Winter Meetings interview with Bud Black

Winter Meetings interview with Bud Black

Q. What's new?

BUD BLACK: As far as the Winter Meetings go, not much new for us. We signed Jason. Josh was working on that for a while. I think that was going to come to a good result for us. It's good to have him back in the field. I think he was a big part of stabilizing our pitching staff when he came on board.

Unfortunately, he missed some time there at the end of the year. I think it's good to get him back in the fold to go with Clayton and Edinson and Stults. And then from there, the rest of the group we'll try to figure out in Spring Training.

Position player wise, pretty much straightforward. We've talked about it. There's not a lot to change, and I think not a reason to change. Those guys played good the second half. You look at the offensive production of the second half, it was solid. Hopefully, that can continue into 2013. See what some of our younger guys that are projected to maybe have some offense and guys that are coming back.

Q. If you didn't make another move between now and Spring Training, do you think you've got enough right now to make a run like you did in 2010?

BUD BLACK: You never know how a year's going to play out, Bill. That's why we play, and I don't want to make any predictions.

I like the way we ended the season last year, there's no doubt about it. We've got the same group of position players coming back, and with a couple guys maybe trying to fight to get op the club. It depends -- like every club, I think it depends on how you pitch. Last year it was a tough year for us on the mound, primarily health wise. Clayton did a nice job and Edinson in spurts through some great games. Stults pitched well.

Down the line, I think we have to have a healthy year on the mound, do what we did offensively the second half of the year, and then we'll see how the year plays out.

As far as the predictions, can we do what we did in 2010, you'd like to think so. You'd like to think you can do good things every year.

Q. Buddy, in terms of the ballpark modifications, maybe this question's best asked a year from now, but certainly there's some data that you guys have gone over. Do you have any sense at all of how things will play?

I know it was a move toward neutrality, not a move to it. Will we see an uptick in offense?

BUD BLACK: I suspect so. Common sense tells me that, because the fences are coming closer, there's going to be more homers. It's shorter, right? So whether that leads to more runs for us over our opposition, I don't know.

I think we've talked about this before. The changes aren't drastic, but I do think there's enough significance in the distance that's been shaved off that it's going to help -- it's going to help the psyche of our offensive players.

And I think it does come back a little bit more towards neutral. Doesn't quite get there. Until then, the park is going to slant towards the pitching, but I think certain parts of our park play to an extreme. I'd say the majority of our park plays toward the extreme. Straightaway center doesn't. Straightaway left doesn't, but there's a lot of feet across the outfield that play extreme.

Q. That three month sample size offensively from July 1st on, was that as good of an offense that you've had in your six seasons?

BUD BLACK: I think so, yeah. I haven't looked at all the numbers based on what we did in 2007. 2010, we pitched extremely well, played great defense, but I think overall run production and just the names in the lineup and what they were doing was pretty -- is probably as good as we've seen in my six years.

Q. So right now are you looking for bullpen or starting?

BUD BLACK: I think we're looking more towards starting pitchers.

Q. Because of the ballpark, were you guys at any kind of competitive advantage in the market as far as a reputation of hitters not wanting to come?

BUD BLACK: It works both ways. I think we were able to attract some pitchers, if you look back, you look at Maddux, Wolf, Garland and Harang. On the hitting side, we traded for some players. I don't know whether financially we were in a situation, as far as free agency, to acquire other types of players.

We might not have attracted certain players who just didn't want to come because of the ballpark, sure. But it works both ways. If you can get the pitcher, we might not be able to get the hitter.

Q. With right field getting shorter like it does, given the atmospheric conditions, any thought to putting Quentin in right and the other guys in left?

BUD BLACK: I don't think so. I think, even though a majority of Carlos' games have been in right in his career, he adapted very well to left. In his words, he said, hey, I'm an outfielder. So he can play the outfield. It doesn't matter left or right.

I still think on balance in left field there's a little bit less room to cover, and I think with Will and Dino or whoever is out in right field, I think there is a little bit more room to cover. So I think it makes sense to have that player who provides the most range.

Q. You like your middle infield depth? Do you feel there's enough pieces to mix and match there too?

BUD BLACK: Parrino was a nice fit on a 25 man roster. With Cabbie and Logan and Alexi, that's a nice group. Jed's going to come into Spring Training and show what he can do at second base. Beyond that, I think A.J. and Josh are looking at some free agents to maybe give us some depth maybe on the minor league side. I'm not sure where that's going to lead, but I think we'll probably have to get some coverage in the minor leagues for sure. Parrino is with the Oakland Athletics.

Q. How about Blanks?

BUD BLACK: Blanks fits probably with Darnell in that mix of guys coming back from injuries. Blanks has got to get back from playing. He's playing now in Puerto Rico, but Blanks has missed significant time over the last couple of years -- at bats, playing the field, just playing, baseball shape, grinding out a season. So he's got to get back to playing and prove that he's a major league player.

He's got options or an option, as does Darnell, so they're looking at that grouping of Blanks, Darnell, Guzman, right handed bat, trying to force their way onto the roster. If they don't make the club, they go to AAA and play their butts off in case there's a need in the big leagues for a guy to be called up.

But Blanksy's versatile that he can play left or right or first. Darnell's proved that he can play the outfield now too. So really the beauty of all those guys, even Darnell, Blanks, Guzy -- just the flexibility. That was a big part of last year that we can move some guys around and feel comfortable without losing any defense and keeping offense.

Q. Do you feel that Carlos last year, when he came back from knee surgery, showed up in May, immediately hit right out of the shoe. Did you kind of have to watch the knee and give him a little rest? Are you convinced or will time tell whether the second procedure he had done in October bears watching and maybe a blow now and then?

BUD BLACK: As you know, we worry about our players all the time, healthy or guys that are coming off some injury. But with Carlos he's got some -- he's had some surgeries on the knees, so we're going to have to watch him. This will be gauged by Carlos and how he's doing and how he's feeling.

So we know that there are going to be times when we will -- like all our players, try to give him a blow here and there, but we'll probably monitor Carlos probably closer than some guys.

So from where he is right now, seeing him down at the ballpark, he's in great spirits about how his knee feels. He feels good about his off season program. He's staying right here in San Diego working with Rick Stauffer. He knows this is a big off season for him. He's not taking it lightly as far as his responsibility of what he means to our club, and that's a great thing.

So to your point, we'll monitor Carlos, just like we do all our players.

Q. Would you like to see him get a couple pounds off the knee?

BUD BLACK: I think that was his goal, not by any means was it a directive. He goes, hey, I need to -- he wasn't able to do a lot of the things cardiovascularly that he wanted to do because of the knees. He knows, as you gain ten and you move on in your career, you have to monitor your weight, and he's on board with that. He'll be the first to tell you.

Q. Does he allow you to slide guys into spots where maybe they're a little more conducive? Is the lineup function better 1 through 8 with him in it other than just what he does himself?

BUD BLACK: I think with him in the lineup and what he can do, it makes us a better roster for sure. And I think with certain young players -- you know, specifically Yonder and Yasmani. If he's hitting fourth, certain players might take a little different approach to hitting fourth. He does take a little pressure off of guys, and he's a good offensive player. He makes us better.

And there's no doubt he helps lengthen out our lineup when we have what we feel is our full complement of players.

Q. Bud, how would you characterize the team's discussion so far in Nashville in terms of making some kind of move.

BUD BLACK: I would characterize them as we're probably not engaged as much as a lot of other clubs because in a lot of ways our position players are set. We didn't have a lot of free agents. Those that we did have are projected to be signed straight, Quentin primarily. We resigned Marquis. So we didn't have a lot of position players on the board this winter.

So position player wise, there wasn't a need to do a lot of things, where a lot of clubs probably feel as though they have to.

Pitching wise, again, free agents, except for Marquis, our bullpen is pretty set. We're looking for some starting pitching, as is everybody. So on balance, I would say that our engagement with other clubs and representatives of players has probably been on the minimal side. That's how I would gauge it.

Q. Are you confident or hopeful that you're going to be able to keep Chase long term in San Diego?

BUD BLACK: I'm both confident and hopeful, yes.

Q. Speaking of starting pitchers, your general manager, Mr. Byrnes, showed a great deal of interest in Daisuke Matsuzaka. What kind of player is he, in your opinion?

BUD BLACK: Of Daisuke? Well, I don't know Daisuke personally. I've seen him pitch on television. I've seen him pitch live -- I think, did he face us?

Q. '07.

BUD BLACK: Yeah. But he's an experienced pitcher. He comes with a great reputation from Japan, obviously, when he came over here and signed with the Red Sox. Where he is now in his career, I think there's been some ups and downs on the health side, correct? So my view, my first question would be is he a healthy player? Is he capable of going to a major league Spring Training with the team and competing for a spot if he's healthy?

But there's no doubt that he has the weapons to compete in the major leagues. I'm not sure what his motivation is to pitch anywhere else other than Boston. Have they -- I'm not -- to be honest, I'm not keeping up on his whereabouts and where he's headed, but I do know he's a fine pitcher. He's pitched some very good games in the major leagues.

Q. With these considerations, could he be a good candidate for your organization?

BUD BLACK: I think our general manager is exhausting all options, and I'm sure that, along with many other major league starting pitchers, Daisuke is one of those guys that we've discussed.

Q. What type of workload can you expect from Casey Kelly this season?

BUD BLACK: Casey, unfortunately, he was one of a few guys that missed significant time last year with the inflamed elbow. We think that Casey's getting to the point where he's past the early stages of a professional career. The first couple of years coming out of high school, it's always a little tricky on how you handle a younger pitcher, especially a guy like Casey who really didn't pitch a lot as a high school player.

But I think he's getting to the point now, size and strength, maturity, mentality, that he's ready to take on a workload of significance as a starting pitcher. A lot of his performance and workload will be determined on his health, but we expected that last year. It was derailed. But I suspect that Casey should be able to make, if healthy, up to 30 starts, wherever that might be, in AAA or in the major leagues, and hopefully -- I don't know whether it's an expectation for him to pitch 200 innings, but I think definitely there's a place somewhere below that that he can put on his list of goals to make close to 30 starts and log somewhere below 200 hits. And above 100.

Q. Where are you right now with Andrew Cashner and how he fits in. What kind of shape he's in?

BUD BLACK: Cash is in good shape. As a matter of fact, I think Josh is going to have news on Cash when we leave here. Cash is in the mix. I'm not sure when, but he's in the mix.

Q. What's your starting rotation right now? How deep can you go with Volquez, Marquis.

BUD BLACK: I think Volquez, Clayton Richard, Jason Marquis, Eric Stults -- you know, Stultsy pitched good for us last year. He's got a leg up going into Spring Training. Jason's got a leg up. So does Clayton. After that, you talk about Cash, you talk about Bass, you talk about Kelly. Robbie Erlin, that group, Tyson Ross is in that mix.

And the thing about it, we think that probably not with Casey, but with Ross and Bass, if those guys don't make our team as a starter, they could fit in the bullpen. But, again, they're younger guys with options that give us a little bit of depth if they don't break camp in our rotation.

Q. So basically, you're out there looking for one more solid pitcher.

BUD BLACK: Yeah, to be fair, I think probably one more guy would make us all feel a little bit more comfortable about the rotation going into the spring.

Q. And this is basically really an offshoot of you have to have a solid rotation to win in this division.

BUD BLACK: I think you have to have a solid rotation anywhere.

Q. But more so maybe in the NL West when you're up against the Giants and Dodgers and Diamondbacks?

BUD BLACK: I think, in this division, yes. If you went through the exercise, just off the top of my head, if you went through the exercise of 1 through 5 starting pitchers and the quality and the talent and depth, national league west would win.

Q. Especially if the Dodgers add Zack Greinke.

BUD BLACK: They're going to add at some point. The Giants have proved year after year, and the health and durability of that group in San Francisco has been a huge part of what they've been 2 out of the last 3 years. The Diamondbacks with young arms, solid young pitchers. The Rockies, they get Chacin back and De La Rosa, Pomeranz. They've got some Rockets too.

Q. Speaking of the World Series, spending the money, Giants winning the last 2 out of 3 years, you're rebuilding. Does that figure into anything of how you approach your young team and your players. Could they get overwhelmed by that?

BUD BLACK: I hope not. I don't think so. In general, players have a lot of pride in what they can do and their ability. I think players are -- they know, when they take the field -- we took the field against the Dodgers last year after they made that trade, and our guys faced Victorino. Our hitters faced Beckett. They know what's in front of them. I think guys like the challenge.

I think there's a lot of players that sort of relish that underdog role, trying to slay Goliath, that's a good thing. We have some younger players, no doubt, but knowing our guys, they'll be up for the challenge.

Q. Bud, you don't see a lot of people make the move from pitching coach to manager. Is there something -- is there a particular challenge to that?

BUD BLACK: I think the main challenge is the initial perception from people who might not know that particular pitcher or ex pitcher. I think, if you talk to people once they -- or those people who have been around that particular pitcher, they can probably tell you more about it than I can.

I think the perception is the major hurdle to get over for the pitcher.

Q. How important is it to establish a strong relationship with your pitching coach to make sure the message is the same when you're working with pitchers?

BUD BLACK: Well, that's important. I think it's important to establish a strong relationship with all your coaches. But in my case, coming to San Diego -- every organization is different, but Darren and I were aligned philosophically on the basic pitching principles. So I knew I didn't have to get into philosophical debates with Darren over pitching.

His thoughts and my thoughts are alike. Just even going back to Anaheim, when you have -- when Mike was managing and I was the pitching coach, we were aligned a lot on our thoughts. So Mike is had a strong opinion about pitching, but I think he probably felt that, because where I stood on that, we were in pretty good shape, and I feel the same way with Darren. I let him do his thing. I empower our coaches because I know at the core of his teachings are the things that I believe in. So it worked out.

There's no doubt, if I hired a pitching coach or inherited a pitching coach that believed in the high fastball and the hanging breaking ball, we'd be in trouble.