Ned Yost: Closer. Yeah, he's our closer. Joakim has been very proficient in that role for us for the last couple years. My first year he was almost perfect, went the entire year before blowing a save, and did on the last [day of the] season. He had some struggles last year, but rebounded nicely from it. Took him out of the closer's role for about two weeks and he came in and had three or four appearances, a couple of them multi-inning appearances and got right back into form. He's been very successful in that role. He's tailor made for it. He doesn't get excited. He doesn't panic in tough situations and continues to throw strikes. There were some, I think, mechanical issues last year in his delivery, which got him to a point where it was elevating his pitches and when he got those smoothed out he was right back at the knees, on the corners, right back in control. He's our closer going into next year.
Q. The reason I asked is there's a lot of teams moving relievers to the closing position. Aside from his fit that you identified, is that a reflection of the state of your organization that you don't have to explore that?
Ned Yost: Well, we think that we've got a number of real nice young pitching prospects that are going to be at the big league level that are going to be real successful for us, one. Two, yeah, he's just done it so well for so long with us that that's a position he started as a starting pitcher. Can he go back and be a starting pitcher? Yeah, absolutely. We think he's durable enough, we think he's got the pitches to do it. But right now we like him where he's at. But there has been a lot of [it]. It's funny, Texas has done it and there has been some talk about us doing it with Soria outside of our organization, but nothing that we've really talked extensively about.
Q. But at the same time, it's good to have a guy like [Jonathan] Broxton in your organization now that has closing experience and could step in if Soria would have any problems or injury?
Ned Yost: It's always good to have a backup. We've got a very, very strong bullpen, and we have more candidates than just Jonathan Broxton. We've got Greg Holland, Aaron Crow that we think can do it. We feel like we've built a very, very strong bullpen and one that is going to be very, very productive for us.
Q. Crow is going to get a shot at starting?
Ned Yost: He will. We will bring Aaron Crow in as a starter. He's a young guy that we kind of broke in last year as a reliever, and he was very successful first half, made the All-Star team, was very overpowering, struggled a little bit in the second half, but we are going to give him a shot at being a starting pitcher, and we'll see our mindset was on that if it didn't work out, he could always go back to the bullpen where he's had some success last year as a rookie.
Q. Do you like that kind of Earl Weaver-esque formula of (Inaudible)?
Ned Yost: I take it on a case by case. Guys like Daniel Duffy and Mike Montgomery, no, I think they need to start. And if it meant them being in the bullpen in the big leagues for us, if we had a need for it and it helped our big league club, I'd be for it. But just to do it to do it, no, I think it's important that they continue to start, get their innings and work their way to the big leagues. Of course, Danny Duffy was there for 23 starts last year, 24 starts, and will come into the year with that experience. And Mike Montgomery is yet to break in, but we feel like he's close.
Q. Can you break down that bullpen depth a little bit? It was a pretty deep bullpen last year, and you've added Broxton and [Aaron ] Laffey, [Kelvin] Herrera is now up there, going to take a look at it? You had a lot of arm options last year.
Ned Yost: Well, we did, but what we've got in our inventory now is more power arms with Herrera. Laffey is not a power arm, but he's a guy that throws strikes, and that was something we needed, too, in our 'pen. A bit of a different look from the left side. We had [Tim] Collins who was a power lefty with the big breaking ball, real nice changeup. Laffey will give you a bit of a different look coming into Spring Training. It's my preference that we have two lefties in the 'pen, but with the power arms that we have in Broxton and Holland and Herrera and Crow and then the deception with Louis Coleman and his delivery, we think that we've amassed a real strong, nice bullpen.
Q. I know Bubba Starling was your big get in June. What's the latest on him? Have you heard much about his progression?
Ned Yost: He's doing fine, yeah. He sat out the majority of the summer, didn't play, so it was kind of a we've got a phenomenal player development system that really knows how to get these kids to the big leagues quick, and they are absolutely prepared to play when they get into the big leagues. It was more of a workout process. We moved him slowly into the games and instructional leagues and finished very, very strong. A lot of the scouts I've talked to that had a chance to see him play were very impressed with his talent and abilities.
Q. I know he's very versatile. How does your organization plan on utilizing him?
Ned Yost: Outfield. He's going to play the outfield. We think it's important that they learn all three outfield positions and experience all three outfield positions, and that's our plan for him right now.
Q. With Melky Cabrera traded to the Giants, what are your options in center field?
Ned Yost: Well, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson will be the two going in as we sit here today. Dyson can do a lot of things for you off the bench, can pinch-run, tremendous defender in center field. We think a lot of Cain's defense in center field, too. We think it's going to be a bit of an upgrade. And we think he's going to hit. I mean, he's going to go through his learning curve like [Mike Moustakas] did at times last year, like [Johnny Giavotella] did, like they all did. But in talking to Dale Sveum, who was the hitting coach in Milwaukee when Lorenzo was there, he was very impressed with the kid's ability for a young kid to make adjustments. When the league adjusted to him, he in turn made adjustments back. He swung the bat very, very well for them, put up really good numbers last year in Triple-A. And I'm excited to give him an opportunity and see what he can do.
Q. Other than center field, probably second base is probably the only other position that's kind of unsettled because of Giavotella and [Chris] Getz. How do you view that going into Spring Training?
Ned Yost: Kind of the same way I did last year. I think Johnny has got the upper hand in that job. He's recovering really, really well from his surgery. I don't know how much that hampered him last year. He never said a word about it and didn't even say anything when they left. But it just wasn't getting any better, and contacted Nick and they took care of it. I don't know how much that affected his range last year, but we thought it was a good experience for Johnny coming in and getting close to two months in the big leagues, getting that experience or a little more than two months' experience, and he'll come into camp along with Getz, and I think he'll get the majority of the playing time at second base. But Chris Getz is a valuable piece to our infield, too, right now.
Q. At center field you mentioned Cain and Dyson. Does that mean that [Mitch] Maier is viewed strictly as a backup?
Ned Yost: No, I look at center field and the depth thing as Cain, Dyson, and I look at Maier as a kid that can play all three. You know, I'm looking at Mitch, Mitch will play left, Mitch will play center, Mitch will play right field, where primarily I can move those other two guys around but they'll primarily be playing center field. You know, Mitch has got Mitch's value went up for me on our team when we traded Melky. Last year, when you've got three prominent outfielders that play every day and then have a year like they had last year where they had no injuries, where they didn't miss any playing time, it made it tough on Mitch. You're not pinch-hitting for any of them, we weren't pinch-hitting for any of our young infielders, we wanted them to get that exposure. I can foresee more opportunities for Mitch to play coming off the bench, pinch-hitting in certain situations and getting more than the 95 at-bats he got last year.
Q. Will Mike Montgomery have an opportunity to break camp in the rotation?
Ned Yost: That depends on him, that doesn't depend on me. Mike Montgomery is going to come to Spring Training and get an opportunity to pitch, and what his job is is to pitch so well that we can't send him back. And that could happen. You know, the odds of that happening could be very, very good. But again, that's dependent on him and how well he does in Spring Training. He's going to have to come force the issue like Aaron Crow did last year. Aaron came to Spring Training last year, didn't have a very good year the year before, went to Double-A and struggled, got sent all the way back to [Class] A ball and came to Spring Training and pitched his way onto the ballclub. As good as he performed in Spring Training, it was really hard to send him down. Mike Montgomery is going to get that same opportunity.
Q. What's your take on Jonathan Sanchez?
Ned Yost: I'm excited to have him. He's a kid that I got a chance to see quite a bit when I was managing Milwaukee. He's got tremendous stuff. He's very hard to center up. Command is a bit of an issue with him at times, but that's who he is. A lot of times he gets a lot of swings and misses, he gets a lot of miss-hits on balls that aren't strikes, and that's part of his game. I don't have any concerns with his ability to throw strikes. I think he's going to be fine. The injury that he sustained last year was an ankle injury, didn't have anything to do with his arm. That'll be completely healed. I'm excited that he's on our team and on our staff and I think he's upgraded our starting rotation a lot.
Q. Do you think Wil Myers has made a transition to the outfield that is satisfactory to Major League standards?
Ned Yost: I do, and I think he will continue to grow. He's a very special young man in terms of his ability. He's very, very talented. I had a chance to see Will and get to know Will really well before I took this manager's job. He's got great aptitude. He learns very fast. He picks things up very fast.
Q. He's got a great eye at the plate, too.
Ned Yost: He's got tremendous talent, yeah, he's going to be a great player, very special player.
Q. You mentioned the other day you guys were looking for kind of a left-handed relief.
Ned Yost: Situational guy, somebody to match up with Collins in the 'pen. You know, the thing about Collins, he's very durable, he's a guy that can pitch multiple days back to back-to-back. He's got three probably above average pitches, I would say, for a left-hander, 93-mph fastball, a tremendous curveball, and a great changeup. His issue is command. He's got to be able to throw strikes. You can't come in and throw 60 innings and walk 50 guys. That can't happen. So he needs to throw more strikes. He's always thrown strikes in his Minor League career, so I look for him to bounce back and throw more strikes this year. I'm looking for Collins as more of a one- or two-inning guy. I'm looking for a guy that maybe in the eighth inning and we've got two or three lefties up in a row. We can start the inning with a lefty and have Broxton or Holland finish the inning off and just look for ways to try to keep Broxton and Holland strong and healthy all year. You know, you can set it up as you can have one guy throw the seventh inning, one guy throw the eighth inning, one guy throw the ninth inning. You wear them out. You can't. You've got to be able to give them a day off here and there and really monitor their workload and keep it balanced so that they're strong all the time, and a lot of times having that lefty situational guy to come in and either start the inning and get a couple of tough left-handers out or to come in and close out an inning to get a tough left hander out helps those guys stay strong and helps them stay healthy for the long run.
Q. Are there any in-house candidates for that?
Ned Yost: We've got some guys that we'll look at, [Blaine] Hardy and those kids, but we're still looking.
Q. Can you talk about Mike Moustakas' struggles last season?
Ned Yost: You know, what he did, I think Mike was a kid that the year before he led all Minor Leagues in home runs and had an outstanding year, as he did the year before. Came to the big leagues last year, and I think really wanted to impress. Got off to a good start his first couple games, he was swinging the bat really, really well, and I think he got into home run mode, and he really wanted to pull. He got long, his swing got slow, he got long, he was really trying to hit homer after homer, and you can't do that at the big league level. The big league pitchers will eat you up and spit you out. But he continued to fight it and fight it and fight it until he got to a point where he decided, hey, I'm just going to go back to hitting singles, driving the ball up the middle. At that point his average was down to about .179, .180, and over the course of the next six weeks his average rose to .260, started hitting homers. It's all about learning how to handle failure in the big leagues, one, and how to be successful in the big leagues and what it takes. If you go up there trying to hit home runs, you're not going to hit home runs, you're going to hit .180. But if you go up there trying to hit the ball up the middle and put a good, solid swing on it, he's going to be a power hitter and a home run hitter. I think that's what experience does for these guys. I think it was a great experience for him. I think he's going to come back into Spring Training knowing he can be successful at the big league level, and I'm anxious to see the year he has next year.
Q. And I think a lot of teams or players probably would have sent him back after that start. What was it about him that allowed him to stay up and work through it?
Ned Yost: Well, again, we knew that we had to go through a process with these young guys, and with young guys, you know that they're going to struggle. There just is no way around it. When they come to the big leagues, and they all did it, the thing as a manager, you've got to have enough strength to fight off the people that don't understand that this is very good character building time for them to go through these things, to learn how to fight through these things, to learn what it takes to get through these things, and then become successful on the back end. You're not going to do it by sending them down. The level of competition at the Major Leagues is as great as it's a world of difference between the big leagues and Triple-A, and I wanted him to learn how to fight his way through it, to hit rock bottom if you will and push himself back up at the big league level. Did it cost us games last year with these young kids? Yeah, there were certain situations where I most definitely could have pinch-hit when might have changed the outcome of the game, but I didn't want to take those situations away with those kids, because I know that that experience is going to be valuable in the big picture in a year down the road, in two years down the road, that these kids have done through five and six and to and 15 and 20 times when they've had bases loaded, two outs in the eighth inning in a one-run game. You know, they've been through that before. It's not going to be their first time or second time, and they learn how to cope with it, they learn how to be successful for it, and they learn how to keep their emotions down and just take care of the task at hand. But you have to go through it to do it, and we wanted to give him every opportunity to fight through it and get through it, and it pays off in the long run. It paid off for J.J. Hardy for being in Milwaukee at the All-Star break he was hitting .170, the fans were screaming to send him down, and we wouldn't do it. And J.J. ended up hitting .240 at the end of the year, and then next year he hit 25 homers and made the All-Star team. It happened with Rickie Weeks. Rickie really struggled when he first came up as an infielder. Now look at Rickie Weeks' defensive ability at second base. You have to allow them to play through those situations, especially if you're not in contention. For me, I've said it before, and I don't know if it's right or if it's wrong, but there's it doesn't make a world of difference to me if I win 68 or 72 games. I don't care. I want to win a championship, and the best way for me to win a championship is give these kids as much of that experience as I possibly can right now so that we are when we are in a place where we can contend they've got that experience to drawback on.
Q. So how many games are you going to win this year?
Ned Yost: I hope one.
Q. At least one?
Ned Yost: I don't know.
Q. I'll take the over on that.
Ned Yost: Yeah, I would bet on the over on that. We're going to be OK. You know, the thing that I'm really excited about is a lot of times the manager really thinks you can win. These kids think they can win. You know, they know they're going to win. They know it. They feel it. They're every bit of their attitude tells you that they feel it. I mean, at the end of the year last year, I was really impressed with the way that they were so focused on finishing the year out strong and taking momentum into next year. That was a very impressive thing for me. These kids, they've got a plan, and they know what they want to accomplish, and they know how they're going to go about accomplishing it.
Q. Did Salvador Perez meet or exceed your expectations last year? And are you comfortable with him taking a heavy workload?
Ned Yost: I would have been comfortable with him taking a heavy workload last year coming out of [Class] A ball. This kid is the best young catching prospect I've seen. I mean, we didn't have any in Milwaukee. We had Javy Lopez in Atlanta, and Javy was spectacular. This kid is better in my estimation as a total package. So yes, I've got all the confidence in the world in this kid, and I just think he's going to be a tremendous player when it's all said and done. I think he's going to be a Gold Glove, I think he's going to be an All-Star player, and I think he's going to be a pretty nice player. But that's just me.
Q. What did you think of the Sergio Santos' deal?
Ned Yost: What did I think about it?
Q. I mean, he's out of the division now.
Ned Yost: Yeah. I don't know. I didn't have much of a reaction. I mean, I thought it was a good deal. If both teams are happy, then I'm happy. I'm just really focused on what we're trying to do. To be honest with you, I didn't really think about it. I didn't analyze it too much. Was John Farrell happy with it?
Q. Yes, he seemed pretty happy with it.
Ned Yost: All right, well, then I'm happy.