Winter Meetings interview with Ned Yost

Q. How much better are you guys now than you were in October?

NED YOST: Yeah, we're better. We're more experienced. The majority of our kids now have a year, year and a half of experience under their belt, not only American League experience, Major League experience, but experience with dealing with expectation I think is a great experience.

I think we're better off in our starting rotation than we were at the end of the year. The addition of Guthrie and Santana has been a big boost for us, and I think it's going to be very, very beneficial.

Q. Can you still do more in that rotation?

NED YOST: Well, we would like to have more, but there's again, you've kind of got to look into the crystal ball and none of us have one. I personally think that, yes, starting pitching you can't have enough of it. I would like to have as much as I can get. But at what cost? I think that's important to me. I think that Bruce Chen has been phenomenal for us. He's won, what, 35, 36 games in the last three years for us, and I think he'll continue to do that, and I look for Luke Hochevar to continue to bounce back, I really do.

You know, I think Luke has got great stuff, and I feel good every time he steps on the mound. You know, the optimist in me thinks that he's going to have a great year. But would I like to have another starting pitcher. Would I like to have two more starting pitchers? Sure, I think every Major League manager would.

Q. (Inaudible).

NED YOST: But I don't pay attention to that really. One, he's got great stuff; two, he's a great competitor; three, he's not afraid. Everybody has issues, and you can really pinpoint why a guy doesn't have success more times than not. You can look at a pitcher and you can see makeup flaws maybe or maybe it's his stuff or maybe he doesn't know enough strikes, or maybe the quality of his pitches aren't really, really good. I don't see any of that with Hochevar. I like the quality of his pitches, I like his stuff. I like the way that he competes on the mound. I like his makeup. He's not scared. He goes right after hitters, he does his homework. All the intangibles are there to have success, he just hasn't had it. And I think at the blink of an eye, it can turn around for him. I just think he's going to have a good year.

Q. Are you puzzled that it hasn't clicked for him yet?

NED YOST: Yeah, of course I am. I really I've never had a player and I don't want to say confuse me, but I've never had a player that I couldn't figure out why he hasn't been successful. Because like again, we talked about it, you can generally identify one thing why he's not successful. With Hochevar I can't. I just think it's a matter of time before he does, and I think that this year with the addition of Santana, with the addition of Guthrie yeah, from the beginning. I think it's really, really going to help him.

Q. Santana having an off year last year, what qualities do you see in him?

NED YOST: I see a kid that has a tremendous slider. I see a kid that's highly motivated to have success. When I talked to Mike Butcher, Butch told me before we made a deal, when I was just talking to him about him, he said, you know, Santana every time he's had a rough year, he's always bounced back very, very strong, and I look for him to do this again.

You know, he's a tremendous talented pitcher who has headed up a really good rotation and pitched in the playoffs before. I think he's going to be in our park with our defense, I think he's going to be a pretty good year.

Q. So much focus on the starting rotation. Does this team hit well enough?

NED YOST: Yes.

Q. The numbers say it didn't last year.

NED YOST: Well, it didn't last year. Yeah.

Q. Why do you think the numbers

NED YOST: Well, because I think that Hosmer struggled last year, I think Moustakas really struggled last year, even though he had good stretches and bad stretches, and Frenchy, of course he had his struggles last year. I think that with a bit of a change in philosophy offensively, I think it's going to make a big difference for us. I think Oz is going to get back on track, I think Mous is going to get back to being the moose that he can be, and I think Frenchy is going to have a good year. I've talked to Frenchy a couple times this winter. He's working real diligently, and I think he's going to be bounce back and be very, very productive.

You know, we had guys that had good years. Alex Gordon had a great year. Escobar had a good year. But I think that we are going to improve our power potential more than anything else. I think we're going to be able to hit more home runs as a group. Again, Billy got to 29 last year. You know, for Billy to win the Silver Slugger in the American League as the DH I thought was a phenomenal accomplishment for him and just gives him a little bit of dew on how good he really is.

When you win the Silver Slugger as a DH, that means pretty much the best hitters on the team, guys whose sole job is to hit baseballs, and he's the best of the best. I think that gives him a little dew finally.

But I think we're all capable of producing more runs, and I think that that's going to happen.

Q. Wil Myers, your prospect, where does he fit in? What kind of shot does he have?

NED YOST: He'll get a shot come Spring Training to see what he can do. We just take it from that. He'll be in Spring Training and get to play a lot like all the young guys do, and we'll just see where he's at.

Q. He's showing a lot of power?

NED YOST: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Q. Have you had any conversations with Myers?

NED YOST: No, because they're just that, they're rumors. Like all organizations have, we've been locked up in our room going over about 90 different scenarios with about 40 different players. They're just rumors right now. No, we don't try to get anybody worked up over a rumor.

Q. Can you envision a scenario where you would be pursuing a top starter and be willing to part with

NED YOST: Absolutely, absolutely, but I have give you like nine more different scenarios that we don't have time to get to. We're looking at all of our options; we really are. We feel like we're really close to being able to compete, and we're looking at every option that we can. Dayton has worked really hard over the last five years to fill our Minor League system with tremendous prospects that we could use for situations like this. So we're looking at a bunch of different options. And one may work out, and none of them may work out, we don't know. We're just going to do what's best for our organization.

Q. In the Mexican League, how do you think is going to be the next year for Joakim Soria.

NED YOST: Yeah, well, Luis Mendoza will come to Spring Training as it stands right now and get a chance to be in the rotation. We liked what he did last year. We felt like he had a really, really good year for us. Not having Soria next year, at least until the All Star Break, if he does sign back with us, will hurt, but whoever gets him after the All Star Break is going to get a tremendous pitcher. And the thing about Mendoza, I think, which even if he comes in and competes for a starting job and he doesn't win it, we still love him as a long guy in our pen. We think he's a perfect long guy. You know, he's made a name for himself in our pitching staff.

Q. A couple of minutes ago you talked about a change in offensive philosophy. Is that change hitting more home runs?

NED YOST: Well, yeah, because our philosophy last year a little bit was more the middle, the opposite way. I want to start opening it up a little bit. I want to start pulling the ball a little bit more. I don't want a ton of strikeouts, but I would rather strike out than hit the ball deep to the right center field wall and have it caught unless there's a man on third base or a man on second base. I'd rather just open up the offense a little bit. I'd rather start taking some good swipes at the ball and trying to put the ball in the stands because I think we've got guys that can do it. I think Salvador Perez can hit 20 to 25 home runs. I think Hosmer can hit 30. I think Moustakas can hit 30. I think Gordon can hit 30. I think Cain can hit 20. I think eventually Wil Myers can hit 20. I think Billy Butler can hit 40 home runs. He's got that kind of pop.

I want us to open up our offense a little bit more and start using the long ball a little bit more to our advantage, which I think we're capable of doing.

Q. Does your ballpark work against you a little bit?

NED YOST: It's a big ballpark and it works against us, but we've got guys that can actually do it. So I think it works for us because it helps our pitchers. Both teams play in it. I think we're capable of hitting home runs in that park. Yeah, you're not going to get as many as if you were in Camden Yards or some of the smaller fields that are exciting, but it plays to our advantage in terms of our pitching and defense, too, so it works both ways.

Q. Is Cain going to Spring Training and your regular starter?

NED YOST: Yeah.

Q. Any other possibilities there?

NED YOST: I need him to be healthy. You know, we've got him and Dyson coming to Spring Training, but we need Cain to be healthy because if he's healthy, he's a pretty integral part of our defense, especially up the middle. And I think he is, he's working really hard. I think he's going to be okay.

Q. Can you talk about the 3 spot?

NED YOST: I don't know what I'm doing right there. I've got two or three guys I can put in the 3 spot once they start swinging the bat the way I know they can swing it. I think ideally Eric Hosmer would fit best there. We love Billy in the 4. Gordy can hit anywhere from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, depending on what we've got. You know, he's the one guy that's a pretty interchangeable piece, can handle all aspects of hitting from 1 to 6.

Q. What happened to his power this year? He had a very good year, but it was more doubles.

NED YOST: Again, it was more trying to hit the ball the other way.

Q. (Inaudible).

NED YOST: 140, and I hope it's not 159 or 160. I hope I can give him a break here and there. But I love that kid. I have a hard time not playing him. I love to write his name in the lineup because he's that special. I mean, I've never had a catcher with the talent and the ability that this young man has, nor the makeup or the leadership on the field that this young man has. I think ideally if we can get him into 140 games, but I think reality is going to be probably more like 150 if he stays healthy.

Q. What do you see from Jake Odorizzi?

NED YOST: Well, first of all, we've got to see what our rotation looks like. We've got to see who we've got that he's competing against. But I saw Jake last year two starts at the end of the year, and he was a little worn down. Jake is a 22 year old kid that still has room to fill out in his body and get a lot stronger. When he does, he's going to be a very, very solid middle of the rotation starter, I think. But I've always liked Jake Odorizzi from the time I was in Milwaukee. We drafted him No. 1 over there and got a chance to watch him, love his makeup. We'll just see where everything falls and where everybody is at, but he'll definitely get a chance to compete.

Q. Is fixing Hosmer as simple as a clean slate?

NED YOST: Yeah, it really is, and getting back to working with Jack Maloof, who he worked with his whole Minor League career, Jack and Andre David, our two new hitting coaches, have been with these kids from the minute that they signed, so Jack knows him inside and out, knows what makes him tick, he knows when something goes wrong, he knows what it is and he knows how to fix it. So him and Jack are working already, and I think by the time Spring Training comes around we're going to see a pretty dynamic Eric Hosmer.

Q. (Inaudible).

NED YOST: I think Johnny is going to be fine. Again, you know, I think he came up and tried to do a little too much offensively. The upgrades that Johnny has put in his game defensively for me was very, very impressive from the time he left Spring Training until the time he got to the Big Leagues, and I think, again, Jack and Andre, they know Johnny, they've been with Johnny, they know his ins and outs. I think that with them, Johnny is going to continue to be the offensive type player that he was in Triple A and has been his whole Minor League career.