Winter Meetings interview with Pete Mackanin

Q. You mentioned down the stretch you wanted to see the front office give you a couple bats. You got one. Do you think there is room for improvement?
PETE MACKANIN: You know what, I'm happy that we acquired Kendrick because we needed a solid, professional hitter. Howie Kendrick is one of those guys. He knows how to give you good at-bats, grinds out at-bats.

And we have guys like Franco and Freddy, to name a few, who really need a better plan at the plate. I think Howie is going to help them out just by watching him take at-bats and go about his business. I think that's going to help a lot of our guys improve. I would like to get another guy. You can always use more hitting, more pitch, better players. But I'm pretty happy with Howie.

Q. When you say another guy, are you talking about another everyday player?
PETE MACKANIN: Yeah, it would be nice. We have to improve offensively. I believe the players that we have, Franco and Galvis showed a lot of improvement going down the stretch. He battled every way he could to get over .240 and get over 20 home runs.

And Franco didn't have a good season because I think he's better than he showed. And I think with more discipline, I think a guy like Howie is going to help him with, it's going to make him a much better player, an All-Star caliber player, as well as some of the other guys, also. And you can never enough hitting or pitching.

Q. Was this an important year for Franco, this is going to be his third year in the big leagues. He didn't perform to his potential this past year.
PETE MACKANIN: As far as being an important year for Maikel, it's an important year because he's got a chance to shows he's an elite player. What he did last year is good enough to play a long time in the big leagues, especially the with fact that we didn't have a lot of men on base or as many as we would like to have. He drove in 80-some runs and hit 25 home runs. But he's got a chance to be an elite hitter and I think for that reason it's important for him if he wants to prove that he's capable of being that kind of hitter.

Q. Your outfield situation last year was jumbled, do you feel better about it at this point?
PETE MACKANIN: Last year, the outfield got jumbled because of Altherr's injury, we didn't get to watch him play right field. This year I'm solid with Odubel's in center field. He's proven his ability on both sides of the ball.

With Howie Kendrick in left field, that's established. And right field would be a nice spot for us to settle into, whether we make a deal and get an everyday player there or if Quinn has a good showing in Triple-A and he proves he's a guy for right field or Altherr or somebody else. That's a position we would like to see settled.

Q. You had your option picked up before the year last year, how much did that benefit to not drag that through the year and answer questions all year about it?
PETE MACKANIN: Well, I hope they pick it up but that's not up to me. That's up to them. I feel that when it's time for them to let me know, they let me know.

But in the meantime I'm not consumed by it. Hopefully it will happen, but it's too far -- doesn't help me thinking about it.

Q. With the rotation you have, two guys back from season-ending injuries, and it seems like a ton of depth, are you looking forward to the competition that existed in camp last year? Do you think it's beneficial?
PETE MACKANIN: First of all, I'm happy that Hellickson is going to be back there because we know what we've got with him. And he's a consistent, starting pitcher.

With Eickhoff, you know what you can get from him. He's been solid.

Eflin is going to have basically two brand new knees. He doesn't have knee injuries anymore, and hopefully that's going to show in his performance.

Velasquez learned an awful lot, had his ups and downs last year. But I feel like he's going to be improved mainly from having the experience of being a Major League starter.

Hopefully Nola is beyond his arm issues and if he is he's going to be another good one. We know what he's capable of doing.

So I'm happy with the rotation the way it looks if that is, in fact, the rotation. But we have some young players that I haven't seen enough of, but I've heard enough to where I think they're out to prove themselves.

Thompson had some real good starts for us. Asher had some good starts and he did well in winter ball.

You got Lively, Pivetta, some of these other guys that are in the wings. I'm anxious to see them perform in the spring and see what happens.

Q. You mentioned right field is Roman Quinn in your mind and in people's minds, is he big league ready or someone that could benefit from --
PETE MACKANIN: You know, I'm not certain in my mind if he's big league ready, but I know you can't defend speed. I think he needs to shorten his swing a little bit and utilize that to get on base which creates more runs and stolen bases. And the fact that he got an opportunity to play in the big leagues last year gave him an idea of what he's up against and hopefully he has a good spring and shows that shorter swing. And if he does, in fact, do that then he's obviously a prime candidate to take over. That remains to be seen.

Q. What's the latest on Nola?
PETE MACKANIN: Latest I've heard on Nola is he's 100% and ready to go. That's fine right now. When we get into Spring Training, we will see how his arm reacts and hopefully it will react well, it will respond and we don't have to worry about it and get back to the Aaron Nola that we all know and love.

Q. Do you think Tommy can handle the full slate at first base or would you like to see a platoon like last year?
PETE MACKANIN: Any player that comes up for the first time has to learn to make adjustments and handle that position. If you want to be an everyday Major League player, number one, you have to be a special guy, the kinda guy that takes the challenges and battles for his role.

I think Tommy is capable of doing that. The key is as we all know players have their ups and downs, their slumps during the course of the year. It's how you get up off your feet and not prolong those slumps is what determines how good of a player you might be. I think Tommy has got it in him to fight the adversity and be an everyday first baseman but he's got to prove himself.

Q. It looks like Knapp is the back-up catcher, do you have any concerns with a rookie being a back-up?
PETE MACKANIN: We always have concerns. Calling a game and handling a pitcher is very important at the Major League level knowing game plans and following game plans and having some insight and you have to use your imagination sometimes. Never really shows at first, but you learn that and I think the fact that Knapp has got a full season of Triple A at-bats, although he didn't hit .300, he hit .260-something. When you go to the big leagues, you have to learn how to hit in the big leagues. So whether he hit .260 or .300 in the Minor Leagues doesn't matter to me, it's how he responds at the big league level.

You would love to have a veteran catcher that knows what he's doing to help pitchers get out of trouble and what have you. But at some point you have to make the move and put your faith in certain guys and hope that they come through and that's where I'm at with Knapp.

Q. You're in a similar spot with the utility infield, I think, right now, only --
PETE MACKANIN: Valentine.

Q. Is it one of the other spots that you would rather have a veteran, a utility infielder or back-up catcher?
PETE MACKANIN: When you've got players on the bench, and you would like to have experienced players in those roles rather than the young guys. The young guys, you would like to have them playing every day.

Experience is something obviously you can't teach and you have to gain. I would love to have more experience throughout the team; however, I think when you look at our team, Freddy Galvis is in his fourth or fifth year right now, Franco would be in his second or third year, Eickhoff, his second, he's had one and a half years. Nola has been around now. These guys, I call that experience, too, after a year and a half. That doesn't make them a finished product but with each year you play you should learn and improve.

I choose to believe that our guys that I mentioned, Cameron Rupp is another one, I choose to believe that they're going to show improvement over what they did last year.

Q. What does your gut tell you, do you think you will get that batt that you want before Spring Training or do you think what you have right now is more likely?
PETE MACKANIN: That's hard to say. Obviously I would like to have a solid hitter for the team, for the fans, for everybody. We would like to win more games. I think it would be very important obviously to improve our offense.

Once again, let's say Roman Quinn really looks good in the spring and proves to us that he might be the guy and he takes off, that might happen and might not. But in the meantime I think we owe it to the pitchers to create more offense so that they are in more games.

Q. Right now there's 11 guys on the 40-man that have never played in a big league game. What kind of challenge does that present knowing that there is not that veteran depth that is capable of helping you guys?
PETE MACKANIN: You know, it's -- I don't know if you want to call it dichotomy, it's good and bad at the same time to have that many young players that are capable, waiting in the wings or on their way up, it's very encouraging.

On the other hand, as you said, for this year it's going to be interesting to say the least to see if some of those guys can step right in, if and when they get the opportunity, to contribute to a winning situation. That's the whole thing. I would like to win more games than we did last year.

Q. Talk about wanting that at-bat, is right field the only place that you could put the at-bat? Matt talked yesterday about the balance of not blocking some of the younger players that you're still trying to learn about.
PETE MACKANIN: There's so many options available. We kind of sit up in the Suite, Matt, Andy, everybody else, they're doing their homework and talking to other people and something might pop up with another team to where they might cut a deal that we never even thought about which opens a spot to put somebody else in. Everything is still up in the air. It's early. Deals may be made forthwith, they might come in January or in Spring Training when things happen. So one move might create an opening in another. If we trade a pitcher, we get a position player. A lot of things can change, so it is a little too soon to think too much about that.

Q. Last year you were in teaching mode a lot of the season and you have a lot of guys who are going to be in their third and fourth year. Does that change the way you manage at all, maybe how you handle some guides?
PETE MACKANIN: You know what, unfortunately in this day and age you can never stop teaching. There is always something to learn. I, myself, have done things in the last few years that I didn't think about previously. As I said, to me, I made this comment before that experience is an accumulation of mistakes made over time. Experience teaches you things because you've made mistakes so we expect our young players to make mistakes, just like our players in the last two years have made a lot of mistakes.

Once again, I choose to believe they've learned from those mistakes, listened to the coaches and they're going to show improvement this year. I'm being very positive hoping that's going to happen and if that happens we're an all-around better team.

Q. You hinted that maybe Herrera could be a candidate for a position change, but that's not on the table?
PETE MACKANIN: Right now, no. He's done very well and analytics show him to be at the top echelon of that position. And here is a guy who has played two years in the big leagues as a Rule V and has hit over .290 and has done well defensively. He's had his hiccups along the way, but he's pretty darn good.

Q. Caesar has been a guy who seems intriguing for some teams. Would you be surprised if he wasn't your second baseman?
PETE MACKANIN: I would be surprised. You know, the last thing that was said to Caesar before he left town after the last game, Bo had told him, he said, You better not forget what you did this year. Because he changed his approach around the second half of the season and looked like a player playing full of confidence and you could see that he feels that way. He's my second baseman, Freddy is my shortstop. I love watching Freddy play, both of them, actually. So I'm happy with both of them.

Q. On Velasquez, he got there early September last year with his innings and the way everything was handled. Do you think you could get him substantially longer maybe to the end of the season this year?
PETE MACKANIN: I would like to think so. Two years ago we took Nola out of a game after five innings in Miami and it was his last outing. And he said, Why am I coming out? I don't want to come out.

And I said, We're taking care of you this year, but don't count on that next year. The honeymoon is going to be over next year.

Likewise with Vince, he's going to take a step forward this year and we're going to make sure we take care of all of our pitchers, but we're not going to baby 'em. We're going to try to push them.

Q. Is there anything, depending on how much you watched the playoffs, that you took away that changed or made you think hard about styling of managing or anything like that?
PETE MACKANIN: You're probably referring to the way the bullpen was used. It's easy to do in a seven-game short stint. It's easy to do that.

One thing that over the years people have asked me what kind of manager are you? My reply has always been I manage the people I have, I manage the type of team I have. If I have power, the old Daryl Weaver, wait for a three-run homer. If you have speed, I think of Whitey Herzog with St. Louis. Everybody could run like crazy. Handle the team the way it was best suited. Likewise, the deeper you are in a bullpen, the easier it is to go to a real good stopper-type pitcher in the 6th or 7th or 5th inning, like they were able to do in the World Series.

Over the course of, you know, a six-month season, certainly it's harder to do. But the deeper you are in the bullpen the easier it is.

I remember back in '90 when the Cincinnati Reds had Charlton and Myers, all three legit closers. So it was like pick your poison. You say, You close today, you close today. It's easy to do when you've got the talent.

Q. What do you think of players playing in the World Baseball Classic?
PETE MACKANIN: What do you think of it? I think it's great for baseball around the world. It enhances our game. I don't think it's an issue for Spring Training. I think players playing in that event, they're getting ready for our season.