Clint Hurdle met with the media this afternoon, discussing tonight’s game, some of the roster decisions, and the impact of players like Starling Marte, Justin Morneau, and Clint Barmes. Below is the transcript.
There were a lot of people around town that weren’t able to sleep. What kind of emotions did you have coming into today?
CLINT HURDLE: I had a very trying evening. I had to help Maddie with some fifth grade math homework, then I was challenged with two games of chess with my son Christian who just joined two weeks ago the chess club at school. Then it was the welcoming of family and friends coming in from different parts. I went to bed at 10:30. I got up at 6:15. I’m good to go.
Are you smarter than a fifth grader or Bobby Fischer?
CLINT HURDLE: I give it my best. Christian and I played to a draw a couple times. I’m relearning the game of chess. Maddie’s got me in math.
Can you give us your lineup? You have a couple of spots that could have gone either way.
CLINT HURDLE: Yes, the lineup, Marte will be in left. Walker will be at second. McCutchen will hit third and play center. Morneau will bat fourth and play first. Byrd will bat fifth and play rightfield. Alvarez will play third base, hit sixth. Martin will catch and hit seventh. Barmes will play shortstop and bat eighth. Liriano will be our starting pitcher batting ninth.
For the fifth outfielder, did you give Felix consideration, and if so why did you go with Travis?
CLINT HURDLE: All 35 men that finished the season with us got consideration at some point in time. It was a lengthy conversation. They deserved the conversations to be had on their behalf.
At the end of the day, Travis Snider has provided us with the most productive left-handed bat off the bench. The home runs, the RBIs, he’s given us some big swings at the bat this year.
In lieu of Felix, the base running and the defense, we felt more inclined to go with Travis.
We saw in 2007 how a good end of the season could carry over. Do you think winning the last five out of the six will help you?
CLINT HURDLE: We’ll all find out more tonight when the game starts. We needed to play better after the San Diego series we had here at home. They’ve had their way with us for some years here.
We needed to sit down, re-address some things, just some reminders. I thought everybody took it upon themselves professionally to get things in a better place, a more consistent place. And we finished good. We finished well. We won the games we needed to win.
The entire game process, from the offensive approach, tightened up a little bit. We played 27 outs on defense, and we pitched effectively. We’ve earned our way to this spot. We have some confidence going in. We’ll look forward to the competition tonight. It’s going to be great.
What makes Francisco difficult for left-handed hitters?
CLINT HURDLE: You’ve looked at those numbers, huh?
Well, if you’re a left-handed hitter, there’s some deception in the delivery. It’s not that Sandy Koufax long arm. There’s some movements in there. There’s some hiding of the ball. The ball comes out from a different spot as far as it’s not extended, it can be close to the body, which can cause some deception.
The pitch mix has been strong. To be able to two-seam a ball and to be able to two-seam a ball away bring it back and pitch down into the zone, and he’s always had the opportunity for a slider, changeup. Sometimes he pitches backward. Sometimes he gets ahead with a heater, then goes for the kill with the other two pitches. He’s had various different weapons to use from time to time on the left-hander.
The left-handers he’s facing are really good left-handed hitters because he’s the kind of guy, if you’re a left-handed hitter, you have to be a good left-handed hitter to buy ownership and stay in the lineup with him throughout the season. That’s what we’ve seen in the opponents we’ve faced.
If Francisco Liriano goes deep in the game, does that remove Cole as an option out of the bullpen?
CLINT HURDLE: That would be the way we’re anticipating going. The other option is if we get in extended innings, he could still come into play.
How much do you think your personality has rubbed off on your players and the people associated with the team? Your emails going out with positive messages. How does that impact the club?
CLINT HURDLE: There’s a lot of my personality I hope never impacts the clubhouse (laughter).
I can’t answer that. I think that would be a question that could be answered by the men inside the clubhouse more appropriately.
I do know as a father, as a parent, as a coach, as a manager, I do try and instill the behavior, I try to model the behavior I’d like to instill in others. A pat on the back, a smack on the backside can both be teaching tools. Presentation is critical. Timing is just as critical.
I do believe these men need to know that you care, that they can trust you, because without the trust, you’re never going to have the opportunity to coach them up. I think every one of you sitting out there works for somebody, and if you don’t trust them, I think your attention span might not be as long as if you do trust them, your listening opportunity won’t be the same if you don’t trust them.
I like to have fun, as well. There’s nothing like a smile from time to time to pick somebody up.
I’m just trying to encourage and speak greatness in my coaches and men. There’s been a number of people in my life that I’ve been able to receive that. I understand from a personal standpoint and professional standpoint how valuable and meaningful that can be from time to time.
Tampa Bay, Oakland, bottom third in the league in payroll, do you think that’s evidence that revenue sharing has maybe leveled the playing field?
CLINT HURDLE: I really can’t speak to the revenue sharing part of it. That’s not my expertise. I know good baseball wins games. You got to have starting pitching. You got to be able to use your bullpen when you want to, not when you have to. You have to play smart on defense. You have to be able to handle the ball properly. We call it 27 outs. You have to look for ways to connect the dots on offense.
We try to make adjustments where necessary to enhance financial responsibility and to give, as you said, somewhat of a level playing field. That definitely doesn’t hurt. We’ve been very creative in the past in using our money in the summertime. Now the landscape has changed there a little bit. You need to be able to, as I said earlier, adapt, improvise, overcome. I think the organizations you’ve spoken about have been able to do that.
How important has it been to get Marte back to the leadoff spot? Where do you think his overall rhythm is?
CLINT HURDLE: He has been a very valuable player for us this year. We had challenges last season at the top of the order. Starling’s emergence this season from opening day to now is well documented.
You look at numbers and you can look and find different things within those numbers. His on-base percentage is what you’re looking for to a degree, leadoff spot. He’s an impact base stealer, impact bunter, impact defender, let alone the average of about .280, barrel a ball, produce runs as well.
I think he’s as close as he’s been able to get to get. We’ve given him reps. We’ve been creative to get him more pitches. He’s also the kind of guy that can get hot at the drop of a hat. And he’s shown that throughout the season. It doesn’t matter the last eight at bats, he has been very good at having a short memory from time to time. He loves to compete. He understands his importance at the top of the lineup.
Morneau hasn’t given you the production you anticipated. What has he shown you more than the numbers?
CLINT HURDLE: He’s anchored the lineup. His ability to hit in the middle. He’s always going to be respected from the other dugout, from the mound. He has modeled the kind of posture and at bats you want to see from players. I think it’s important at bats him and Byrd have given us here, have given our other players an opportunity to look at guys with years of experience, have done significant things, their approach to see it day in, day out.
Defensively he’s played extremely well. He’s played plays. The presence in the clubhouse has shown value. The presence in the dugout has shown value. He’s another player that’s capable of getting hot at the drop of a hat. No time better than now.
What is the impact of Clint Barmes over the last couple of weeks?
CLINT HURDLE: We use the word a lot in the game, ‘impact.’ Barmes has been an impact defender for us. Those that have watched our club throughout the season, there’s games when he makes plays that nobody else we have can make plays.
He has also gotten outside himself to spend hour upon hour in helping Jordy along the way. Jordy has become a much better shortstop because of Clint’s selflessness. Got some experience. Knows the value of an out. Strengthened us up the middle. For us older men, we always talked about the strength of the ballclub being up the middle with your catcher, your second base, your shortstop, and your center fielder. He’s given us that opportunity to be stronger.