Oct. 4 A.J. Ellis Pregame Interview

THE MODERATOR:  We'll get started. Who has the first question for A.J.?

Q.  Can you give an example of in your conversations with Zack, his cringe‑worthy bluntness with something he said to you?

A.J. ELLIS:  Well, the famous comment is from last season when he, when I asked him in San Diego, what would he do to make the Dodgers a better baseball team and he told me flat out, Let me get back to you, because he wants to think about an answer before he gives it. And he came back three innings later and he said, My first move would be I would trade you and I would sign Brian McCann. So that was Zack not worrying about my feelings and just answering the question.

 

Q.  Everyone apparently seems to think you should have mixed in a curveball to Carpenter, maybe bounced one. Can you talk about calling those pitches?

A.J. ELLIS:  Yeah, it's, obviously, we can live in hindsight and go to try and relive that at‑bat. I did, I stared at the ceiling last night, but when I woke up this morning I moved on today. And we're going to worry about Zack today and we're going to worry about him facing this lineup. And give a lot of credit to Matt Carpenter for putting a good swing on a fastball.

 

Q.  Are you a believer in gauging the mood of a team before a game? If so, what do you think is going on in there after last night?

A.J. ELLIS:  I think we have done a good job of being resilient all season long. I made reference last night as well how we responded in both those Giants series that were huge series for us in late September. Madison Bumgarner shut us out. Hyun‑Jin got hurt in the first inning, we didn't show up. It's 9‑0 and we were totally just wiped off the field. We come back the next night and Zack's on the mound, like today, and we do the same to them. We reverse the roles on the Giants and blow them out. So we were able to flip the mood really fast.

Come back here at home, Dan Haren pitches a great game, we give up runs late and go extra innings, lose heart breaker. Again, the Giants are creeping back, they're trying to cut back into our NL Division lead. And the next day who is on the mound again? Zack Greinke, and he goes eight strong innings and he gives us the win we need to shrink our magic number down to one.

So this team has always bounced back well. We do a good job of turning the page.

 

Q.  Your relationship with Zack in terms who of how you work on pitches together. Has it been kind of a push and pull at times to get him to do the things you want him to do or does he let you call it?

A.J. ELLIS:  No, Zack and I are on the same page. We do, we basically have two meetings. We finished our first one where we are a quick overview of the lineup. We just got the Cardinals lineup, so we ran through their hitters, just a real brief initial thoughts, trying to get a feeling for each, where we're each at. And then we'll have another meeting after batting practice and we'll get a little more in depth. Zack will use these next hour, hour and a half or so to really dive into what he wants to do.

Just like Clayton, when Zack's out there on the mound, I have total confidence in them because they are totally prepared. If it's a guy who hasn't taken a look at video or hasn't done any scouting, I'm going to try to lead more when I'm out there.

But when those guys are on the mound, their track records speak for themselves. And Zack especially, with his cerebral side of the game, I can trust that when he shakes to a pitch or he wants to throw something different than I call, he's got a reason behind it. I have to trust that, because at the end of the day it's his ballgame.

 

Q.  You had four hits and a home run yesterday. You had a couple home runs a few weeks ago. I know you were having some struggles earlier in the year, you also had knee surgery. Is any of that related and if so, how are your knees and your ankle now compared to earlier in the year?

A.J. ELLIS:  It's amazing when the playoffs come how everybody's aches and bruises and pains kind of goes away. You're rejuvenated, reenergized. And I feel great right now.

Last night was definitely kind of a hollow, kind of bittersweet driving home, because like I said, I would have traded every single hit for a win. That's my job. My job's on this team is to catch and get guys through tough innings, and I didn't do that last night. That's what hurt the most.

I'm sitting behind the plate making decisions, calling pitches and my team gave up 10 runs. And I take a ton of responsibility, and a lot of that weight's on my shoulder. So, yeah, the four hits meant nothing to me yesterday.

 

Q.  In a series you have this body of work when you're going over hitters with Zack or Clayton or whomever, in a series like this when you've had a game like yesterday, or any game like yesterday, but how much is what you saw and felt yesterday going into those reports today and how much might they change given you have this years of numbers with these guys?

A.J. ELLIS:  Well, I think with some of the guys we haven't seen before, like Grichuk, a lot of that is what we saw yesterday we'll bring in today's game, but a lot of it is personal history. We're going to look a lot at what Zack's done in the past and also matchup what the Cardinal hitters have been doing lately. You kind of try to combine those things when you're breaking down a team before the game starts.

And it's funny though, when you get to this point in the season and you're playing against these playoff teams, you notice there's really small windows for success and then there's really small windows where if you hit their hot spot they're going to do damage. So it's just executing pitches is what it comes down to and knowing where you're going and making right decisions and sticking with your guns.

 

Q.  What's been going on with Ryu and what do you expect out of him after missing as much time as he has over the last couple of months? I think he's only made three starts.

A.J. ELLIS:  Yeah. One thing about Hyun‑Jin that's kind of encouraging for us is this has happened in the past where he's had a long layoff and he always tends to come back and be extremely strong. He's not somebody who we feel like needs a ton of work in between or a lot to get him back going again.

So, we're extremely confident from all indications. He came out of his simulated game great the other day. He feels like he's back close to a hundred percent and he's going to be a big factor for us and hopefully getting to where we need to go. We definitely need him throwing a lot of innings for us this next month.

 

Q. You guys have talked a lot about what Clayton is like before a start. What is Greinke like before a start like this, does he have any signs of nerves or anything?

A.J. ELLIS:  No, Zack's very talkative, mainly though about the game plan and what's going to be happening. He's got a very strict routine, just like Clayton, he's got a timing where he needs to be in certain places at certain times and get things done to help him prepare for his start.

Zack, it's funny, with Zack, he talks more on the day he pitches than on the other days. He's very, very talkative in the dugout in between. He's kind of the antithesis of Clayton in that in between innings he wants to communicate a lot and what I'm seeing, what he's seeing and adjustments we need to make going forward. So this is the day that Zack uses all his words.

 

Q.  Did Zack tell you who he wanted to trade you for?

A.J. ELLIS:  He said we could get a nice double A pitching prospect for me he said.  

 

Q. Now that you've had 24 hours to sit on it, there's been a lot written I've seen video and it didn't look like Clayton was tipping his pitches. Was there some discussion about that last night? What was going on there, because he wasn't going in deep on counts in a lot of those batters and they were just like going right through his fastball? He seemed to be throwing a lot of fastballs and wasn't going to his breaking stuff. Have you had a chance to really sit down and analyze it?

A.J. ELLIS: We have taken a look at it. We've recapped the film a little bit. I've read some stuff and I've seen a lot that's been made about last night's game and that 7th inning in particular. Matt Holliday's an amazing hitter, Jhonny Peralta is an amazing hitter, Yadier Molina is an amazing hitter. And these guys are guys with championship pedigrees. So I think we got to give them all the credit.

They found pitches in the middle of the plate that weren't executed and they hit balls squarely back up the middle.

And one thing we know about the Cardinals is they're never going to quit and never going to stop working. But the one thing I love about how dejected and how down Clayton was yesterday, and the same for their guy on their side, Adam, those two guys you're going to see at the top of the rail today for nine innings leading our ballclub, pushing both teams. I think that speaks a lot to their character and their leadership.

I know for our guy it's genuine. And I know it is for Adam as well. And I know that Clayton is going to be just pushing him and trying to drive us to get him back on the mound sometime later in this series.