BOBBY COX: We have basically done a lot before we came here. We signed Tim Hudson, Saito and Wags the last few weeks, and we still have a lot to do. We are looking for are a hitter right now, and we have not excluded anybody. But, you know, our endeavor here is to come out with a hitter.
Q. Righty or lefty?
BOBBY COX: Preferably a righty. We are pretty much left-handed.
Q. Play where, just off the bench or in the outfield? Where would you want him to play?
BOBBY COX: You know, Adam LaRoche is a free agent. We don't have a first baseman right now. We have a young kid, Freddie Freeman. I guess if push came to shove, we like him an awful lot. He just turned 20 in August and he's a very young kid, but very talented. We'll see what happens here the rest of the three, four days.
Q. You've announced this is your last year on the bench. What are your thoughts as you begin to approach the preparation for this last year?
BOBBY COX: Well, it's the same. I've been asked that question before. It's exactly -- I don't think that will hit me until the last pitch is thrown and the last ballgame. But, yeah, that's going to be it.
Q. Have you given any thoughts to moving Chipper off the diamond to first base?
BOBBY COX: There's always talk of that, but, no, we have not talked to Chipper about that at all this winter. You know, he didn't have his best
year defensively last year; the year before, I thought he should have won the Gold Glove. You know, he's still a good player. His average was down a bit last year. He just couldn't get it going in the rear end of the season a little bit.
The previous two years he led the league in hitting, .360s plus, and the year before second, .340. We still think he's going to be very productive.
Q. Could you envision a scenario of trading a starting pitcher?
BOBBY COX: We have six really good starters, and to allow us to get a hitter, we need to move one of them. So, there will be some knocks on our
suite up stairs, that's for sure.
Q. Can you talk about the development of Martin Prado last year and how he came along?
BOBBY COX: Martin Prado has always been a .300 hitter ever since he started. You could make a case that he was our best hitter second half. We like him a lot. He's very versatile. He can play -- he can fill in at short. He's very good at second, great at third, very good at first, and he can play a great left field. You know, for a National League player, those kind of guys are very valuable.
Q. And do you have him slated as your starting second baseman?
BOBBY COX: He's going to start somewhere; he's got to. He played so well last year. He'll be in the lineup.
Q. Could he be at first?
BOBBY COX: He could be just about anywhere, yeah. Depending on what happens here.
Q. The day after the season ended, you talked about him playing the outfield.
BOBBY COX: Yeah, I mentioned that to you guys.
You know, they say in the winter leagues he's an outstanding outfielder. I think we had him out there one time, so I didn't see a lot. But what I hear, he could really play.
Q. The signings you've done thus far, to address your bullpen, talk about the middle guys leading to the closing guys. How do you foresee that should be?
BOBBY COX: Well, we think Moylan is a really -- he could pitch the eighth, or even if push came to shove. This year if we lost both Soriano and
Gonzalez if we were not able to sign Wagner or Saito, he he could be the closer. We like him a lot in the middle the way it sets up. And O'Flaherty, the left-hander, had a nice year for us last year. And a young kid by the name of Medlen really came on strong. He had more
strikeouts than innings pitched, and less hits in his very first year. He's come a long ways. We like him.
Q. As you look for that hitter you were talking about, do you need to move some payroll to make that happen? Do you have flexibility to add?
BOBBY COX: We probably need to move a pitcher to make that happen.
Q. You guys have talked about, you have not cut ties totally with Gonzalez or Soriano?
BOBBY COX: No, we will know tonight, 12:00, whether they accept arbitration or not. But if we end up with both of them, we will have the best pen ever, maybe.
Q. Do you know who your closer is?
BOBBY COX: Wagner, no matter what.
Q. Change of topic. What do you think about replay? Do you think it needs to be expanded?
BOBBY COX: I like it the way it is. If we didn't make so many baserunning mistakes during the playoffs and everything else, the umpires, you know, would have had a good series probably.
But the umpires are doing a great -- I think for foul balls maybe and, you know, if there's a home run hit that's not a home run hit, sure, that's fine. But to delay games, I'm not a part of that.
Q. Is there anything in particular that you really like about Wagner as your closer?
BOBBY COX: He pitched his first inning back from his rehab in New York against us, and he was lights-out. Frank had the scouts on him when he went to Boston; they had all glowing reports.
We spent a lot of time with Billy up at his home in Virginia, and he's excited to do this again. Definitely wants to close, and you know, we think
he's a good one.
Q. Do you think you'll have to be careful with Wags and Saito?
BOBBY COX: He says no. Wags says no.
Q. He will?
BOBBY COX: Yeah, yeah. You think so? (Laughing.)
But Saito, he didn't even go in the training room last year. His arm is fine. We know all about it. We are hoping both of them hold together.
Q. Did you think about bringing back Andruw Jones? He was a free agent, too.
BOBBY COX: It crossed our minds and this and that. We were looking at other guys. He's already signed. He's a Chicago White Sox player now.
Q. When you say you're looking for a hitter, is your organization willing to go big dollars, ala Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, that kind of thing?
BOBBY COX: No, we are not in that bidding at all, no. We have a young kid by the name of Jason Hayward that just turned 20 also in August that is maybe the top prospect in all of baseball. We are going to give him a chance to compete for one of the outfield jobs.
Q. There was a report about Escobar possibly playing winter ball in the Dominican; is there something specific?
BOBBY COX: Not for us. He's a polished guy already: hitting, fielding, throwing, everything to do with skills, he's very, very polished. He doesn't need to work on anything.
Q. Put the cart before the horse a little bit here, but what input, if any, are you going to have in the naming of your successor?
BOBBY COX: No, honestly, I don't want any part of that. That's up to Frank and John and front office people.
Q. Possibly with this being your last year, are you getting any thoughts about the Hall of Fame? Because Tommy Lasorda said there's pretty much a
locker waiting for you.
BOBBY COX: Well, he told me that yesterday morning. I hope so someday. I'd be honored to be inducted. But you know, that's up to them.
Q. What eventually determined for you that this would be your last year?
BOBBY COX: I think age probably. I feel great. I know I could manage another five years probably, but I think it's just time to step back and let
somebody a little younger come in and get it going themselves. I'll miss it, but we have got an arrangement where I'm going to do a few things for the club, scout around. Luckily, our Minor League teams are all very close to the Atlanta. There's no driving time at all. You know, spring training is always a lot of fun.
I'll be near it. Not real close, but near it.
Q. What will you be looking forward to the most, life away?
BOBBY COX: It's going to be hard not going to the ballpark every day, quite honestly. But none of us have ever had a summer off. I'm looking forward to just picking up some day and traveling or whatever we want to do, and not
have to answer to Bill for, "play ball."
Q. Do you think some members of your staff will be good candidates for Frank to consider?
BOBBY COX: Sure. I think everybody on there has got a lot of experience. You bet.
Q. When you look around at who some of your contemporaries have been, LaRussa, Piniella, Tommy. This has been a pretty remarkable era for managers in the game.
BOBBY COX: Yeah, we have been able to hang on quite a long period. All of the names, they are all great managers and good baseball people. I've been fortunate to be in this position so long.
BOBBY COX: I've been on their side. I've been very honest with them. They know how I manage and how we discipline, and everybody just comes to Atlanta, just about, likes it a lot, the city, the fans, the ballpark, and the way we run it.
Q. You talked about Hayward; what will go into that process of determining whether or not he's ready or not?
BOBBY COX: Well, we had five Mondays off last spring. We played on four of them, and he played all those games. He played some in the regular games, as well, and really looked great. He was really a stand-out, I thought. He had another good season. He's got great makeup. He's very smart and he's extremely talented. And he's hungry. He's got the entire package.
Q. Does that make it difficult to plan whether or not you need a stop gap, though?
BOBBY COX: Well, we'll see what happens. We'll see. We are not going to give anybody, you know, the job, but he's going to be able to compete. If he wins it, he wins it.
Q. What is one of your most fondest memories, managing, that you can think of and share?
BOBBY COX: Every day is a good memory for me just about. I come to the park pretty positive every day. I can't make a difference in any particular club or anything like that really.
We have had a lot of great -- you know, just being around Maddux and Glavine and Smoltz, those Top 3, almost my entire career in Atlanta was very, very special. That's one of the reasons we managers keep hanging on; you get good
pitchers, you work next year.
Q. The thing with Soriano, is that potentially a wrench in this thing?
BOBBY COX: No, not at all. We would be happy to have him back. He's a quality -- he's a closer for me. He can definitely close. But he'd make the world's greatest set up guy, too.
Q. You've had so many good rotations. How could this one stack up?
BOBBY COX: This is a good one, very good. I don't know where we finished last year in the stats, but we had to be near the top. I think we got 800 innings out of our starters, real close to it. You know, the year before, we lost four of the five. We had no chance. Last year, nobody went down. You know, when you're talking about Jurrjens and Hanson, two of the younger guys, the way Vazquez will go through and Hudson came on strong, we signed him. Gave us some leverage.
Q. How do you think you'll look back on the time in your career where you were an executive, as opposed to a manager? I think there's a pretty good chance if you had managed straight through you would be number three on the all-time wins.
BOBBY COX: Honestly, the numbers, I don't look at that. Maybe when I retire hopefully. It was a good experience, being in the front office a little bit. Always preferred being on the field, but it was good. I've scouted a little bit. I've been the GM. I've managed. I've coached and
all that and I've been through all of the winter leagues and instructional leagues throughout my career. I did the whole thing, and very grateful that I was able to hang on that long.
Q. You said it won't hit you until the end of next year, but during this off-season, have you reflected a little bit more than other off-seasons?
BOBBY COX: No, it's all been the same. It honestly was -- preparation is preparation. I think the last pitch maybe will be special.
Q. Talking about Prado being your possible second baseman next year --
BOBBY COX: He could be.
Q. Where does that leave Kelly Johnson?
BOBBY COX: Well, Kelly right now, there's some clubs knocking on the door for him. We'll just have to wait and see. We haven't ruled him out at all. I mean, Kelly, to me, is still a good ballplayer. He was going a little bit rough last year at the time I let Prado play second, and Prado would throw in two or three hits every night. You know, when a player does that, you play them.
Q. KK, what can you expect from him?
BOBBY COX: I thought Kawakami had a great first year in the United States. I thought he was very dependable and competitive, and he beat some of the games' best pitchers last year in pitching duels. That impressed me. He's a tough kid. Certainly fits into our rotation if we trade somebody else for sure.
Q. Derek had a rough year last year, but you talked about how he's one of the hardest workers you've ever seen.
BOBBY COX: Derek Lowe, he's been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball for a number of years now. One of the very best, if you look at his stats. He got off to a great start last year. I don't know if he shutout Philly, but he two-hit them Opening Day. He hit a little rough groove at one time and got out of it. Very consistent, very durable, great guy.
Q. Do you think Wagner can be just the type of guy he is, can he be a good influence on some of the younger guys, some of the younger relievers?
BOBBY COX: I think he has a lot to give, just talking to him in his home in Virginia and when he came into Atlanta to sign his contract, he talked about that quite a bit. So yes.
Q. Would you like to find more speed for the top of the lineup?
BOBBY COX: Well, I think everybody would like more speed. We don't have a lot of speed but we can play good fundamentally and do things right, maybe we can make up for that.
Q. You have always talked about how if you don't win the World Series, you go into the off-season with the same feeling. But to do what you guys did in September, what --
BOBBY COX: I think that gives the team a good feeling about itself. The pitching was just outstanding down the stretch; strong. They would have pitched good in the playoffs if we had made it. They were that strong. But I think it lit up some eyes on some of our other players, and it will feel good going into camp.
Q. What do you think about Schafer and his ability to come back?
BOBBY COX: We played him with a broken hand and we didn't know it at the time, but it bothered him the entire time. As far as I know, he's going to be fit and ready to go, and still one heckuva prospect.
Q. How many rocking chairs are you going to get?
BOBBY COX: None.
Q. Are you going to miss these type of things?
BOBBY COX: The Winter Meetings are still a lot of fun, yeah.
Q. What's your opinion on keeping a younger pitcher on a strict inning or pitch count?
BOBBY COX: I think there's some merit to it. We try to -- a kid like Hanson and Jurrjens the last two years, watch them a bit. Explain why they are coming out of some games early, earlier than they would want to when we are behind. I have always had kind of a rule in my own mind that if a guy is getting beat 5-1 in the fourth inning or so, a young kid, we'll get him out of
there. You know, save some innings, save some pitches, and hopefully safe their
Q. How much of that is more of a manager's feel and less a strict pitcher's feel?
BOBBY COX: I think that's one way of helping them out, I think, through the long haul. No sense in burning them out when they are behind that far. Maybe we are going to come back, but maybe somebody else needs to pitch, also,
that particular day. I think that's one way you can help them along. But you know, pitch counts
are pitch counts, and I think we all look at them when they hit that 115 mark or so, you start looking at it a little closer. If you've got a bullpen, it makes it real easy. I've read some literature on arms, and for young kids, you know, not even professionals, even younger,
how it kind of works, and there's a lot of merit in it.
Q. Do you get the sense that people are not going to believe that you are retiring until you actually do?
BOBBY COX: I think so. (Smiling.) It's not an easy decision, to be honest with you, because you still love the game and you can still go. But I think, you know, when you get around 70
years old, pretty close.
Q. Have you rethought it at all, any doubts?
BOBBY COX: No.
Q. Have you thought that you could end up in the Hall of Fame before Maddux and Glavine?
BOBBY COX: I told them I want to live long enough to see them inducted. Smoltzie is going to pitch forever, I think. Maddux finally left last year. And Glavine, he's not going to pitch this year.
Q. Did you spend any time this off-season with Freddy Gonzalez?
BOBBY COX: Oh, yeah, we live just a few miles apart in Atlanta. He and Roger McDowell and Ned Yost. In fact, we all went hunting Friday, deer hunting down in south Georgia. Jeff Foxworthy's place. Freddy had never been deer hunting. He didn't pull the trigger. He didn't see one that he could pull. I pulled twice and missed twice.
Q. What he is one thing that over the years just drives you crazy that has consistently been something maybe you wish you could have done something about but were powerless?
BOBBY COX: Being able to speed up the game just a shade. There's not too many things bad about baseball. It's hard to pick one.
Cox press conference transcript
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