes two sides to make a deal, and both players were huge pieces to what we did last year and in years past.

But they have got their best interests at heart, and we as an organization. So hopefully things will play themselves out, but there's dialogue, and, you know, hopefully it works out.

Q. With the move of Chris Sale, obviously anybody with the White Sox is on the table to be moved, as well. If Justin does not comeback to L.A., is Todd Frazier perhaps on the horizon for you guys?
DAVE ROBERTS: I think obviously there's a lot of -- there's different ways we could go. You know, Todd is a very nice player. From the other side, the way he plays the game, there's a lot to like.

But I think the responsible thing our guys are doing is taking everything into account. So I think that obviously we want -- we had like to have Justin back, but if it doesn't go that way, we have to exhaust other ways, other directions.

Q. What do you see as your biggest need?
DAVE ROBERTS: You know, that's the thing, is there's a lot of ways you can always get better, and I think that all 30 clubs are trying to get better. So I think that with starting pitching, obviously with second base for us, and right now we don't have a closer or a third baseman. So I think that there's a lot of different directions. We're talking through it and trying to make this puzzle fit.

Q. Can you think of a lineup in your head, or is it too early in the process to even start to go there?
DAVE ROBERTS: I think right now, today, it would be tough to think through a lineup. Obviously I like the starting pitching, but as far as on the positional players' side, I think it's a little too early.

Q. When you don't have a closer, how much concern is there considering what a significant position that guy at the back end of the bullpen is?
DAVE ROBERTS: It's significant. There's a comfort level when you have a guy that you know and can trust that can close out a game. But there's still different ways, different formulas. But, obviously, that elite closer, there's a reason they are elite.

Q. Have you been in touch with Kenley or J.T.?
DAVE ROBERTS: I've talked to both of them. I think in the last ten days, I haven't reached out. I think that as negotiations kind of ramp up, I feel it's best for me not to kind of -- just to kind of stay to the background. But I think that prior to that, we've exchanged text messages, talked on the phone. And for me, I've done that with all of our players to just kind of check in.

Q. When is the last time you might have reached out to Justin or Kenley?
DAVE ROBERTS: I haven't. I haven't pitched them. I think it was more for me just to check in with them and reflect on the season, see how their winter is going. Kenley is getting married soon, so he's got a lot on his plate.

You know, Justin is going through his workouts. It was more of just a check-in, coach to player, as opposed to a sales pitch.

Q. You obviously had a lot of injuries. You still made the NLCS. How vital is good health in 2017 toward your success?
DAVE ROBERTS: Good health is vital. I think that there was a lot of talk about our depth last year. It certainly helped us and allowed us to survive.

You don't want to say it can get worse than it was this year, but I'd find that hard to foresee. But, you know, again, we're trying to get as many good players as we can on our roster.

Q. With the explosion in home runs the last season and a half or so, has that changed how you manage the game at all, change what you sort of want out of your last guys in the lineup or how you use your relievers or anything like that?
DAVE ROBERTS: No. You know, I think that guys are stronger. Guys are hitting the ball out of the ballpark. I think that ultimately for me, the coaches, it's trying to make it as simple as pitch, play defense, and have quality at-bats to try to win a baseball game.

So I think that each game is separate, but I think that influx of homers doesn't kind of change the way I manage or look at the game.

Q. How much do you pay attention to the speculation, the rumors and everything, that are out there? I mean, how micro focused can you be on what you guys are doing in that suite versus all of the conversation that's going on?
DAVE ROBERTS: It's incredible, the different directions that our conversations in the suite go. But I think for me, I've learned in talking to a lot of people, try not to get too overly optimistic or excited, because it takes two sides to make a deal.

But we are aligned. We are trying to get better. We've got a nice group of young players that have got a little service and guys that haven't arrived yet. So I think that where we are at right now, we're in a good position, and some veteran players, some resources.

So I'm definitely in tune with what's going on and what's transpired, but not too invested.

Q. There's still a lot of moves to be made; is it safe to say Austin is Yasmani's backup?
DAVE ROBERTS: I think that's fair. I think that's fair. Austin, you know, it's his time. He's very athletic. There's his bat-to-ball skills, pitch recognition, the pitch framing ability, the athleticism. There's a lot to like in Austin Barnes.

The right-handed bat to complement Yasmani, obviously his strength on the left side of the plate, but he's a nice piece, certainly.

Q. How much does his versatility help you guys? You carried the extra reliever all season, and does that seem like a plan you'll have next season and does Austin kind of help that roster?
DAVE ROBERTS: I think the extra reliever that we carried was kind of a byproduct of the starting pitching and the health and also the innings usage for some of our pitchers, the young pitchers. But a guy like Austin that can play third base, he can play second base, he can catch; certainly I like that flexibility.

Q. So you don't have plan; you'll have to see what the roster --
DAVE ROBERTS: It's kind of the way it ultimately shakes out, and having a guy like Kike, who can do a lot of different things, and we expect him to bounce back this season.

And you guys have seen the way I use a roster in the National League. You know, guys are moving around, and to have that versatility makes it a lot easier.

Q. How much of that extra reliever was an eye-opener for you and something that you really enjoyed using and utilizing?
DAVE ROBERTS: I think it was more so a necessity. I think the model still is to get starters to go deeper in a game.

But I don't know the average start, the innings last year, but when you're not going deep, the extra reliever was certainly a necessity, as opposed to just a luxury.

Q. So 600 pitching changes will be down, is that what you're saying?
DAVE ROBERTS: In the Minor Leagues that I logged, I'm expected to be tempered a little bit, yeah. I'm hopeful.

Q. Clayton started his off-season throwing program yesterday. You signed Rich Hill yesterday. How confident do you feel with the starting rotation?
DAVE ROBERTS: I think Clayton -- I talked to Clayton a little bit yesterday, as he was in town, and he was excited about the Rich Hill sign, as we all are. And just to get somebody who can pitch at the top of a rotation takes pressure off Clayton. It takes pressure off the pen.

You know, when you've got the depth with Maeda, we have Julio and Kazmir, McCarthy, De Leon, Stripling, so the depth is there, and how that plays out through the spring, we'll see.

But I know that to have a guy that can really, we feel, pitching in a playoff game, and a one or two, first or second game of a playoff game, to have, was important.

Q. You mentioned all that depth. Could you ever see yourself using a six-man rotation to take some of the strain off some of your guys with health issues?
DAVE ROBERTS: You know what, I think that we really haven't talked through -- I think there was a point last year where we talked through it a little bit, but I think that's kind of dependent on the schedule and the off-days. I know we like to keep Clayton on his regular turn obviously.

To foresee the blister thing playing as big a role as it did last year for Rich, so to get guys like Clayton and Rich on their regular turns doesn't lend itself to a six-man rotation, so I don't see that happening.

Q. What about Kenta?
DAVE ROBERTS: That's one of the things this winter, we talked to Kenta, and he had an outstanding first year. But it was more about understanding the toll that it took on him and his body, and to build some mass and to put on some weight to be able to handle the workload.

So as he was open to the different -- to giving them extra days in between certain starts, the extra time, I'd like to think that we can kind of do a little bit less going forward, as he's already kind of made that jump into Major League Baseball.

We'll see, and we've just got to continue to monitor him as well as our other starters.

Q. Because he made half of his starts on extra rest. I would assume you guys would want that number to be less than like 15 or whatever it was.
DAVE ROBERTS: Right. I think that that would be, to expect all of his starts on regular, is unrealistic. But I think that if the number is correct, 15, then something less than that on regular rest, more would make sense, would be good for us.

Q. NBC Sports just ranked you the third handsomest manager.
DAVE ROBERTS: Nice. I don't know who is judging but -- (laughter) I think Doug's a big -- he's always kind of looked at me fondly so, thanks, Doug. And I feel the same way, Doug.

Q. Got to clean it up a little bit.
DAVE ROBERTS: (Laughs).

Q. With the number of veterans that you have in your rotation, guys that are expected to come back from injuries, what roles do you see Urias and De Leon playing in 2017?
DAVE ROBERTS: It's one of those things -- a big part. A big part. Those guys came up and impacted our club. They have arrived, and for me, I don't look at them as prospects. I look at them as Major League pitchers. Obviously you look for Kaz to bounce back and McCarthy coming back from injury, and obviously with the season that Kenta had, and what Ross Stripling did for us; this guy picked us up and performed.

So I think speaking for the coaches, the organization, the guys who are going to give us the best chance to win baseball games, they are going to pitch. And so for me, it's not about service. It's not about contracts. It's about the best players. So, yeah, they are going to -- I expect them to help us this season.

Q. Do you think the new ten-day DL can be used for starting pitchers once in a while to give a guy a chance to -- like one start from him, use the DL?
DAVE ROBERTS: I think that's great. You know, with this agreement, No. 1, it's exciting that there's not going to be a stoppage. I think we're all excited about that.

I haven't really dug into all the things that kind of took place, and I'm looking forward to doing that. But as far as the ten-day, yeah, that's going to give guys a blow. I think that's a good thing.

Q. So you would use it for like a starting pitcher?
DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, I think it would make sense in that time of the season, for a starting pitcher, it might happen, yeah.

Q. You have a lot of outfielders. Would you prefer the three emerging at the bulk of the time, or could you see yourself rotating those guys and using them as matchups dictate?
DAVE ROBERTS: I think for me, it's more, as we sit here, in this day, it's more of -- it's ultimately how it shakes out. It's not really a preference thing. It's really how the roster is constructed and at that point in time, when we break, how I'm going to use those guys.

So to your question, three is not enough, and six is plenty (laughter). So there's only so many at-bats to go around. As we sit here with six or possibly seven guys that are Major League players, those at-bats are hard to divvy up right now.

You know, the depth last year, with the injuries to Trace, Andre, Van Slyke, we needed that depth, and we kind of leaned on that.

Right now, it's good to have that depth, and we'll see how it kind of plays out.

Q. One of those guys, Yasiel, has been asked to lose a little bit of the mass; and you've asked Kenta to gain. Have you talked to him where he is at in that process?
DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, I talked to Yasiel about a week ago. It's a conversation. And he was receptive that he's a very strong individual, and I think we've all seen him when he first arrived, and the body has changed. There's a lot of muscle mass, and he believes in getting stronger and staying stronger. But I think that the natural foundation of his strength is plenty.

So I think to be able to lean out and to continue to gain that athleticism that we once saw, I think is a good thing. And so, you know, he's dialed in with the nutritionist, and he enjoys good food. He enjoys good Latin food, as do I, but I don't have to play.

So he was receptive, and it's more about not a number as far as weight. It's more about leaning out, because there's plenty of strength in there.

Q. Kenta has got a great skill set in terms of stuff and control, but at the closer position, is there a mentality that separates a closer from a reliever, would you say?
DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, absolutely. That's what I think, there's that question that people kind of debate all the time is: Can any reliever close? It's not only the skill set; it's the mentality and the ability to not scare off, not be afraid to fail, and, if you do, to be able to bounce back and post the next day.

In our market, Kenley has done that, and the elite closers that are elite over the course of three, four, five, six, seven years, they have that psyche.

Q. Did you take anything from your first year as a manager that you think, wow, I want to do that differently, the second time around?
DAVE ROBERTS: Well, yeah, there's a couple things. (Laughter) there's a couple things.

I think that, a little tongue-in-cheek, but there's a lot of truth to that, talking about Kershaw and back surgery is something that I don't want to revisit.

Q. Just not the same sentence.
DAVE ROBERTS: Right, right, not the same sentence; fair. Honestly, I had a lot of support and a lot of good people, and every day, Jeff, I'm trying to learn and get better. But every day is different. Every season's different.

As far as kind of the game management, I really don't base, you know, looking back on the result, I really don't. I could say right now, I wish I could have told Joe Blanton not to throw a slider to Montero, or to bounce it. But his intent was not to leave it up.

There's a lot of discussions that go on who we want hitting or pitching at a certain moment, so those processes I went through, I don't regret any of those. I wish the result maybe in certain situations was different, but outside of that, it's just continuing to try to get better.

Q. Your season was kind of bookended by pulling two pitchers during no-hitters; looking towards the future, with Hill, the mind-set at the time, we're thinking -- it's October -- were you in the back of your mind thinking, this is a guy we're hoping to have for three more years after this, too, or were you thinking, October?
DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, I was thinking strictly through September and October. You know, there's a lot of things that went into that decision as far as talking to the trainers and the history, the recent history with Rich at that point in time.

You know, obviously the player is emotional, fans are emotional, and it's my job to look out for the best interests of the player and the organization. So that was a decision that I had to make, and I'm happy to have him back for three years.

But my decision was based on the well-being of the club for 2016.

Q. Given some of the quality of young pitchers that were traded for Rich and Josh, is there any sense of we'd like to be able to keep Rich beyond just a half-season, just because of what you did to get him?
DAVE ROBERTS: You know what I think, as far as locking him up and betting on him for three more years was more so based on what we learned from him as a person, as a player, when we had him for the three months, as opposed to what we gave up.

You know, he brings an intensity and energy that's contagious. Similar to what Clayton brings. His pitchability with the breaker; the characteristics of his breaking ball, the fastball; he's a team player; the work ethic. All these things allowed us to -- felt that we want him a part of the organization. So I don't think that what we gave up in the trade had anything to do with it.

Q. Back to Maeda, have you had any conversations about him, his desire to maybe participate in the World Baseball Classic?
DAVE ROBERTS: I haven't. I texted him a couple days ago. Haven't heard back. I don't know if his phone is working in Japan. I have to get the Japanese number.

I don't know. I do know that in talking to Kenta before he left, which we had a meeting, and he was undecided at that point. Whatever he decides, we're going to support. So whether he decides to play or declines, we're going to support it.

Q. About the closer --
DAVE ROBERTS: Koji has done some good things. Don't know him. Like what he's done. But you know, I think with us and our guys, we've talked about a lot of different names. So right now, I don't know where we're at with Koji.

Q. Also about (indiscernible)?
DAVE ROBERTS: Special player. Special player. You know, big body, great young man. Really great arm. And so in talking to people that have seen him, and I've seen some video, he's exciting. So when and if he arrives, you know, it's going to be exciting for everybody.

Q. Is it possible for him to do two-way --
DAVE ROBERTS: For him, anything's possible. Anything's possible. If there is a player that could potentially could, from the scouts that I've talked to; his skill set plays to that. We'll see, and hopefully we get that opportunity.

Q. Doesn't impact you in the short term, but what do you think about the Chris Sale move?
DAVE ROBERTS: It definitely doesn't impact us, but obviously both sides felt they won in the deal, and the Red Sox considerably got better in the near term.

Q. Doesn't it show you that nobody is untouchable?
DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, I think that -- I guess anyone can be -- there's a price for anyone, I guess. I don't know -- I know Moncada a little bit, but the other guys in the deal, I really can't speak to. But obviously Kenny and those guys over there are excited about it, and I'm sure Dave and I know John are excited to have Chris Sale.

Q. What do you think about the Giants pretty much plugging what was their biggest hole from last year?
DAVE ROBERTS: You know, the Giants -- and obviously that's a very good organization. That was an Achilles heel last year. You know that Bobby and those guys are going to figure it out.

They have got a pro in Melancon. And they got better. Our guys are going to do the same thing, try to get better.

Q. What do you think Bud Black can bring to the Rockies organization?
DAVE ROBERTS: I have a lot of respect for Buddy, and just the pitching aspect of things, they have got a lot of very good young pitchers that are coming and that have arrived, and so that kind of temperament, ability to connect with players, I think that he'll do well there. He'll do well.

Q. The Rockies have a lot of young pitching talent there; is that a team, when you look at the West, you see rising?
DAVE ROBERTS: They are certainly rising. A lot of times the West -- I've been in the West a lot -- we get overlooked a little bit. You expect Arizona to get better. And with what the Rockies -- what they have in-house on the position player side, and also the young pitching, you can't ever discount them. And obviously with us and the Giants, and San Diego is trying to get a plethora of youth and some athleticism. It's a division top to bottom. It's going to be tough.

Q. Have you ever considered using him in the outfield?
DAVE ROBERTS: I haven't considered it yet, but that opportunity might present itself. Kenta is a very good athlete. He can do a lot of good things on the baseball field, so never say never.

Q. 25 man is still the 35 man (indiscernible) so if you have a talent, can you give an idea how to use his talent?
DAVE ROBERTS: You know, a guy like -- like Otani, you can use him in a lot of different capacities, whether it be a pinch-hit off the bench or put him in the outfield. Those are conversations that will happen down the road, but obviously the player, he's very special.

Q. Bullpen pitcher?
DAVE ROBERTS: Right, but I think right now, his skill set, he's a starter, and he's going to make an impact.