Bob Geren At The Winter Meetings

Oakland A's manager Bob Geren spoke with the media during the recently completed baseball winter meetings. Inside is a transcript of that interview.

Q. I know you guys talked a little bit last night with us about the coaching search, but what do you look for in a bench coach? You'll be on your third in three years as a manager?

BOB GEREN: There's been eight in eight years now. But what I look for is somebody that understands the game, that I trust, have a close relationship with because you're probably with that coach 2-to-1 over anybody else, so it's somebody that you want to help you in all aspects of the game, whether it's running the game, sometimes it's off the field or you're tired or something is bothering you, you want to lay some things out there. It's a lot baseball and it's some that's personal, too. It's a little of everything.

Q. Would you rather this time not have somebody who might be looking at a managerial job in the next year or two so you can establish some continuity?

BOB GEREN: I don't ever want to limit that. I think that if your bench coach becomes a manager, it's because people in the game respect what he can do. So that's a -- that means you hired a good person, really, is the way I look at it. But I know what you're saying. It's nice to have a staff that you'd be with for years, and every time you hire somebody you think that hopefully you guys will be together for a long time. If something happens, it happens, but you just look at -- baseball is kind of -- you want to do what's right for the team right now and figure out later later. That's a good question, though.

Q. How important is it identifying a leadoff hitter that you can plug in at the top every day, and how do you feel about the candidates you have on the roster right now?

BOB GEREN: Well, obviously I like to use a guy at the top of the order that's going to get on base the most. He's the batter that's going to get the most at-bats in a season for obvious reasons, and to have somebody that can do it every day for you, yeah. I mean, our big thing was the consistency of just staying healthy so you have the same lineup continuity would be nice, and in my two years here we haven't had that, mainly due to injuries.

Q. Can you name a couple guys off the current roster that would get the first crack at maybe leading off?

BOB GEREN: Off the current roster you look at Travis Buck, possibly even Ryan Sweeney. Travis Buck has had some experience at it. He can have a pretty decent on-base percentage for you. He can run. So that's a pretty good candidate right now. Mark Ellis has done it in the past.

Q. How tough is it for you to even think about lineups when you know that Billy probably isn't done?

BOB GEREN: I don't think about lineups. I think at this point there's really no use for it. I mean, we are at these meetings to try to improve our team, like everybody else is. So the actual team you take in February when you start spring training to the opening at the end of spring training, it could be so different that it's not really -- you play around a little bit with the middle guys that you know will be there, Matt Holliday, and he'll be a great addition, and Eric Chávez coming back and Jack Cust, and you look at those guys and you say you have a pretty formidable middle-of-the-lineup-type hitters right there, and then you just kind of piece together the rest. But as far as putting batting orders together in December, I haven't really done that.

Q. Where do you like Holliday, though?

BOB GEREN: It would depend. Obviously three or four.

Q. In terms of expectations, are you confident you can get something done before leaving Vegas?

BOB GEREN: That's really more of a question for Billy. I'm in on everything, obviously, but as far as time frame on when we might add or subtract or make a trade or something like that, there's no real time frame.

Q. Can you imagine a scenario where you would revisit Rafael Furcal?

BOB GEREN: That's just something that's kind of a free agent type, don't really like to talk about free agency as far as that goes. That's something that our front office does a really nice job doing and they have a great reputation around the league of just going after who they want to go after and they don't really publicize it too much, and that works best for us.

Q. Your relationship with Billy, I would imagine you guys talk a lot about makeup of the team more than other managers in the past. Do you ever voice any concerns, a lot of young guys, question marks in the starting rotation, I'd like to see a veteran guy, you know?

BOB GEREN: We like to see the best fit for the team, and to be honest with you, just good players or good pitchers are usually the best fit. It's not necessarily how many years of experience they have. But it always ends up being that way. Just about with every club you have a mix. We'll definitely have a mixture of veteran players. The exciting thing about the team is the way they matured last year. A lot of them grew, and it's just an old saying, young players get better, and we have a lot of young players, and we're counting on them getting better.

Q. Is it not uneasy in any way if you didn't add veteran starting pitching to go into next season? Justin's health is in question and you don't have anybody on the staff that's ever made 30 starts in a big league season.

BOB GEREN: Well, we had our medical meetings and a lot of the guys are healthy right now, so we've got that going for us, guys that are recovering well in the off-season. It's so early in the off-season anything could happen as far as adding anybody.

Q. From a managerial standpoint, what is your biggest need, even at these early stages?

BOB GEREN: We'd like to add to our offense, obviously. We have added a nice bat in left field, that's for sure, but we were really down in almost every offensive category last year. Can we add from within? Mark Ellis had a little bit of a shoulder problem last year. That affected him somewhat. I know he'll do better. Eric is recovering and feeling real good, so we all know what he can do. And with Holliday, and I think Jack Cust's numbers, we can go up with him. Walks might go down, but his numbers might go up type of thing, but you never know, if one is on deck or one is batting.

There's some things with protection. I think we'll have guys hitting more in slots of the lineup that they probably should be at. We have guys maybe in the three, four, fives that might be more two, six, seven type hitters.

Q. After seeing Daric Barton starting for a full season, any ideas at all what kind of a fit he is in the long-term answer?

BOB GEREN: I think long-term he's going to be a good hitter. I think he never got a streak going where he got hot for any period of time. In September last year you saw what he could do when he got hot. He just never hit that stride last year. He's recovering, too. He looks good. His body looks pretty strong.

Q. Recovering from what?

BOB GEREN: His hip.

Q. Surgery on it?

BOB GEREN: Yeah, at the end of the year.

Q. Do you like Cust as a three hitter?

BOB GEREN: It would depend on everything else, the makeup of the team.

Q. Where is his best spot?

BOB GEREN: What was he, tied for sixth in the league in homers and right there in walks and he obviously strikes out a lot, but he could fit anywhere in there. Depends on the whole mix. I mean, that one through five is kind of a -- you have to see who your five best hitters are and kind of work it out from there.

Q. Has it been discussed or have you spoken with Cust about cutting down on strikeouts? Is that kind of a goal?

BOB GEREN: No, you know, you have to -- in situations, yes, but overall, there's certain circumstances where it's really not acceptable to strike out, and those are the ones that you want to cut back. But in general, when you can move a runner or get a runner in, those are the times you've got to put it in play.But other than that, strike out is an out. Sometimes a ground ball is two outs. So sometimes it's better to strike out than ground out, you know?

Q. But you've always been kind of cool with what he does, the whole package?

BOB GEREN: It's what he's done his whole career. I think that in certain situations every hitter needs to change their game plan a little bit and bear down and make sure they put a ball in play. But those aren't -- that's a small percentage probably of the strikeouts.

Q. Has the organization talked to him about that?

BOB GEREN: You know, we talk. Everybody talks all the time, hitters, hitting coach, managers, about lots of things. Have I specifically sat him down and said cut down your strikeouts? No.

Q. What were your impressions of Aaron Cunningham late last season?

BOB GEREN: He has a lot of talent. He has a lot of power for a little guy. He's got a lot of skills. Defensively he has a little bit of room to go there. With his speed and everything, I know he could play a little bit better defensively than he did. He was adjusting at the Big Leagues to the upper deck and the vision, seeing things a little bit differently. He got better. Ball jumped off his bat. It was pretty impressive actually. He hit a couple balls that were -- they just kept going. It was impressive.

Q. Most managers would like to go into spring training knowing who your closer is going to be. Do you know who your closer is going to be going into next spring?

BOB GEREN: I could use a combination of them real easily like I did late in the year last year. I felt like Brad Ziegler with the streak that he had, it was obviously record-breaking-type performance. What kind of got lost was what Joey Devine did.

Q. He broke a record, too.

BOB GEREN: Yeah, he threw the ball so well, too. I feel real comfortable right now with both of them. I like the flexibility of who the other team is coming up in the eighth and ninth because I think a lot of people don't -- I would say understand. That's kind of harsh, but the eighth inning could be a more difficult leverage situation than the ninth, and to limit yourself and just say, you're an eighth and you're a ninth, sometimes the eighth might be better for Ziegler and the ninth might be better for Devine.

Q. So you could see it flip-flopping around?

BOB GEREN: No, I don't have any problem with it. It's different. Not too many teams are doing it that way. But right now I feel like that's what I would do. I could change, but I think that's --

Q. Seems like there's a lot of competition for the back end of the rotation, the guys who don't end up winning those spots. Will you try to make them relievers or send them to Triple-A?

BOB GEREN: Well, there's some guys that have started that could be a good reliever. There's some candidates.

Q. Such as?

BOB GEREN: Maybe a Dallas Braden, somebody like that. I like him. He's an example that could go either way. When you get towards the end of spring training, you see how it's shaping up, and you look at it, is it better for this guy to stay in the Big Leagues and be a reliever and be a reliever for his career or kind of break him in as a reliever and use him somewhere down the road as a starter, or is it better for him to go to the Minor Leagues and get more innings until he can help you.

Q. Is that where you're at with Gio Gonzalez, trying to determine what's best if he doesn't win a starting role?

BOB GEREN: Yeah, that would be an example of a guy, see how he looks in the spring. That's a good example. Or he could be an example of a guy, like we did late in the year, get him some innings in in the bullpen, kind of get his confidence going. That's a good example.

Q. Everything being equal and everybody being healthy right now, what is the rotation?

BOB GEREN: It's hard to --

Q. Same thing?

BOB GEREN: Yeah, it's hard to name that right now. Obviously Justin Duchscherer is going to be healthy, and Sean Gallagher. It's the same group of guys that you're going to see from last year. Dana Eveland looks good, saw him last week. We had a nice session in Arizona. Was it Friday? What is today, Wednesday?

Q. Tuesday.

BOB GEREN: Thursday night and Friday a lot of the players were in Arizona, and we went to dinner and then everybody got some physicals. We had our strength and conditioning coach, he ran them through some of the training programs we're going to do during the year, gave a couple guys a little test. It was kind of mid-off-season test. A couple of them passed it real easy; some looked like, hey, you'd better be ready in spring training, which is good.

Q. Is that similar to what you did last off-season?

BOB GEREN: It was the same, except we did the physical on-the-field workouts a little harder this year.

Q. Did you learn anything new, health updates on any of the guys?

BOB GEREN: Well, I got a health update on all of them. It would be hard to go over all of them. There was about 20 guys. There were a lot of guys that were injured last year.

Q. Was Chavez there?

BOB GEREN: Yeah, he feels good.

Q. What's he doing, baseball activities?

BOB GEREN: He's going to start throwing shortly. He hasn't started to throw yet, but he was going to get clearance on when he could start to throw. I believe that's like a week out.

Q. Maybe a week from now?

BOB GEREN: From Friday. I think he was going to start trying.

Q. Swinging the bat yet?

BOB GEREN: No.

Q. He said he was going to swing the bat first.

BOB GEREN: I didn't get a great chance to talk to him when he got done, because I was out on the field. And when I came back, he had already taken off. He was going to have a follow-up right before when I left with the doctor to get clearance.

Q. Did you talk to him since Friday?

BOB GEREN: Not since Friday, no.

Q. Duke there?

BOB GEREN: Yeah.

Q. How is he?

BOB GEREN: He says he feels great. The surgery, the doctor says it was just a real minor thing, and he feels better than ever. He looked good. They were doing some stretching, some strength, and which muscles are firing, tests. It was comprehensive, good. I enjoyed it.

Q. Is Ryan Sweeney swinging the bat?

BOB GEREN: Ryan is -- his finger is feeling good. He has not started to swing yet but he says it's going to be soon. He's still wearing the thing when he hits. He's going to wear it for a little while.

Q. A lot of guys in the typical off-season, they wouldn't be starting training?

BOB GEREN: A lot of them start in January, their conditioning, weightlifting, things like that, not really cranking it up. The complex is open three days a week -- four days a week actually, and in January more guys start coming. We have quite a few guys living down there.

Travis looks really good, Travis Buck. He's working hard. He looks pretty good. He just feels really good mentally, physically, everything. He's ready to have a good year.

Q. Are these just guys with physical issues down there?

BOB GEREN: Yeah, one way or another, some kind of issue. Either they are post-surgery or there was some kind of issue with -- like, Chris Denorfia was down there, Jack Hannahan, he finished the season.

Q. Matt Holliday wasn't there?

BOB GEREN: No. Patterson was there with his hamstring.

Q. Have you seen much of Holliday as a player? What do you know of Holliday?

BOB GEREN: He's one of the better players in baseball, complete package. He stole 20 or 30 bases. I was going to say he's an underrated outfielder, but I don't know the way other people in the industry rate him. He's a good outfielder I guess is what I should say. I don't really -- I know he's a good outfielder. He's a complete player. He's a slugger, All-Star. And besides all that, everybody said he's a real good person, really good guy, too, like a good teammate.

Q. Have you met him?

BOB GEREN: I just spoke to him on the phone. When he flew into Oakland I was actually out of town. I missed him. But I spoke to him on the phone.

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