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Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia

Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia

Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia
Q. You lost your catcher. How did that go down in your mind, and as much as you valued Jeff [Mathis'] defensive work, how tough was that for you?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, we need more offense from the catching position, and we talked about it last year. We just couldn't absorb some of the things on the offensive side as we saw, and Jeff, although there's no doubt he's a premium defensive catcher and brought a lot behind the plate, and that was important to us, we need to be more well rounded as a team. And I think Chris Iannetta is going to be a great fit for us if he is going to bring a lot of what Jeff brought behind the plate with the ability to bring offense and bring durability. We plan on catching 100-plus games, and that's going to be important to us.

Q. Why do you think there's such a disconnect between your value of Jeff and the public perception, the fans and everything? I mean, he got shredded pretty hard.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, there's a lot of expectations for us to win, and when some players aren't performing, obviously fans and media are going to make it a point -- make it a talking point. There's no doubt that Jeff helped us defensively win games, and if he was going to hit, I think a catcher, if you're going to bring some offense and be able to do some things and you're going to hit .230, .240, that's a lot different than struggling and maybe hitting .170, .180, .190. There's no doubt that on the defensive side, he helped us win games, and that's very tangible. You could see that. You could see that in how the pitchers performed. We could see that in a lot of different areas.

But if you look at the makeup of our team, we certainly aren't deep enough on the offensive side to be afforded that luxury anymore of not having some contribution from a guy that has the ability to go out there and maybe get four or 500 at bats if he's catching 100 games, and we need to get better in that aspect.

Q. What does this mean for Conger's future?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Hank's future is going to be based on Hank's performance. I don't think anything has changed from where he was. Hank is a guy that played -- even though he didn't have the experience, he only caught less than 200 games in the Minor Leagues in his development, he played at a high enough level to win some playing time at a Major League level. And I don't think anything changes. I think his future is going to be contingent on how he plays, and that's really all a player can ask for.

Q. You alluded to it a little bit, but what appeals to you about Iannetta?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think Chris brings a great balance. He's shown a level of durability that we know is important. He's shown on the defensive end that he can relate with pitchers and do all the things a catcher needs to do when he's out there every day.

From the offensive end, although maybe his batting average isn't something that's going to jump out, certainly his power numbers and his production numbers are there. He's going to be a threat in the batter's box. He gets on base and does, I think, a lot of things you would be looking for from a guy that's right now probably going to hit towards the bottom of the lineup and make you deeper.

Q. Jerry [Dipoto] has expressed real value to on-base percentage. Do you think that's something that can be improved internally or do you have to bring in people?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's no one in our organization that doesn't love on-base percentage. It's the start of everything. You love it. But there's a balance. You're not going to find a team full of guys that are going to be able to bring a high on-base percentage and also bring the balance of power you need, the speed, with all the things you do when you try to create an offense.

Last year on-base percentage got away from us, as far as not anything on a philosophical level but just on a production level. We were not where we needed to be, and it definitely translated into us not being able to do some of the things on the bases we need to do. It affected our run production.

In '09 ... there are obviously some variables about some guys that aren't here that were with us then, but we had a deep offensive lineup that was getting on base and hitting well with runners in scoring position. There were a lot of different areas -- I don't know if you're just going to focus on on base, because as far as runners in scoring base the first half we were really struggling and we picked that up a little. There's a lot of situations of our game that does need to be improved, and some of it is going to be with personnel, and some of it is going to be with the attention that players need to give it to get better.

Q. Have you allowed yourself to get excited about the possibility of adding a guy like C.J. [Wilson] to your three guys that you already have?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, we need to get deeper in our rotation. I know you look at [Jered Weaver] and Danny Haren and Ervin Santana, and it sounds like you're getting greedy. But you need five guys going out there during the season to give you a chance to win, and right now, we might have an incredible playoff rotation, but you need a full rotation to get you -- give you that opportunity to get into the playoffs.

So we need to add pitching depth in the rotation. That's something I know that is weighing very heavily on a lot of things that Jerry is considering, and I think you'll see us move towards that direction, whether it's C.J. Wilson or whether it's some other things that he has to do -- when he gets creative with some trades.

Q. You have a choice right now of adding a pretty powerful bat or a pitcher like C.J., who would you pick if you could only have one?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We need to get stronger pitching. I think if you look at a lot of things you're just talking about in the rotation, but we need depth in our bullpen, and we need depth in our rotation, and that's I think those are things that are priorities as Jerry is moving through this process this winter.

We had a lot of leads last year. Even though our offense wasn't firing on all cylinders, we had countless games that maybe because of some depth in our bullpen that fell through the cracks that would have made a difference in our ability to contend, particularly those last couple weeks in our division. How many blown saves did we have?

Q. 25, 26.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: So as Spencer accurately pointed out, if you even cut those in half, you're in a different race. Right, Lyle?

Q. Any update on Morales' health?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We're monitoring his workouts closely. He's in Arizona. He's swinging the bat. He will be getting into baseball activities as we get a little down the road in this month.

Q. Has anyone seen him run?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I have not seen him run yet, no. But swinging in the cage, everything looks good.

I think that last year we had such a confidence that he was coming back that I think we want to just tread lightly on this one and make sure that he's along before you start to get excited about it, and that's what we're looking at.

Q. Going back to C.J., obviously he's only been in the rotation two years. What have you seen out of him being in the division and what do you think his future holds?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, he was a pitcher that came up, and I think he tried the bullpen. He has a very good arm, good movement. He's adapted very well to what he needs to do in the Major Leagues, and especially as a starter. He's really taken off with getting the opportunity to start and being in the rotation. I think he's -- it took maybe a while to find his niche, but that's where he's best suited.

Even though he's pitched two years, which gives him maybe a little less wear and tear on his arm pitching as a starter than some other guys, and being left handed, I think the prospects of him being able to continue to adapt and be effective even when there's maybe a little velocity that might tail off when you get into the mid 30s, he still has the I think he still has the functionality to be a good pitcher.

Q. You may be headed in that direction already, but a lot of teams expressed concern over the length of contracts sometimes more than the dollar. In his case because he's just started for two years, do you think it's a little bit less riskier because the arm hasn't had that kind of use?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think everyone is going to be different. I do think that if you look at C.J. Wilson from a scouting standpoint, look at his stuff, I mean, his stuff is good. Where it's going to be in three or four years, I don't know. He's not quite as crisp as he was maybe three or four years ago. But like that rate of attrition of what a pitcher's stuff would decline to, it's impossible to -- there's no crystal ball that's going to give you info. But I think what he does have going for him is, first, being left handed. Soft lefties historically still have an opportunity to be successful for whatever reason in terms of the pitch ability of a righty when he starts to lose his stuff. So I think there are some positives he has going for him that would point to him being productive even if there is maybe a drop off of some stuff, and the fact that this isn't a guy that's sitting on 1,300, 1,400 innings coming into a free agent year as opposed to a guy that really for two years has really just been primarily a starter. Not that the bullpen doesn't tax your arm, but I think he's still fresh.

The length of a contract is going to be what he's looking for and what any team is comfortable in giving. That's what we'll find out.

Q. If that's prohibitive, would you look at a guy like (inaudible)?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: You know, Jerry has got a full page of names, and I think that the bottom line is I think we're going to come out of not out of these winter meetings, but just come out of this whole process of the offseason with a deeper -- a little deeper look, whether it's the bullpen or the rotation. And I think that's there's going to be a lot of names that will be explored by Jerry.

Q. Going back to Kendrick, given the long layoff, how much concern is there that his bat will have regressed during that period?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: You know, there's going to be some adjustments he's going to have to make when you start to see velocity, but you're not talking about a guy that hasn't played in five years, you're talking about a guy that's missed a year and a half. Sure, there's going to be some timing issues, but this guy is a hitter, and his skills are still there. His bat speed is there. He was swinging the bat very well last year when he was approaching the day where he thought he could come into Spring Training well. He was swinging very well. His bat speed and everything was good. That's not as much of an issue. It's just where is his ankle after he plays five games in a row, where is his ankle after he plays ten games in a row, can he play first base, can he play DH, there's so much we're not going to be able to answer right now. And like I said, I think moving forward, if Kendrick does end up being a part of what we need to do as we get through Spring Training and he is ready to start the season, that's going to give us a nice depth in an important area for us on the offensive side.

Q. Has Trumbo gotten into baseball activity yet?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Not yet.

Q. Where is that expected?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't know. His bone is healing, it's just healing at a pace that stress fractures take, and he's not quite ready to hurdle that yet and get into activities.

Q. You mentioned Morales a minute ago, and I know last year at this time everyone was very hopeful that he would be there for Spring Training. With what you know a year later, are you hearing from the doctors that he will be ready to go, or we'll see what happens and it's just strictly a bonus if he comes back?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, definitely the second surgery he had really raised the confidence level from the doctors that that's what was inhibiting him in his first rehab.

Right now, how that ankle is going to be, where it's going to be, like I said, there's a lot of questions, how durable it's going to be. That remains to be seen. The doctors really have no way of knowing and we have no way of knowing until you get out there and start to do the things you need to do to play first base at the Major League level and swing the bat and run the bases at the Major League level.

It's tough to gauge what the confidence level is right now as far as starting the season, but I know that second surgery, the confidence level is very high from the doctors, and we feel we're moving him in a direction of being ready to play Major League Baseball again.

Q. It sounds like you really can't say for sure until you see him in Spring Training?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Right. It doesn't sound like it; that's it. Yeah, he can get into some baseball activities, he can look good in January as he starts to move around and run, and you get him on the field, and that's a huge hurdle, to get spikes on and do things you need to do at first base. It's something we're not going to find out in December or January. We're going to find that out in February, March, and hopefully having him ready to start the season with us.

Q. And you could see a situation where you could start the season as a DH without overcrowding everybody else who plays that position?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think that's one of the things we're going to have to evaluate. I mean, you can talk about any situation and you can probably put some merit to it. But we don't know if this guy is going to be able to play first base every day and you're going to have some versatility with Trumbo or if this guy is going to have to DH more or Trumbo is going to play first base. We don't know at this point. We will, that's for sure, but right now we don't.

Q. If healthy, can Trumbo play first base?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, it's something that we wanted to move forward and see if it was going to be a possibility, but right now it's tough to do until he gets his stress fracture healed and is able to go out there and we can functionally see how he's going to move at third base and what it looks like.

When he first signed, he tried third base and struggled, but that was more in relationship to him just trying to get acclimated with playing infield. And when he went over to first base he was struggling. Now he's become a very proficient first baseman, and hopefully that comfort level, catching a ground ball and the activities you need to play there will translate over to third base to where he'll maybe be a little bit better than he was when he first tried it seven or eight years ago.

Q. Has this setback eliminated that possibility or is there still time for a crash course?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We're going to look at it, but probably he's pushed the timetable back a little bit.

Q. Knowing Abreu (Inaudible).

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, absolutely. I think that we weren't able to match up with a guy like Bobby as much as we wanted to because of some depth issues, and I think that Bobby brings a lot to our club along the lines we were talking about on base percentage and things like that.

Vernon [Wells], as hard as it was for us maybe to want that production and maybe not see it at the level that we had anticipated, nobody felt it any more than Vernon. Vernon, he's speaking with a passion this winter. The couple times I've talked to him, he is going to rebound and he is going to show really his teammates, I think, the player that he can be and help us win. I think that gives us all a level of confidence that we are going to be better on the offensive side, it's just internally with some of these guys getting back into their game.

Q. Why do you think Vernon struggled so much last year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think for some stretches, he got away from some of the things that he did well in Toronto. I think that the injury, although when he came back from the injury he really started to put it together, the injury set him back for a while. And for a guy that really can use the whole field, we've seen him drive the ball to right center, use right field. I think he got one dimensional in what his approach was at the plate, and I think that he understands that and absorbed it, and he knew it at times last year, but it's not an easy adjustment to make if you get into that. I think he'll be better for that experience.

Q. Are you guys discussing whether to bring up Cot right away or (inaudible)?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We're going to take what's presented in Spring Training, and you can call it a log jam, we definitely look at it as depth, and I think that if there are some decisions that have to be made at some point, they'll be made. But too many times in the last couple years, we've had maybe three guys, two or three guys swinging the bat decently to their capabilities and six guys were trying to piece in.

In '09, when our offense was really firing on all cylinders, there were guys on the bench that you said, hey, this guy could be in the lineup tonight and help us. So if we get back to that, that's going to help us as a team, and I think it'll make us deeper, but we don't have to make those decisions now.

Q. In the moves that you and Jerry have been discussing, has there been talk of moving one of the guys down before Spring Training to open up a spot?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's a lot of things that have been discussed, but I think we're all fine with the idea if there is a log jam then it's going to be depth, and we'll go from there. I think if there are things that Jerry comes up with, and he's getting very creative in a lot of his ideas, if there are moves that are going to push us in that direction and we have some -- we're perceiving some potential depth on that offensive side, then there are some moves that he wants to make to help balance out some things, obviously he's not going to hesitate. But if nothing is done and there are all those guys you're talking about at Spring Training, that's going to be a nice deep look for us.

Q. In regards to adding to the starting team rotation, would you prefer that it be a left-hander or does that not really matter to you?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think in a perfect world, you're always looking for that balance, and a left-handed pitcher in the rotation is nice. It's particularly important to have those looks in the bullpen, which we do have, and if there is a left handed starter, I mean, in a perfect world, sure, you'd like that balance with a left hander. But I don't think we're going to -- we're going to look past if there's a power right handed arm or a good arm that's in the rotation, passing it up for a left hand arm who maybe isn't as talented.

Q. You were talking with Jerry the other day about players you wouldn't trade. How highly do you value [Peter] Bourjos and how does he fit in that core?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, just in talking to Jerry, he's very excited about our core, and I don't think we're that far away from ... We talked about last year all the things that went wrong, and still, if we had had a little deeper look at times, either the bullpen or some of the things we're talking about, turning an 86-win season into a 93-, 94-win season. So I don't know that -- realistically speaking, you're not going to probably overhaul everything.

Talking to Jerry, I don't get the impression that he just absolutely is not going to consider moving that's going to make us a better team. But he likes the young players. He loves our core, as we do. And I think his philosophy is going to be to add to that core to make us better as opposed to making some changes that are going to totally disrupt some of the positive things that have happened. But he's not going to -- I don't get the sense that Jerry is going to look past anything and consider anybody untouchable.

Q. What kind of a fit do you think a veteran pitcher like Hiroki Kuroda can be on a team?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We need a good pitcher. Whether he comes in the shape of a veteran, whether he comes in the shape of a rookie, left-hander, right-hander, whatever it is, we need a good pitcher. And I think that our ability to contend the way that we want to is contingent on us getting deeper with our pitching. There's a lot of names on that list, and where it shakes out is going to be the way that Jerry can put this together. We do need to get deeper on the pitching side, that's for sure.

Q. What is your impression of Kuroda?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I saw him last year, and he threw the ball very well.

Q. I guess you've probably been asked about the closer situation with [Jordan] Walden having so many saves and being a promising kid but the option of bringing in a veteran guy, how do you foresee that? You've probably been asked that already.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I have been asked that, but I'll revisit it. I think that Jordan Walden has the makings to be just a first-class closer. He was chosen for the All-Star team last year. There's some things in the development of a young closer that is not -- I don't think it's foreign to what we saw Jordan go through at times last year. You know, in a perfect world, it's great to get a closer more established that comes back and can pitch on the back end, but we also ... I think we also have a lot of confidence that Jordan will grow into that guy, and as he gets more mature, you're going to see some of those blown saves get tightened up, and it might happen rapidly. We're not talking three years. We might be talking three weeks into the season where he gets on that roll and feels it and uses last year's experience to come out and become that guy.

So if nothing happens in our bullpen this offseason, I think we're going to be fine getting those last outs in the game that we needed, and if something happens that makes us deeper, so be it. It'll make us a better team.

Q. Is it fair to say if you were to add somebody, a free agent or whatever it is, that might be sort of a shorter term kind of thing just because he's not far away from being you don't want to lock into a long term ...

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think if the evaluation is made that a pitcher is so far away from that and needs to pitch in the seventh inning for two or three years to get there, that's one thing. I don't think we're dealing with that. But I do know that if you're talking about adding depth to the bullpen, sometimes it's going to come in the middle innings, sometimes it's going to be a setup guy, sometimes it's going to be a closer. If it is a closer in this case that we're looking at, I don't think it's a bad thing for Jordan to continue to pitch because whether you're getting outs in the eighth inning or ninth inning, you need those outs.

But I don't know if it's a priority to say you have to have -- I think we do need back-end help in our bullpen for depth. It doesn't necessarily have to be a closer.

Q. Talk about Hisanori Takahashi.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes, Hisanori was very valuable for us last year, and we look forward to the depth he gives us with his versatility. He could pitch anywhere from the fifth inning for us, save the game, pitched in the ninth inning. He pitched very well for us last year, and I think he's going to be a big part of our pen again this year.

Q. Are you interested in any other pitchers from Japan?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's a lot of pitchers in Japan that are very good, but that's a complicated process. It's not a simple process. But you'd better believe that there are pitchers in Japan that not only us but every Major League team is looking at, and there are some very, very talented arms.

I don't want to go down the list of names to be honest with you, but I can tell you right now that it is a complicated process to get a pitcher. But there's no doubt that we're looking over there. I think every Major League team looks over there for talent.

Q. There is no chance for Takahashi to be a starter?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: At this point we're not looking at that, no. At this point we don't see it. I don't think we'd rule anything out, but at this point I think if it was an emergency it would be something we'd look at, but right now he's very valuable to us in the bullpen.

Q. You talked about absorbing no offense from a catcher. How do you view third base? Is that an area that you've had to absorb the last couple years and can you continue to do that?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: You know, if you look at the makeup of the team, I guess the prevailing notion of putting together teams is you need power third base at the corners. I think power comes from a lot of different areas. You know, we had second basemen that hit 18 homers last year.

When Torii [Hunter] was here, we had a center fielder hitting 20 home runs. I think the whole makeup of the team is going to tell you what you can absorb at what position, and is it a position if it's a position you need power from, there's only so many if your team needs power, there's only so many positions you're going to be able to acquire that power. Very rarely are you going to get the shortstop or second baseman or center fielder that's going to give you power. So the makeup of your team will dictate what you can do. We had a second baseman hit 18 home runs and our third baseman hit 7. So if you have a second baseman hitting 7 and a third baseman hitting 18, you'd probably say

Q. That's not good enough?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: What, 18 home runs?

Q. But you're talking about the overall makeup of the team, you're not getting 20 home runs from your center fielder anymore, you're not getting home runs from your catcher in the past. But you think third base is not something that has to be changed, the way that you felt about the catcher?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it depends on the ability that Jerry is going to have to get matches with other teams if it's going to improve, or if it's the look of a free agent. Third base is a position you'd like to have a certain type of player, because there's only so many positions you're going to be able to fill power. Third base is historically one of those positions.

I think that it definitely was a priority for us to get more offense out of the catching position, and I think it's ... I think if we improve our pitching and still have the combination that we had at third base, I think we can still make that -- I think we can make it work on the offensive side.

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