BOB MELVIN: Well, very mature for his age, both mentally and physically. That's something we saw right away with him. We saw it as early as last spring when he's 18 years old, Big League camp, playing in games, getting at bats and so forth, was never scared of the situation.
Up the ante a little bit this spring, had a great spring for us again. Albeit started in Single-A, forecasting being here in the Big Leagues, being here at this time was probably a stretch at the time. But the more player development people saw him, weren't afraid to push him along and move him to AA, probably did better in AA than Single-A.
And they made the call and felt like he was ready. More than anything, you have to think that mentally he'd be able to handle the Big League levels and handle the failures of it, more importantly.
Because you're going to struggle at the Big Leagues at some point in time. It's how you handle it and how you make the adjustments and so forth. And our people in player development felt he was mentally tough enough. And it certainly has been the case.
Were you surprised to see the Rockies in this position right now?
BOB MELVIN: No. Not based on what we we've seen them since spring training on. You knew offensively they were going to be there and be one of the premiere offense clubs. They've gotten better defensively and their pitching, the younger guys. They're the total package. Doesn't surprise us, especially the way they played the better part of the last three weeks of the season. I don't know that anybody has finished the way they have and have put themselves in the elite teams of all of baseball. It doesn't surprise us, no.
How would you describe Brandon Webb's disposition on the mound?
BOB MELVIN: You know, not much bothers him. You don't know if he's up by two, down by two. Up by three, down by five. He's pretty composed in what he does out there.
He's composed in how he acts out there. And I think it works well for him. He's always one pitch away at potentially getting two outs with his sinker. He's a very hard worker.
He's gotten better and better as his career is going along and working on things whether it's his secondary pitches, whether it's holding runners, whether it's handling the bat. But I think the poker face is one of the things that works very well for him.
He's not a guy that seems like you can rattle him out there. That's been the case especially the last couple of seasons.
One of your players made an interesting point I thought. Since you had so many young guys that don't have like seven years in the Majors batting third or eight years in the Majors batting leadoff, he said it might actually have been easier for you to kind of mix and match until you finally found the right formula for the lineup because you didn't have a lot of egos in the room saying no, this is where I hit, this is where I don't hit. Did the player have a point?
BOB MELVIN: Who was the player?
I think it was Stephen Drew.
BOB MELVIN: First day of spring training I told these guys in our first meeting that we're going to move the lineup around. We have to look at different combinations. I want to look and see how each guy responds at different spots in the lineup. It might not just be in spring training. It may filter into the season as well. So just be prepared to play. We will let you know what days you're playing. We always post the lineups the day before, whether it's spring training or the season, so they know.
But I think knowing that these guys, when they did have success in the spot, and might not have been in there the next day, I think we were kind of proactive in the mind set going forward that there's going to be some experimenting and so forth going forward.
And I think it's carried into the season. These guys have shown no ego as far as spots they've hit in the lineup. Stephen, I think, has hit everywhere in our lineup but maybe fourth. He may have hit in every other spot in the lineup. But he comes, he knows where he's playing. He takes a quick peek at the card to see where he's going. But as a group they've been understanding based on the pitcher and the matchup we're going play it percentage wise each and every day. And I think the fact that we told them that early on there weren't any surprises going forward.
When you talked about your pitcher for tomorrow, the Rockies going with Jeff Francis, what makes him so tough to go against and how do you counter that as a ball team?
BOB MELVIN: You've seen him enough. There's no surprises with these two teams. We have an idea what he's going to try to do and what we're going to try to do to him. It's executing, whether it's on our side, executing pitches to them, it's him executing him to us and making adjustments. He's gotten about pitching down in the zone. Uses the changeup. Throw the curveball for strikes. Steal strikes on an off count when he needs to. He's matured as a pitcher. You can see confidence wise earlier this season he's taken it to the next level, and an indication obviously is his record and what he means to those guys.
So each of these guys are going to be tough guys to handle, and each of these guys probably have different weapons than one particular pitch or one particular way of pitching.
And so it's going to be about making adjustments and executing pitches.
During the game, how long does it take before you know Webb's throwing his best stuff?
BOB MELVIN: You know, it's different this year with them. It used to be if the sinker's sinking you're seeing some early count swings and balls on the ground that you know Brandon Webb is on. He's been able to make some adjustments this year and do it a little differently if the sinker is not there right away.
So I think it's not as easy to tell right away, okay, he's got a sinker going, there are going to be a lot of balls on the ground. He has a good changeup. Has a good curveball and he has other avenues to go besides the sinker if it's not there.
So it's a little more difficult to tell when he's on, when he's off right away. And I think that works well for him and just gives him a few more options to keep himself in the game longer and do it a little differently, if that answers your question.
Have you guys decided on a roster yet and/or can you share with us what your lineup will be for tomorrow?
BOB MELVIN: We'll take the roster down to the wire, I guess, until it's submitted. Obviously probably going to be pretty close if not very close to what we did the previous series.
And the lineups will be pretty consistent as far as left rights, probably not as exact this series. We may take it more day to day depending on how somebody does the previous day.
But tomorrow will be the lineup that you've seen when a left handed pitcher has been on the mound against us.
Every series has unique things about it. In the last series your young kids came through, Drew and Young. Crystal ball it a little bit and kind of envision how you think this one plays out against a different opponent that brings a different dynamic?
BOB MELVIN: It's tough to tell. Who would have thought that we would go out there and win three games in a row against the Cubs. I don't even know going into it that we thought that was possible.
So the one constant is we take it day to day and try and win that game, try to go pitch to a pitch, bat to a bat and not throw any away and not get too far out there as far as what we're trying to concentrate on. And that will remain the same. The two teams do know each other. 18 times during the season, spring training.
So it's going to be about executing. You know each and every day probably has a little dynamic on whether it looks to be an offensive game, or more of a pitching game. The one thing is both these teams are much better pitching wise than they were last year.
The Rockies just aren't an offensive club. You know, we're not just a pitching club. I think we've gotten better as the season has gone along as far offense goes. And the crystal ball is going to be different for this series. It doesn't have the kind of theme that it's going to be all pitching and defense or all offense. It could go back and forth from day to day.
What have you been doing to keep your pitchers sharp in the long layoff?
BOB MELVIN: Micah Owings is the one guy that hasn't had a start since that day in Pittsburgh. So he went and pitched an instruction league yesterday, threw upwards of about 80 pitches. He's the one guy that's been able to handle significant layoffs. He's at times been better. His stuff has been better. Velocity has been better. Mind set wise, he's a tough kid that doesn't let certain things like that get to him where he's going to fall back and say, I've had X amount of time off. He's all about the moment and the day. And I think that showed up big in that Pittsburgh game where he knew he was pitching two hours before the game, went out there and went 4 for 4 and threw six in a third shutout before it started raining a little bit.
We try to tailor to the individual, need to see some hitters. So we did that. Micah needed a game yesterday so we did that. Try to tailor it to the individual where you wouldn't think that four days would be too difficult to get that edge back come tomorrow. I don't think it will be for lack of excitement tomorrow.
Your club picked up Eric Byrnes coming off a downer of a year. What did he do to win you over and force his way to a major role with the team?
BOB MELVIN: He played very well. And he exemplified what we're all about around here. That's playing hard. Running balls out. I think he's a great example for the younger guys that when you have a veteran guy like that that plays the game the way that he does and they have no choice but the follow him.
And he's meant a lot to this team, emotionally, production wise, all the above. And I think given some of the reins to be taken off of him that you are a guy, you're going to hit in the middle of the order whether it's second, third fourth, he's a guy that's responded beautifully. I don't think he's played under those type of nonlimitations where he knows he's going to be in there every day to an extent he knows where he's going to be in the order and now it's just about going out there and producing. And he's been great about that. And deserved the contract that we gave him.
This is a player development series. Both teams have been built primarily on players they developed. Is that kind of cool for you to see and to show that you can build teams the so called right way and get to the postseason?
BOB MELVIN: No question about it. We went through some difficult times with the turnover last year. But the way it played out, I think everything was kind of on schedule and right on time for what happened this year to Stephen Drew getting a half year and last year Chris Young getting some time in last year.
So I think it served them very well. But we are proud of the fact that this organization that we're doing it home grown and I know the Rockies are the same.
We saw toward the end of the year when they bring up Morales instead of going out and trying to get a guy, a veteran guy, Jimenez, those guys have been spectacular for them. Based on the opportunities of the organization first it's paid off for us whether it's Mark Reynolds or Justin Upton or Micah Owings, guys like that were given the opportunity first and given the opportunity to so called fail. And all of them come through it beautifully and we're very proud of that.
And I think the way this team's done it, way Colorado has done it, that maybe other teams look at it a little differently.
Can you talk about how important your bullpen has been in getting you-- specifically Pena and Lyon getting this far? Do you think they've received the recognition they deserve?
BOB MELVIN: They get it in our clubhouse. If you look at the number of close games and 1-1 games we've played, they've been significant contributors in those games. Everyone talks about our run differential and all that. We play a lot of close games. We've won a lot of 1-1 games and that has a lot to do with Tony Pena, Brandon Lyon and Jose Valverde. Psychologically, we've been through enough of them to know that if we're in close games, especially with a little bit of a lead going into that seventh inning, we feel like we're going to win. And it doesn't happen that way all the time. But based on experiences this season, how we've gotten here, that's been probably first and foremost in the success especially in a closer game.
So there's nobody -- we take contributions, significant contributions from our roster. But no more important than those three guys at the end of the game for us.
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