Winter Meetings interview with Bruce Bochy

Q. What do you think of your new closer?

BRUCE BOCHY: It's great news to come in here and fill a need, a huge need on this ball club. To get one of the premier closers in the game, it was something I'm very grateful for.

Ownership and the front office stepped up, and to go out and acquire an elite closer like Mark -- and I know him a little bit. We went on a trip to Taiwan, so I had a chance to get to know him there. Just a quality guy, a guy that's going to stabilize this bullpen and make us better there.

We had our issues, as you well know, and to get somebody to finish the games, now we can build below that and get this thing sorted out and get back to, you know, who we are and that's to be a more complete and consistent bullpen.

Q. Will Melancon be a traditional ninth inning closer or do you see yourself using him in different situations?

BRUCE BOCHY: I will sit down and talk to Mark, I would like to talk with him about that. There are times when you use a closer maybe for four or five outs but I need to sit down with him. For the most part, he's going to pitch the ninth. If it's something that he's capable of doing or is comfortable doing, you know, we would like to stay open-minded about it.

Q. You mentioned the rest of the bullpen, what do you envision with that for the guys who are going to be back?

BRUCE BOCHY: We have some really good arms when you look at this bullpen. I think the guys grew this season despite our struggles, guys like Hunter Strickland, Law, I thought Okert made a lot of progress. You look at Osich, Will Smith, what Gearrin did for us that first half, and George Kontos who gives us experience, we feel like we have the guys that have, you know, the weapons and the make-up to be those guys, to be that bridge to the closer.

Now, with that said, there's no question, when you have three guys that become free agents from your bullpen like Lopez and Romo, Casilla, that's a lot of experience to miss and not that they're not going to be back. We don't know what's going to happen. In fact, they're not with us right now, and that's something you do miss. I think we missed Affeldt last year, a little bit, his experience. He was part of the glue to the bullpen. So I thought we missed him at times, not just what he did on the mound but leadership that he provided for that bullpen. But we feel like we have some really good arms that can fill those holes.

Q. The Indians bullpen usage got attention during the postseason. What sorta went under the radar was their extreme curveball usage, especially against the Cubs, because data showed that they didn't hit the curveball well. How willing are you going into game planning to say we are going to throw 20% more of a pitch in a certain series?

BRUCE BOCHY: Well, we have baseball ops that I will put with anybody as far as information we get. So we have all this information. You use it to a point where it makes sense. You don't get away from your strength as a pitcher. It's great if a hitter doesn't hit a curveball, but if your guy doesn't throw a curveball, you got to make adjustments.

But that's part of preparing for a game, to have a game plan and go into it, you know, in a smart way. The old adage is you would be strong to compete, smart to win. To me, we are. The best pitching coach in baseball has these guys prepared, and Mark Gardner helps out, and it's all about preparing and having those arms prepared when they go out there.

Q. What are your feelings about Buster playing in the Classic?

BRUCE BOCHY: I'm fine with it. Buster wants to do it, I'm good with it. It's obvious he's got to get himself ready a little sooner than he normally would. But I think anytime you can help out I'll say the US team with a Posey or a Crawford, we want to do our part. I think anytime you can promote the game, you want to do your part.

And we want to be ambassadors to the game any way we can as far as the San Francisco Giants, and that's providing players for the Classic. And I know the US team is trying to improve and show some pride and win this thing, and I think the players feel like that and that's why they want to be part of it.

We have to make sure they're ready, and I have a great training staff and conditioning staff that will make sure they're ready to go so we don't have any risk of injury.

Q. Do you have other players who have indicated that they're going to play?

BRUCE BOCHY: I think Johnny Cueto, I think Suarez for Venezuela, off the top of my head, those guys, along with Posey and Crawford.

Q. Back to the bullpen, is there any mentality that a closer needs to separate them from a reliever in terms of mental approach to the ninth inning?

BRUCE BOCHY: I think so. I think you look at the last three outs as we saw can be the three toughest outs. It takes a special guy. There has been a lot of great arms that you try to bump 'em into that role they're not quite as comfortable.

It's a tough spot that you put closers in because your team is playing so hard and so well for eight innings; now you're putting it all on him to get the last three outs. So that guy has to be mentally tough as anybody on the club. And some guys thrive on it and some guys are better in that situation under pressure than -- that's why you see closers, when it's not a closing situation, they don't pitch as well.

Q. It's been a while since relievers got the deal that Mark got. Now it seems like it's going back toward big money deals for relievers. Is that here to stay, or more of a product of these three guys on the market?

BRUCE BOCHY: I think it's here to stay. I think more and more we're realizing how important a closer is. They stabilize your season. Because when you lose games late, it's a blow. It's a shot to the chin. And you take enough of 'em, it can wear your team out. And that's why that closer is so important to your club. And I think they're getting more and more attention on how important they are.

I was fortunate throughout my years I've had some great closers, and they make life a lot easier and they give a team a sense of confidence, going from Hoffman or Wilson, and what Romo and Casilla did.

But I think it's here to stay. You look at the role that these bullpens are playing, it's not just closers getting these deals, it's other guys, too. They're the guys that play a critical role to you winning a ball game. There are so many close games. We saw what happened in the playoffs, how those roles were used and how they change. And we've done it, too, so it's here to stay.

Q. Is there anything else you feel you need to do, or what would be next on your wish list, to-do list?

BRUCE BOCHY: Well, this was our number one need. We came in and filled that. I just talked about our arms in the bullpen, and we're pretty comfortable with what we are going into camp with. Really, if you look at our club, you may say, well, left field is a spot where we could look, but, you know, we pretty much have done what we had hoped. Doesn't mean -- we're not leaving town, you know, and Bobby Evans will still look out there on what makes sense, but going into camp, left field, Parker and Williamson, two potential bats to help us out, maybe something on a smaller scale on the bench. We're pretty set with the starting situation, I think, pretty much with the bullpen, unless we think there is something out there that's going to make us better.

Q. Have you talked to Jake?

BRUCE BOCHY: Jake Peavy? No, I have not talked to him.

Q. What do you think is going to happen with him? He left the season saying he didn't want to quit?

BRUCE BOCHY: That's what he told me. He said, no, I'm not done, I'm going to go in camp and make a team. That was his mentality. He's not ready to take the uniform off. I'm sure he will go into camp with somebody, and it's not going to surprise me to see him make a club.

Q. Is he an option for you at all?

BRUCE BOCHY: I don't think so. When you look at our club, we're pretty set. In that fifth spot you're looking at Cain and Blach, and even Suarez did some starting for us last year. And Jake knows that.

Q. One of your free agent, Casilla, who has been so good for you guys over the years, obviously he is not going to be the closer if he remains with the Giants, but do you think it's a fit for him, a position in your pen?

BRUCE BOCHY: I like Casilla. A lot. I would welcome him back. He's going to have some options. It's going to be up to him. He was our closer, and I didn't put him in those high-leverage situations toward the end. He probably wasn't real excited about that, to be honest, but he's a great team player, teammate, with his change of role. But certainly wouldn't rule it out because he still has great stuff. And he had some hiccups there in that closing role, but I would take him anytime.

Q. Are you guys still looking for bullpen?

BRUCE BOCHY: Sure, I think it's fair to say that you don't stop looking. Could be via trade. We think it's going to improve us some in that bullpen. You never stop trying to improve.

Q. How about Koji Uehara?

BRUCE BOCHY: He certainly was discussed as we go through all the players available, free agents or possibilities through trades. He was discussed.

Q. (Indiscernible.)

BRUCE BOCHY: I try not to do that, John. What if's, those are so easy to do. You look at our three good runs where we won, had we had to come back, I'm sure those teams would go: What if? There are so many times you can do that. We gave it all we had. It was a tough way to go out, no getting around it. You gotta move on. No point thinking about it because it's over.

Q. Would you consider using Bumgarner in the ninth inning?

BRUCE BOCHY: No, I never did. He had a nice body of work, so that would be pushing him. Samardzija was the guy that we had available in that game. But I couldn't risk putting Madison out there.

Q. You've had closers like Hoffman who relied on change-ups. This guy, how do you feel about his lasting power for a guy who will be in his mid-30s at the end of the contract, with his repertoire?

BRUCE BOCHY: I think you look at the command of Mark, his pitches, it's going to work over a period of time with the command that he has with all these pitches. He's a four-pitch guy. He will throw any pitch at any time. So this is going to work over longevity with the weapons he has. He's a very smart pitcher, he doesn't walk guys, he's a ground ball guy. We had Romo and Hoffman, did a great job, two guys that didn't throw 95, 96.

Q. Didn't have much experience going more than one inning, and you have used guys --

BRUCE BOCHY: Yeah, that's why I said I would talk to him, if it's a situation where when you get one out. No, he doesn't. That's why he was worked there in Pittsburgh, I know that. They had Watson, then they brought him in and they kept guys in their roles. Again, I would like to sit down with him and talk to him.

Q. Do you have sort of a -- do you envision slotting in a role in front of him, or is that something where all of these guys could utilize Spring Training for?

BRUCE BOCHY: I have a pretty good idea. I would like to talk to them, but I do want to get more conventional. I know pitchers like to know when they're coming in, and I think they're a little more comfortable or even confident knowing what role they have. This mix and match can be tough on those guys. Like I said, it worked great the first half; second half we had our issues.

With Strickland and Law and Smitty, you know, I mentioned Osich and Okert, I think we're going to have a pretty good sixth, seventh, eighth inning guy. Kontos, a couple years ago, he pretty much came in in the sixth. And we could go back to that.

But these are things that Dave Righetti and myself and the pen will sit down and talk about in the spring. And we do want to have this set early in the spring. I would like to stay away from, all right, we're competing for this, because I want these guys getting ready in the spring and I want them using all their pitches and getting ready.

Q. What do you realistically expect from Cain? He's had one injury after another for the last three years, and every time he seems to get just about ready he breaks down again.

BRUCE BOCHY: To be honest, you know, I expect him to come in camp probably in the best shape he's ever been in, as determined as ever, you know, to win that spot in the rotation. This is his last year on this deal, and I gotta think he's hungry to get back to who he was and be in this rotation and be part of it.

Blach, what a job he did for us. So that's going to be a pretty good competition, I think, as we go into camp. We haven't forgotten what Mad has done for us. But, you're right, he's dealt with injuries and ups and downs. And it's all about performance, so I think he's going to come into camp and be hungry to be that guy.

Q. One or two more years on this contract?

BRUCE BOCHY: I think it's one more, isn't it? Yeah.

Q. There has been a lot of talk about the Cubs being the next dynasty and what have you with their young team as a manager who won three World Series in five years' time. Can you speak to how difficult that is?

BRUCE BOCHY: It's difficult. I think we showed that this year as close as we were to taking it to Game 5 and how we lost. Anything can happen once you get to the playoffs. That's the difficult part.

Now, you know, you expect with the club that they have, the pitching, the starters, the offense, they're going to get there, but they end up going seven games, extra innings, as good as they were. And I think a lot of people expected them to run over Cleveland, and Cleveland did a terrific job there. So that shows you how difficult it is. They're certainly good, they're built to stay a while, and we will be competing for that championship for a while.

Q. So much flexibility it seems in the batting order. Any early thoughts on how that might shake out?

BRUCE BOCHY: I think a lot about it. We put Belt in that two-hole there toward the end, and he's an on-base guy, gets a lot of walks. So whether I do that or not, I'm not going to put my order right now, but you want Panic healthy, Hunter healthy. You look at Parker and Williamson. Whoever we go with there, do you want to hit 'em eighth, or do you want to protect them a little bit? If you do, who hits eighth? So these things cross my mind quite a bit.

Q. Question about Shohei Ohtani, could you elaborate about him?

BRUCE BOCHY: I'm sorry?

Q. Shohei Ohtani, could you elaborate?

BRUCE BOCHY: I've seen video. He's a great athlete. I think you would have a tough call whether to pitch him or DH him, but -- no, I'm kidding you. I think you look at the equipment he has. He's going to get a lot of attention. He's one of those special athletes that was born to play baseball, and you can tell the way he plays, his arm, his bat, everything about him. He's going to be just fine.

Q. If your team can get him two years later, how did you want to use him?

BRUCE BOCHY: Well, I don't want to go how we would use him. I think when it gets to that point where he's available, whatever, I think he's going to get a lot of attention.

Q. I think she means because he hits and pitches, he's a DH over there and hit a bunch of home runs and RBIs this year and --

BRUCE BOCHY: I know what she meant; I didn't want to answer it (laughter).

Q. I'm trying to be a nice guy and help --

BRUCE BOCHY: I know. I don't think that needs to be answered at this point, we'll take a look at his pitching and hitting.