BUD BLACK: Yeah, that's a big priority for us, Josh and his group, and as you guys know, there's a number of guys out on the market and also, I think, a guy or two available in trades that have closed games in the Big Leagues. You know, we're exploring those options.
Q. What kind of comfort level was it having Heath close games for you for three years there and how important that role is?
BUD BLACK: Very comforting. I've been lucky, even going back to my playing career, and just on the coaching and managing side you look at the closers who I've had, Percival, Francisco Rodriguez, Trevor Hoffman, Heath Bell. Pretty good. Real good. Real good. So I know it's a very important position, especially in this day and age, that feeling when that guy comes in in the last inning, how a majority of the time you're going to come out of there with a win. That's how you want -- that's how you want a game to end, and when you have a guy like that, it's a great feeling.
Q. Do you see any chance of anybody in your current bullpen being ready to assume that position right now? And if not, when would somebody in your current bullpen, what would be the soonest they might be?
BUD BLACK: Well, I think we're going to do everything we can to add to the guys that we have in that situation where we're in now. We lost two of the guys who were very instrumental to us the last couple years in Heath and Mike. But we do have some guys presently in our bullpen that have been with us for a couple years who have performed very well, Gregerson and Frieri.
Q. Bass has the arm, too, doesn't he?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, Bass has the arm, but you'd like to have a guy that has done it before. There are times when you have to, you know, out of necessity
Q. He's got to get that first time.
BUD BLACK: Exactly. We have some guys that have been tested in prior innings before the ninth. Whether we're ready to pass that on just yet, not so sure. But we do have some very capable ability. If you were to ask me within the present group who would be the guy most capable, I'd probably say Gregersen. You know, Frieri has had a nice couple years for us, too. So those two guys, and just based on their -- a couple years of service time have performed well. Whether they're ready to take on that challenge or not is something that we'll have to discuss that internally.
Q. Do you feel like there is a distinct difference between pitching the eighth inning and pitching the ninth inning?
BUD BLACK: You know, I do think there are differences, yes. Yeah, absolutely. You know, just from -- they're both important. Really they go hand in hand in this day and age. I think you need a complement of guys nowadays to close out a game. I do think that the ninth is a little different than the eighth, and I think with that, there comes a certain -- some intangibles that the good closers have and the other guys that have maybe been tested but haven't quite passed that test maybe don't have. Not to say they're not great pitchers, but there are certain qualities that make up a great closer.
Q. Your farm system has apparently improved leaps and bounds depending on what prospect list you look at. Is there a sense that some of the players you guys have developed or maybe obtained in the last year or so could be ready for the Major Leagues at some point in the season, Joe Wieland, Robby Irwin?
BUD BLACK: Yes, there's probably a handful of guys that probably could be ready at some point in the season. Maybe not out of Spring Training, but as the season unfolds. You named a couple of them in Wieland, Irwin, Casey Kelly on the pitching side, Brad Brach. Are you counting him?
BUD BLACK: Even though he touched the Big Leagues. Bass, Hamren, Brach, Michaels had a good year. Probably won't make the team out of Spring Training, but he'll be in camp getting some experience. Darnell, Jurgen (phonetic) are two guys that -- who are getting closer. Rizzo. Counting him?
Q. Service time, or where do you draw the line?
BUD BLACK: Where do you draw the line? He's not a finished product yet like a lot of guys.
Q. What were your impressions of Rizzo last year?
BUD BLACK: Rizzo had a very good Spring Training, showed himself very well, got off to a great start in Tucson, played extremely well defensively, offensively, came up at a time where he was swinging the bat very well. The first few days he was outstanding, and then from there a number of factors caused maybe a performance that we didn't really expect, tried too hard, put a little bit too much pressure on himself, tried to do too much with the bat. And that happens to a lot of young players.
Now he has to regroup. There's some adjustments that he has to make in his swing, and he knows that, and he's working on them. I'm sure he's probably working on them presently as we speak.
But first impressions, very strong. Very strong.
Q. Where do you see him going in terms of Spring Training?
BUD BLACK: Well, he's going to come to camp, and with Guzman and Rizzo and Blanks, we feel as though we have we do have coverage at first base and some flexibility to go to the outfield, too, with Guzy and Blanks. But it's a good situation. We've got a couple of right handed hitters, Rizzo is a left handed hitter. We'll see how it all plays out once we get to Spring Training. A lot of things can change between now and then. But he's a young, hard hitting first baseman with some intangibles.
Q. Having seen Gergo and foal I can, do you see any possibility where he could make the club by Spring Training?
BUD BLACK: You know, I think right now we have Chase at third, we have Darnell ahead of Jergo (phonetic), so it would probably be a situation where he's going to come to camp, it'll be his first Major League camp, he'll be surrounded by Major League players, he'll be in that environment for the first time. He's a guy that there's no doubt had a great season in A Ball, went to Double A, did fine, went to the fall league, did very well. So he's becoming a guy that's getting closer, there's no doubt about it. But I think there's still some bridges to cross for him before he gets to the Major Leagues.
BUD BLACK: Well, you're right. Two veteran players that we think will fit very well in our club. Last year against a tough right handed pitcher late in the game, we didn't have what we felt were -- we felt as though we needed better options, and with these two guys I think they're there. I think Baker has proven that he can be in the Big Leagues. He'll be a good complement based on his left handedness. Kotsay, especially last year with Milwaukee, had a very solid year as a role player. I know Ronny used him off the bench quite a bit. He started him, moved him around the diamond, first and all outfield spots. He's excited to come back. So two proven guys who are experienced as bench players will help us.
We'll see how the rest of the club shakes out, but you can look for Denorfia looks to be on the club, and he brings an element of some speed and power from the right side where he'll get his fair amounts of starts in the outfield, and we'll see how he's utilized, but he's a component that has proven that he should be in the Big Leagues, and he should do well for us. But we'll see how the rest of the bench shakes out, whether it's Forsythe, Cabrera, Blanks, Guzman, Rizzo, one of those guys will be on the bench.
Q. Could you see yourself carrying five outfielders, though?
BUD BLACK: Well, if you count Blanks as an outfielder -- counting Blanks as an outfielder, Guzman as an outfielder or infielder?
Q. Well, either one. You've got Kotsay, Denorfia ...
BUD BLACK: Guzy will be on the team, right? Guzy should be on the team. Denorfia, Venable, Maybin, that's three, right?
Q. Well, three and a half counting Guzman.
BUD BLACK: Right, Guzman or Blanks. Kotsay, count him as an outfielder or first base?
Q. Counting him as an outfielder, we're up to six.
BUD BLACK: Let's go back and count Blanks as a first baseman and Guzman as a first baseman.
Q. What do you count Rizzo as?
BUD BLACK: First base (laughter). So can I see us carrying five outfielders? Yeah. Or I can see us carrying four outfielders and three first basemen.
Q. I don't know if you have a strong feeling on this, but when the Astros move to the American League, there will be an Interleague game going on every day. Does that blur the league lines enough to where you would want one set of rules with regard to the DH?
BUD BLACK: You know, I'm a proponent, I think eventually, of like to see things standardized. Does that answer the question?
Q. That answers the question. The league lines have kind of been blurred in general, umpires even and ...
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I think I'm a proponent of that.
Q. Talk about Cameron and how he really came into his own last season, and why do you think that he wasn't able to do that with the Marlins?
BUD BLACK: Well, I can't comment on that, but I think that you're going to any time a player gains another year of experience and gets more reps like he got, you're going to get better. He's a talented player. You know, we set out to give him an opportunity to play every day, and he played most every day with the exception of he was banged up a little bit with the knee and we gave him some days off. But he got a lot of at bats, he showed a lot of improvement. We think that he's going to continue to show improvement.
You know, what happened prior to us in Detroit and Florida, I wasn't -- I can't comment on that to really give you a great answer. But he's a talent we think a lot of, and moving forward we hope that he's in San Diego for a long time. He's a big part of club. He plays a premium position and does a lot of great things on the baseball field.
Q. One more question on that DH point. When Interleague is spread out versus bunched together in basically one part of the schedule, what kind of challenge will that present, or do you think it's a benefit to have it more spread out?
BUD BLACK: You know, I haven't thought about it in depth. But you know, in prior seasons you could sort of look at that Interleague schedule and sort of get your roster to maybe where you want it to be. This will be a little bit different obviously. You know, I think that, again, a National League roster is constructed a little bit different than an American League roster is constructed. You know, I think with here again, not looking at -- I'm just trying to broadly state this, that I don't think that it'll have a huge impact on maybe advance scouting or anything like that. It still comes down to you've got to play well. You've got to pitch and catch the ball. I'm not quite sure how that is going to impact the Padres just yet. It would be nice to maybe get your roster set for Interleague games to get the right guy DHing.
Q. Speaking on that, since Baker does come with a pretty good bat, could you see having him and Nick in an Interleague game?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, possibly, yeah. We'll see how they're swinging, yeah. But Nick has shown spurts of really swinging the bat really well, and so has John. So there could be a point, depending on who we have on that roster at that time, where we are in the schedule and who we're playing. I'm not saying it's out it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Q. Would you carry a third catcher or potentially carry a third catcher so you could use both those guys in a game, pinch hit one in a game therefore not leaving yourself naked?
BUD BLACK: I would say right now, no. Does that lead into the next question, who's the third catcher? Forsythe.
Q. What can you expect from Guzman next year?
BUD BLACK: Well, you know, Guzy was arguably our best hitter in the second half, both average wise and knocking runs in and gave us great at bats every night. Hopefully he can continue that next year. He's proven he can hit, and he was, I thought, more than adequate at first base, played left field fine. I think we had him over in right field for a little bit, too. But he handled all the challenges we gave him defensively, and he hit. Hopefully he can carry that over to next year.
Q. How hard is that, to be able to hit at that level without having a set position?
BUD BLACK: Well, I think you've got to good players are able to separate the defense and the hitting. I think Guzy is a clear enough thinker where when he takes his at bats, he's hitting. When the at bat is over, it's gone, he goes and plays defense. A lot of guys have trouble with that, even if they play the same position.
But Guzy, I think just Guzy's personality, attitude, he's loose, he handles it. He just wants to play. There's guys that it doesn't matter where you put them, they just want to play, and Guzy is one of those guys. And there's other guys that the stars have to be aligned for them to play, play well. But he's not like that.
Q. Are there post surgery reports on Richard and Moseley?
BUD BLACK: They're doing well. Clayton is throwing, and he's popping out to San Diego, then he's popping back to Lafayette, Indiana, doing his thing, but his arm feels great. Doctors are happy when they check on him. He's doing very well. We're very encouraged with Clayton's progress. And Mose is fine. That was a pretty straightforward procedure on his left arm. I suspect he'll be back able to swing the bat with no hesitation. He'll be fine.
Q. Any physical limitations for him in Spring Training regarding everyone reporting? Everyone will be ready for the start of Spring Training?
BUD BLACK: Is this a trick question?
Q. No, not this time.
BUD BLACK: I think we're all good. I'm trying to think. I think Clayton is going to be fine, Mose will be fine. Forsythe Forsythe should be fine. Yeah, he's doing well, too.
BUD BLACK: Darnell, fine. Yeah, I don't think there's anybody who's going to be restricted from the get go. Now, from the first day, that could change. But I think going in I don't think anybody is on a slower program.
Q. Is there a concern to you that Forsythe has had that same knee separated on at the end of two separate seasons now?
BUD BLACK: Bill, I'm concerned about all my players all the time. But knowing Logan no, really, this is a situation he has to stay on top of. You know, he has to he knows that this has happened now a couple times. He is aware of what needs to be done, I think, from a daily exercise program, staying on top of the quad, staying on top of the hammy, just doing everything he can to keep that the joint as strong as possible.
I think a lot of young players sort of overlook that, but I think now with round 2, he knows that he's got to watch it.
Q. Wake up call?
BUD BLACK: I guess you can -- I don't know whether you need to wake him up, but I think he's aware that he doesn't want this to happen again.
Q. Is he a plus defender at third and average defender at second?
BUD BLACK: On the scouting scale, yeah, I give him high marks at third for sure, and at second he's learning and developing. I think right now he does a solid average job at second. There's some things he has to fine tune, double play turn, going to his right, but just the hands and the arm work fine no matter where you put him even if you put him at short. I think just the work around the bag needs improvement, but he's improved a lot since last year when we moved him over there. He's been fine.
Q. You probably already touched on this, but how tough will it be to replace Heath?
BUD BLACK: Well, those -- he was a good one. He was a three time All Star. Correct me if I'm wrong, did he have the highest percentage save rate the last three years?
Q. Over the last three years, yeah.
BUD BLACK: It's tough. He's good. He's really good. But you know, it's not easy to replace those guys, but there'll be someone who's going to be given an opportunity, and there's guys out there hopefully we can get a guy who's done it before. If not, somebody from within will be given an opportunity to do it. We'll do the best we can to make sure that they're in the right spots and we prepare them the best we can to do that job.
Q. Well, he did that for you a few years ago, he came into the closer position for you?
BUD BLACK: Yeah.
Q. And really produced.
BUD BLACK: Well, the thing about Heath that a lot of people don't realize or really talk about, this guy, he saved over 100 games in the Minor Leagues, as well. I mean, he was a Minor League closer. So when you have history, even though it's the Minor Leagues, of closing games, that helps you when you get to the Big Leagues and close games. So he came in after years in Norfolk as a closer and then coming into our club and watching the hall of famer clubs, being part of a great bullpen, he's seen the dynamics of what we do, and I think it was a smoother transition for him.
I think the bigger thing was replacing a guy like he did in San Diego. I think the pitching was going to take care of itself. I think we all felt comfortable with how he was going to do performance wise. We didn't know how he was going to handle filling the shoes of Trevor, but when you're as consistent as Heath was and saving at the rate he was, it's a little easier.
Q. What was your reaction watching the World Series as Tony pieced the bullpen together, because there were some comparisons drawn to the Angels in '02. Can you put into words why you can't do that over the course of a month or two months during the course of a regular season?
BUD BLACK: Well, that was a tremendous postseason, in general very entertaining. I thought Tony did a fabulous job of handling his bullpen. In the playoffs, players see they see the end of the tunnel, and, boy, are guys locked in in whatever is asked of them. And there's some built in days off there that help, as well. The weather is a little cooler, built in off days, adrenaline, the heightened stage brings out the best in most players, and in this case pitchers.
And I think when a manager or pitching coach asks players to assume certain roles, guys are in. The unselfishness really shows up and momentum can happen on the pitching side as well as offensively. And I think you saw that with a number of Cardinal pitchers; the closer for one had a great postseason.
But Tony did a great job of using his guys. He knew his guys better than anybody and put them in great spots.
I think the difference during the regular season is guys are throwing from February 15th on, and there's aches and pains, there's some confidence levels that are variable, there's some mindset problems, there's some selfishness that pops up every now and then about their role, and it's just a -- there's not as many off days when you get into certain stretches. So it's a little different during the regular season.
But going back to on a side note, our bullpen in Anaheim in our championship year, we were -- we used a lot of guys, you know, and we used a lot of guys and they pitched a lot of innings because our starters didn't pitch deep into a lot of those playoff games. Fortunately we had -- the guys I mentioned earlier, I don't know whether you were here, we were Percival, Frankie Rodriguez who came on the scene who was outstanding, Webber was durable, Donnelly was durable, Sean Wise was durable, and Shields, who at that time was just breaking in, ended up having a great career, didn't pitch a lot, but those guys did whatever asked them and they were always ready.
Like I said, you see the light at the end of the tunnel and physically you sort of will your way through it.