Winter Meetings interview with Bob Melvin

Winter Meetings interview with Bob Melvin

            Q. Bob, how do you feel about how things stand with your team right now, especially with the moves you guys made last week, and so many of them?

            BOB MELVIN:  We did in a short period of time and it all came together at the same time. We're very pleased with how our club sets up right now. We feel like we're improved, and improved from a team that's won the West the last two years. Billy has done a great job in a short period of time. And I think it came down in about 48 hours or less.

            Q. Do you feel like you fulfilled all the needs you had envisioned?

            BOB MELVIN:  Yeah, you're always going to have to look to replace the free agents that go away, so we've done that, whether it's Kazmir in a starting role and Johnson in a closing role. And you take a look and see what you feel like the deficiencies were, where you can get better.

            Obviously our bullpen looks to be even deeper this year, and that's been a strength for us, and certainly quite a luxury for a manager to have a deep bullpen.

            Q. You used an assistant, you had so many platoons, then last year it seemed like Chris never got comfortable with it. Having Gentry who is used to playing a role off the bench. Does that make a difference having a guy that you know can handle a job like that?

            BOB MELVIN:  There was more uncertainty with it. There was an unknown with Chris, being a guy that was an everyday player. Still a good player, but just had a little trouble acclimating to that role, whether it was the lack of consistent at-bats, not playing the same position, he'd been a centerfielder his entire career, so some of those things were uncomfortable for him, yet he worked through it and did the best he could with it. It was never a problem for us.

            A guy like Gentry is one of the premiere role-type players, at least in our mind. And it fits us very well that he can give Coco a day off in centerfield. He can play all three of the outfield spots. Left-handed pitching very well, a great fit to us.

            Q. How do you see your DH situation right now?

            BOB MELVIN:  Again, it depends on what we feel like the lineup's going to be on a particular day. I don't think there's a set DH. And I think we're probably better off being able to rotate it to give some guys days off. Whether it's Cespedes or Coco, guys that get nicked up and play hard. If you can give them days off DHing, I think that works better for us than having a full-time DH.

            Q. Do you see Jaso getting significant time, because the concussion, and also he came up later in the year?

            BOB MELVIN:  It depends, definitely. Depends on what 25 we go with to start. But that is certainly the potential to get John some more at-bats and that DH role, the potential is there for that.

            Q. Your club has had the best record in the American League. Is it fair to expect improvement from that level, based on what you're saying?

            BOB MELVIN:  You know, as far as winning games? I don't know if -- that's a little tougher to predict. I think the best you can do as an organization is just try to get better, what you feel is the better team. Hopefully we stay healthy and hopefully guys perform to the levels or better than we've seen in the past. But it's difficult to predict.

            Q. What's your reaction (INAUDIBLE)?

            BOB MELVIN:  This is my third full year with Oakland and I've had this question three years in a role now. Pujols and it was Hamilton and now it's Cano. And we're used to it in our division. Just something you have to deal with.

            We concern ourselves more with us than we do the other teams, although it's probably a nice pickup for the Mariners, definitely.

            Q. People are amazed at the A's ability to succeed as you have with a marginal budget. How do you overcome those disadvantages?

            BOB MELVIN:  I don't even concern myself with the payroll. It is what it is, and Billy has been able to maneuver and do his thing with what's not one of the higher payrolls in the League. And been able to do it successfully.

            So as a group we feel like we're a good team, regardless of what the payroll is. And we don't talk about it. We don't address it as a team. It's not a distraction for us, and we don't think it holds us back. Again, our front office has done a great job over the years being able to operate under those constraints.

            Q. You obviously have a number of starting pitchers, probably more than you can fit into your everyday rotation. Do you get nervous at all when you hear things like there are trade rumors involving some of your starters, would you rather have a big group to look at?

            BOB MELVIN:  We've proven that the depth is the key for us. We've had injuries over the last couple of years, case in point, Tommy Milone, a guy that gets sent down to the Minor Leagues, and comes back and pitches two really big games for us. To have that kind of depth, especially for an organization that's not -- doesn't have the highest payroll, is really a luxury for us.

            So whether or not we need to deal from that strength to enhance other areas, we're still debating that, but it's always nice to have more than less.

            Q. Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick both have a lot of swing and miss to their games. Is that simply who they've always been and always will be or do they need to make adjustments going forward?

            BOB MELVIN:  Well, you're always trying to get better. In Brandon Moss's case, you know, you're looking at 30 home runs, and not even an everyday role. You know you're going to get some swings and misses with him.

            I think Josh Reddick is going to get better as his career goes along in cutting down the strikeouts. Last year he had some wrist injuries, wasn't a hundred percent the whole year. But he's going to make a conscious effort to put the ball in play more and has the ability to do it.

            Q. With no negative impact on home runs?

            BOB MELVIN:  You know what, whether or not he hits 30-plus again, I don't know, especially in our ballpark. But we feel like he can definitely be a 20 guy all the time. He's a great baserunner, a Gold Glove outfielder. When he's looking to improve things, one is putting the ball in play a little bit more.

            Q. You talked a little bit about the payroll. Can you talk about --

            BOB MELVIN:  I didn't.

            Q. When you talk about the new posting system, do you think that would be like an advantage for like teams like your team, smaller market team?

            BOB MELVIN:  It could be. Has there been a decision made on that yet? See, I don't know. It could be. It certainly would allow some other teams to get involved that in the past wouldn't be able to.

            Q. If that becomes an agreement, you might go bid on --

            BOB MELVIN:  You're asking the wrong guy. I think Billy will be by a little bit later.

            As far as starting pitchers go, we do have quite a few starting pitchers. I don't know that's a focal point right now, but you can't help but look at the numbers, he's going to be a premiere guy.

            Q. You're always looking at the Japanese market?

            BOB MELVIN:  Absolutely. Absolutely.

            Q. At any given moment in the game the manager has dozens of things to consider. If this goes the way we think it's going to, whether or not the challenge is going to be another one, how big is that going to be to add another layer of responsibility?

            BOB MELVIN:  I don't know until you actually have to deal with it. And I don't think -- I'll probably learn a lot more tomorrow about what they're looking at. But it is, I mean, it's not my desire to be an umpire. You look at all the different variables and we do want to expand replay. You do want to get it right. Everybody is on board for that. How it actually goes down, I'm not sure yet.

            But if I have to -- if it ends up like pro football and you have to be a pseudo-umpire at times, that's going to be something you have to deal with.

            Q. As a former catcher, what do you think of the proposed new rules for collisions?

            BOB MELVIN:  Again, I'll have to take a look at that, too. A lot of it is instinctive as far as what you're doing behind the plate as far as blocking the plate. Again, I'll hear more about that tomorrow, too.

            I just don't know how you enforce it. But obviously if it's gotten to this point where they're close to making a decision on it, then they have some ideas. I just haven't heard it yet.

            Q. Was there anybody on the team who made a specific adjustment in the later portion of the season that you think in the spring will have a breakthrough season?

            BOB MELVIN:  Oh, I think we have quite a few guys. You look at what Josh Donaldson did, we feel like Derek Norris has a chance to up his game. Jed Lowrie had a nice year for us. Cespedes and Reddick didn't have their best years, which for me is encouraging, that the rest of the guys picked up the slack. And they're going to have better years than last year.

            So to try to single out one guy and to springboard what we're looking for down the road, we've been pretty successful the last couple of years, I think we try to get incrementally better and address each player.

            Q. What kind of role do you see for Callaspo right now?

            BOB MELVIN:  It depends. Fortunately for him he can do everything. Play third. He was an every day third baseman. Able to give Josh his days off. He's played second in his career. And who knows, we might have him play a little bit of first base, too. He can hit. And whether he's starting or not, he's also a weapon coming off the bench.

            So, again, for him, it will be kind of the same as far as the role goes. But even adding potential positions.

            Q. Is he your first option to back up Josh at third or is Punto -- where do you use Punto?

            BOB MELVIN:  Again, everywhere. There could be days that you see both those guys in the lineup. Punto could play short, give Jed a day off. Or Jed could DH and Callaspo can play third.

            One thing that we've done over the course of my tenure here is add to the flexibility. And we try to get the right matchups. And when you have two -- add two guys, a Callaspo and Punto, who are switch hitters as well, you're going to get your matchups.

            Q. Can Callaspo potentially as an option, is his height a consideration?

            BOB MELVIN:  You know, Daric Barton is not the tallest guy in the world, either. It does help when you have a big target over there. But it's not like it's an exclusive for that position to have to be tall.

            Q. One of the things you're so great at is mixing and matching, you were just talking about flexibility and getting the most out of the guys you've got. How do you do that? How do you get the most out of guys when they don't play every day? How do you prepare them for certain platoon roles and mix and match?

            BOB MELVIN:  It's communication. And they have to know how we're trying to do things. Getting them to buy in, everybody wants to be an everyday player. But trying to explain to them, this is the way we're going to do things, and we feel like the team benefits because of it, is kind of the route that I take.

            Now, they're not always going to like what they hear, but as long as you keep them abreast, you're communicative with them, they can prepare accordingly for the job that you have for them, and I felt -- I felt to this point that's the best way to do it.

            Q. Lowrie last year came to camp anticipating having a super role. He is an everyday player?

            BOB MELVIN:  Yeah, he is for us. Nakajima never made it to the big leagues for us, and we thought initially he would be our shortstop and Jed would move around everywhere. Jed was very comfortable at short. Look at the numbers he put up, certainly offensively last year, and he's established himself as a guy that can play shortstop every day.

            Q. Nakajima has --

            BOB MELVIN:  One more year. He could be in the same situation he was in last year. I mean as the way it sits right now.

            Q. Does the organization see him as a third baseman now?

            BOB MELVIN:  I think potential, we would move him around. Last year we kept him at short for obvious reasons. But this year we'll probably move him around a little bit more to give him an opportunity to get to the big league level with us. And in whatever role that may be.

            Q. One of the things that Cespedes was good in the first seasons was his ability to adjust. Was there something he didn't adjust to last season, he did have a better September, but he had a lot of ups and downs?

            BOB MELVIN:  Well, you know what I think, you look at it from a personal standpoint, you get off to a slow start, the expectations for you personally are high, not only the organization, but him. And now he has some injuries on top of it, the numbers start to be less appealing, and I think at times you try to do too much.

            He does have the ability to make adjustments, you saw it the year before, whether it's laying off breaking balls off the plate. I think there was a period of time where he was trying to do too much and trying to make up for a slow start and some injuries. But once you saw him get to September when your numbers are going to be your numbers, once you get past August. He had a good September. Hit well in the postseason. He had the ability to do that. He just got bogged down a little bit trying to do too much.

            Q. Was there any effect from the Home Run Derby, maybe overswinging a bit?

            BOB MELVIN:  I really don't. The injury he had afterward had nothing to do with that. I think it was just trying to do too much and hit home runs, hit the ball out of the ballpark, to make up for some numbers that were lacking to that point.

            Q. A fine line between just -- 88 and 94 wins, going to October or not is a game a month. And the ability to find a win, whether it's taking an extra base or holding a run. It seems you can measure a lot of things, but how you find a way to win those six extras, it really is kind of interesting that talent sometimes isn't just the only thing.

            BOB MELVIN:  Right. And I think in past years certainly during like the "Money Ball" years that our organization had the perception that it just valued on-base percentage. But that's not it. We value defense and base running as much as anything now.

            And you can -- when you're talking about intrinsic things, little things that help you get from that 88 to 94 or 96, a lot of it doesn't show up in the stats. A lot of it is taking an extra base, getting yourself into scoring position, a lot of those type of things. And we work very hard on that.

            Q. How hard do you work on getting players to understand that, given a Tuesday night in June, that could be the game?

            BOB MELVIN:  That's what you try to imply in Spring Training is leave it all out there for nine innings each and every day, we'll total them all up at the end. But no game is more important than the next or the previous.

            Q. How do you anticipate using Gregerson?

            BOB MELVIN:  We'll see. This is a guy that has done some pretty good work in the 7th and 8th innings. We have a couple other guys that can do that, too. So that's quite a luxury to have.

            I couldn't sit here other than Johnson closing, how it's going to stack up. We even have more depth than that with a guy like Jerry Blevins, and Jesse, and Dan is off the charts in the last two months of the season, and in the postseason, as well. I don't know how it's all going to play out, but we have a number of guys that can pitch in plus games with guys on base, clean innings, whatever. This is probably the deepest bullpen I've ever had.

            Q. With that in mind, Bob, the numbers show that starters almost always fair better the third time through the order than the first time. Does your bullpen allow you to go shorter less often?

            BOB MELVIN:  It does. And it allows us, too, to maybe -- it's tough to say this during a game, but sitting here right now it also gives us the ability to maybe give our starters, who are younger starters who have pitched a lot of innings the last few years, too, giving them a break. Sonny Gray coming up or the innings that Parker has thrown or Straily or Griffin. We had guys worn out at the end of last year, and this bullpen dynamic allows us to potentially do things differently with our starters.

            Q. Is it difficult as a manager to see a guy, he's gone six, and the third time through he's throwing pretty well, to realize that we probably are better if I pull him?

            BOB MELVIN:  That's the toughest one. That's always the most difficult move for, at least in the pitching, is when you take your starter out. If he's doing well, it's difficult to do, no matter what inning it is, or how many pitches he's had. The pitch count more so prevalent. It's difficult to do when a guy is performing well that time.

            Q. As a former catcher, what do you think about the home plate collisions?

            BOB MELVIN:  I have to see more about how they're going about that. A lot of those plays are pretty instinctual, and I haven't heard any of the guidelines. Certainly they're to a point where they're comfortable implementing this, and I'll be able to discuss that more tomorrow.

            Q. Are Parker and Griffin, as far as you know, completely healthy right now?

            BOB MELVIN:  Yeah. I just saw Griffin a week ago, he feels good. And Jarrod feels pretty good at this point, too. You saw at the end of the season both those guys were on fumes.

            Q. Do you need a certain type of a player who is going to accept a platoon role, and do you guys seek that or is it strictly a matter of you're communicating with them?

            BOB MELVIN:  Well, you know what, it's based on the number of variables. We seem to have those type of players. You don't see many Robinson Canos on our roster right now. Whether it's -- we have a few guys that play everyday. The other guys know coming in they have to do some things to do something well to get the at-bats. And if that starts out in a platoon role, they seem to buy into the team concept and deal with that.

            We're getting a little bit farther down, Brandon Moss is a tough guy to platoon, but if you look at his splits, he has a much tougher time with left-handed pitching.

            I'm probably lucky in having the guys that I do that do buy into it and don't really make it about them. They understand it's about the team.

            Q. Do you have a preference as a manager, set lineup or moving parts?

            BOB MELVIN:  I do kind of like the moving parts in that you can give guys some rest. My first year in Seattle I had nine guys that basically ran out there and we were tired at the end of the year. I learned a little something from that season that guys need some rest, especially when they're getting a little bit older.

            Q. What are your thoughts about the team this year, at this point, compared to last year at this point?

            BOB MELVIN:  We feel like we're better. And that's the ultimate goal. We won 94 games. Two years ago we won 96 games last year, and we feel we're a better team. It doesn't guarantee anything, but it gives us a good feeling going into Spring Training this year.

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