Sept 30 Bob Melvin pregame interview

An Interview With: Bob Melvin

Q. You decided to go with Soto over Norris. How much did the Royals' running game impact that decision?

BOB MELVIN: Yeah, it does some. They steal a lot of bases. Soto has done a great job with that. He's worked very well with all the pitchers on our staff since he's come over. He's acclimated very quickly. They like throwing to him, and he's got a better history right now of throwing guys out. And swinging the bat well, too, so as we make our lineup out every day certainly for important games, we look at all sides of it, and that was definitely one of the sides we looked at.

Q. How much did defense come into play with the decision to have Fuld in and Dunn out of the lineup?

BOB MELVIN: Right, and that's a tough decision, but it did come into play. It's a big outfield. It's a fast opponent. He plays the corners great. You're talking about Jon Lester, righties that pull the ball, lefties that go the other way, so that definitely factored in. At times we'll go offense early, defense late, other times we'll do defense early, allows us to match up a little bit more so with Adam, too, on the bench a little bit later in the game. So we look at all sides of it when we make up the lineup.

Q. Josh was in here a second ago and said he really feels that the team could really hit a reset button after obviously not finishing the season out the way you guys would have liked to. Have you gotten a sense from that, from the players at all? Is that something you have to see once the game starts in terms of trying to reset things and start over?

BOB MELVIN: I think regardless you reset, and based on what we were going through at the end, it's welcome for us. But if you had won 12 in a row going into the postseason, you're 0‑0. If you lose how many in a row going into the postseason you're 0‑0. You're forced to reset regardless, and I think in our ‑‑ based on what we were doing, we were relieved to get in, so I think it literally is a reset for us.

Q: So much has been made about Adam reaching the postseason for the first time. He's kind of been a fixture in your lineup against right‑handers. Was that a tough conversation or tough news to break to him that he wasn't going to be starting today?

BOB MELVIN: Yeah, it is, but he understands, too. I let him know earlier in the day that this was what we were probably looking at, so he's not surprised when he comes in and sees the lineup. All our guys know that we do things a little differently here at times, and we're trying to play for the day. He understands, too, that just because you don't start a game for us doesn't mean that you might not be prominent within the course of the game and may have the biggest at‑bat of the game, so he's ready for that.

Q. Both Reddick and Yost said with this type of a pitching matchup, the first run is so vital. How do you feel about that?

BOB MELVIN: Well, you look at the numbers as a whole on when teams score first, but I think when you're looking at a pitching matchup like this, maybe even more so. I mean, you don't expect this to be a 10‑9 game based on the history of these two starting pitchers. But if you don't score first, it doesn't mean you give up. I mean, you continue to grind, and we have some guys that we feel like can do some damage.

It can be important. I mean, you may play it a little differently depending on how you feel like the game is going early on, whether you need to manufacture something, which we don't do a lot of but maybe a few guys in the lineup today are more suited to do that. But it's always nice to score the first run.

Q.  Josh also said he didn't do much yesterday, especially running and got a lot of treatment. How is he today?

BOB MELVIN: Well, this is going to be with him here for a little while, but as we've seen, he's swung the bat pretty well. He's moved range‑wise at third when he's needed to. He's come in on bunts, he's come in on slow rollers. The one thing that he's probably inhibited a little bit is the baserunning part of it, but that's not really a big part of his game anyway. He's an important guy for us. If he needs to limp around a little bit, we're fine with that, as long as we're not putting him in any kind of peril.

Q. I don't think Soto has caught Lester this year, correct?

BOB MELVIN: Yeah.

Q. Was that something that came into the decision‑making process, too, and really how big a deal is that when you have a couple of veterans like that?

BOB MELVIN: Right, Lester, and certainly when Jon came over here he hadn't thrown to Norris, either, and right away, I think I could probably catch Jon Lester at this point in time. But Soto is a guy that's played on different teams. He's a veteran. He's dealt with different staffs. He's acclimated to our staff as quickly as you can. Guys love throwing to him. So I think the visual that Jon will get, at least in his bullpen, will probably prepare him to go out there and feel comfortable in the game. I did talk to Jon about it yesterday, and he was comfortable with it. We want to make sure that he's comfortable with it.

After a few pitches, I don't think it's a big issue.

Q. Both Lester and Shields have pretty well earned reputations for being big‑game pitchers. Do you put any stock in that, that certain guys are somehow better in big games, and how reassuring is it to have Lester in a winner‑take‑all game?

BOB MELVIN: I do, and that's the reason we get a Jon Lester over here is to pitch in games like this. You know, there's a presence that's involved. There's an intimidation factor based on his history and his being comfortable in that spotlight. I was saying earlier I've been around the likes of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens and those guys, and this guy fits into that mold. He's comfortable in those games. He's pitched in them. He's had success, and he always has that presence on the mound that the other team feels and your team fields confidence‑wise when he takes the mound.

Q. This is kind of a follow‑up to that, but I've heard people say, I think Orel Hershiser was the guy that said, being a big‑game player is really just maintaining your level, because the big situations cause other guys to get out of theirs, and if you do it ‑‑ is it more guys raising their level or just kind of playing like it's regular ‑‑ the way they regularly play?

BOB MELVIN: Yeah, probably a little of both. I mean, it seems like in games, certainly postseason games, the action seems to speed up, so I think it's important that you're able to slow the game down and process and think it like you would, like it's a regular season game, but also have that kind of desire and intensity to thrive in the spotlight, so probably a little of both for me.