SHANKS: Does Tim Hudson have a deadline for a new extension?
SCHUERHOLZ: Yea he had that deadline…that deadline's been in place with Oakland and it continues. The first of March. We're in conversations with them. We made a big deal for him. We feel that he is important to try to win a World's Championship this year. That's our goal to try to win a World's Championship this year. We think Tim will help us do that. If it works out that he's able to be apart of this organization for longer than that, that would be wonderful, and we're going to work toward that. We're going to do all we can to work toward that.
SHANKS: But he is the type of pitcher you want to build your rotation around for the future?
SCHUERHOLZ: Absolutely. Absolutely.
SHANKS: You've said that this year's rotation could be the best.
SCHUERHOLZ: Well I think it could be as good as we've ever had. You know, there's some inside thinking in our organization that it might even prove to be better. It's hard to say that when we've had such great success with our pitching in the past. But that's how highly we rate the potential of these guys. Hudson is not a potential. John Smoltz? You know, we think very positively and assume very strongly that he's going to be a success as a starter. No one knows. I don't know. No one knows. We feel very strongly that that's going to be a success. So if Tim pitches the way he can pitch and John does, in fact, make a very positive transition back to starting and Hampton and Thomson pitch as well as they pitched the last half of last year and Horacio Ramirez is healthy, it could be as fine a rotation as we've ever had out there.
SHANKS: What do you think about the bullpen right now?
SCHUERHOLZ: I like Kolb. I like Kolb a lot. I think our bullpen will set up nicely. Reitsma was a horse last year. He faltered at the end, but I like him still. Gryboski. We've added Gabe White. I think Tom Martin will bounce back. Tom didn't have as good a year for us last year as he had the previous year. We think he's still got that in him. I like how we're going to set up with that. We've got some young guys in the mix that'll be coming into spring training for the last spot.
SHANKS: And that last spot is pretty much open?
SCHUERHOLZ: Yea absolutely. Right now it is. If we make a deal, who knows. We may make a deal and get an arm, but right now it's wide open.
SHANKS: Was this a tricky offseason considering the fact you have two players in Marte and Francoeur who are almost ready?
SCHUERHOLZ: No. We have great comfort in how we're handling the development of our youngsters. Now if Jeff Francoeur comes to spring training as a non-roster invitee and wins a spot on our major league team, he'll be on it. Marte is going to have more of a challenge because he plays third base and we've got a third baseman. Jeff would have to be a starter for it to make sense. But we're not going to discount him. I mean this guy is going to come in for spring training loaded for bear. Watch out if he gets hot. Bobby is not at all uncomfortable giving young guys a chance to not only battle for a spot on the team but to actually make the team and to play on the team and to contribute to the team. It doesn't bother Bobby at all.
SHANKS: And that goes for Langerhans and McCarthy too?
SCHUERHOLZ: Absolutely. I think Ryan has got a real shot at being on our club one way or the other, either as a starter or a back. Right now with Mondesi and Jordan, he's going to probably be slated for a backup role, which isn't a bad way for a young guy to break in. In Jeff's case, it would make a lot more sense if he is a starter.
SHANKS: And Jeff is close?
SCHUERHOLZ: Well yea. He missed some critical time last year with the injury. He's close.
SHANKS: Is Marte going to the outfield?
SCHUERHOLZ: I don't think so.
SHANKS: So you'll just play it by ear and see how it works out with him and Chipper?
SCHUERHOLZ: Yea. We're going to need a third baseman someday.
SHANKS: And Chipper is happy at third isn't he?
SCHUERHOLZ: He's delighted.
SHANKS: Last year when you were able to pull off those two late moves in spring training that really helped the team. Will you have that flexibility again?
SCHUERHOLZ: Well we had some holes we had to fill. We were able to do it.
SHANKS: And that gives you the confidence that if Jordan or Mondesi are not back to where you need them to be you could do that again?
SCHUERHOLZ: Well we've got kids we think will be ready to contribute like Langerhans and McCarthy and Francoeur. We signed Esix Snead. We've got John Barnes and Roosevelt Brown back from Japan. We've got some guys that can battle for outfield spots. We're not worried about that. I think Mondesi and Brian are going to have real good years. That's my instinct. That's what I think is going to happen.
SHANKS: Even after all the trades you've made over the last few years, the strength of the farm system is still tremendous. The ability to replenish is the key. Are you still confident that this level will be able to be maintained?
SCHUERHOLZ: Absolutely confident. And the reason I'm confident is the same reason I've been confident every year as a General Manager…the scouting and player development programs in our organization, in the fifteen years I've been in Atlanta, have been crucial in our ability to put a winning team on the field at the major league level. We have developed players who have matriculated through our farm system and to our major league club or we have developed and used in trades to get qualified, talented, experienced major leaguers to fill gaping holes on our major league roster effectively. We've won thirteen consecutive division championships, and I credit a lot of that to the work of our scouting and player development people. I've said that a thousand times publicly and I keep saying it. It's the truth. It's just the way we operate.
SHANKS: But to trade Adam and Bubba and then this winter Cappy and Meyer and to still have the depth that we have is tremendous.
SCHUERHOLZ: True. I don't want people to get the opinion that we're going to trade all of our prospects until their gone. We're not going to do that. As much as we wanted Tim Hudson and as glad as we are to get him, it was not easy trading Dan Meyer. It was not easy trading Dan Meyer. It was tough. People may scratch their heads and say, "What? To get Tim Hudson?" Well the reality is we have Tim Hudson and if we have him for a year and we win the World's Championship, then it's worth everything you trade. If you win a World's Championship, it's worth everything you trade. If you don't win a World's Championship and we're not able to keep Tim here, then it might not be quite as worthwhile. But I think it's worth the effort, with the team that we have, and as strong as we're going to be this year. I think it's every bit worth the effort to do.
Bill Shanks can be reached at email@example.com
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