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Bell: Royals are close to contending

Bell: Royals are close to contending

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Former manager Buddy Bell chatted online Tuesday about his time coaching the Royals and the challenges facing Kansas City next season. He discussed the strengths of some of the young players, but said patience will be key for the new manager.

Bell: Thank you for joining us. I'm ready to go, so let's get started.

Thanatos: What was your favorite part of managing the Royals?

Bell: The best part was just to see the young players go through some tough times early and kind of figure it out afterwards, such as Alex Gordon, Tony Pena, Brian Bannister, Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria and Billy Butler. Guys like that. A couple of times during the year our lineup added up to maybe eight or nine years of experience, maybe not even that. It was really fun to see them grow.

jccrews: First I would like to thank you for getting Kansas City headed in the right direction and congratulate you on your newly found free time. What is your favorite or most memorable moment during your time in Kansas City?

Bell: I don't think there's any one particular moment. I think probably the most exciting time in a new job is what happens initially. The first game I managed for the Royals was against the Yankees and I think we swept that series. What that did was it brought some excitement to the organization initially and it allowed me to get to know the organization probably a little quicker. It kind of picked everybody up initially. It's hard to pick out one thing individually, but that was probably the most memorable.

mamaflyer: In this era of pitch counts, would you like to see rosters expand to allow for an additional bench player or two?

Bell: That's a good question. Certainly the situations are different now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. For whatever reason, with the money invested, you want to make sure the player stays healthy. That's probably the reason that pitch counts have become more prevalent than before. So because things change, I think you have to change along with it and expanding the rosters -- I don't necessarily say to add another position player -- but maybe expand another pitcher spot. I think it's something that should be looked at and considered.

jjtravis: How is Gordon's nose?

Bell: It's broken in a lot of different places. I guess they didn't have to do as much surgery as they initially thought. I know they set it and were going to look at it again today, but I don't believe they anticipate doing anymore surgery.

technomatt: Managing a club, how do strike a balance in your lineup between youthful energy and veteran grittiness?

Bell: In our situation, ideally you'd like to have more of a mix than we had. Expectations in the big leagues is to win regardless of the situation that you're in. You'd like to have a mixture of both and that's what I think you'll see in the future here. To go along with the younger guys like the real core (Gordon, Butler, David DeJesus), then you go out and get a veteran mix. I don't think there is any doubt that if we had a better mix of veterans this past year we could have put ourselves in a contending position. I'm not necessarily saying the playoffs, but our record certainly would have been better. In saying that though, we had to start the season with Mike Sweeney, Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek. Without guys like Sweeney and Sanders -- it hurt us. Grudzielanek was really the only guy our young players could look to who played every day. There were too many young players around for Grud to take care of.

sayheyjake: Who are you rooting for in the postseason and why?

Bell: The best team out there are the Yankees. When I say the best team, I think they have the most experience going into the postseason. Guys who have been there before. I also like the Angels and the Indians. The reason I don't pick the Indians to go all the way is because I think they have some tough guys who grind it out in the bullpen -- I just don't know how deep they are. If they had a deeper bullpen, I'd have to consider the Indians.

bluesproyal: What Royals player plays the game similar to the manner you did, with the tenacity and baseball sense?

Bell: I can tell you who I'd like to have played like -- Alex Gordon. The reason for that is because he really just plays the game. He doesn't really ask for anything. He just shows up at the ballpark, gets ready to play and is just a good teammate. He's there every day, good or bad. I think Alex is going to be a hell of a lot more talented than I was, but the way he treats the game is how I would have like to be considered. There are also guys like Sweeney and Mark Teahen. We were really lucky that we had a really low-maintenance team. Most of our guys respect the game the way it's supposed to be. Alex wasn't the only guy who looked at it that way, but in the future he's really not going to change.

kcwins08: What is going to be the biggest challenge for the next manager of this team?

Bell: I still think it's going to be patience. But I think we're close and just a couple of players short of being in a contending position. I think the expectations are going to continue to get higher and higher each and every year and next year the expectations are going to be a little unrealistic. Our players will only have another year under their belt and I think our players need four or five years under their belts. I think there will still be some patience required, but you never know what's going to happen over the winter. You could make one big deal that could put you over the top. The patience factor, you're dealing with expectations outside the clubhouse. The players have to know that the manager understands the situation and will show patience with them.

sayheyjake: What goes through your mind when constructing a lineup?

Bell: The first thing as a manager is that you like to have a set lineup. Ideally, that's what you'd like. When you're playing 162 games, that's very seldom the case. Then you look at the matchup and guys who have had success against a particular pitcher. That's offensively. Most people think you make out a lineup only offensively. That's only part of it. You put the lineup together when you look at what could happen in the later innings, where you might pinch-hit for a guy. Such as hitting Ross Gload in front of Gordon. The reason we'd do that is because often times, when a left-hander came in we'd pinch hit for Gload before we'd pinch-hit for Gordon, to try to make the other manager think twice to bring a left-hander in -- to wonder what we had on the bench to hit for Gload. Then we'd think of their bullpen and whether they had any left-handers in the 'pen vs. right-handers, then we wouldn't worry about it so much. The other situation, defensively, you're putting a lineup together, if you have your no. 1 pitcher out there, most of the time you'd want your best defensive team out there. That's a luxury and a lot of times we didn't have that.

bobbo104: How would you evaluate Tony Pena Jr.'s first season, and what should we expect from him next season?

Bell: I thought he was really good defensively. I think he has to improve on balls hit right at him, routine type plays, when he has to continue to move his feet better than he does. Tony's very athletic, has great instincts for the game, is a great teammate and certainly a lot better defensively than I anticipated for a rookie, more or less. Offensively, I think he made a lot of strides at the end of the year. We tried to get him to stay on top of the ball, which he started to do at the end of the year. He started to drive the ball. Tony knows that his situational stuff has to be better. Typical rookie -- inexperienced players trying to learn the situational game in the big leagues. It's hard to do. It's something that is generally learned in the Minor Leagues but for whatever reason, Tony's learning it up here.

jdmasta289: How do you see our September callups -- players such as Craig Brazell, Justin Huber, Paul Phillips and Luke Hochevar -- fitting into the organization's long-term plans?

Bell: Let me start with Huber. I think Huber has a chance to be a good offensive player in the future. We're trying to find a position for him. We're not sure defensively where he fits, but he's certainly a good offensive player. Brazell, we really didn't get a chance to make an evaluation of him. Mainly because Butler and Gload were going to play first and that's really where Craig fits. Phillips can be a pretty good backup at the big league level, but at some point he's going to have to move to the big leagues either with us or somebody else. As for Hochevar, I'm really impressed with him. I think he has a legitimate shot at our rotation next spring.

jccrews: Which did you prefer -- managing in the American or National League?

Bell: I really don't have a preference. I think that the each present their own set of situations. The American League is very chaotic, it's very important how you use your bullpen in the American League. I personally think the American League is tougher because of the games that you have. You have to be careful not to use your bullpen up. A lot of times in the National League the situation will dictate what you have to do. You just have to do it, which makes it a little bit easier, I think. In the National League, the double-switches that go on in the later innings certainly becomes a little bit tougher if you're not used to it. It's all about managing people anyway. The better the players, the easier it is to manage the situation.

Bell: Thank you for all of your questions, and more importantly, for all of your support during my time as the manager of the Royals.

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