Winter Meetings interview with Robin Ventura

Winter Meetings interview with Robin Ventura

            Q. As you sit here right now with Kenny talking this morning, is it hard for you to really ‑‑ you know certain spots that are locked down, but it's fluid, a work‑in‑progress?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah, you come down to these meetings, I think you leave the season, especially the way the season went, and you trade guys, have a deadline, get new guys, you kind of see how they play, and then you come down here, you know, there's stuff kind of flying everywhere, a lot of it probably not true, but, you know, it's stuff that's flying around.

            So you don't necessarily know what you're dealing with until probably you leave here and then have a better idea where you stand and what could happen, who you could be using.

            Q. Top of the order is something you guys wanted to address, lead‑off man. With all due respect to De Aza, he was not always comfortable in centerfield. So a centerfielder was on the list for you guys, right?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  You know, again, I think stuff that's being reported, that's something that we would like. I think that's an honest estimate of where we were last year, what you're looking for. Again, we need to be a little more balanced left‑handed, too, throughout our lineup.

            So there are things that we definitely need to improve and that's where you start.

            Q. There's been talk about going a little younger. Does that kind of suit you? You like that, younger, a little more energetic type of thing?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Again, you go through a season like you did last year, there are changes. When you make changes you would, for the most part, like to have a lot of young guys that are good and you have control over for a lot of years. I think that would be the plan for a lot of people.

            However, you do want guys that are established and know what you're going to get. So the combination is really perfect. I don't think going all young is going to be the ideal situation.

            Q. When you go through a year like last year, what sort of motivation may it give you, is there a sense of more determination?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah, there's all of that. There's all of that. But, again, it starts in Spring Training. I think it's good for everybody to get away, towards the end of the year you want everybody to refocus and come committed and prepared and ready to go. If you're not showing up ready to prove last year wrong, then you shouldn't be coming, because it was tough for everybody and it's not fun to watch, either.

            Q. You had a lot of veterans that couldn't get it done. What's fair to expect of young guys trying to come in and establish themselves?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Well, there are spots. Again, I think that's what happens when we have a season like we did. You see guys at the trade deadline that get traded. But guys that come in and have an opportunity to play, I think even in Spring Training, you are going to see guys that we have that you are going to give them an opportunity to see what they can do. Pretty much everything is on the table for guys to make an impact and see what they can do.

            Q. If you look at a roster now, you can probably make a roster if you had to. Would you feel more comfortable if there were other pieces involved?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  It's hard, again, right now. I think once we leave here, and I think that's part of being here is everybody is able to talk. Rick, that's basically what he's been doing, he's listening and seeing what makes sense. But I think once you get away from here you're going to get a better idea of what makes sense and how it's all going to fit.

            Q. What would you like to see for the starting catcher this season?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Well, I mean, I think both those guys would flow right now, they'll improve, I think offensively. I don't see Flow having the same kind of year. Physically there were some things that happened. Phegley, it was his first time up. You want them to improve. I think Flow calls a great game. You see Pheg go through that part of the year where it was different for him being called up and being a part of the action, but you want them to improve offensively.

            Q. Have you talked to Adam about maybe how you're going to handle ‑‑

            ROBIN VENTURA:  No, that's for later, we've got plenty of time to do that. Again, that's a situation that you have to mix and match and find common ground for both guys to be able to play. At times I think it's not necessarily on the left‑handed or right‑handed, it's what makes sense that day for us to win.

            Q. The defense was probably as good as anyone in 2012 baseball, 2013 it was not. Do you get a sense it's somewhere in the middle?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  It needs to be a lot better than it was last year, that's for sure. And I don't think last year is more indicative of what we are. Again, whether it's what it was in 2012, but we're better than we were last year and it needs to get better. Anytime you put that much heat on the pitching staff. Defense can be contagious, too, as far as making errors, trying to do too much, and again, not being able to score.

            Q. Improving outfield defense, where would you say was that on your team's priorities?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I'm not going to list it as one, two, three. But all the way around it needed to get better. And it's not just on the outfield, base runs the same thing. We had a lot of things that needed to get better. And that's stuff we take care of in Spring Training.

            Q. Defensively and offensively (INAUDIBLE)?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  It needs to be better. That's the bottom line. It just needs to be better. Again, our focus in Spring Training we're going to get everybody ready, but they have to understand there needs to be a better level of play in what we're doing.

            Q. There have been some changes in baseball with expanded replay and collisions. What are your thoughts on those two topics?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I think replay has probably become a natural progression as far as we have the technology to do it. In the end we want to get it right. And I think everybody is on board with that. You want to see it right. It will probably limit some of the going out and arguing and stuff like that. But in the end I think everybody is on board with just getting it right.

            Q. You guys probably aren't as set at third base as maybe other positions. As a former third baseman, is that a project of yours to work with that?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Well, right now, if that's what we've got, then, yeah, you sit there and it becomes part of your ‑‑ I think for me even with Joe doing our infield, I would say it's more my spot to kind of jump in and help out with third base. With shortstop, Joe would do that. I think we'd both get over there.

            And last year was Kon's first year. So there is a bit of a learning curve going into the first year trying to make it. And I still see him as a good player for us.

            Q. As far as catcher, is it something you might add somebody else in order to take a little pressure off of Tyler?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I think right now we're giving him more time. And if there's a way to improve, I'm sure Rick will look to do that.

            But, again, right now, where we sit, you're improving with what you've got. For me what we have on paper right now is all I'm looking at. The pie in the sky of what could possibly happen, because down here there's enough rumors. We could have a whole new roster by the time I have lunch.

            Q. (INAUDIBLE)?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  It's a report, it's not a fact.

            Q. The concept of going young started in July. And that could be daunting for any team, and especially a manager. Now that you see the names and the abilities that start to filter in, are you feeling better about it?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  For us you see Avi in right field, as a young player, what he brings to the table. Yeah, he's an exciting player. Abreu who is going to be at first base. It's exciting seeing what they can do giving them a full season. We'll be different, just because they're added for a full season, get them in Spring Training and go from there. Regardless of what happens from here on out, we are different moving into 2014.

            Q. Was there any point where you looked at it and said, oh, boy, this could be tough going this direction? Did that ever seem daunting?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I think when you start trading guys at the deadline you're looking at how you finish the year. And there's times when we were pretty young. We were pretty young the year before, had guys that performed and did well. We had a lot of guys out of the bullpen. When you lose Crain and he's gone, I think those are probably the biggest changes. We lost a few guys out there. You also lose Peavy and then Reyes. So you're getting young guys back, to see how they perform. And so far we like ‑‑ I think Avi is the biggest one we got.

            Q. This is the last year for your contract. Do you think about that in the end, do you talk about it?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I don't think about it. Again, I enjoy doing what I'm doing, I love who I work for. I'm just getting ready for the season. And whatever happens from here on happens. But I'm happy with what I do. I would like to keep doing it. But, again, that will be for later.

            Q. Do you look at it like I turned down the extension last year ‑‑

            ROBIN VENTURA:  No, no. Again, if for some reason Rick wants somebody else to do this, then he's going to have somebody else do this. That's just the way it works.

            Q. You take any offense when people ask you about personal business on your contracts, even though it's a public job, it's a personal contract?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  No, no. That's part of my ‑‑ I mean, really, this job, you can get criticized for anything, asked about anything. That's just part of this job. And I get it. I don't have to always answer it. But ‑‑

            Q. Yes, you do.

            ROBIN VENTURA:  No, I don't.

            Q. You usually do.

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Usually I do, but I don't why have to. Everybody asks.

            Q. Do you see Hector Santiago as a starter down the road or reliever, or is that yet to be determined?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  No, I think with us getting closer to the season, he's been that guy that's been able to do everything, and this year he was a starter. So I still see him as a starter, with what he did last year.

            But what he did in 2012 starting out as a closer, he's been a starter. He's kind of been in the bullpen doing a lot of different things. There's really nothing that he can't do pitching‑wise. I think he's that kind of kid.

            Q. I know you're not a pitching guy, per se, but do you see issues with his mechanics, repeating his delivery to be a consistent starter?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  No. I mean, again, everybody can improve. I think right now he had times last year with consistency of throwing strikes. But I think for the first time going through a full season as a starter, you would see a lot of guys have the same issue.

            Q. (INAUDIBLE) last year managing a difficult situation, and even the previous year when you had a winning team. Do you assess yourself?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I think anytime you go through a season like we did, it's harder. It's harder as far as keeping guys motivated, just upbeat and going, because losing is not fun. I've been on teams as a player that were the same way. And winning you don't have to do much. You just let them play.

            I don't know personally which ‑‑ I know this one was harder, a lot harder. But this one coming up is going to be better. That's the way you go about it.

            Q. Is there a natural energy to adding new ‑‑ assuming you're going to be even adding some today?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Did I say that? Well, I think if it's the right guy. I think you can ‑‑ it doesn't help you at all.

            Q. Is he the right guy?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I don't know who you're talking about. But, you know, again, when all this is being talked about, it has to be the right fit, get the right guy and you go from there. And if they are good players and go about their business and play well, it helps.

            Q. How about hard‑nosed, kind of scrappy kind of guys, do you like that kind of feel?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah.

            Q. (INAUDIBLE)?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  No, again, not much. But I've seen on video. Again, start adding pieces and see how all that fits in Spring Training.

            Q. I know this past year you guys had a fair number of injuries, but over I think the last six or seven years you've been among the lowest. What is the secret for you guys, not to jinx you or anything?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I don't think ‑‑ last year we had plenty of it. Again, the medical staff does a good job and you have to be lucky, too. There's a lot of it that ‑‑ I don't know if you can explain it, of how it happens, because there are some freak injuries that happen you don't foresee coming. But I hope it continues.

            Q. What are your thoughts on the home plate collisions?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Again, it's part of the game. But I think more of it needs to come maybe from catchers at the plate. It's always been part of the game. And for a lot of people it's an exciting part of the game. But you see the injuries that have happened over the last few years and you also wonder if it's really necessary. But it's been part of the game.

            Q. What do you expect from Ramirez? If you look at the whole of his season he's a real good player. What would you expect after some personal trauma was put behind him?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  It was a tough year, personally for him just emotional stuff. It's tough to separate it when you come to the ballpark. I thought he did the best he could of putting that aside. It's not always that easy to do, especially when you start losing games, that becomes a harder issue to kind of separate and put it aside. But he still put up numbers offensively.

            But defense is usually where that shows if your mind is wandering. So I expect him to be motivated. I think even with us signing Jose, for him to come in motivated and being a leader.

            Q. He hit a lot of ‑‑ he hit a lot of steals last year, was it primarily the function of you and the coaching staff picking spots for him?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  He has a bit of freedom to be able to do that. And more of him hitting higher up in the lineup was a better spot for him to steal bases. But, again, that's part of him improving and getting better and learning how to do it. But for me they need to have the ability to be motivated to do it and the freedom to do it. I think they were pretty aggressive in trying to do that.

            Q. Seems like every year we talk about (INAUDIBLE) does it seem like he's finally becoming that guy?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I think so. Last year the way he went through spring and the way he started, you know, really expected a great offensive year for him. And then he broke his hand on our first road trip. And I don't think at any point last year he was a hundred percent. That's just unfortunate. That's the way years go, something might happen and it derails that.

            But knowing the kind of kid he is and how hard he works, you know, the way he started that spring, and how motivated he was, I expect that same thing this year from him.

            Q. (INAUDIBLE)?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I think he can answer that a lot better than I can. Again, it's ‑‑ different people react differently. And so I know it was early on in the season it was tough. There was a lot of stuff that affected him. He's emotional and family means a lot to him. It's not always easy to push it aside when you're on the field. But I expect him to come in this year ‑‑

            Q. One of the guys who you were sort of counting on for more last year was Viciedo, disappointing, I know he was hurt for a while. Does he need to scale back on his swing a little bit, how does he get from where he's at to ‑‑

            ROBIN VENTURA:  There were points of that last year that he got to. He went through stretches where he looked as good as anybody. And he also swings as hard as anybody.

            When he did get hurt I think some of it helped him because he couldn't swing as hard as he had before. But that's part of him being a player and learning how to do it. He has the tools to do it. Again, we're looking at a kid that's continuing to grow and get better. We just want it ‑‑ I think everybody just wants it now. And everybody has their growing pains and being able to get there. But he does have the tools to do it.

            Q. You just punch him in the ribs and make sure he ‑‑

            ROBIN VENTURA: There was occasions where you wanted to bump him into somebody. But again, he's a good kid and you look for good things. He's continuing to grow and the potential is there. I think everybody has seen his power and his ability. When he goes on his little terrors, he carries the team.

            Q. You personally stepped out and thought he was going to have a big year last year. You said that. And that's not really your MO to make statements like that. Do you think it was ‑‑ that prediction was impacted by the injury most or ‑‑

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah, I think for a lot of guys that you look at them in Spring Training and you see how they're doing. Haven't seen other guys throughout my playing career, you see guys in Spring Training and you can tell something is different as far as just the way they're swinging, the way they're seeing the ball.

            He had that last year in Spring Training. Injuries will do that. I think anytime you have that kind of ‑‑ sets them off in a different direction. It's hard to get it back of what you had.

            Q. He came back from that injury driving the ball to right center and all of a sudden it disappeared?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah, and that's part of the evolution of him becoming a better player. And again, we're just continuing to be patient with him.

            Q. You go to Spring Training with the same plan or do you have to change things because of the way ‑‑

            ROBIN VENTURA:  I think you change it a bit. It's hard to just sit there and change the whole thing. But, again, I think the emphasis, last year we had an emphasis on defense and doing everything. But when you have a season like you did last year, it's pretty obvious to everybody it needs to improve. So everything needs to be sharper. It's pretty simple to explain to them.

            Q. (INAUDIBLE) are they players that make an impact?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah, I think as of today you would look at it like that, yeah, just the way ‑‑ the way we're constructed you have to have guys that are pretty versatile in a lot of different positions.

            Q. Is there a lot of energy in the room with the executives today ‑‑

            ROBIN VENTURA:  In ours?

            Q. Looking to rebuild what you've got or retool, whatever you want to call it?

            ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah. Again, I think you listen to a lot of different things. But you also realize that you can't do all of those things. There are things that make sense that you become ‑‑ you come down here with kind of the idea that you want to try to find the right move to improve, you listen to it. I think we're doing a great job of doing that since we've been down here. And you realize that you've got to get better. There's a lot of listening going on right now.