An interview with Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey

An interview with Maddon and Hickey

Whoever wants to answer it, Dan Wheeler said last night that he can pitch Monday, if he needs to, but what is his situation as far as rest and given that he threw three plus?

JOE MADDON: I want to check with him tomorrow, first of all. That was a lot of innings with a lot of pitches and a lot of emotion. So if you knew Danny like we know Danny, he's going to say that right out of the chute, but we'll see how he feels today. I'd rather wait until the day when all the emotion wears off and then we'll ask him tomorrow.

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JIM HICKEY: We had a conversation last night prior to sending him out there for, I believe, part of the third inning and even the fourth inning. I had seen him do it before in Houston where he would pitch two plus innings, three plus innings, parts of four innings, extra inning games where it was do or die, winner go home type of a thing, and I told Joe he would be fine, and I knew he would be fine, and I've seen him also rebound from that well.

I would anticipate that he would be able to pitch Monday, but I would also agree with what Joe said, just wait until the emotion type of stuff goes away and then see where we are. But I would be surprised if he wasn't available.

Along those lines, can you just talk a little bit about the performance you got from your bullpen last night, and in particular, how important those innings that Wheeler gave you?

JOE MADDON: The bullpen has been like that all year. We went from having the worst bullpen in the history of baseball to one of the better ones this year.

And they all contribute. They all have their roles; they all do their jobs. The biggest difference is -- and the wonderful thing is that when you call and you bring somebody into the game, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect, and that's probably the best thing you can have out of your bullpen.

You can talk about J. P., Grant, Danny, Trever. Now we've got Chad, of course, and the job that David did yesterday and the whole group out there. We did not get Jack involved. Of course, the role that Percy has had with us all season, all of those have been extremely vital obviously.

We have a lot of -- obviously we have a lot of faith in our bullpen, we have a lot of confidence in them. You know what to expect when you bring them out there.

And furthermore, there's kind of like a back and forth. You've got some guys that are a little more deceptive. Grant, particularly, more forthright, pretty much a fastball pitcher, so I think we have a nice little balance about it, and furthermore, they're durable.

If there's a Game 6, is Kazmir going to be your starter based on what's happened the last two starts?

JOE MADDON: Again, I'm not discouraged. I know a lot of people are, and I know, once again, conventional wisdom pops in there, and I'm really not a conventional wisdomist, if that's a word.

We'll wait and see. Yeah, absolutely he's going to pitch. I have a lot of confidence. This last outing he wasn't so good. The one in Chicago he fought through it and pitched well.

It's one of those moments we have to keep throwing him out there. He's a wonderful talent, he's going to be a big part of our organization for many years to come, and absolutely going to show him support, no question.

As even as these first two games have been and as even as the series looks, do you think that means more emphasis on guys like Fernando Perez, David Price, that type of player?

JOE MADDON: Well, it's nice to have those guys there. I mean, obviously we did not have them all season long, so all of a sudden you have those different kind of weapons to bring into the game later on. You saw what Fernando did yesterday, and of course, what David did. You look at the game coming up against Lester, I mean, we have different kinds of options, but probably we'll start Rocco and Willy Rocco in the outfield and Willy as the DH, if everybody is equal and everybody is well.

But Fernando makes you think a little bit. The young man really -- both these guys, they're really calm. I'm sure you've noticed this, but they're really in the moment and they've handled the situation extremely well. We're not adverse or apprehensive at all about utilizing either one of them.

Once again, if they're part of a bright future, you're looking at what's going on right now, and I keep talking about this is just the beginning. I love what they've been doing, and again, it's how they've handled it as much as anything that's been most impressive.

Can you talk about managing a game in the postseason versus the regular season where you might go to Grant or J. P. earlier in a game like you did last night, more back of the bullpen guys that are pitching in the fifth and sixth inning and how you have confidence in your entire bullpen to make something like that work?

JIM HICKEY: Well, certainly it's different than the regular season in that I don't think there was one time in the regular season where you saw Grant Balfour and J. P. Howell pitch in the fifth inning, both of them in the fifth inning. The sixth inning would be a stretch, also.

But we talked about this before, and Joe already touched on it, when you have the four, five, six guys, maybe even seven guys that you absolutely trust down there with the lead later in the game, it's a pretty comfortable feeling.

It's pretty nice to go to Balfour and get him out of there and go to J. P. Howell and know that you still have Chad Bradford and Trever Miller and Dan Wheeler and David Price down there. It's quite a feeling to have, and we've come a long way from the feeling last year.

I think last year we talked about having three or four guys that we trusted with a lead later in the game, and I think sometimes we tried to talk ourselves into that, but it certainly wasn't the case as much as it is this year.

But unusual circumstances. You know, I use the phrase with the bullpen guys especially, all hands on desk. You just never know. Chad Bradford warmed up, I believe, in the second inning in one of our first round playoff games, and he might pitch in the ninth inning also. They all understand that.

Dan Wheeler didn't pitch for eight days and he pitches three and two thirds of an inning or whatever he did over the course of four innings and basically saved our behinds. It's a great luxury to have, and it's one of the reasons that we're here, for sure.

JOE MADDON: The other part about it is I like what we've been doing all year, and Jimmy is a big influence with this, also, is using those guys as a bridge.

That might be the most critical part of the game is the fifth or six inning. So we really come to the point where we're willing to utilize either one of those two guys in the middle of the game so that you actually have a chance to win it in the eighth and the ninth inning. They've been invaluable in that regard all year long.

We've done that not only in the postseason, we've done that during the season, maybe not quite as early. But the other point about it is and I think it's something that relief pitchers of the future, it's nice to have guys that can get four and five outs, sometimes six.

I think a lot of times in the minor leagues you build relief pitchers about one inning, and by the time they get here they're used to going in one inning and getting three outs. We want to build guys who can get at least four outs. And when you have that, all these decisions that you have to make can become somewhat easier knowing that they've had this kind of experience in the past, and it permits you to do these kind of things, whether it's in the season or now.

11th inning last night, 1 2 on Bartlett, runners take off, stay out of the forced play. Were you sending them there? Were they going on their own, and if you did send them, what prompted you to do it on a 1 2 pitch?

JOE MADDON: I actually read something that Fernando said today, and only a Columbia grad could come up with this, and I've gotta utilize it in the future. He said that we err on the side of aggressiveness, and I really love that.

They had the green light the whole time. They were green lighted the whole time based on the pitcher, time to the plate. Fernando was always green lighted. I rarely take guys off.

And furthermore, I have to tell you, Davey Martinez has a big influence in all of that. He has done a tremendous job this year with our base running and our running game. We coordinate all that stuff prior to and as the game is in progress. So that was actually spur of the moment on Fernando's part, but he had the greenie the whole time, and it just happened that it all worked out that particular way.

It just looked very bright, but it was just something that was set up earlier and obviously was a big moment in the game. But to err on the side of aggressiveness, I like it.

Jim, you touched on this, and obviously there were a lot of people who played big roles in the game last night, but what Wheeler did, and to keep going out there for the fourth time, how big was that?

JIM HICKEY: Well, it was probably the difference in the ballgame, not that David Price or Edwin Jackson could not have come in behind him and done the same thing that he did, but I remember after he pitched a portion of an inning and then pitched another inning and that was going to be close to the end of it, and I told Joe prior to even going to talk to him that he was not going to want to come out, he was going to be just fine, and that's exactly what he said, and very adamantly, too.

It was gigantic. But you know what, I really believe that the biggest difference in our team, the improvement, is probably -- 1A is the bullpen and 1B is the vastly improved defense. And I've said this time and time again, but I really believe it, that our bullpen began to turn last year.

The day that Dan Wheeler came through our doors we began to have a sense of professionalism probably that we lacked, a little bit of a sense of accountability that we lacked and all the things that we constantly preached and looked for. And I really believe that that started with Dan Wheeler, and for me it's no surprise that -- how many games could we have said this about, that possibly the biggest innings of the year to date, to go down a couple of games and then to come in here would have been a monumental task, and he saved us from that.

So how big was it? It was be behemothian. It couldn't get any bigger. It was gigantic. Can you spell that?

JOE MADDON: I really can't. Jimmy is very good at not being able to be topped (laughter).

Two part question. What specifically are Kazmir's issues, and the second thing, David Price, what are his adjustments? He warmed up three times last night before he got in. Are there any issues with that in the bullpen?

JIM HICKEY: Well, I'll touch on the Price thing first. He warmed up three times. He was actually ready twice. He wasn't ready three times. He pitched the day before, and of course, we understand that this is uncharted waters with him.

We also understand the investment and what we're looking for out of him in the future, so we're extremely cautious. He was given plenty of time to warm up, plenty of notice. If need be, I was going to take a trip to the mound, or Joe, and just buy him a little bit more time.

It was totally calculated what happened. He was coming into the ballgame right then and there. We knew that, whether there was two outs and nobody on or two on and nobody out, he was going to face Drew. It was Drew, right?

JOE MADDON: It was Drew.

JIM HICKEY: Well, I knew it was a left hander. But he was going to pitch in that particular spot right there, which also was very big on Wheeler's part to get us through to that spot where we could just target that spot and say this is where David is going to pitch right there.

I'm not really concerned with that. If there was a game today, would he pitch, I would really, really doubt it, although that would be Joe's decision.

JOE MADDON: Thank you.

JIM HICKEY: Well, obviously it's your decision.

JOE MADDON: It's so easy, isn't it? (Laughter).

JIM HICKEY: Will he be available the next game? I would say probably, but it's something that we'll address, also.

As far as Kazmir's issues, the issue has been for the most part struggles in the first inning, which is not unique to Kaz, although it seems like he's really been beat up in the first inning a little bit.

And to tell you the truth, I thought yesterday in the first inning was as well as he has thrown the ball in his last five or six or seven first innings, despite the fact that he threw 38 pitches and allowed a couple of runs. He got two fairly quick outs with some nice, crisp pitches. He pitched well to Ortiz who just took some good pitches and ended up walking.

He tried to get up underneath Youkilis with a slider and left the ball out over the plate a little bit, but it was very disappointing to -- I thought we were going to get out of there with a 15, 16 pitch inning, and so did he, and he was real disappointed about that, also.

The issues for the most part are the same as with any pitcher who struggles is execution, command of your pitches. With him in particular, the command of the fastball has been lacking, and you saw the White Sox game where he struggled early, also, and then turned it around and gave us a good four plus innings after that, and I really thought that was going to happen yesterday.

The way that it happened, it's acceptable because of the home runs. You know, it wasn't just all over the place, two walks and a base hit with an 0 2 count type of a thing. Guys hit home runs, and that happens.

I mean look at what we did. I think we set a record, the two teams combined, with seven home runs, and seven home runs prior to the end of the fifth inning.

His issues have been first inning issues which haven't been unique to him, but it seems like over the last five or six or seven starts it's kind of plagued him a little bit more than normal.

When you talk about the youth and success on this team do you think B.J. and Evan more than anyone epitomize it, and can you put into perspective what they've been able to do in the postseason?

JOE MADDON: Well, I'll address both of those guys. Let's go with B.J. because he had been here before. B.J. is just really blossoming into a very good baseball player. He's a tremendous athlete. He got here rather quickly.

To try to learn the game of baseball on this particular stage is not easy. You're going to be exposed, you're going to make mistakes. And it's mostly mistakes of the mind or judgment or just knowing what to do.

He accepts constructive criticism extremely well, and he's made a lot of good adjustments already this season. So with B. J., he's just basically touching the tip of what he's capable of doing, I really believe that.

You saw it in the bat last year a lot, you're starting to see it a little bit in the postseason right now. His defense, playing center field, he's becoming more accustomed to that. All this stuff is going to keep growing. I really believe that his base running skills, he's going to keep stealing more bases and getting thrown out less. He's got all that going on.

Evan, a little bit different because he came from Long Beach State, excellent baseball program. He came with a little bit -- he's more grounded in a baseball sense, understanding the game.

Furthermore, although B.J. is very calm, also. B.J. is a very calm baseball player. I love that about him, guys that you can actually talk to during the course of the game in a dugout and discuss strategy with them, and they're not wide eyed about it. They're both the same. You can discuss anything with them. You can tell them what you're thinking or what you'd like to see them try to do.

So both of them are unique, special, young, and again, a lot of room for growth yet, and both of them accept constructive criticism well. And really, it's going to be fun working with them for the next several years because they're both going to be very special major league baseball players.

You've seen Jon Lester the last couple years. What do you see him about this year?

JOE MADDON: Fastball command. Fastball command. Like a lot of young pitchers, he's a lot better with his fastball, throwing it where he wants to.

I thought when I first saw him, whether it was last year or before, really pulled off a lot of pitches, if you can imagine up and away from a righty a lot. And that just spoke to being in control of his inner emotions and then having that sense of belonging, I really believe this guy knows how good he is right now.

I really feel he's a lot like Danks with the White Sox, kind of blossomed at the same time. Similar pitcher, similar kind of stuff. He's got a very good breaking ball. He's got a good feel for what he's doing out there, and he's pitching with a lot of confidence.

Primarily it's been fastball command, and I just think for him it's been the experience of getting here and feeling like he belongs. This is what I've noticed from a distance.

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