Well, you lose Frankie?
Mike Scioscia: I think Francisco, he got a terrific deal from the Mets, and he's going to do a great job for them. I think as much as we'd love to have him in an As uniform, it's something that's not going to happen. He's going to do a great job for the Mets.
What are the Mets getting?
Mike Scioscia: I think they're getting a guy that not only has the physical talent to close and close not only games that are important during the regular season, he's got great postseason experience. I don't know that I've met a guy mentally as tough as Francisco on the mound, and he can turn the page as well as anybody I've been around on the tough game, and maybe if there was a blown save -- I haven't been around guys that can turn the page and were ready to go the next day, and I think that's going to be important. It was important for us and it's going to be important for New York.
How well is he suited for New York?
Mike Scioscia: Well, besides his talent, his talent plays anywhere, and I think that if you're a closer and you have that mentality, you should be able to pitch anywhere, and Francisco certainly does. He has that makeup, he can pitch in any city at any time, and he's going to go out there. He's not intimidated by any situation on the baseball field, and he'll be able to handle whatever pressures might be perceived to be from pitching in New York.
There was a bit made of the fact that his velocity this year was not -- he's maybe throwing 92 now as opposed to 97 or 98.
Mike Scioscia: He never threw 97 or 98. If you look at where he was six or seven years ago when we saw him, he might be talking about a two-mile-an-hour variance, but it's more than made up with the command and his breaking ball, which has remained very, very sharp, and he's come up with a change-up which is as good as any change-up that I've seen.
I think that if you look at Francisco, where he is, where his stuff is, he's got terrific stuff, great makeup, had a record-setting year for us, and I don't see any issue that's going to affect him as far as what his long-term health projections are, and if he's going to maintain his stuff. His stuff is as good as it's ever been, and although the fastball might not be 94 but it's 92, that's not an issue. He's got plenty of fastball.
Does the league change mean anything, or is that overblown?
Mike Scioscia: One thing about Francisco, Francisco is extremely intelligent, and I think there are going to be -- you're facing new hitters, new tendencies. I think he'll have a little bit of advantage as pitchers do with going around first-time match-ups around the league, but one thing that Frankie has shown is his ability to adapt, not make the same mistake twice to a hitter if he gets beat on it and maybe understand what a hitter's tendencies are and feed off of them. He'll figure it out.
So sure, there's going to be some changes when you cross over, but just like a hitter going to a new league, there's a little bit of give and take, I think, in the beginning, but he'll be fine.
You knew this might potentially occur. Now that it has occurred, do you feel any different than you expected to?
Mike Scioscia: Well, you prepare for plans A, B, C, D all the time, and right now it looks like -- has it been released?
It's out there to the point where --
Mike Scioscia: You have to prepare for what could happen to your club in the scenarios that could come about. There's a lot of guys we're looking at, a lot of options we're looking at for our club. As far as where our bullpen is, certainly there are some power arms that we're very comfortable with and confident in that we feel are going to be able to get the job done for us to win ballgames, and it's not going to include Francisco, but we feel that our bullpen is going to be an asset and strength for us.
So you think you're going to have to go outside the organization to get the final three outs?
Mike Scioscia: Well, you're always trying to get better. But I think -- if there's arms out there that are going to help us, I know Tony will pursue them and is pursuing them, but if we don't add anybody into our bullpen, I don't think there's any doubt at our comfort level and our confidence that we have in who's down there now in our club.
Can you characterize where you are with Teixeira?
Mike Scioscia: There's a lot of things moving slowly. It's not just one guy. I don't think everything is hinging on one guy right now as to what's going to happen.
Mark is a high-profile guy that we certainly want in our lineup. There's other high-profile guys out there, some guys maybe not as high-profile that Tony is looking at. So as things start to move forward we'll get a little clarity, but right now stuff is moving very slowly.
As things stand right now, will Speier be the ninth inning guy do you think?
Mike Scioscia: I don't know if we're going to go into the spring just putting one guy in that role. If you look at Scot Shields, you look at Arredondo, you look at Jepsen, Speier, Darren Oliver threw the ball very well for us, Jason Bulger, we're going to have power arms in our bullpen.
How it plays out and who ends up closing out the last three outs of a game could be maybe more -- at times more match-ups than it's been in the past, but we're certainly going to have some power arms that can hold leads and close out games, and I think we're comfortable with that.
Whenever a free agent of Frankie's caliber leaves a team without his own team aggressively going after him, people wonder what do they know that no one else knows?
Mike Scioscia: Francisco Rodriguez is as good a closer as there is in the game of baseball, and he's going to continue to be. The offers that were made to Francisco over the last couple years obviously were not the ones that he was looking for to stay here with the Angels. He's still a free agency, he got a great deal with the Mets, and that happens.
Our priorities have certainly changed from month to month, year to year, month to month, and there are some things that are very, very important to us right now that I know Tony needs the flexibility to try to pursue and make us a better team. We know he's pursuing those.
Are you saying you'd be happy sharing the closing role with two or three guys and not designating one guy as the closer?
Mike Scioscia: It's going to happen the way it's going to happen. If it happens one guy steps up and is a designated closer, we'll certainly adjust our bullpen accordingly and let him be in that bubble.
Right now going into it, the guy with probably the most experience is Scot Shields. But it doesn't mean that we're going to go into the season with just Shieldsy closing out games in the ninth inning. I think that we've got -- we have a number of power arms down there that are more than capable of getting those last three, six outs that we need in a game, whatever it's going to be.
It's obviously much easier when you have one guy that's the guy to work around. Maybe we're not there in December, but as guys evolve and these pitchers get into spring training, get into the season, we might be there in May. And if we're not, we are power arms that can do it by committee for sure.
Are you real hesitant to use a guy like Arredondo right out of the chute because of his age, and is he someone you would want to more work in?
Mike Scioscia: Well, I think he's a candidate. He's a candidate, but one thing about Jose is we're not going to shy away with anything in using him or Jepsen or any other young arm that we have because these guys have shown they're ready for challenges. I don't think it would make us shy away from it. But certainly going -- where we are right now, it might be more of a committee look until somebody gets comfortable and maybe takes off with that role, and Jose has as much opportunity as anybody we're talking about.
If somebody looks dominant in spring training, that guy will start the season?
Mike Scioscia: I think that spring training is -- I don't think we're going to -- we're not going to evaluate it on statistical performance. I think you have to evaluate spring training a little differently than just what numbers are showing up and how a guy is pitching -- I should say look at more how he's pitching. And then this might go a little further than to say April 1st we figured this thing out to say, this guy is going to close, you know what I mean? I would say starting the season we have power arms, and we're going to try to slot them where we feel they're going to help us, and it could be -- like I said, it could be a match-up thing where you see some guys maybe that were fresh, whether Darren Oliver gets in the mix or not. There's a lot of things to look at.
(Off microphone) started pitching real well in Venezuela, do you take a lot of comfort out of that? Now that they're okay, do you want them to stop playing and get ready for spring training?
Mike Scioscia: No, there will be a time. They'll get a break from whenever the Caribbean series until the start of the season. They'll playing great right now. Certainly Kendry needs his at-bats, Erick needs his at-bats, and guys that we have pitching, Ortega, Austen, a lot of guys are pitching around -- Santana is probably going to throw a little bit again this winter from the great success he had last year.
So I think there's a lot of things that winter ball bring. They're going to get plenty of rest. They need to play, and we are counting on those guys heavily, sure.
When you see Kendrick hitting .411 and you see Austen leading the league in ERAs, do you say this is a little better than spring training?
Mike Scioscia: I think winter ball is definitely higher intensity than spring training. I think that the atmosphere is certainly higher than AAA, and I think it's a great proving ground for a young player. It's not always statistical analysis that goes all into what you're looking at.
These guys are getting evaluated by our scouts, they're getting evaluated by whatever coaches that we have around areas, and you're looking for different things from guys, whether it's where Kendrick Morales is hitting from the right side or where Aybar is in a certain defensive aspect.
There's a lot of things you look at. Yeah, we put a lot of weight on winter ball, and it's not always the statistical weight that you guys I think look at. Brandon Wood came home, but for the time he was down there there were some real positives we saw in what he was doing in his game. We hope to carry those things into the spring, and it gives the kid a good foundation to move forward.
Has it become more clear at least internally who might assume that fifth spot or what do you like out of the guys that could do that?
Mike Scioscia: I think our depth chart is very clear right now as to where we would be for the fifth spot of our rotation, but that could certainly change if there's -- if we sign some of the guys that we're going after. I know internally there's a lot of things we've talked about. There's a lot of scenarios we've had up on the board, and we're comfortable that our pitching is going to be a strength again.
Have you talked to Vlad since his knee surgery? How is he feeling?
Mike Scioscia: Doing great. Went back and got evaluated I want to say about seven, eight days ago and got a great report. He's doing great.
Do you anticipate him DHing more or less next year?
Mike Scioscia: Right now I think there's a probability he's going to be able to play right field a lot, and that's going to give us a lot of options that we're going to need.
What's a lot, same as before?
Mike Scioscia: No, I think it's tough to see how it's going to play out, how many games it's going to exactly add up to be. But we're not in a situation where we were a couple years ago. We had a DH the last 35 games of the year or had to DH a lot more this year because of his knee. We're well ahead of that. So hopefully we're going to see him playing in the outfield more, and as needed, he'll be off of his legs and DHing.
Do you get the impression that Gary will be ready by the start of the season?
Mike Scioscia: I think there's a possibility, but if it's not right at the start of the season, it should be shortly after that. I think he's in that earlier window that if you put that window there where you're looking for him, it's the earlier time frame. It shouldn't be too far after the start of the season if it goes that way.
How does that figure into kind of the outfield situation? I know it's somewhat early.
Mike Scioscia: Well, you know, Gary is a guy that brings a presence defensively that's important to us, and if he's healthy and is going to swing the bat from the left side, that's something we're going to need. We anticipate him being ready and being part of that mix in some regard.
Given a choice of going after top of the line starter like a Sabathia or a big-time slugger like Teixeira, which way do you lean on something like that?
Mike Scioscia: You're talking about our team in particular or as a philosophy?
Your team or both.
Mike Scioscia: Right now there's nothing that's going to hurt us by deepening and getting more depth in our pitching staff, and CC Sabathia puts your pitching staff in a whole different perspective.
But we certainly have some immediate needs as far as our offense that Mark Teixeira is a perfect fit for. I think that any one of those two guys are important to us. Is one more important than the other? I think there's too many positives each one brings that it's going to make you a better club either way you go.
I think if you just look at our club, where our of offense is and what Teixeira means to our offense, that's a big part of it. But if you want to look at what an impact a guy like Sabathia has in your rotation and how everyone else is going to be better, and if you look at Sabathia, how he fits in with Saunders, Santana and Weaver and Lackey, that's a pretty good rotation.
Can the Angels afford both these guys? Have you been told?
Mike Scioscia: On the field, as far as like in our meetings, that's certainly been a scenario that is -- I mean, very -- it would be like Christmas Day. You'd be very excited to see something like that happen. I know Tony and Artie, as they put together numbers, I think that would be unlikely, but I don't think it's been ruled out.
You had a great record not just in one-run game, but when you take it out to two-run games it's really phenomenal. Having a guy like Rodriguez to close out, why do you think your team excelled so much in close games?
Mike Scioscia: I think it was a couple reasons. Offensively I think we did enough on the situational end of it, even though statistically we did not pound the ball until probably the last -- maybe the last eight weeks of the season we swung the bat better.
But it really came down to what our pitchers did. Our starters nightly gave us a chance to get to a certain point of the game, and if we had a lead, our bullpen was there. We had enough depth in our pen to be able to hold leads, and what Francisco did in the last three outs was certainly a big part of that.
But what Scot Shields did, what Darren Oliver did, what Arredondo did, these guys, I think you have to point to our bullpen and probably what we did in the middle of the setup combined with where our starters -- our starters got to a great point it seemed like every night, so the close games that we did have leads we were able to able to hold on.
Have you talked to Sabathia?
Mike Scioscia: If you have to ask questions -- he knows a lot of guys on our team. I think he's very comfortable with the atmosphere that would be here for him. Outside of that, I haven't talked to him.
Teixeira? I know that's a different situation. You have talked to Teixeira this winter.
Mike Scioscia: Yes. I just called to ask him how cold it was back East (laughter).
Manny, as an offense that hasn't had a lot of slugging percentage in recent years, is that a name that at least has to pique a little bit of interest, a guy like that sitting out there?
Mike Scioscia: Well, internally Manny has been discussed and I think he's a great fit on a lot of clubs. I think our priorities are very well defined for what we're trying to do, and obviously there's only so much you're going to be able to do. It doesn't mean that Manny is not an option, but there are things that need to be worked out with all these guys, and when you're talking about Teixeira or Sabathia or Manny or any other free agents that are out there, certainly like the contract and stuff like that and the dollars are something that has to be a fit.
If Teixeira doesn't re-sign, how deep is the need offensively? How bad is the need for offense?
Mike Scioscia: Oh, there's a need for offense, but it doesn't always have to come from free agent market. Some of it can come from internally and we've got real high hopes with what young guys like Morales and Kendrick are going to do. There are some guys out there that I think are going to be available through trades that are going to make the club better.
So there's a lot of things to consider. We're going to have a good team. We're confident that we're going to have the team that we need to reach our goals.
You're not concerned about the Teixeira thing dragging on, that a lot of those options will have been gone?
Mike Scioscia: Well, I think Tony is driving that ship, and I think he's got a grasp of it and has an understanding of communicating with everybody out there that we would see it as a possible fit. I think that a couple high-profile guys that obviously are going to have their situation resolved before I think a lot is going to happen around baseball.
You had talked about guys needing swings, Brandon went down and Sandoval is playing in Mexico. I would have thought Kendrick would have been a guy that might need some at-bats. Why didn't he go anywhere?
Mike Scioscia: Howie's priority was very clear. He's working hard in Phoenix. He's getting evaluated on exactly what the needs are for his hamstrings, and his issue isn't getting at-bats, it's staying healthy.
So rest for him is more --
Mike Scioscia: Not rest, it's proactive work to try to get an understanding of -- he's been evaluated on every aspect of where his strength is in his whole lower half. He's doing very well with it. That was a priority for how I.
All-Star Game, when you managed it in 2003, was it a hassle, a pleasure?
Mike Scioscia: Oh, a pleasure, absolutely. It was fun.
What was the hardest part? You only had a few spots to pick.
Mike Scioscia: You know, picking the team, it turned out to be -- it wasn't hard because when it came down to it, you really only had maybe one or two. It was like every -- because of the parameters of every team being represented and having so many pitchers and every team has to be represented, the only guy worthy is a pitcher, everybody was slotted in. We had maybe one or two picks.
I know when guys start talking about it, and media starts talking about it, they put this big -- all these guys on the bubble, is it going to be this guy or is he better than this guy, but the reality of it is there's one guy on the bubble that's the obvious pick.
How did you play it, pretty straight?
Mike Scioscia: We played it nine on nine. We went with a pitcher on the mound, normal stuff, wood bats (laughter).
Did you check everybody in?
Mike Scioscia: No, that was the year after the Milwaukee game, and it was also the first year where if you won you got home-field advantage in the playoffs. Our goal was to play it to win.
I think most of our starters all got three at-bats, which I think was important to let them play and get the feel of the game and play like it's the home run league to win it. I apologized in our pregame meeting to the guys and told them here's what we're dealing with. Everybody is not going to get in. I think Varitek didn't get in, Dmitri Young didn't get in, and they were fine with it.
Would you talk about Wak?
Mike Scioscia: Wak is terrific. The time when he was in our organization. Actually I know him from going way back when he was playing, but he's got a very creative baseball mind. He understands the things that are important in not only building a team but what's important in winning games, and he's great with people, so he's -- he's going to be great.
In your conversations with Teixeira (no microphone) East Coast, weather aside, how much of a factor do you think geography will play in his decision?
Mike Scioscia: I don't think it's as much now that he's spent time out in Southern California. I think he's very comfortable there, as comfortable as he is moving back East with all the connections he has back East. I don't anticipate that being an issue, and I think it was good -- I think it would have been different if maybe if he never had had a chance to play out there for a couple months and gotten to experience it.
I know Mark had a great experience with us and was very comfortable. My perception is that part isn't going to be as big as maybe it would have been if he had a chance to go out there and play for a couple months.