St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media on the first Workout Day of the 2014 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.
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Q. Hoping you can give us an update on Yadi, whether he’ll play tomorrow in the series at all, what the doctors have told you?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, it’s been basically watch and see and they have done a lot of tests. He just went out and played catch and I was very surprised at how well he was able to throw the ball, and didn’t think he was able to at all, and he actually threw quite well. He’s going to be day‑to‑day right now. The doctors are going to continue to work on him but right now he’s going to be active on our roster.
Q. When Will Yadi try to swing?
MIKE MATHENY: Right now that’s not a priority for us right now. Need to see if he can throw first and just how he’ moving around and testing range of motion and so forth. But swing is going to be a difficult thing right now.
Q. Just the way things went in St.Louis, 1‑1, the way you won the second game, obviously losing Yadi is a big hit, but how do you set things up for what’s in front of you, big picture?
MIKE MATHENY: I figure our guys have done a good job, not just this year but the past few years. We’ve had some key parts all of a sudden not be there for us, and Yadi being one of those. I thought the guys did a real nice job of just buying into, someone’s got to pick us up, next man up kind of philosophy, and figuring out how to get it done regardless of what comes at them.
I think we’re going to stick with that and realize that we have some capable guys of stepping in and helping us out. It’s just a matter of everybody doing their part.
Q. The fact that Yadi is even day‑to‑day; is that a tribute to his recuperative powers?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I didn’t think there was any possibility. Having that injury myself, knowing how hard it was just to throw. But he was throwing the ball with some velocity, and once again, it was encouraging to see.
That’s a step in the right direction. I know it’s just great having him with us in any capacity, especially when we bring him in and not know how we are going to use him at this point and just continue to watch him day‑to‑day and make adjustments.
Q. The decision to keep him on the roster, is that because there’s a likelihood he will play in the next couple of days or is that more thinking to ramifications of the World Series?
MIKE MATHENY: Those ramifications are obvious, and that’s a tough rule with having to lose him not just the rest of this one, and if we were fortunate enough to move on, we wouldn’t have him, as well. So that definitely goes into it.
Right now it’s just looking at what he could bring to the table and he could bring the ability to come into a game and help us out defensively, and hopefully improve to the point where we could use him offensively, as well.
We don’t know. It’s just one of those, to make a knee‑jerk reaction right now, I don’t think is the best decision for our club.
Q. Who might you go with then at catcher tomorrow and could you elaborate on why? The veteran Pierzynski has some numbers against Hudson‑‑
MIKE MATHENY: I won’t necessarily name that right now. We’ll do that tomorrow as usual but we feel comfortable with both Tony Cruz and A.J., and we brought A.J. Pierzynski over here for a reason to help us out and in a very similar situation, he stepped in and did a great job. I know he’s looking forward to his warm reception in San Francisco tomorrow (Laughter.).
Q. Was this a part of why you kept three catchers? Were there some concerns about Yadi before he started?
MIKE MATHENY: No, none. This guy is such a warrior and we had no warning until that first at‑bat.
It was basically trying to have A.J. there and have his presence as a left‑handed bat, where we can possibly go with Oscar in the middle innings and also have a bat with Billy to change the game late. And A.J.’s history in the post‑season, I think is also going into that decision.
Q. What did you see, now that you had time to think on it and re view it, what did you see with Trevor last night, what is your concern level at all? And I think I know the answer to this but is he still your closer?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I’ll start with the back end of that. Yes, he’s still our closer and hopefully we have a lead late in the game where we can watch him go again.
The people that have watched our club closely this season, they realize that last night was not that uncommon to what we’ve seen this year and still, Trevor was right at top of the list of closers in the League, and he finds a way to get it done.
Last night, what I saw, was something that he didn’t do last night that he did before: His spikes were clogged up and he slid on that pitch and he bounced about 52 feet and made it near impossible for Tony Cruz to do anything with.
He needed to stop and do something before that pitch. That was really the only difference. You’ve got to be pretty honest evaluators up until that point. Had a nice single and then we had another three‑hopper that just happened to go right up the middle where we didn’t have any defenders. And then we were in a tough spot and he needs to make pitches, and what led to coming out of the strike zone, I think part of the fact was that he wasn’t getting a good grip with his stance. His spikes were filled up as you could probably see.
He’s not a guy that’s going to throw excuses out there but that’s just evaluating what happened, and once again, not that uncommon to what we’ve seen where he’s had tough innings but he figures out how to get it done, and he also bounces back pretty quick, when something goes back like it did last night. He’s anxious to get back out there.
Q. How did Wainwright’s session go out there today, and how is he feeling?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, his side sessions are not exactly electric. (Laughter.) He goes out there and just goes nice and easy. He’s done that for a while. He saves his bullets. He knows that he’s a guy that we abuse out there. He’s just going to be an innings eater and he’s just going to be in the top of our rotation and the top of the league when it comes to innings pitched.
He feels really good and that’s exciting for us because his game comes down to feel and when he has a good feel for his fastball, next thing you know that breaking ball has a nice, sharp break to it. So to hear from him that he feels great right now is great news for us.
Q. Not just with Trevor, but we’ve talked a lot about the grind of the season on starting pitchers, we think sometimes it’s overlooked what it does, the length of the season with the extra rounds in the playoffs?
MIKE MATHENY: I think that’s a very fair statement, especially a kid that’s never done that for a full season before. Not just the grind physically but the grind mentally. You look at the number of two and one‑run games that this club has had this year and the number of games we have thrown Trevor Rosenthal and Pat Neshek in, that’s an extremely high workload and that’s what we asked him to do. Part of that is going to be, at times, just not having your best stuff.
Now, we did back off in most of September and we started to see Trevor’s velocity come back. Stuff was not the issue last night. I think there was a couple of balls that got to the outfield grass and then once again, just kind of‑‑ things got a little bit out of control when he couldn’t keep his stride in place.
But his stuff looks right. I don’t think it’s an issue right now being tired. He’s just going to have to get back out on the mound and we’ve seen just like this, where he would have a rough one like that and next time he goes out, he’s right in the zone with every one of his pitches and it’s a nice, short, clean inning and that’s what we’re anticipating.
Q. I don’t know how many times you hit four home runs in a game this year, but how has this team transformed all of a sudden into a team of bombers?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, yeah, that’s not necessarily how we’ve been winning games this season. We’ll take it. We’re definitely not shying away from those.
A lot of it just has to do with we have guys that have power and we just haven’t had a lot of results in the power column this season, for whatever reason. But it is nice to know that we have it there and I think it’s encouraging to our guys, just keep going. You’ll never know when we’ve got a lineup of eight guys there that can pop you at any point. And a couple of guys are really stepping up.
It’s nice to see these young players, too, never been on this stage really before and the kind of role that they are in. To be able to come up big, that’s huge for our club, because we have quite a few group of other guys that have been there before and have had those big hits and have seen those big home runs in the post‑season. Just knowing that’s something that they can do I think helps us as we continue to go.
Q. If, in fact, Yadi is not available for some time, you’ve been through that situation this season. Is it fair to say the club responded to that about as well as it could?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I think so. Just like any team that loses a key component, and we are not going to make any kind of false statement that he is not a key component to our club.
But any team that loses that piece, you never know how they are going to respond, and I was real proud of how the guys‑‑ yeah, first, they are like, wow, that hurts. I think it’s hard for them not to hear what’s being said nationally about, this is one guy that our club can’t do without. I think that actually gave a little spur, because that insults the rest of the guys in that room to say that they are not good enough to do it.
It’s a great compliment to Yadi, as everybody knows how valuable he is and how much we appreciate what he does. But we do believe the fact that the other guys can step in and pick up the slack, especially you’re talking the short period of time here that we just need to figure out how to get it done. It’s happened before, and I think the fact that they have been in that position is helpful now that we go forward.
Q. Two‑part question on Tim Hudson, been around a long time and former catcher. Can you talk about how his pitching style has changed over the years? And the second part was, he’s never pitched this deep in the playoffs. He’s never played in a League Championship Series. Any thoughts whether that’s an advantage for the Cardinals or what you expect out of him?
MIKE MATHENY: He’s a veteran pitcher. They don’t get rattled by situations like this. They are not overwhelmed and I’m certain that he’s going to be prepared, and as far as his repertoire and his stuff, he does and has done a great job. He was an All‑Star pitcher this year, and that’s with using a different style of pitching and not trusting just stuff, but out‑thinking the opponent and trying to maximize what he does have and putting a little more movement on and stretching the zone a little bit.
That’s just how guys stick around for a long time. Once again, it’s not like he’s surviving. He’s one of the few that was able to play in the middle of July when they tried to put together a team for the best in our league, so that’s a great compliment to how he’s been able to adjust, and I know he’s going to come out and compete.
Q. If you could use Yadi in any capacity, even if it was just to go back for an inning and catch, is that something he could do to give your club a boost to have him in any capacity?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, and I’m glad you hit that, because that’s absolutely, I would say as early as tomorrow night, where you could see Yadi. We’ve done that through the season at different positions on our field when we felt that we could potentially put somebody in as a defensive replacement; if we have a small lead, there’s no reason why we couldn’t do that, from what I saw. We needed to see Yadi move around a little bit today and see him throw. He answered questions that quite honestly I didn’t think we would be able to answer the way that we are right now.
That’s encouraging for us and encouraging for our club. Once again we’ll take him in any capacity, even if it’s a cheerleader on the bench. But to have him active and as a weapon to be able to brought in late in the game, that is very valuable to us.
Q. Hate to make it all about injuries, but are we going to see any of Wacha? Is it more about getting used to the role out of the bullpen or how he’s feeling?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, he was in the game yesterday until we won it in the ninth. He was the pitcher that was going to be in, and he threw the ball exceptionally well down in the bullpen, too. Had great reviews.
We have not made much of a puzzle out of this. We had opportunity to take four of our starters and figure out who was ready. Michael had an injury that set him up in a bad spot this year so much like Shelby Miller who won 15 games last year, we didn’t get him into a post‑season game and didn’t have anything to do with his ability or effectiveness.
It was just what our club needed and what our club needs, is somebody who can‑‑ like we almost had situation last night, come in and pitch long for us at the end. And right now, that’s Michael’s role. It can change because we had a little more flexibility than we had last year.
We have Marco Gonzales who can also pitch long for us, but with a lineup like this with as many left‑handers as it has, there’s great opportunity for Marco to get some play other ways.
We are not playing games with Michael. He knows his role and it’s a very valuable role to us. I imagine we are still going to see him. We’re keeping him sharp mentally and physically.
Q. There was a fairly significant difference in your staff’s ERA with and without Yadi. What is that a reflection of in your guys and how does it translate into a series like this?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, part of being the kind of catcher that Yadi is, some of the intangibles, it’s hard to put into metrics, but the leadership that he brings; the instincts he has; the way he communicates; one guy in particular that we have all noticed, Carlos Martinez when he starts to get off track, how quickly Yadi can get him back and this is something our other catchers can learn.
But you have a multiple-time Gold Glove catcher that’s back there and it’s not just about catching and blocking balls and throwing out baserunners. It’s about leading a staff and it’s not necessarily something you can just duplicate.
But once again he is going to be around and he is going to be available, and A.J. and Tony Cruz about a great job of trying to take the things Yadi brings to the table and implement them while they are in the game, as well. We see this as, once again, we are not sticking our head in the sand and saying it’s no big deal. He’s a catcher and he’s a big part of our club.
But, with that being said, we have an opportunity with some very good guys to step in and hopefully figure out how to just keep the ball rolling.
Q. As you and your front office were going over trade possibilities at the deadline for a pitcher, what sold you on Lackey?
MIKE MATHENY: I think his experience, what he’s been able to do this time of year. We had nothing locked up by any means at that point. Saw us in a chance to take it down the September chase and we needed some more veteran leadership and we needed a guy when Wacha was down to step in and hopefully provide some quality starts for us and he did exactly as expected.
He came in and actually was going through kind of a dead arm phase when we got him and was still able to keep himself in the game. We look up in the seventh inning and we are right there in it.
Did a great job of kind of taking that leadership role, too, to assist an Adam Wainwright and just how a veteran guy goes about his business. But he’s done a great job and we got him a little rest here and there like we did before his start in the NLDS, and hopefully we just see the same stuff.