PostCards: Mike Matheny’s Workout Day Comments


Manager Mike Matheny addressed the media during Thursday’s Workout Day in advance of the St. Louis Cardinals facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2014 National League Division Series.

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Q. You guys have faced Kershaw so many times, what do you do to mix it up, to give your hitters a different look against him as you’re moving forward into a game like tomorrow?

MIKE MATHENY: Well, obviously we are facing a very good pitcher, and very good pitchers make adjustments, so there’s not necessarily one thing that you can stick with. We’re going to try to make the adjustments just like he is and it’s just a matter of who is able to execute at the time.

But we give him a lot of respect for what he’s been able to do and I believe our offense has the ability to go out and put together a good game plan against him.

Q. The times when you have been able to get to him a little bit, has there been a common theme as to what you’ve been able to do to maybe have a little more success against him than most lineups?

MIKE MATHENY: I think everybody would agree across the league there’s not one uniform approach you can take against the elite‑style pitchers. It’s a very individualized approach. So we’ll be running nine different guys up there with trying to maximize what they can do, not necessarily trying to find weaknesses in his game. So they’re going to stick with their strengths, same thing they have been doing all season long.

Hopefully we’ll be able to put together those tough at‑bats that I believe our lineup can do from top to bottom and grind out at‑bats and fight off the tough pitches and try and get something on the part of the plate that they can handle. But that’s going to be different for each individual guy.

Q. Can you go through the final spots on your roster that you set, particularly taking Cruz over A.J. Maybe that last bullpen spot going to Gonzales over Motte and Siegrist?

MIKE MATHENY: Tony Cruz has been a big part of our club all season and A.J. Pierzynski did a terrific job stepping into a very tough spot, really fit a need that we had at the time. And moving forward we really like what Tony’s been able to do on the defensive side and how long he’s worked with this staff and feel that it’s a good catching core. A.J. could definitely fit in there, too.

But right now there’s tough decisions that have to be made to get it down to the 25, and Tony Cruz is going to take that spot. As far as the last spot in the bullpen, just trying to make sure that we’re covered.

And what Marco Gonzales has been able to do as a young player, I think, has been very impressive and how he could fill a couple different roles. We gave him some tests through September, putting him in late, putting him against heavy left‑handed lineups and letting him stay in against tough righties. And we like what he’s done and he also gives us the flexibility to go multiple innings if we need somebody to go for an extended period of time.

So he’s done everything he can to take advantage of that opportunity and I’m excited to watch him go out there and compete on this stage.

Q. How much of a challenge is that 3:30 start and the shadows hitters are probably going to deal with and do you just accept that as part of the package when you play on the West Coast?

MIKE MATHENY: It’s part of playing in the postseason. We get them at home, too, at different start times. Both teams are going to deal with it. It’s not like it changes when they go up to bat.

So, one of those things that at this point in the season for guys to start falling into a trap of complaining or using that as an excuse is just that it’s a trap. Just go in there and compete and everything’s not going to necessarily be ideal, as far as the sun goes or any other conditions as far as some of the travel goes, but that’s the beauty of being in the post‑season, you get an opportunity to go out and compete regardless of what the circumstances are.

Q. When these two teams played last year there was a lot of talk about the quote unquote Cardinal way. Are you comfortable with that label, what’s your feelings on that?

MIKE MATHENY: I’m comfortable internally what that’s supposed to mean. I think it’s probably been misscommunicated and I get it. I get what people on the outside when they hear that think that we feel we have got something figured out, and that’s not necessarily the case. I think any organization, whether it’s corporately or whether it’s in sports, you have a mission statement and you have some things filtering down from the top of how you think things should be run and how they should be executed.

I believe that our organization takes a lot of pride in the history and the tradition here and put a name to it. You look at how our Hall of Famers conducted themselves on and off the field and set a bar very high. It’s something we believe that, if we’re not intentional about it, it goes away. And so there was kind of a culture put together or at least a goal put together there and I think that it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, because there is no secret to going about this game and the St. Louis Cardinals don’t claim to be doing it any better than anyone else, but we’re not going to shy from the fact that we hold ourself to a high level and how our guys compete.

I think it’s been a matter of having it miss-indicated, but internally we absolutely, when we meet with the minor league guys there’s a sense of pride that has to go with wearing this uniform and a sense of expectation and we’re not going to sway from that, but it has been kind of, I think, put the wrong way to the public.

Q. You guys have had more turnover than a lot of the other teams still left at this time of the season, but even given that, the fact that you’re facing a team that you have seen in the post‑season time and time again in recent years, how does that change the atmosphere out there, especially in Game One you don’t have as much of that feeling each other out thing?

MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, the atmosphere, when you get to this part of the season is just, it’s going to be great no matter where you are, no matter what kind of history you have. This is a team that obviously remembers last year and that was a tough series and two very strong teams, in my opinion, that are ready to go out and just put it in between the lines and figure it out.

But we have a good knowledge of what they bring to the table and I think they do with us as well, even though we have a few new pieces, have a few guys who are stepping up and taking care of some opportunities that are put in front of them.

But I don’t know if they consider it a rivalry, but you just definitely know that there’s a couple teams that we think have all the components to make this happen and play for awhile. It’s just a matter of who goes out and executes best.

Q. What do you know about the approach and managing in the post‑season today that you didn’t at Washington in 2012. What are some of the things that you have experienced that you know now that you would like to maybe have told your younger self then?

MIKE MATHENY: Well, it’s a long list. It’s 162 games every year since then and trying to figure out what I’m missing and what I need to learn and it seems like that list isn’t getting shorter, just keeps growing.

So, I think there’s a lot to be learned. I had an opportunity with some of our veterans to speak up and talk about the experience of being in the post‑season and how every guy goes about it a little bit differently. So there are some common themes. And I was fortunate enough to play with some very good players who taught me along the way, too, and to listen to how they go about it and the consistencies of how to translate what happens during the season into the post‑season. And that’s ever evolving, I think it evolves with the culture as you get new players in that are from a different time and trying to figure out what makes them go.

But I don’t think there’s one uniform way, I think it’s different each year, depending upon what your club looks like. We got a lot of young talent this year, so it’s very helpful for us to have some players who have played, like Yadier Molina, in eight different seasons in the post‑season. That’s invaluable experience. And for them to have the ability to communicate it to these guys, it’s stuff that not just the players are learning from, but the staff as well.

Q. The Giants talk about how relaxed Bumgarner is before his start last night, the Dodgers talk about how intense Kershaw is before a start in a big game. What, in your eyes, is Wainwright like before a game like he’s going to pitch tomorrow?

MIKE MATHENY: Mix of the two. Adam has a composure on the mound, he has a coolness about him, but he also has a fierceness of a competitor. It’s a great mix. He brings a lot of levity on those days when he’s not pitching, but he is already locked in to the challenge that’s ahead of him. He knows how much has been talked about with Clayton, and rightfully so. And he’s out there every time to compete, not just against what other people expect from him, but what he expects from himself. More importantly, what he means to this club.

He’s been just the epitome of what an ace should be and how you go about your preparation and how you lead by example, how you do things, how you treat people, make people around you better. He thrives on those big‑stage opportunities and that’s exactly where he’ll be tomorrow.

Q. Has Kozma made an impression this season as to how he handled the adversity of going back to AAA and what is it about him that allows him to have success in October?

MIKE MATHENY: Pete Kozma is a very grounded, well‑rounded baseball player and brings a lots of athleticism and instinct to the game. We put him in a tough spot this year, realizing that there wasn’t going to be a lot of opportunity, there really wasn’t, with how Jhonny Peralta has played all season, especially at shortstop, and Kolten Wong, how he came along at second base. And the best thing ‑‑ you hate to tell a young player that, but the best thing for him is just to go play. Although every player wants to be in the big leagues.

Pete took his assignment like a pro and had a strong season and since he’s been back has done a good job with us. And he’s a very valuable weapon for us because he can play such strong defense and multiple positions and what he’s able to do putting together tough at‑bats this time of year for whatever reason.

That has to do with the laid back nature of a Bumgarner and some other people who have done well. Pete hasn’t had the opportunities, but when he has, he’s shown that as well. He just goes out and plays the game. I don’t think he tries to put too much more into it, except he takes advantage of what he can do at that particular time.

Q. Obviously you have a different job now, but as a former catcher, can you appreciate how exciting this matchup could be tomorrow with Clayton and Adam, there’s not too many pitchers in their category right now and will any part of you try to just appreciate what they’re doing tomorrow, if it works out that way?

MIKE MATHENY: No, I’m pretty lopsided on how I’m going to enjoy that, my expectations there. I’m such a fan of Adam, but I’m not oblivious to the fact of what Clayton brings to the table and what he’s done, not just for the Dodgers, but just the kind of the names that he’s being compared to and what he’s earned.

So, we respect that. I think you also see certain teams that bow their neck a little bit when they have those challenges in front of them and I think a lot of people have written off our chances and in a lot of different regards and this is a team that’s responded to that very well all season long.

So when it comes to matchups like this, it’s everybody’s job that has passion for this game to sit back and kind of draw up the drama and draw up what might be, but when it comes down to it, you just are throwing two heavy weight teams into a ring and see who is the last one standing. And I do like our chances.

Q. How do you plan to use Wacha out of the bullpen? Are you looking for him as an out, an inning, for a long relief position?

MIKE MATHENY: Yes, all of the above. So, we’ll see.

We haven’t had him in that role all season long. We really like how our back end of our bullpen is coming together. I think Michael is just going to be used as an extra asset down there for us. We know he can go long, we know he can come in and get a big out if we needed him to. He just is pretty versatile.

The fact that we have seen him, just like we have talked about a couple other guys on this stage, pitch about as good as he could possible pitch.

So, he’s excited to get out there in any capacity, obviously he, like any other starter, would want to be in there in the starting capacity, but he gets it, he gets what’s right now, what’s going to be best for the club, and we’ll see where that need comes up because we feel he could fill just about any hole.

Q. I’m told you haven’t been asked about Dee Gordon yet and when you played were you good at controlling the running game and he’s had no success, Gordon hasn’t, against you? Is that Yadi is so good he intimidates them they don’t even try and if you do control the running game does that take a big facet from the Dodgers offense away?

MIKE MATHENY: I don’t think teams this level this time of year are going to be intimidated. They’re going to use whatever strengths that they have and Dee Gordon brings a component of speed to the game that not many people do have, so that’s a tool and a weapon that they’re going to be looking for opportunities to use.

What our club’s done a nice job of one is, Yadi does a great job of taking care of what he can take care of, but it starts with our pitching staff. And our pitching staff has done a nice job this season being very conscious of not giving up free bases and trying to limit the running game by being quicker to the mound and mixing up their times and showing good moves to first base. And if they’re able to do that they realize that they’re able to keep guys out of scoring position.

And this is an offense over here that can revolve around the excitement that Dee brings to the top of the lineup. So no surprise there and we’ll be conscious of it, the idea is to keep all their guys off base. He’s definitely one of those. After that, try to control it as best we can with our pitching staff.

Q. You’ve been pretty consistent or very consistent this whole season about how the best was ahead for the offense and you could get better. I’m wondering what would be that best, what you see there and given that you’ve gotten this far with the offense that you have, do you need it to get better to advance?

MIKE MATHENY: We need one more than the other guy. We have proven that with too many one‑run games this year, but I believe there’s toughness that comes along with this and a fight and a grit that our offense has been able to show to figure out a way to get one more. I don’t think we’re resolved to that, that that’s how we have to be.
And when I have said that all season long, I still believe that we’re kind of the team that can throw up the big power numbers and can drive in lots of runs. We have done that in the past, get the big hit. But there’s no reason to put all that pressure on our pitching staff, even though our pitching staff has responded well.

So, when I say that our best offense is ahead of us, I think for an extended period of time, most teams have shown those big offensive explosions and it really hasn’t happened for us yet. I’m refusing to believe that it’s not going to happen, so why not now.