10/15/08 12:21 PM ET
ALCS Off-day interview: Joe Maddon
By / MLB.com
JOE MADDON: We talked about it before the series even began. If we got to a certain point like we are right now it's kind of consistent with what we've done throughout actually by having a day off after he pitches, and again, we know Scotty's difficulties recently, although you could look at all those the game against the White Sox, bad first inning that got deeper into the game.
But we felt it was the right thing to do right now. We like that. We like the fact that he's pitching with an open day following, the ability to utilize the entire bullpen. We also like the idea of him pitching here, and we like the idea of Shields being able to pitch at home, if necessary.
So again, this did not just happen last night or the night before, whatever. We had talked about this prior to the series ever opening.
Q. So the idea is that you've got a better, fresher bullpen at both ends?
MADDON: Right, and that's kind of how we've done it through the entire playoff situation. We wanted we set up Kaz in front of a day off. And again, listen, this young man is a tremendous talent.
I'm going to say it again, at any moment he can just catch fire. The arm is fine. I've seen flashes recently. And I'd like to see him get off quickly tomorrow, that would be great. And if he does and he gets the first couple innings under his belt in good order, this guy can pitch deep into the game.
Q. Was this an easy decision to make in terms of the way Shields has been pitching and the inconsistency that Kaz has shown if you give Boston a little crack in the door that they could take advantage of it?
MADDON: We're not looking to give them any kind of crack. It's just, again, we believe that Kaz can pitch well tomorrow. And again, if it does break down at all trying to just manage the whole situation. I mean, you're looking at not only tomorrow's game and what can happen, then of course what can happen at home. We're just trying to look at the big picture with the whole thing. And again, it's something we had talked to prior to coming into this whole event. And it just happened to play out that way.
It's one of the scenarios that we had talked to prior to Game 1, and it happened. So we're just going to again, it's not like it's a last minute adjustment. I don't like those. And if it was, I probably would not have done it. But it was something that had been discussed, and I'm good with that.
I don't like getting away from the game plan, necessarily. I really don't like making last minute adjustments. I've learned that. So this is not one of those. This is something that had been thought out, and we feel it's the right thing to do right now, that's why we're doing it.
Q. How much did Shields' history at Fenway Park play into this decision?
MADDON: Well, you're right, this has not been his most effective place to pitch, and he's been very effective at home. Kaz has been good here. And again, you look at what Kaz has done recently, and I understand everybody's trepidation, but I feel strongly about it, we all do. We feel it's the right thing to do right now.
Kaz has had more success here than Shields, but again, a lot of it has to do with the day off to follow, and then you have a fresh bullpen, thus we did it. If things don't work out well tomorrow, we have Shieldsy at home.
Q. Following up on that, to what extent did Kazmir's history with Cousins have to do with it? Did you not want him to be up there wondering if he's getting a good strike zone?
MADDON: No, it really didn't, and that was just coincidence, because again, I didn't know how the umpires were going to be set up before we discussed all this.
I'm very aware of what happened in Anaheim. I actually got kicked out of that game (laughter). So no, the answer is it had nothing to do with it. It had everything to do with everything else I just explained.
Q. How did Shields deal with the change here? MADDON: Great. I had been talking to both of them a day or two in advance just to give them a heads up that if it did occur, that we were potentially going to do this. So they were both aware of it in advance. Shieldsy was great.
Q. You guys have hit a 97 mile an hour fastball guy, a knuckleball guy the last couple nights. Is there anything about the team's approach, maybe lately, that's been a little bit different? You have scored 31 runs the last three games.
MADDON: All year, you look at our group, and you believe that you know there's a lot of offensive talent there. If you look at our overall offensive numbers, there's some areas we've achieved better and some that we have achieved less.
Furthermore, you look at the fact that we were hurting I mean, all of August you're missing Longo and Carl. Those are two huge components to an offense.
So the point I'm driving at is I thought we are capable, we were capable of doing things like this, and all of a sudden it's showing up right now. We have talent throughout the entire batting order, and what I'm saying primarily, and I said it yesterday, I believe, we're working better at bats, we're staying within our strike zone, we're not expanding. I like that.
Always whenever Carlos hits a little bump in the road, I'm reminded of that. I talked about it to Longo the other day. B.J. is always like that, he pretty much maintains his strike zone consistently. So I'm a little bit surprised absolutely about the number of runs against this particular group. But I know we're very talented offensively, and it's just starting to show, and I think a lot of it has to do with health. And it's contagious. We're doing a lot of things well offensively, and one guy is feeding off the next, and that works throughout this industry, whether it's pitching or hitting, and then the lack of it.
So right now we're just healthy and the guys are getting good at bats.
Q. Just going back to Kaz for a second, what specifically will you look for in the early innings? Fastball command, things like that, and how short of a leash will he be on?
MADDON: It's all about fastball command for me. If he's throwing the ball over the plate, he's making them swing the bat, I'll be happy. Obviously if walks start popping up, that's the indicator; when we start getting outside the strike zone.
Like we were just talking with having a full complement within the bullpen, there's other things you can do early in the game in order to prevent different moments. So like always, I'll be you're probably right, I'll be probably less tolerant tomorrow than I would have been at any other point.
Q. I believe you were with Devon White in the Angels organization, and does Upton remind you of him in any way?
MADDON: Yeah. There are a lot of similarities, actually. It starts with the long stride, the long, easy stride. Devon was truly incredible how he would eat up ground.
I thought the prettiest play in baseball at that time was him hitting the triple. It was really fun to watch. Devon when I first got him in 1981 out of New York City, he was a third baseman. Al Goldis had signed him and Nick Kamzicky (ph.) comes there, and he's playing third base, and I think, man, this is an incongruent situation.
So I called it that was the year of the strike, so I called Mike Port, I think, at the time, too, and Larry Himes and said, hey, what do you guys think about putting him in center field? And they were all for it.
So we put Devo out there, and at that point you see the graceful strides, eats up ground, makes plays that are difficult look easy. Devo had a really good arm, too, and you saw B.J.'s arm strength last night. So there's a lot of similarities in their gait and the ground that they cover, et cetera.
B.J. became a little bit more efficient hitter sooner than Devon. Devon Devo was a true product of development. He went from A to A to AA to AAA to the Big Leagues and even had been sent back during his big league tenure. I was the Minor League hitting coach. I had to fly from home in Pennsylvania to meet up with him in Portland to try to help him through some difficult times.
Again, they're wonderful young athletes, very athletically gifted and two good baseball players. When Devo was part of a World Series team, he was a pretty accomplished Major League baseball player.
Q. I know the schedule is the schedule, but if you had the choice, would you rather be playing tonight or have the day off?
MADDON: Yeah, of course you'd like to keep it rolling. But again, you knew the schedule coming into it, so your mind is prepped in that regard, and my mind was prepped in that regard, regardless of what happened yesterday.
A team that has been playing well always wants to continue to play. Somebody that's had a bump would prefer a day off. That's just normal stuff.
We knew this was our schedule. We were accepting of that and wanted the guys to take today off. A couple guys came out to throw a little bit. Other than that, there's no BP, and we'll just come back out tomorrow. I think our guys will be fresh and ready to go.
Q. Except for the hit last night, you guys have managed to keep Ortiz pretty much quiet. Without getting into too much detail, how detailed of a game plan did you go into the series with to face Ortiz, and how well do you feel like your pitchers have executed that?
MADDON: Well, he's like everybody else on this team. We're pretty detailed about everything. Again, I'll speak to our preparation, and a lot of that goes to Jim Hickey and Brian Anderson, and a lot of guys upstairs, actually. We have a pretty involved system.
However, having said all that, when it comes right down to it, it's about execution. After taking all that information, we try to simplify it as much as possible. I don't like complicated plans at all. I think that they go awry consistently. Because you can lay all this stuff out, but in the heat of the moment, it comes down to simplicity all the time, and that's always going to be your best course of action.
So regardless if it's Papi or whomever, we just try to develop a simple we take a lot of information, cull it down and come up with a simple plan. And regardless of how good that plan may be, it always comes down to execution.
So to this point our pitchers have thrown the ball where they wanted to on a pretty consistent basis, and I'd like to see that trend continue obviously, but that fellow right there, I've said it before, I have all the respect in the world for him, and things could turn quickly, so you can't let up and you can't assume anything.
Q. What would be your how would you describe your overall philosophy of dealing with players as far as keeping an atmosphere in the locker room and the way you want it to be in there? And does it work better with a young team like this?
MADDON: I just like them to be in charge of their own living space. I really like to stay out of it as much as possible. Having done it in the Majors and the Minor Leagues, watch okay, I did it in the Minor Leagues, first of all, and I was very cognizant of creating what I perceived to be the right kind of atmosphere, and a lot of that is based on communication, openness, relationship building, those kind of things.
You get to the Major League clubhouse, having never played in the Big Leagues, I thought it was really important that I got here as a coach first so that I could observe, and I did. I did for like ten years or so.
When you see that, the dynamic within the clubhouse, you understand that truly respecting the veteran is important and understanding the veteran player is very important.
Regarding the younger player, I want our veterans to have an impact on them and share their experiences. You probably have to be a little bit more of a, quote unquote, disciplinarian, in a sense, with the younger guys or become a little bit more involved. But I think the balance created this year that we have now, legitimate experienced Major League Baseball players has created a much better balance within our group, and my philosophy basically is to stay out of the way as much as possible, quite frankly.
I really believe when you play Major League Baseball, you play baseball every day. A lot of times if you talk too much or too loud, they turn you off.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.