Padres Interview: Bud Black

New San Diego Padres manager Bud Black is excited. He has Greg Maddux, a strong rotation, a reliable bullpen, and two catchers he likes.

With all the discussion about Greg Maddux, can you sort of express how you feel about the prospect of him coming aboard.

Bud Black: Well, obviously we're extremely excited to have him on the team. You know, what he brings, not only as a talented pitcher but who he is as a teammate, what he's done historically as a pitcher, what he's going to do as a teammate, you know, his influence will be very, very impactful.

General manager Kevin Towers mentioned that he thought his familiarity with the league could be particularly helpful to you coming from the other league, and him having been there for two decades and his observation.

Bud Black: Yeah, from what I've heard of Greg, he's a tremendous student of the game, and just his insights will help not only me, they'll help everybody. They'll help our coaches, help the players. You know, in that regard he'll be a help for me. I'm going to obviously pick his brain hopefully daily.

Do you expect him to be an influence on the younger pitchers?

Bud Black: Absolutely, yeah. And I think that he's, from what I've been told, I think he's taking that role on a little bit more in the last number of years as far as spreading his wisdom to the younger players. For years he was with Glavine and Smoltz and Neagle and Avery, Leibrandt, guys who are veteran pitchers in their own right. But where he is now, he has that ability to teach and mentor young pitchers.

With your background, is starting pitching the core really of any team?

Bud Black: I think that over the 162-game season, solid starting pitching enables you to compete day in and day out, and over the long haul, that wins in a long season. And to have a solid bullpen to go with the good starters, that gives you even more of a leg up. You know, obviously if the team is fortunate enough to get to the postseason, you need 11 or 12 guys to win a championship. Every guy is important. Every out is important.

But over the long haul, if you have good starting pitching, that sets you up and puts you in a good spot.

You have a guy who certainly has the ability to be one of the best in Jake Peavy, maybe took a step back at least numbers-wise last year. What do you do to get him back on track?

Bud Black: I'm going to get to know Jake obviously as soon as possible, what makes him tick. But everything I've been told about Jake is he's a No. 1. He's won the National League ERA title, he's up there yearly in strikeouts, he has the ability to be one of the best starting pitchers in the National League year in, year out. Last year, I don't know exactly how his season went. I haven't really broken it down. But I expect him to bounce back. I guess he has the type of mentality and character, competitiveness that -- he wasn't happy with last year. He'll get back to where everybody thinks he should be, and he expects that, too.

Is a guy like Trevor Hoffman the least of your concerns in terms of maneuvering the pitching staff because he knows himself so well?

Bud Black: Yeah, when you have Hall of Fame players like Trevor, like Maddux, those guys are -- if you don't counsel those guys, you're not taking advantage of everything they can bring. When the game starts -- actually it's nice at 2:30 when you walk in the clubhouse and you see Trevor Hoffman, you see Maddux, and we were fortunate in Anaheim and I've been fortunate enough to play with a number of great character guys, when you walk in the clubhouse you were really happy they were on your team. He's one of those guys. And it's nice when the game starts to know that in that inning you feel pretty good about the outcome of the game, and fortunately we've had that in Anaheim, with Percy and Frankie. The eighth and seventh innings, it's a good feeling. And we have that, too. This goes back to any good team, going back to Quisenberry with the Royals. We just felt good about that. You feel good about the end of the game. I've been fortunate where I haven't been on teams where -- there hasn't been many years when I was a player or a coach where we as a team and individually I didn't feel good about what happened. I've been fortunate to be with good bullpens and good closers.

You were talking about the bullpens that you've had, especially in Anaheim. They were built with a great closer, a couple of good setup guys. You probably have something similar right now with some of the arms that have been already assembled for you.

Bud Black: Yeah. You look at Trevor, look at what Linebrink has done, and Meredith last year was phenomenal. Just look at his statistics, and what I'm hearing from the people in the Padre organization about this guy is he's legitimate, even though it was 50 innings or so. But you look internally at those numbers, they're pretty good. Just from other players and other guys who have faced him, it's a nice bullpen.

And if the bullpen is a strength and the starting pitching is becoming even more of a strength, where do you need to improve in order to be the top team?

Bud Black: Well, I think every team wants to keep getting better. If you look at our team, behind the plate we're happy with the two catchers, Gonzales at first came into his own, Khalil Green is a dynamic player, the trade from Cleveland brought us Kouzmanoff at third base, Cameron is Gold Glover, Giles, a solid major league player for a number of years. Left field and second base are two areas that we've addressed over the last number of weeks internally about what direction to go. Terrmel Sledge on the field, I don't know much about him, but I'm hearing good things about him from our people. Second base, Todd Walker and his decision on arbitration is coming up, whether he accepts or not, but he's a guy that played last year in San Diego and has had a nice career. There's some options out there.

On the field do you ideally like your leader to be a catcher? Is that important that he has a strong personality?

Bud Black: I think that it's not essential, but that is a demanding position in a lot of ways, and if you're fortunate to have a catcher that has that presence and great leadership ability, it helps a team, but it's not a necessity, no.

What have you heard that about Bard and Bowen?

Bud Black: I've heard they're two solid guys. I don't know that much about them. I don't know much about their personalities, but from what I hear, they're two fellows that do a great job with the pitching staff. They want to catch, they want to -- their main priority, which is important to me and the Padres, handling that staff, pitching first, offense second.

Will there be anything new or different as you plan Spring Training? Will there be anything unusual in your routine that you'd be willing to try?

Bud Black: No, we're not going to reinvent the wheel. The Padres have had a nice couple seasons here. I think that any time there's a change, there will be some new ideas brought in but nothing -- there will be nothing earth shattering.


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