Piniella at the Winter Meetings

Cubs manager Lou Piniella spoke to reporters at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas Monday. Here is a transcript of what Piniella had to say.

REPORTER: All things being considered, you go into next season without necessarily a big change in the offense. Is (Ryan) Theriot somebody you consider moving around in the order?


REPORTER: I don't want to ask anything about where you'd put him.

PINIELLA: You know, I like Theriot in the 2-hole. I like him in the 8-hole. I know what you're asking. I think the way we are put together, unless we get a guy that can steal 40, 50 bases, I think we'll keep our lineup pretty close to what it was last year. We can hit (Mike) Fontenot a little bit in the 2-hole, too. He had a real nice year for us last year, and we're going to try to get him a little bit more playing time.

As far as Theriot is concerned, I like him 2, and I actually like him 8; 8 is a very important spot in the National League. You need somebody back there that can hit, so that they will walk him intentionally from time to time and get the pitcher out of the way. So we don't do anything. That's probably the way we'll go.

REPORTER: Just to follow up, though. Why wouldn't you think Theriot would be a pretty good candidate as lead off: because he's not a 40-stolen-base type of guy?

PINIELLA: No, I'm not saying that. Look, he hits the ball a lot the other way, and that's a nice swing for a 2-hitter. To hit the ball behind the runner, the first base hole is open. Got enough speed, so that the three hitter gets some good pitches and good fastballs to hit. Also, the 8-hole is a nice spot. I think that -- you want us to lead him off, is that what you want? (Laughter.)

REPORTER: Just curious.

PINIELLA: We'll see what happens. Look, you know what, a lot is always made up out of our lineup. Look, we won 97 ballgames, and that's a lot of games, and had a lot of success during the course of the year. It just so happened that post-season didn't go well. Look, I don't think that -- I can give you about three different explanations. I think the biggest explanation for post-season, as far as I was concerned, everybody jumped on our bandwagon. Everybody played the underdog role against, or were able to sell that. Everybody, 100 years, supposed to happen on the 100th year. Well, when things are supposed to happen and it doesn't... I think our guys carried a little burden going into post-season.

And then the second thing that happened that wasn't mentioned, we got caught at the end of the year where we were playing teams that were still in contention, and we had clinched. We had to play our lineup for the balance of baseball. We just couldn't just put any lineups out there. And then third, (Mark) DeRosa and our catcher didn't go in there exactly healthy. I have to prepare them better as manager. We have lost six in a row. I mean, you know, I think I'm going to go to a sports psychologist and see what goodies he's got in his bag.

REPORTER: And the other thing you stressed was left-handed hitting.

PINIELLA: We talked about that. Jim (Hendry) does a real, real nice job handling acquisitions and trades. We have talked about what we feel it is that we need. He's in charge of it. It's in good hands. So I'm just here enjoying myself.

REPORTER: A couple of weeks ago … you mentioned, or at least the pull was that you didn't think you needed another starting pitcher. Do you still feel that way right now?

PINIELLA: Well, you know, we have six starting pitchers. Any time that you can add a quality, quality guy, whoever it is, obviously you look at it. But I said it from basically a numbers standpoint, where we have basically the same five starters, and that's why I mentioned that. But you can add -- any time you can improve your team either pitching-wise or lineup-wise and you can do it, get it done. But if we don't do it or we don't do any -- if we don't add any starting pitching, we're perfectly happy with what we've got.

REPORTER: What kind of look are you going to give (Micah) Hoffpauir in the spring?

PINIELLA: We are going to give him some at-bats. You know, he can play first, obviously, and he does a nice job over there. We can use him to rest Derrek (Lee) a little more. Also, we can use him as a swing guy in left and right to get him some at-bats out there. This will be a good year for Hoffpauir to step up, because he's going to get some at-bats.

REPORTER: The left-handed bat you said you're looking for, do you want someone in the middle of the lineup?

PINIELLA: To break up our right-handed hitting, probably the middle part of the lineup. We'll see. Jim's working on it. That's his area, and he does it well. So I'm confident that if that guy is available, Jim will go out and get him.

REPORTER: Where do you see (Jeff) Samardzija fitting in the bullpen?

PINIELLA: Jeff is an interesting project this spring, too. He's got a nice arm. We threw him right into the fire last year, and I thought he responded quite well for a young pitcher. He's got that nice split finger, which has made him more ready to pitch in the big leagues. You know, I think his future is as a starter. We'll see how our bullpen situation works out in the spring, but we are going to stretch him out to start this spring, too.

REPORTER: How do you make up for the loss of (Carlos) Marmol's innings that he gave you?

PINIELLA: For Marmol?

REPORTER: He was possibly going to be a closer.

PINIELLA: Well, we got (Kevin) Gregg from Miami, a Marlin, and we'll let them compete in spring training and see where that goes. You know, we've got a lot of young arms up there in that bullpen. We can count on a guy like (Kevin) Hart and (Angel) Guzman, depending on what happens, possibly a kid like Samardzija that you mentioned. Although, we are going to stretch him out at the start in the spring. I don't know, who else we got out there?

REPORTER: (Neal) Cotts.

PINIELLA: Oh, you've got Cotts as a lefty. We've got (Mike) Wuertz.

REPORTER: Do you think you might miss (Kerry) Wood just because of the veteran experience?

PINIELLA: Wood did a nice job for us, he really did. You know, when he was right, he threw the ball very, very, very well, very well. We were fortunate that we were able to get a pitcher of Gregg's experience and ability from Florida. But, you know, we could probably look at adding one more veteran in the bullpen, too, if we could. But we'll see. We'll see.

REPORTER: The ownership uncertainty, does that impact business?

PINIELLA: According to Jim today, absolutely not. It's unfortunate what's happened with the Tribune, it really is. But at the same time, it doesn't affect the Cubs at all. We are going to go about it business as usual, and if there's a good player to be acquired or traded for, we can do that.

REPORTER: Get your check on time?

PINIELLA: My check?

REPORTER: Tribune company.

PINIELLA: Oh. Listen, I feel bad, I really do. You don't like to see that happen to any company, especially when it's so close to home. But it's not going to affect the Cub's situation at all.

REPORTER: Have you had a chance to talk to Ron Santo about the Hall of Fame?

PINIELLA: I was just talking to Peter (Chase) about that. I'll call him tomorrow. I figure he got enough calls today. I'm disappointed for him. Here is a classy guy with a great career, and I was hoping and praying today that it would be his day. There was a gasp in the room this morning about 10:30 when Peter e-mailed Chuck (Wasserstrom) and told him that it was a no-go.

REPORTER: Do you understand the process?

PINIELLA: I don't really understand it. I think basically, what is it, the Hall of Fame body votes, the players vote. You know, he was a leading vote-getter. What did he get, 60%?

REPORTER: Less than last time.

PINIELLA: It's a shame. Look, four guys, primarily, four ex-players, primarily got most of the votes. Yeah, I was hoping for Ron, I really was. First of all, he's a really good friend. I got to know him and love him. It was disappointing to me to see that result. I thought that today would be his day, I really did.

REPORTER: Have you heard at all about what (Kosuke) Fukudome is doing in Japan, or any program that he's on or how he's doing?

PINIELLA: We had talked this winter about putting him on a little bit of a more core body regimen, and I think once he gets into his workouts, that's what we are going to do. Try to get him a little stronger core-wise. You know, the other thing is, this young man didn't play much the year before. The acclimation to a new country and a new league, it took its toll on him a little bit. He probably lost a little confidence when he started to struggle. You know, we are confident that next year he can bounce back and have a very good year for us.

REPORTER: If you guys do wind up adding a corner outfielder, did you see enough of Fukudome that you would be comfortable with him in center?

PINIELLA: Feel very comfortable with him. Feel very comfortable with him, yeah. We played him over there enough and we had him catch balls. See, the situation, for us to add a substantial bat, it's going to have to be at one of the corner outfield positions. We've got (Alfonso) Soriano in left, and Fukudome is certainly very capable of playing center. So that's what makes that move a little more necessary. I thought he was the best right fielder defensively in the League. I thought he played exceedingly well. Good throwing arm. Good position. But for us to add the type of bat that we are looking for, it's got to be corner outfield.

REPORTER: I know you can't talk about players on other teams, but with the free agents, do you think that Raul Ibanez --

PINIELLA: Raul can swing the bat.

REPORTER: Can he move to right?

PINIELLA: Well, there's a few of them out there that can swing the bat. Basically, Jim's got a lot of balls in the air. We'll see which one comes our way. Yeah, he's got a lot of things going.

REPORTER: Do you worry about the defense being as good as it needs to be?

PINIELLA: We had one bad defensive game last year, and it was terrible. Our second game of the playoffs, oh, was that bad.

REPORTER: So bad it was a fluke, right?

PINIELLA: It had to be, yeah. It had to be. It wasn't good.

Theriot had a good year. What are your thoughts?

PINIELLA: Theriot is fine. I'm going to let Fontenot play some short stop in the spring and see if he can help over there. And Theriot, we just have to keep him rested. He's played with a lot of energy and a lot of passion, and he wears out a little bit. We have just got to be careful to keep him as rested as possible, and that's why we are going to play Fontenot over there, too, and see another way of getting a left-hand bat there.

REPORTER: Thoughts of moving Theriot back to second?

PINIELLA: I mean, who do we play over there? I mean, it's nice to move people back and forth, but you've got to have the replacement.

REPORTER: You wouldn't get to a Theriot and Fontenot platoon at short? You wouldn't get that far, would you?

PINIELLA: No, but if Fontenot can play some short stop, it will really help us get more left-handers. If not, we have (Ronny) Cedeno. I thought Cedeno played well for us last year.

REPORTER: Are you doing any research yourself talking to people about some of these free agents?

PINIELLA: No, not really. We've got our own scouts here who are very capable. They have good, constructive meetings up there, and everybody has their opinions and they voice them. And Jim does a real nice job of deciphering. He'll get the right guy. He'll get the right guy, and he'll give us a chance again to go to spring training and put another good team on the field and give us a chance in post-season next year.

REPORTER: What do you think of a guy like (Bobby) Abreu?

PINIELLA: He's another good player. You have Anderson, Abreu, you have Bradley. You have a couple of people that Jim has been talking to in trades, so there are some choices out there.

REPORTER: Do you talk to any of the free agents yourself?

PINIELLA: No, not yet.

REPORTER: Would you if there came a point?

PINIELLA: If Jim wants me to.

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