St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media prior to the first game of the World Series between the Cardinals and Boston Red Sox.
Q. Yesterday Adam Wainwright said you were the ideal torch bearer for the Cardinal way. That’s a serious compliment, obviously. But what doesn’t the Cardinal way mean to you?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, first of all he made that statement because I was standing in the doorway (laughter).
Secondly, as far as kind of the expectation and the culture within the Cardinals, it’s just a lot like what they have here in Boston. It’s such a rich history. You look at us walking out on the field with the No. 6 on our sleeve, you look at the other Hall of Famers that have done such a great job of representing this organization. We hold ourself to such a high level of expectation of how we play, not just wins and losses, but how you go about your business. And I think it’s been something that’s just been passed down.
It was something when I came here as a player that was very clear, and it was obvious and something that I feel is a responsibility to continue. And we have a group of guys that buy into it, and I think I’ve done a nice job of carrying that torch.
Q. Concerning your lineup, I wonder if you would describe what went into the decision in centerfield. And if you see that as a bit of a platoon that’s developed over the last week. And also what did you see or what did you have to see from Craig against pitching to put him back into the cleanup spot?
MIKE MATHENY: As far as centerfield goes, I made it clear yesterday that I have a lot of faith in all our guys, we just try to make the best decision each individual day, and coming off a real tough assignment against Kershaw, and watching Shane Robinson have a big day for us. We’ve never doubted what Shane can do defensively. And we know that tough left‑handers you’re going to be scratching and clawing for runs. So we try to take every chance we can offensively when we can. And Shane did a great job, and has deserved another opportunity. Whether that’s a straight platoon or not, I don’t know. We’ll see day to day as opportunities present themselves.
As far as Craig goes, we just need to see him healthy. When we watched him hit live a couple of times and watched the bat speed, watched the fact more than anything else that he wasn’t favoring his foot, it became obvious he was going to be right back in the mix, as soon as we got the okay from medical staff.
Q. Were at all you surprised with how quickly Wacha has been able to do what he’s done?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I think everybody is surprised when a young player doesn’t go the typical route. What we first noticed was in Spring Training, the stuff was pretty obvious. The makeup, it kind of takes some time to watch. And when you put him in situations with the other players, and just see how they respond, and he went about it perfectly.
We did know that he had some things, hurdles that he had to get over. One was at least getting to the Triple‑A level and starting and going through a lineup and seeing how hitters adjusted, and he continued to answer any questions we had. Then once we had him here, we put him in big positions and he made pitches. And it was pretty obvious at that point.
Q. Toughness and who’s the toughest is often talked about in clubhouses. Have you ever told your players about the day in Milwaukee when you took the fastball to the face in the batters’ box, spit out a pint of blood and then tried to stay in the game? If so, how much embellishment has been involved over the years?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, I don’t do a lot of war stories with my career, because there wasn’t a whole lot of positives to go with it. But I think they did come across it themselves. But we’ve got guys who take a lot of pride in the toughness. Comparatively speaking, you talk to football players and hockey guys, and they’re not sold on toughness in baseball players. But the mental grind as well as the physical grind of 162 is something that not many people can understand. Our guys have done a real nice job of how to push themselves, how to prepare themselves.
We’ve talked about this as a group, you know, right now we’re reaping the benefits of the work these guys did all last winter and all through the spring and staying disciplined and diligent with their work effort and toughness mentally and physically through the season.
Q. Can you talk about Michael again and what does he bring to the mound? And what type of competitor is he?
MIKE MATHENY: Michael Wacha? Michael’s stuff is above average, mostly because it’s a little different. He comes from such a high slot, that he’s getting a deeper angle on his pitches. I believe he has an above‑average change‑up and a breaking ball that is on its way to that classification, also.
But he executes pitches, that’s really what it comes down to. He’s a guy that can throw into the high 90s, which puts him in a different group all by himself. But he locates. He’s got a good feel for when he needs to use different portions of the plate, when he needs to expand the zone. And those are things that are really tough to teach a young pitcher.
Q. Given his age and experience, I imagine you guys probably have a little less of a book on Xander Bogaerts than some of the other more established Red Sox. As your coaches have scouted this series, what stood out to you about Xander?
MIKE MATHENY: Obviously a good athlete. Obviously a young player, like many of ours, who hasn’t been in awe of the situation to the point where he couldn’t contribute and be effective. He’s done a nice job when given the opportunity. You can see that there’s a lot of natural talent there, and yet we don’t have a lot of info on him. So we always stick with what our strengths are, and that’s what our pitchers are going to do. We’ll make our adjustments on the fly.
Q. Just talk about the decision to make Carpenter the leadoff guy, when he hasn’t been in that position before? What stats do you value most from that position?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, we’re looking for somebody to ignite our offense, somebody to get things going and typically get on base. So the on‑base percentage more than probably anything else early on that made it very obvious, and the style of at‑bats more than even that. You see a guy that gets in there and puts it 7, 8, 10 pitch at‑bats every time he’s leading off the game. Pitchers are going to show everything they have. Gives our guys a little bit more of a look. But he kept finding ways to get on. And obviously that played out in runs scored, when you have the kind of production we have in the middle of our lineup.
We believe Matt could fill quite a few roles, but I think no matter where he is in the lineup, he continued to grind out at‑bats; you’re hearing that a lot from us and Boston. And I think that’s going to be one of the factors that plays into how this is going to play out, is who can grind out the at‑bats the best, and we believe Matt Carpenter can be a guy that sets the tone, although it’s not all set on his shoulders. When he’s going, you see a lot of things fall in place.
Q. There’s a possibility that after tomorrow’s game that Waino and Wacha could have pitched as much as half of your innings, 13 games into the tournament. Could you at least address the significance of that, and what that represents when dominant pitching becomes so important in this kind of setting?
MIKE MATHENY: I think you find teams that are successful this time of year, typically have that one, two punch. And we were not necessarily heading into September knowing who that two was going to be. And we had some guys throwing the ball very well; Joe Kelly obviously finished very strong for us. Had as good a finish in the season as just about anybody in the game. And we still see some good things from Joe and anticipate even better.
Michael grabbed ahold of that second spot. And you can’t deny what he’s been able to do. We continue to watch him and realize that we just need him to keep his head down and keep doing what he’s been doing.
Q. Michael Wacha, when he faces a team the second time, he’s been just as effective as he was the time before. Is that a tribute to his stuff physically or is it a mental approach?
MIKE MATHENY: Since he’s now in the room I’ll give all the credit to his catcher, his coaching staff (laughter).
Michael understands himself. He understands his stuff. And we talked about this a lot yesterday, about how our veterans have created an atmosphere where young guys can come in and just do what they’ve been doing, and not trying to do anything above what they’re capable of. And Michael’s done a nice job of buying into that philosophy.
And then it comes down to execution. It’s about keeping the distractions away, which all of our young guys have done a nice job, as well. But we’re going to stick to that plan, regardless where we’re playing, who we’re playing, and what’s the stake.