Often before day games Eric Wedge will hold his daily media session in his office rather than on the field. It is a more relaxed, informal setting and we tend to get the most out of him in these sessions. Wedge has been for the most part very up front with us this year. He is realistic in his expectations of his young team and at times despite the struggles seems to genuinely enjoy and be excited by the process and what he is seeing in it. He has been here before which no doubt helps. Frustrated with the record? No, he is looking beyond it.
There was so much good stuff this morning I have decided rather than to write it up to just give it to you straight.
He started out by bringing up the at bat by Gutierrez in the ninth inning last night. It clearly made an impression.
Wedge-"He gets in there, gets a tough call on a high pitch. He stuck his nose in there man, to get that fly ball? Our at bats have been better. You have heard me bitch and moan and talking about all year long about what we have been looking for, these guys are starting to get it."
On the progress he is seeing.
Wedge- "I monitor bad outs. My own brain, I don't talk to the coaches about it but bad outs in the course of a game, it is few and far between right now. If you understand what that means as you play it forward, it is a big deal, a big deal."
Is it the kids who are setting the tone?
Wedge-long pause, "That's kind of a dangerous question, but yeah. Yeah, I think they are. The politically correct answer would be no, but yeah. They are."
"It is impressive. I don't know what Ackley is going to be. I don't know what Carp is going to be but I do know this. They have been 3-4 for over a month? That's the real deal. In the big leagues? These guys are hitting 3 and 4 because they deserve to hit and 3 and 4. That's in the big leagues. That's pretty good."
On the path that Carp took as opposed to that of Ackley. Carp had almost 3000 at bats in the minor leagues.
Wedge- "I think Ack has a chance to be a special hitter, I think Carp has had to earn it a little more. This is a guy who has been up and down in '09, '10 and then up and down here. When he came up the first time I told him, Halman and Peguero, I am going to do the best I can to get you 3-4 games a week, but with interleague, for him that wasn't happening because the other kids were already up and when we had to make a move, we sent him down because we wanted him to play every day."
"He wasn't particularly happy about that, nor should he be but when we brought him back I told him you are going to get to play and this is a great example of taking advantage of that."
"What people don't understand is when we were in Cleveland, Hafner was up and down, and Martinez and Gut(ierrez)... all these really good players, all stars."
On the handling of the young players and putting them in positions where they can be evaluated.
"Everybody looks after the fact. It is my job to look before. When Chance Ruffin comes in in the 8th inning last night, that wasn't by chance. I could have sent Vargas back out there. But there is a reason he was in there and he stepped up and guess what, if we didn't score that run he would have been out there for the ninth too because we are going to figure this out and whether he gets it done or doesn't he is going to be better for that experience."
What does he see in Wells who has been putting up numbers amongst the best in the league since he has been up.
Wedge- "Oooo, no doubt. I agree. He is going to be playing pretty much every day for the rest of the year. You can't deny what he has been doing. I am still getting to know him on and off the field. Paying attention to it but he has got my attention, I will tell you that much. (laughs)."
What did he see from Carp in Spring Training. Was he on his radar?
Wedge- "He was on the radar but not on everyone's radar to be completely honest with you. It was easier for me in Cleveland because I was in the minor leagues, I came up with these kids, knew a lot of these kids but coming over here I had to start fresh, ask 1000 questions. With a Carp, you could see some skills there, some raw power, his bat direct to the ball, there was something. Everyone has an opinion on players who have been here for awhile so I took that into consideration but regardless of what 100 people say to me I am still going to form my own opinion. Like no different with any young player, everybody liked him but some people liked him more vs others but kudos to him, he's taken advantage of his opportunity. We have 5-6 weeks left and we will find out what he is."
Is he comfortable with Carp's defense?
I can be completely honest with you, he surprised the hell out of me defesively because I wasn't real high on him at first base in spring training. That's why I wanted him to go to the outfield. Now he is a guy who we can put in the outfield, 1b and dh."
How comfortable is he with Carp in left?
"Again, no different than at first base. I am comfortable with him out there. If he is swinging that pole like he is capable of doing then I am ok with him out there. I need him to keep working, not just in left but right too. If we give Ichi a dh day then we need him in right. He needs to be a complete player. Listen, if you are just a dh you better have stupid numbers. If that is all you do, hit, then I want numbers, I want production. You better be a guy, otherwise we will utilize (the position) as we need to as a team."
On what he needs to see from Gutierrez and if what he is seeing now is different from what he has seen before.
"I have seen it for the last two weeks. Seen it before from him. That is the kind of toughness I want. I know it is in there with Gut. It's been in there the last two weeks. We need to continue to see it. I'm not just looking for a Gold Glove center fielder, I am looking for a Gold Glove center fielder that can produce at home plate too and he is capable of doing it. That's what I need to see, that's what we have been seeing the last two weeks."
Does he feel optimistic right now looking at what he has and what it has done recently?
Wedge- "I really feel like that that. I have been talking about what I want to see for the whole year and now I am talking about what I am seeing. At some point in time all of these pieces are going to come together. I just want good baseball and that is what you are going to see eventually. You saw it last night, that was a hell of a game, that was a great game for us, great game for them, seriously. Playing a team that is in the mix? Everything that I have been talking about, that's it. That's it, that's the real deal, man."
Why are we seeing it now after four and a half months?
Wedge- "It's been there all year for me, but like I I said, where is the last place you see it? On the field. It takes time. This game, it is so hard. These kids are so good it is ridiculous (laughs). It is so hard to perform, (more laughing and shaking his head.) It is so hard to play this game and I respect the hell of them. It is my job to make sure they play it the right way and teach them. It's our job as coaches to help them move in that direction but it just takes time. You are in the trenches for a long time. It's everything behind the scenes, it's every day. When they are out there taking bp every day, it's not eyewash. There's a reason they are out there working before the game. There's a reason we don't take bp today. So when we are sitting there a year from now or two years from now and you are looking me like, oh wow how did this all happen? We will reflect back to today."
Very long pause.
"We better be sitting here a year from now or two years from now, (more laughter)."