At this morning's presser, Hurdle had some interesting things to say about the platoon in right field and first base. Also, he noted that the team spent some time this off season looking how things that "can't be measured" should play a role when making in-game tactical decisions. Finally, he gave some insights into how the bullpen will be managed, at least early in the season.
Notes from Clint Hurdle's pregame presser:
On the significance of having Jim Leyland and Barry Bonds here for Opening Day:
I'm a big believer in honoring tradition and honoring the present the best we can. I do believe it's a big part of who we are and what we are. Who we used to be, how far we've come and where we're going.
How well do you know Barry Bonds?
The team I managed played his team a number of times and I got to have a number of conversations with him from time to time. And I've also hung a number of those chickens on that right field wall when we used to go four wide and pass on an opportunity to inflate his average.
Is the team taking the field today better than the team that walked off the field last season?
Time will tell. I believe we're better prepared. We have more experience. The skill sets have every opportunity to play out and play longer than they did last season.
Platoons at first base and right field:
It won't be a cookie-cutter platoon. I do believe there will be better matchup opportunities for Gaby than this particular one today. Based on the spring Travis had this year, I do try to read something into Spring Training swings to get some momentum, to get some traction in the lineup. It's a similar situation in right field. It won't be cookie cutter platoon, as well. We'll look at a bunch of different numbers: hard numbers, past history, analysis, projections and go from there.
Are expectations different this year?
We're viewing ourselves as still chasing. There is one team that took home the trophy last year. We were one of eight to get to the dance. We want to play longer, so we still have more to accomplish. We knocked down some mile markers along the way. We're not looking to sustain or maintain anything. We're looking to get better. We need to be better than we were last year, if we want to get to the goals we have for this year. Winning a division. Winning a World Series. The expectations that are outside of our control and external, we're the ones that pushed them up there, and that's good. That's sport. But we're looking for excellence, not success. Because success is comparing yourself to someone else. Excellence is being the best you can be.
Is Pedro ready for a strong start?
He is in a good place ... I'm confident of the way the spring finished for him. We were working on some swing mechanics. He's ready to go. He's fired up. I'm looking forward to having him anchor down the middle of the lineup.
With so many returning players, what's your comfort level with this year's club?
Yes...I'm very mindful of the fact I'm watching these men grow up in front the city as well as the coaching staff and myself. Very comfortable in throwing them the keys to the car and telling them to take me for a ride. And you don't get in the front seat; you don't put on seat belts; you don't put on a helmet; you don't close your eyes. They're going to dent the car; the car is going to go off the road; you put the car back on the road and get the dents fixed and go. They know I trust them. They know the coaches trust them. They know we love them. There's times that the term ‘touch love' comes up. We've kind of flipped it here. We call it ‘love tough.'
Does having so many players you're familiar with affect your tactical approach?
There are times in the game when the radar gun doesn't measure what you want to measure. A statistic doesn't measure what you want to measure. And one of the concepts we did spend some time on this spring was how do we honor things that can't be measured? And I think we have a very good grasp on that, as well.
On bullpen management:
Grilli is going to close. Melancon is going to set up. We're going to be mindful of Grilli's work load based on coming off last year ... we've got a couple guys that could be future closers. As we set up, I think it will still be Wilson earlier than Watson from the left side. We have length options in Pimentel and Gomez. We feel very, very strong about our bullpen. The versatility they have is huge. But also do know that men do like established roles, to some degree.