The Colorado Rockies, knocked out in the wild card round of the 2018 playoffs, don’t see the need to make any big moves this off season. Manager Bud Black discusses the upcoming season at a press conference at the winter meetings in Las Vegas.
Q. How Comfortable are you guys if you didn’t make a major move this winter?
BUD BLACK: I think very comfortable. We have a lot of guys back from a team that we feel is very competitive. But I do think that we will — I do think that will not be the case.
Q. I read an article the other day, you talking about the Jake Peavy trade that never materialized, the Cubs, you talked about Kevin Towers. Do you like the Winter Meetings? Do you like to be involved?
BUD BLACK: In what way? Yes.
Q. With like work that the front office — would you prefer not to even have —
BUD BLACK: No, I think the Winter Meetings are — I think — Tracy can speak to this probably better than me. But there’s a drastic change in the Winter Meetings now than back in the day. And even the last I’d say five years. But I still enjoy it. I still think there’s a place for a gathering of all of us.
Q. But from your perspective, do you like — I’m sure you must like to offer your input. Do you like to be in the middle —
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I think there’s a collection of us in the room that offer different perspectives on the direction of our team and our roster, Big League roster, even what’s going on in the minor leagues.
I think the managers are a part of that collaboration. And I enjoy that.
Q. Are you in the final year of a three-year deal, we talked to Jeff about it a while ago, six weeks ago, and he said nothing had been done yet, but he had a good vibe, I think is what he said about it. Can you tell us from your side of it where your future in Colorado is?
BUD BLACK: Well, I’m concerned about what’s going on at the present, right? I think that where we are as a team takes precedent over anything that might be happening with me. So that’s where my focus is.
But I’m happy to hear that Jeff thinks there’s a good vibe. That’s a good thing.
Q. We talk a lot during these meetings about free agents, possible trades. Can you kind of go over some of the younger guys that we saw a little bit of that you’re expecting to have bigger roles, especially in your everyday —
BUD BLACK: To Tracy’s question, I think that the roster will look different than how it ended. I think that’s just how the nature of going from one year to the next, based on where players are in their careers, where contracts are.
So definitely I think we have — I wouldn’t call it a wave. But we have some new players coming on the horizon that should be a bigger part of our roster construction.
And you saw a lot of those guys last year. David Dahl coming back from a couple of years of being a little banged up, hopefully will be at full strength and give us a full season in the Big Leagues.
Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, those two fellows. Position player side come to the forefront of maybe having an impact. Pat Valaika bouncing back from a year that was a little bit up and down for him. Tapia, I think, will be in the mix.
These guys have been in the Big Leagues. They’ve shown at times a Major League performance that could indicate that better performance is on the way. So that’s what we’re looking at from those fellows.
Q. It looks like we don’t know about Adam Ottavino coming off career year as a free agent if he wanted to come back to the Rockies. How do you see the back end of your bullpen? I know it’s still early and a lot of things can happen. But that’s going to be a challenge to solve that?
BUD BLACK: He was a big piece for sure. He pitched at a level that really helped us win games from start of the year to the end.
We have a number of guys that we think can bounce back from off years, Shaw, McGee, to name those guys right up front. I think their performance will be key. They’ve done it before. Oberg pitched very well. Seunghwan Oh pitched very well in the force when we got them and a couple of others guys, Estevez, D.J. Johnson who we saw.
So we have some guys that we think, if we do not have Otto, that these guys can step in and perform.
Q. When you talk about some of these guys had bad years coming back, first of all, from your own experience, but Ottavino himself, that’s not unusual?
BUD BLACK: Not unusual. You look at a lot of relief pitchers in general, their career path, you’ve seen some variability. That was sort of surprising thing with Shaw was that the consistency that he had in Cleveland for five years.
So to have an off year, you know, lends me to believe that he’ll bounce back. But that’s not uncommon for a lot of relief pitchers. And that’s been documented by a lot of front offices.
That’s what we’re hoping for from those two guys. But we feel pretty good obviously about Wade, where he is. I think Oberg made great strides, but whether we stand pat with those guys that we have, you know, we feel pretty good about it. Dunn has a chance to come back after his surgery, to make an impact.
Chris Rusin pitched probably not to the level of expectation. But I thought found his way a little bit at the end of the year.
Q. Otto last year was an example —
BUD BLACK: Is a big example of a bounce-back for sure.
Q. When he went into Spring Training?
BUD BLACK: Yeah.
Q. Would Otto dominate Babe Ruth?
BUD BLACK: You know, Babe was pretty good down and in. That breaking ball coming down and into him. He might be able to get that at Yankee Stadium, or at Coors Field if Babe played at Coors. But I think the record speaks for itself. Babe was a pretty good hitter.
Q. Was that your breaking ball that got hit down or across the board?
BUD BLACK: I once threw a pretty good slider down and away to Babe that he had a pretty good swing on. He was a tough out for me. For the most part I felt pretty comfortable against left-handed hitters, but Babe was always a challenge for me.
Q. We’ve seen some nontraditional coaching staff hires in baseball recently. With pitching and hitting analytics off the driver. What are your thoughts on that, what does it mean looking forward?
BUD BLACK: We’ll see going forward. But I like the creativeness of the thinking of those of us in this game from the people who were making hires, I think it shows that it’s not a closed box; it’s opened for whoever might have a skill set that a certain team is looking for or to give it a shot. And I think that’s great.
Q. You’ve had a little bit of turnover this offseason with your coaching staff. There have been some rumors out there who might come in. What are some characteristics that you’re looking for in those hires to replace?
BUD BLACK: In general?
BUD BLACK: That’s a — I wouldn’t say it’s a tough question, but it’s really open ended. But for me I think — and I’ll say this: As long as I’m in this game, I think from a coaching perspective, I think there’s a teaching component that I think is real. So the coaches that I have, I want them to be regarded as teachers. I want them to teach our players.
I think there’s a leadership component that comes with a good coach. The ability to individually lead men or as a group lead a group. And I think there’s an aspect of coaching that is motivational, to be able to motivate players, inspire players. So those three aspects, I think, the teacher, leader, motivator.
I look at the qualities of that person as a coach. So to have those, that’s sort of the baseline of where I go from.
There’s also the knowledge, the credibility that where they’ve been to be able to get through to players.
Q. The importance of measuring with your philosophy as a manager?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I think there’s the interaction and the collaboration of the coaching staff is vital. But I do think that the diversity also of each coach is important, too.
But there’s a collectiveness to us that seven or eight guys as a coaching, Big League coaching staff, their everyday with the players, that unit has to be together.
Q. One of your coaches, Mike Redmond, has been linked with the Orioles now. If he were to get that job, what do you think he would bring, seeings as how he’s been in a similar situation with Miami?
BUD BLACK: Well, Mike’s a very good baseball man. I think he sees the game in a way that lends itself to being very practical but, yet, I think he’s creative, too.
I think he has a good way with people. He has a good way with players. I think players respond to him. He’s easy to be around. So in that regard the interaction with ownership front office players, media, I think he’s very well schooled and all that and for me he has — he has those qualities.
So if the Orioles go in that direction, you know I think they’ve made a good hire.
Q. In what ways would you say that your role as a manager has changed over the last, I don’t know, 10 or so years since you first became one, the game has changed so much so quickly, I’m wondering if you felt that as a manager and kind of —
BUD BLACK: I think as a manager or in any leadership position, I think you have to be really current with what’s evolving. You have to be aware of what’s happening in the game.
Do you change as a person? No. I mean, do you change in who you are on a day-to-day basis? No. I think there’s some principles that we all have about how to lead and what we do in our sport to get the most out of our players and the most out of our team.
But what it’s changed is I think that the front office dynamic has changed from my first year in 2007 and even going back to when I was with the Angels in 2000, when I really became part of the coaching staff.
So these last 18 years, we’ve seen the front office expansion of just people in the offices from the general manager to the many assistant GMs and all the people who are surrounding the GMs, the different departments, the analytics departments, strength and conditioning, medical staff, I mean, it’s a much bigger group of people on the baseball op side.
Even the coaching staff has expanded to assistant pitching coach, assistant hitting coaches. Eighth and ninth coaches across the board.
So with that, I think what has changed is your ability to manage all that and how we interact with all those different departments that are growing and being able to utilize all those departments in the present. Of everything that is happening. I think that is what’s changed. And I do think way back when there was only one time when you met with the media per day. Now it’s two, potentially three.
Q. You have a good relationship with Bruce Bochy, and if this is indeed his last year as a manager in baseball, would you share what you think his impact has been on the game?
BUD BLACK: Well, I hope it’s not his last year. I truly mean that, because Bruce is — he’s great for the game. Because he’s a great manager. I think historically, what he’s done in his entire career, and more recently with the Giants winning three world championships, that’s fantastic work. That’s hard. I mean, it’s hard to win one let alone three.
And he’s done it. But my relationship with Bruce, especially the last number of years, has become a little closer. We’ve socialized more, doing some things in the offseason together with other guys.
But his impact has been a big one, I think, in the game, because I think a lot of other managers have looked at Bruce to see how he’s done things.
And for me there’s been in my career — and I’ll go back to my days with the Angels when he was managing the Padres, there’s been no better in-game manager strategically than Bruce.
I always felt as though when the game started, there was never going to be a mistake on his side. And there were many times when I thought we were going to be in a pretty good position to pinch-hit or a pitching change, but I wasn’t. So he’s very good in that regard.
And I think he brings a — I think there’s an old-school sturdiness to Bruce and a grittiness and a toughness that I admire, that I think is natural and genuine. And it’s good stuff, man. He’s a good guy. I think that’s the main thing.
Q. This offseason, I don’t know if you were tinkering around with potential lineup or defensive configurations, and if so, has that looked any different than what it did last year?
BUD BLACK: For sure. Like I said, there’s going to be a little turnover in our roster. And I do think there will be some new additions. And I think, like I said, there’s going to be younger guys who will get more of an opportunity to play.
So we’ll have the rest of this offseason prior to Spring Training to think about some of these things in earnest. When our team assembles in Spring Training, we’ll be able to look at it more closely. But I think it’s natural to start thinking about those things for sure. But until you really have your team, I think that’s when it really starts.
Q. Follow up on that briefly, in center fielding, it’s logical we talked about whether Charlie would eventually move to a [inaudible]. Is that something that’s given more serious consideration?
BUD BLACK: We’ve talked about that with our group and amongst ourselves. And also with Charlie, I think he knows that at some point there might be a move to the corner. At some point in his career. So to your question, yes.
Q. Is that player on your roster that might play center in that situation?
BUD BLACK: We have a few options for sure. David Dahl could play center. Charlie could play center. Don’t forget Ian Desmond made the All-Star team in 2016 with the Texas Rangers as a centerfielder.
And Ian grew up as a center of the diamond player. He’s very comfortable being in the middle of the diamond. That’s a possibility as well.
Q. Did you say centerfield is Dahl’s eventual position?
BUD BLACK: I think with David, he could be anywhere. But centerfield suits David, as do the corners. But in our park, from — and this is even from the other side of the field when I was playing the Rockies, I think centerfield and left field are two very important defensive positions. Left field in our park is big. And to have a guy with centerfield skill set to play left I think is really important.
Q. You have some really good starters at the top of the rotation as we know. The back end there’s some guys that struggled the past year, but you have some really high-talented prospects in the organization. How much of a competition do you envision seeing for those last few spots in the starting rotation come spring?
BUD BLACK: Well, last year we felt really good about our rotation based on what we saw in ’17.
This year we feel the same, with German and Kyle and Jon and Chad, Tyler, Antonio. Jeff Hoffman, I think, hopefully bounces back. And Peter Lambert is a year older, touch Triple-A. He’s looking to make an impact too.
There’s some guys in Double-A that are making some noise. So we feel pretty good about our group of starters. And knock on wood, we’ve been fortunate about the health of these fellows. There’s only a couple rotations that have made their starts like our guys have. And we haven’t really had to go deep into the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th starter. And our guys have went to the post, which is what you need. It’s been a big part of our success.
But we feel good about our guys. And with some of these younger guys emerging, they’re getting closer, that helps. That helps the entire group. But as far as like guys pushing to being in the rotation, our guys are so competitive that they don’t need to be pushed.
There’s a natural great competition amongst our guys to pitch well and to go out there and perform.
I never worry about our guys in that regard. But it’s good to have some strength in numbers in case something does go awry.
Q. Do you remember the first time you were told to cover your mouth during a mound conversation?
BUD BLACK: No, I don’t. I’m not sure I do.
Q. So you’ve never done that?
BUD BLACK: No, I don’t think I ever have. So if there’s a lip reader, I’m in trouble. That might be the tenth coach, lip reader.
Q. Does everybody in baseball seem more paranoid now than when you played?
BUD BLACK: For sure. I think there’s a lot of inherent paranoia going on. And we’ve all talked about that as far as, because of technology, number of cameras, scouting, you know people really scouting the other teams from a different variety of perspectives. The camera technology has really made advances in the ability to maybe get some sensitive information.
Q. Nolan going into a contract situation, complicated situation for him, it could potentially spill on to the field, it’s a lot to worry about for him. Do you expect to have to maybe help him through it a little bitter from the negotiating standpoint, would you like to be involved in trying to lure him back?
BUD BLACK: Do I want him back? Absolutely. I think from my perspective, Nolan is very aware of our feelings. I’ll speak for everybody, coaching staff, players, Jeff, Dick, we’d love to have Nolan as a long-time Rockie.
To your first question, do you think it will affect Nolan, I don’t think so. I truly think that the best place for him all the time is on the field. That’s where he feels most comfortable. And I think that will continue to happen. I think its performance will be fine.
Will I get involved? Probably not — no, that’s something for — I think that’s really a small circle. That’s Dick and Jeff and Nolan and Nolan’s representative and probably — and the people that Nolan is closest to. I think that’s a pretty small group that when you really get down to it, those are the people in those conversations.
Q. Given the horror stories about Coors Field to see your rotation, the National League and innings pitched —
BUD BLACK: Isn’t that great?
Q. Is that a special —
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I’m so proud of our guys. I mean you can’t say that enough. Keep talking about it. That just goes to show the talent they have and how they pitched last year. They were good. They were really good. And through thick and thin, I mean, there was never — you’ve heard me say we don’t talk about it. It’s a baseball field. And there’s a game being played by two teams.
But is pitching in altitude a real thing? Absolutely it’s real. But I’ve said this before that when the game’s over, somebody’s going to win. So we just gotta outplay the other team. Gotta outpitch them and outhit them and out defend them.
Q. You see it turn on in the second half. Do you anticipate further improvement?
BUD BLACK: I think so, yeah. To what degree, can’t tell you that. But there’s still room in there. I mean, there’s a changeup in there of things coming. I think there’s always the fastball command improvement that all pitchers strive for.
I think there’s a breaking ball consistency in there. I think there’s a level of going from the bullpen to that first inning where you’re more calm and poised because of experience that something’s going to happen. But he’s a good one. He’s a good one.
Q. [Inaudible] mentioned the best pitchers in the game. Four Cy Young this year, but there’s always that little thing that —
BUD BLACK: Sure, again, you’ve heard me share this before. I’m a big believer in passing the test of time. I think Kyle’s two years. He’s shown that consistency — I know the second half of ’17 was maybe a little variable. But from the first part of May to the end of the season he was as consistent as any pitcher in the Big Leagues.
Now, the challenge for Kyle is to continue that performance, and I’m very confident that he can do it. I’m confident that he believes he can do it.
So again, like German and a lot of young pitchers, there’s still growth there. We saw the changeup make great strides. I think there’s still a little bit of growth there with the changeup usage and the consistency of the breaking ball, again, fastball command.
But passing the test of time is something that I think all players strive for to then get in those conversations that you’re talking about. But he’s on his way. He’s good, too.