Winter Meetings interview with Torey Lovullo

Winter Meetings interview with Torey Lovullo

Q. Do you have any sense as to are there any spots in the lineup that are locked in in your mind?
TOREY LOVULLO: Well, I'm still trying to get my hands around a lot of different things, but we have a really good sense as to what's going to happen with guys in position, a lot of positions they were in last year. We're still talking about that lineup. We're upstairs talking about lineup construction, and we haven't quite got there yet. We want to put guys in the best position to be successful at all times and have built-in versatility and see where that takes us.

Q. Do you see [Brandon] Drury getting at-bats at second?
TOREY LOVULLO: You know, that's something that we've talked about. I think that could be something that we explore. I think he's going to focus on being an influence in the discussion I've had with him over the past 24 hours. I want him to know that while he's preparing this offseason that he can make most of his thoughts around preparing himself as an infielder. We know we asked a lot of him last year and we asked a lot of him to shift over to the outfield, and he did a great job, but we want to simplify things as much as possible, and I think that we are going to head in that direction.

Q. Did you get a sense from him that that's what he wants?
TOREY LOVULLO: I think so. I think he's a built in infielder. My conversations have been very limited with him as far as what he wants and needs and some of the things -- I want to make sure he know what is some of the guidelines are moving forward. He's a great infielder and he's an athlete that we asked to move to the outfield.

Q. What are some things he can do to make himself better?
TOREY LOVULLO: I know in talking to him, I think he talked about a little bit of flexibility. I know he is working on that. In fact, he just got out from the gym, worked on not so much the overall lifting of the weights, he wanted to maintain a lot of flexibility. And I think the first step, quickness for an infielder is vital, and he's going to come prepared.

Q. What about [Jake] Lamb?
TOREY LOVULLO: I think we are going to look for the primary third baseman to be him at this point in time. In a fill-in situation, if there was an extended injury or something, we might explore that. We want to have guys established in one spot at one point in time.

Q. More at-bats for Jake than in the past?
TOREY LOVULLO: We haven't finalized that, but he's an everyday player and we know some of the limitations that he had over the past year against left-handed pitching, but we are going to address those needs. And that's something we are going to do as a coaching staff. We want to work and teach and make Jake an everyday player. We are not looking to platoon at this point.

Q. Watching the AL East, the Yankees did that with a lot of success with Didi [Gregorius]. You're going to have to do that with Lamb at some point to see what he can do over the course of a whole season.
TOREY LOVULLO: I think so. What you have to do is practice patience here. And the more patient you are with a young player and the more patient you are with some of these players that are trying to prove themselves, the quicker they are going to respond. If you are not patient and giving guys an opportunity, they are not going to learn.

In Lamb's situation, he had a heck of a year last year. And if you look at it, he's one lefty that teams were matching up against. And we want to make sure that we are giving him an opportunity to work through it and be patient, because he can be a pretty special player.

Q. How do you see the middle of the infield shaping up, second, short?
TOREY LOVULLO: I think in the situation with the surplus of middle infielders, we're in a really good spot. You have Nick Ahmed who is a guy that played there. We have a surplus of guys that we know can go out there and be successful, and that's really what we want to do in Spring Training, is know guys and make sure we are putting the right guys out to help us win baseball games. It's going to be a competition, and nothing is going to be given to anyone.

Q. So it's competition for (indiscernible)?
TOREY LOVULLO: Yeah, at this point in time.

Q. What's been the homework like for you as you learn the rosters and make decisions with the new players that you have not gotten to see firsthand?
TOREY LOVULLO: It's been a semi-uphill battle. I think the first two, three weeks have been a little bit of a grind for me to get to know the talent, get to know the guys, what makes them tick. But it's slowly getting to the point where it is slowing down.

I'm here today to join in on conversations and make sure that I'm aware of what's happening inside of the war room, being able to contribute, and taking a little bit of time for me to get to know guys and it definitely was uphill. Took me some time to get that certain comfort level, understand what's going on within the organization, but I'm there now.

Q. How much of that comfort level did you have to have before you took the job versus coming in once you were there?
TOREY LOVULLO: I don't think it was a requirement before I got there. I know in talking to [general manager] Mike [Hazen] in the interview process, it wasn't a necessity that I knew so much of what was going on inside of the organization. I knew some of the players and some of the players from playing against them, but I think once it was established that I was going to be the manager of the team, I started laying my hands on this entire organization the best that I could.

So right now I'm focused on the 40-man roster. I haven't gone as deep as I need to, and I'll get there, and I'll need to see the guys in system, but I'm focused on the 40-man roster at this point.

Q. How do you see the catching and playing time being divided at this point?
TOREY LOVULLO: Well, we all know that we signed Jeff Mathis to a two-year deal, have a history with him, great teammate and great game caller and solid player.

Herrmann, on the other hand, is the other catcher that we have, and I think that between the two of them, we're still trying to figure out the playing time situation. So nothing has been determined at this point. There's no clear-cut No. 1 guy. I think when we were talking to Jeff through the process, we were talking about a guy that's going to probably catch 60 games and we'll fill in from there.

Q. Obviously it's December, guys are hardly a finished product at this point going into spring training, so there's probably going to be other moves and things like that that are going to alter the situation, right?
TOREY LOVULLO: Well, I think we're never really going to be a finished product. I think we are always looking for areas of improvement and we are always looking for that extra edge to make sure that we are going to out and compete in a very tough National League West.

The Dodgers and Giants have set a baseline for us. We understand fully what the challenges are, and what's within the division. I know how hard our front office is working right now as we speak to put together the best 40-man roster that's going to help us compete in a tough division.

Q. Having been a part of it for awhile in Toronto and Boston, what did you see, because it used to be in a way, like a two-tiered division in the East with the Yankees and Red Sox, and everybody else, and then suddenly it started to evolve and change. How did that happen and how do you think that can be applied to the NL West?
TOREY LOVULLO: You know, the AL East is a tough division. You're right. It used to be the Yankees and Red Sox and everybody filled in from there. I'm sure watching and learning and paying attention to what some of these organizations are doing, whether it's within the division or not, in the League or not, I think it helps the entire game get better.

Like I said, we know what the Dodgers and the Giants are doing year-in, year-out. We're not going to try to copy anything. We're not going to try to imitate anything. What we want to do is make sure we go out there and field the best team we possibly can on a given night.

Q. In your bullpen, who do you feel like are guys that have kind of established themselves to have a leg up this year?
TOREY LOVULLO: You know who they are. I mean, you know, you've got [Randall] Delgado and [Jake] Barrett, [Enrique] Burgos. I'm forgetting some guys. But I don't want to eliminate anybody. Everybody has a chance to compete as a key piece in the bullpen. It's wide open.

You know, I think that we're always looking to upgrade in every single area. It's no mystery that maybe we need somebody in the back end, maybe a closer that's going to -- let young pitchers develop. There's a strategy we are still trying to come up with and a strategy we are still developing. We want to make sure we put seven or eight guys out there that have a role and go out and help in spring games, and the goal is to hand it off to the next guy.

But nothing is imminent. Nothing is given. Nobody has anything handed to them at this point in time. We have a bunch of guys that are going to go out and compete for jobs. I don't want to name names. I don't want to get too particular.

Q. Do you have a closer yet, or is that still something that could be coming from the outside?
TOREY LOVULLO: I think there's some discussions internally and there's some discussions externally. I think that's part of what's going on with our group at this point in time.

There's a wide range of names on both sides of that. Like I say, nothing is imminent. We haven't really made a decision.

Q. You don't want to talk about who you're thinking about internal?
TOREY LOVULLO: Not at this point in time.

Q. In the post-eason, the Indians got a lot of attention for their bullpen usage, but something that went a little under the radar was their extreme curveball usage based on data and matchups. How much thought have you put into that of talking to your pitching coaches and going to that extreme with a certain pitch throughout the season?
TOREY LOVULLO: We believe in the metrics. We believe in the data. We believe in trying to do as much research as possible. We have a great team of people that are working hard behind the scenes. And, look, if it can help us win an inning, win a moment that could lead us to winning a game, we're in favor of that.

We're trying to stay ahead of that. I think baseball is trending in that direction; that there's a certain metric that is kind of helping teams win games. We want to be a part of that. Not to be over-analytical, I know there was a ton of breaking ball usage. I'm not sure where and how they got that information, so I can't particularly comment on that situation there, but I do know that we are going to stay ahead of it and do our best to help us win some moments.

Q. And you're willing to push the envelope, so to speak, to do it and not be more, quote/unquote, conventional?
TOREY LOVULLO: Yeah, I think so. We're hiring some people within our system right now that it's going to help us understand that and get a grasp of that.

So, yeah, we want to stay ahead of it at this point in time. I'm not so well read on it, as far as TrackMan or the different metrics or the spin rate, but I will be. I'll continue to learn about it. I want to be a part of that progression and that trend in this part of the game.

Q. What about [Dan] Haren, what do you expect to utilize out of him?
TOREY LOVULLO: That's one guy in particular that I was talking about. Dan Haren was hired today.

My discussion with him, I had a nice sit-down conversation with him. It wasn't an interview, just a get-familiar moment; what can you help us do. He's a pretty interesting guy. He claims that his stuff was below average, and he needed to work on the game within a game. But I know better. I watched from the side, he wasn't below average, he had pretty good stuff. I know that he's going to combine his overall pitching expertise that he was given, and he's going to work into the idea of breaking down how to attack hitters, where the holes are.

Not necessarily by the spin rate or the TrackMan, it's not really tied into that. It's his own personal analysis with his pitching expertise background that's going to spit out a game report. And he's going to help certain guys and help certain pitchers win moments, and that's what we're talking about: And if you win one moment, it might help you win an inning which could help you win a game.

But we are going to utilize him definitely on the highest level we possibly can, and he's going to be around for us.

Q. Not that it's necessarily delineated, but Butcher maybe works more hands-on with guys and Haren can work more on coming up with a plan of attack?
TOREY LOVULLO: I think so. I think Dan isn't going to be in uniform all the time. I think he's going to be somebody behind the scenes, and that's by his choice. He didn't want any credit. He's probably going to get mad at me that I'm talking about him, to tell you the truth. He wants to just remain behind the scenes and help our pitchers be successful.

I think he has an attachment to Arizona. I think he and Zack know one another. So I think there's a good starting point for him to come in and come up with a game plan as to how to reach some of these guys and how to help them as quickly as possible. You're going to see him. He's going to be around.

Mike Butcher is our pitching coach. Mike Butcher is going to be the guy that's going to share thoughts and talk about deliveries and work on the mental aspects of the game. Haren is going to be behind the scenes doing his thing to help us.

Q. Do you have any opinion on your old club trading Chris Sale?
TOREY LOVULLO: You know, I think it's a pretty good, pretty impressive trade for both teams. I think it's going to work in two directions. Chris Sale is obviously a guy that's a very elite pitcher. He's going to step into a pretty solid rotation that includes two Cy Young Award winners, between he and Price.

I think Dave has done a really nice job of obtaining him. And on the flipside, I had a chance to see Moncada perform a little this year. I didn't know the other three kids that were included in the trade, but I know that the White Sox got some really special talent. So I know that both sides are going to be very happy with the deal.

Q. How do you see your outfield shaping up at this point?
TOREY LOVULLO: Well, I think [David] Peralta's health is important to us. [A.J.] Pollock's health is important to us. I think there's a couple of key players there that are coming back off some injuries, and they seem to be feeling very good and they seem to be ready for spring training to start right now, which is always an encouraging sign. And Thomas has had a wonderful year last year, so I think those are the three guys that we are going to point to early on.

But like I said, there's a number of young players that could potentially help us out in different areas, whether it be in the infield or the outfield. We are not sure at this point. I need to see these guys play, but I think early on, those are the directions that we are heading with those three guys.

Q. Have you talked to either of those guys about which corner they prefer?
TOREY LOVULLO: I have not. I have not got that far with them. Owings played a little bit of outfield.

Q. Is he a possibility out there?
TOREY LOVULLO: He could be. He could be. But we don't want to take anything away from him being full strength and ready to go at his best position.

I think last year was a situation with Pollock going down, we asked a lot of guys to step out of their comfort zone and perform in areas that they were not quite used to. I think that's where we talked about Drury and Owings. We want to give these guys the best chance to be successful in the position that they are most comfortable. So that's where we're going to start.

What we want to do is not have an injury like that be so catastrophic. We want to stay ahead of the moment knowing that there are going to be some guys that go down. And if A.J. goes down at some point in time, that, you know, we are going to have someone that's going to capably step in and fill that void. Who that's going to be at this point, we're not sure.

Q. How is Ahmed doing?
TOREY LOVULLO: Very good. Early conversations with him a couple weeks ago were that he's exactly where he should be. I had a very similar surgery, so I know what he's walking through. We shared some common ground. I told him not to rush the process. It's something where you start to feel really good, really fast, but there's still some internal healing that's happening, and you let that take place without over doing it.

I gave him some words of wisdom, and as I continue to talk to him, he's feeling wonderful. He's able to bend over comfortably and move in any direction. He's in good shape.

Q. Can Marte play outfield?
TOREY LOVULLO: That has not crossed my plate. I don't know at this point in time. That's why I hate to name names. He's going to be a guy that we're going to count, a young, exciting player that had really good spurts last year. We're not going to shy away from using him if we need to or at least -- we've got to find out what he can and can't do as soon as possible.

Q. I would think, also, one of your major projects here has to be between you, [Mike] Butcher and Haren, is trying to figure out [Shelby] Miller's difficulties and getting him straightened out for the season, right?
TOREY LOVULLO: Well, I know it's all well documented what Shelby went through last year. But in my conversations with him, he's worked extremely hard, and he's healthy and looking to turn the page on 2016 as soon as possible.

You know, he just got -- when I spoke to him, he was just coming off a workout where he was telling me how he was getting after it and really focused on feeling strong and healthy, and that's the most important thing for Shelby at this point in time.

But, yes, all players need certain types of attention at all times during the year. It's going to be up to the staff to address those needs. Going to be up to the staff to pay attention to those needs, and on any level, the staff is going to be there to help any player at any time.