Bud Black at the Winter Meetings

San Diego Padres manager Bud Black spoke about the trade of Adrian Gonzalez, who will fill the hole, the rotation, and many other topics at the Winter Meetings.

You've lost quite a few players from last year's team. As you move forward, still a lot of holes to fill. Is that going to be difficult in your discussions with Jed? How tough is it going to be fill all these spots?

Bud Black: I don't know that it's going to be difficult but it's going to be a challenge. We are up for it. We have already done a few things. We have addressed center field in that deal, and like you mentioned, we got Aaron Harang into our rotation, and now, you know, we'll be looking for first base and some other positions along the way.

But I suspect that, you know, we'll have 25 guys ready to play.

What's going to stick out to people in Boston when they watch Adrian Gonzalez, when they get a chance to watch him play every day?

Bud Black: First and foremost, talented player. You look at the all-around game, I've said it many times, you know, both sides, great defender, Gold Glove. Makes plays on defense with his arm.

Look at the other side, which is I'm sure what everybody wants to talk about, is the offense. You know, great, fluid swing. Great hand-eye coordination. Disciplined hitter. All-field power. Hits the ball from line to line. Tough to pitch to. Tough to defend. He can manipulate the bat. You know, very good, very good baseball player.

When you add it all up, great instincts, good awareness of the game, plays a game of under control, poise. Nothing fazes him.

In the back of your mind in the playoff race, were you thinking that it might be the last month with Adrian there?

Bud Black: No, going through our season, you never know how it's going to play out with any of your players. If you stepped away from that, you know, which we didn't try to do as a group. But once the season ends and you know what conversations have taken place during the course of the season, you know, it became apparent that it was going to be tough to keep Adrian.

But during the course of the season, no. I don't think that was on anybody's mind, most notably Adrian's, or the players. Players are conditioned to play. That's how our group was.

As good as his numbers were in San Diego, what impact do you think Petco had on him?

Bud Black: There's no doubt, Petco slants towards the pitcher, but Adrian, he didn't let it affect his game. He has power that can be reached anywhere and it can be reached anywhere and it could be reached at Petco. Obviously Boston should be favorable to him because he does have opposite-field power and does he have the ability to hit the ball in the air straight to center field. A lot of his home runs in San Diego were fly balls to left. So with Fenway, I can see just like Petco, balls going all over the place, straightaway center, he can hook the ball down the line, he can hit the ball off the wall. You know, he was close to a .300 hitter, in the National League; that should play well in the American League.

What do you know about Kelly and Rizzo, and what are your expectations about how soon they might contribute?

Bud Black: I have not seen these players live. I've seen videotape. I've heard Jed and Jason and our scouts talk about these players, and I am excited about their potential. Casey Kelly, you know, the young pitcher; I've heard people outside of our organization speak very highly of him; front-end rotation guy, breaking pitch, athlete, all of the things you look for, great head. The intangibles are there.

Rizzo, power-hitting left-handed hitting first baseman, a good defender. Again, tremendous makeup.

Fuentes, gap-to-gap speed, slashing type of hitter, defender. That type of player has proven over the last couple of years to play well in our park. So, they are young, a lot of potential. And I think they are probably closer to the big leagues than a lot of people think from what I'm hearing.

Adrian's ability to let the ball get deep on him and still be able to hit it the other way, how unique is that, and just the power to all fields, especially going to left?

Bud Black: It goes back to the hand-eye coordination, his natural stroke is geared towards the center of the diamond or even left-center.

And his ability to do great work with his hands, to get the barrel of the bat on certain pitches, he doesn't have a one-track swing like you find in some players.

But his bat manipulation is tremendous, one of the best I've seen. For a guy that can hit pitches down and away, that can hit pitches down and in, and his ability to get his hands up in and, up and away. He can hit all pitches. That's what makes him tough to pitch to.

Just another sign of his maturity?

Bud Black: If you look back over my four years here, this year he hit them well, the year before, not so well, the year before, okay.

But he has a great understanding of hitting. He's a tremendous student of hitting. He takes just the science of hitting just very seriously. Great studier of pitchers, a lot of time on videotape. He goes about it the right way. And this year, I noticed a great deal of tape was watching his left-hand pitching.

Is there anything specifically that he adjusted to or changed?

Bud Black: If anything, I think he might have stayed on the ball a little bit more and thought more left field. It was primarily the left-handed pitcher is going to pitch the left-handed hitter away. I think Gonzo was looking to drive the ball against the lefty the other way and I think he did a much better job of laying off the breaking ball down and away off the plate.

You know, he took his walks again this year, where, I think, there were times during the course of the last couple of years where, because of his -- what he felt his responsibility, to be a run producer, maybe expanded the zone a little bit, more than what he should. But this year, really selective. Really did a great job.

Getting back to the trade, your job is to win games as Major League manager. This trade clearly made for the future. How do you reconcile that dynamic?

Bud Black: You know, every club has unique challenges and decisions are made based on those challenges. You know, my responsibility is when we get our players in Spring Training is do the best we can to win games and prepare those players to play.

And I'm up for that, and I think our group, even this year, again, there were not a lot of expectations and we found a way to play good baseball, and that will be the same case again next year. You know, trades happen in this game. Players move. New faces come in. We feel as though we are going to have some talent again in our group. We are going to come to play, but we'll be all right.

When you ultimately make a decision to trade a guy like Adrian, it just comes off as transaction, Padres trade him. How difficult is that actual process of signing off on trading Adrian Gonzalez?

Bud Black: Again, doesn't happen overnight. You know, these things are discussed at times over a couple-year period, and a lot of times it goes back and forth on what you can do.

You don't ever want to trade a player like Gonzalez. You do everything you can, and I think both sides, even Gonzo, for a time thought, hey, let's see if we can get something done. But as his performance grew, we knew that gap between what we could do financially and what he was going to get on the market, couldn't close it. So you become resigned to the fact that it's going to happen. And then from that point on, you move on.

Does getting this deal done so quickly here at the Winter Meetings, does that free Jed up to address other needs?

Bud Black: Absolutely. I think, again, this more than likely was going to happen. You know, our ownership knew it. Jed knew it. Adrian probably knew it at some point.

But now it gives some clarity to where we need to go and get players, and some holes we need to fill.

So, Jed and our group will address those immediately, and we have been addressing those even during the process of Jed going through this with the Red Sox.

Who is your number three hitter?

Bud Black: Number three? You know, last year, we had a couple guys there, didn't we, Todd, Gonzalez -- tell you what, when is the season, April?

March 31, April 1, give or take.

Bud Black: Tell you what. Come to that Padres/Cardinal game. Go to the Internet. The roster construction is still underway, just like all times.

You found a potential bounce back guy in Harang, local San Diego guy, do you feel like you need to add another starting pitcher? Where are you at that with that?

Bud Black: Right now, you look at the group with the guys we have, Latos, Clayton Richard, Stauffer, LeBlanc, Luebke, Harang, that's six. Simon Castro is probably going to move to Triple-A. Some people think that he's real close. You can count him in that group of depth.

You know, I project -- you can probably project another guy or two maybe coming on, hopefully, that can give us some depth.

Didn't you and the Giants prove last year that with good, strong pitching from top to bottom, you can pretty much move people around the batting order, move people around offensively and you can be competitive all year?

Bud Black: We talked about it all year, you know, pitching and defense. When you look at the Giants, look at us, look at all of the teams that were in the playoffs; they pitched well and played defense.

You know, we would not have been where we were without those two components, and the same with the Giants. The Giants led the National League in pitching, and we were two or three one hundredths points behind them.

It's nice to have a solid lineup, but lineups are fluid. Lineups are fluid. You look at lineups across Major League Baseball in a day, Phillies probably do the -- when all of their guys are healthy, they are probably as constant as anybody. There's fluid lineups every day.

And if you pitch well, like you said, starters through the bullpen, the guys in the lineup, however they are lined up, they are going to get their ABs and they are going to have to produce. To answer your question, yes, we did, and the Giants proved it to become World Champions.

How is the affect of the long season on Latos?

Bud Black: I'm proud of the fact that he pitched very well in Game 16-2. Prior to that, the starts prior to that, were not as good as that stretch in the middle where we went 16 straight games of giving up two runs or less. Had a little bit of a hiccup in late August, end of September, bounced back with that last start.

Overall, right near 190 innings, made his starts, held his stuff. I think he made it through just fine.

What about Ryan Ludwick, do you feel you really saw what he's capable of doing, or did he put a lot of pressure on himself?

Bud Black: We didn't -- and he would be the first to tell you -- we didn't see the best of him. Like you said, he tried like hell. He probably was pressing. But I expect him to bounce back. He's just too good of a player. He's too good of a player.

But with that said, we have got some big hits for us along the way. I think if you look at the overall statistical stuff, probably not what -- we'll get more next year.

Was there any part of you after the Giants win the World Series that thought, maybe if we bring this group back that was only a game away, bring the core of that group back, that maybe you guys would have made a run at it this year?

Bud Black: I think in the modern era of baseball, that's rare where you bring everybody. But look at the Giants, some guys have already started slipping away there.

But I think at times, you do have to make changes. I think that's a good thing, bring some new guys in. But in our case, you know, because of the situation we are in in San Diego, we have to do some things different than a lot of clubs.

We made a run at it this year, fell a little short. We are going to try again next year.

Looking back on the ten-game losing streak, you have had months to reflect; what happened, you were the most consistent club avoiding losing streaks, and then you have one like that.

Bud Black: You look at that, the games that we played, if you look back to the Philly games, then we went to Arizona and came back against the Rockies, all good games. We were not getting blown out. They were close games, determined by a couple of plays here and there, a couple pitches. We could not get the big hit or maybe the big pitch which we had done all year.

We tried a couple of different things with the lineup. We did some different things in-game. But you know, that's baseball in simplest terms.

The Arizona series was a tough one. We had some great plays made against us. We did not make a couple plays.

We lost a game against the Phillies, lost a couple close ones against the Rockies, one-run games, good baseball games but we just fell on the other side.

How much of a challenge is it to replace several bullpen arms in one off-season when you don't have a huge budget?

Bud Black: Well, that's where your scouts come in and player development system.

With our situation, like all other 29 clubs, bullpens are very important. So we identified not only our players that we want to retain, but we are looking around for guys that maybe have slipped through the cracks. We have been fortunate to find guys that have been valuable. A lot of that goes to scouting, our front office, for finding players. And a lot of it goes to having faith in younger players that are ready to step in; that your player development people did a good job.

A couple of your young guys took a couple of steps back, like Cabrera and Blanks, where do they stand at this point?

Bud Black: Yeah, those two guys were in a way maybe unfairly counted on to do big things. We batted Blanks fourth Opening Day. Cabrera, going into the season, was our every day shortstop. And in their defense, Kyle ended up having Tommy John surgery, got off to a slow start. Again, I think he probably pressed a little bit as a young player; when a lot of expectations are placed on him.

And Cabrera got off to a slow start, tried to do too much, tweaked his hamstring a few times and was never quite the same. Came back too early from one of them. We expect those two guys to bounce back.

Kyle will be a little bit behind when we get to Spring Training just based on the rehab time of Tommy John. Cabrera is down playing winter ball in México trying to regain that confidence. They are still under the age of 24. They have big league experience and should be better off for it.

Can you look at them as starters?

Bud Black: At this point depends what we do at other positions. Cabrera could be our Opening Day shortstop. Blanks won't be ready physically but you'll see him back in San Diego at some point if he's healthy and playing.

First base?

Bud Black: We'll see. But we have got some -- with Rizzo on board as the first baseman, we have the young first baseman, Clark who was in San Antonio, good year, 27 homers and he projects to go up, too in Triple-A.

You went down to the wire with the Giants; do you still view the division as wide open?

Bud Black: We have talked about it, I think the division has been, since I've been in the National League West, I think the division has been a little underrated. You look at the pitching that has come out, Cy Young's, division winners, Wild Card the last ten or 12 years, a lot of National League West teams. And when you look at the records, the overall records of these clubs, very good, very good.

So I suspect, again, every team, every team; I suspect that again, no doubt.

Adrian was a guy that in the last two years, occasions where he was pitched around, 35 intentional walks, how do you see him going to a lineup with guys like David Ortiz hitting behind him?

Bud Black: It will only help him and help the other guys. High on-base percentage. When he's around, you know, Youkilis and Ortiz, you put an All-Star in there with other All-Stars; good team, good player.

He's fine. He understands the game. He understands all that goes along with it. He understands what goes along with being the type of player that he is, that All-Star type player. He gets all of that. He's going to do fine. I suspect he will thrive on it. Boston is a very unique place to play in a very positive way. I think a player like Gonzo will enjoy that.

How much did the shoulder bother him last year?

Bud Black: A little bit. It wasn't the same type of pain every day. Some days were better than others, and you can tell on certain days where the stroke was different based on how his shoulder was. It affected him on certain pitches, but that shouldn't be a problem now. The surgery went well. It was what they expected when they went in and he's rehabbing.

If anything, he should be better. And he was pretty good last year.

In October, we heard about the Giants having great team chemistry, something that was applied to your club, too. Do you believe it matters, and how does it matter?

Bud Black: I think it does. It lends itself to when players come to the ballpark, the focus is on the game. The focus is on what is important, and that is playing the game the right way and playing to win. Good team chemistry relates to no distractions, no other outside forces contributing to the negativity.

I think that when you have that, when you have that unselfishness, when players pull for one another, when players understand the importance of team and what that all means, I do think players play better.

Does that go into your thinking when you go out to get a player?

Bud Black: I think you look at everything, yes, and I think that nothing beats talent. But if you can combine a special makeup player with talent, you have something really good on your hands. And the more of those guys you have, the better off you are.

But there's a lot of pieces that make up a successful team, and it's a matter of putting those pieces together. And when those pieces come together smoothly, in a nice -- whether you want to call it chemistry, team work, whatever; when those come together, a lot of good things happen.

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