“It’s up to us just to see if we can go play better.”

titoIndians manager Terry Francona held a lunch gathering with local reporters on Tuesday and engaged in a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview session. In the order the topics were brought up in the discussion, here are the highlights of Tito’s comments about Cleveland’s roster, the upcoming season and some issues facing Major League Baseball

Indians.com links:

Castro: Indians have pieces to make noise
Tribe making plans to shore up defense
Jason Kipnis on road to recovery
Nick Swisher, Brandon Moss recovering

More quotes from the Q&A:

On Swisher:

“I told Swish this the other day. I was like, ‘I don’t care what Opening Day says or what the first day of Spring Training says. When you’re ready to play, that’s when we’re going to run you out there,’ because the last thing we want to do is have him go through what he did and then limp around. Sometimes guys have these artificial [goals], like Opening Day of the season, which is meaningful, but it’s not the end all, be all. So, we just want to get him strong and healthy so he can do what he does. I think he’s doing fine. He’s working hard. He’s probably worked harder this winter than he has in a long time, just because he had to. Hopefully, that’ll translate back into him being on the field every day.”

On the right field and designated hitter logjam:

“If we get to a point where somebody’s aggravated because they’re not playing, that’s probably a good thing. I’ve never really had a problem finding guys that are producing ways to get at-bats. I think [GM Chris Antonetti] did a really good job of trying to protect us, because there is some unknown going into Spring Training, and also having guys who can move around a little bit so we have some flexibility.”

On paying attention to moves within the division:

“I pay attention to all of them, just because I’m a baseball fan. I know the Nationals signed [Max] Scherzer, which I think is awesome, getting him out of our division. I thought the White Sox had a really good winter. They complemented what they have and they’re going to get a lot better. That’s not the best news for us, but were in a little bit of a unique situation, where we had most of our team in place. We just now need to find a way to play six or seven games better than we did last year.”

On the large contracts being signed around baseball:

“Owners have been complaining since when my dad played that players made too much and fans, same way. Now, there’s a couple more zeros added to the end, but that’s kind of the case with everything. You go to a movie now and it’s expensive. I don’t think it changes the game. I think it maybe changes how people talk about the game or maybe sometimes expectations, but the game is still the same, which is really good.”

ChizOn Lonnie Chisenhall’s defense:

“I think Lonnie can be a good defender. He’s got good reactions, he’s got a good body and he’s got plenty of arm. I think he’s shown what he can do and how he can react. He’s also had a knack for making errors that are untimely, or just maybe balls he should make A lot of times that’s part of the maturation process. He’s come so far in so many areas that it wouldn’t surprise me if he continues to get better defensively.”

On Michael Bourn:

“This will be interesting to see how Bourny shows up. He’s had a really good winter. He’s worked with a track coach. [Bench coach Brad Mills] just went down and saw him this week and spent a day with him. He’s worked a lot. Millsy said his workout was intense. And Bourny understands that, if he gets on and he’s kind of that guy that creates some havoc, we’re a better team. And I do think he feels like a year removed — I think he felt like his legs hurt his swing and certainly hurt his stolen bases — that he’s in a position to do a little better.”

On the bullpen workload:

“Once the season starts, we have an obligation to try to win however we can. To your point, though, we keep an eye on workload, because it means something. We try really hard. Because they do have a pretty heavy workload, we try not to get them up and down a lot in the bullpen. I think if you look across the board — not just at appearances, because I understand it’s a lot — but pitches thrown, things like that, we weren’t necessarily the leader in the league in a lot of categories.”

On Jose Ramirez at shortstop:

“I thought he did a really good job. I thought it was very noticeable how much his range came into play, especially up the middle. He doesn’t have the strongest arm in the league, but you don’t see a lot of shortstops going in the hole anymore and making that play anyway. And he got to so many balls up the middle that he turned into outs, it was really impressive.”

On Zach McAllister:

“We dont want to put him in the bullpen yet. I think what we’ll do in Spring Training is like we always do: we’ll divvy up the innings and we’ll lengthen out as many guys as we can. It’s two-fold. One is I think we really agree — [pitching coach Mickey Callaway] and I and Chris agree — that to build up guys for a long season, it’s really good to get them stretched out. And then the other thing is you don’t know what’s going to happen, and you don’t know who’s going to emerge, or if somebody’s going to get hurt. So, the more guys you have stretched out, you can make better decisions. Moving forward, you can always put a guy in the bullpen. You can’t just stretch him out again. And then, as we start to lose innings when guys are going longer, we’ll make decisions as they come. I think I’m more excited just to have Zach pitching healthy, because we saw what he can do. He can do that whether he’s starting or relieving. It’s kind of the same thing with [Carlos] Carrasco. If you pitch like that, it doesn’t really matter where you’re pitching.”

Allen2On Cody Allen:

“He’s such a good leverage pitcher that I don’t see us really changing the way we’re going about it. The one thing I think we’ll probably do is you might see a time or two where he comes in in the eighth if the game is going to be won or lost. I hate to sit around and wait for the ninth and not get there. I think Cody agrees with that, too. Sometimes you get established guys down there and they’re not really big on doing that. Cody just wants to pitch when it’s exciting. If you do that enough, it’ll backfire on you, but I also think putting your best pitcher in the best situation, the most-leveraged situations, will help you more than it doesn’t.”

On the low run-scoring environment in baseball:

“I think you’re about ready to see [that] the game always makes its own adjustments. I think right now the hitters are still in that mode of swinging like they’re hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but not necessarily doing that anymore. So, you’re seeing the strikeouts, home runs are down and you’re seeing batting averages come down because of the shift. So now, you’ll probably see a segment of hitters start to use the whole field a little bit more. The game always has a way of kind of evening itself out. Hitters make an adjustment, then the pitchers do, then the infielders do. It has a way of doing that — it’s pretty cool.”

On Carlos Santana being the first baseman:

“I do [think it will help]. It was hard last year and he never really said anything to me. I know he was probably a little more open with you guys when he was scuffling, but I don’t think it was so much the catching or the change of position. I think the foul tips are what beat him up a little bit. He got dinged up and when you’re hitting .140, I think it hurts more.”

On Santana making most of DL stint in May:

“You don’t want to lose guys ever, but the timing gave him a week to kind of reset and he did a good job of that. And he came back and was really the offensive player we needed after that. For whatever reason, sometimes guys get lost and they can’t find it and then frustration sets in and then he’s moving positions. It just wasn’t perfect for him. But, it did help our team, too, because for the first month or whatever of the season, he was our backup catcher, so it gave us an extra position to carry.”

On where Gavin Floyd fits in rotation:

“Probably as high as he can handle. Maybe right behind [Corey] Kluber — well see. The idea is, last year when he was healthy, he had, across the board, probably better than Major League-average stuff. And if he can slot in there and we can slow down some of the younger guys — Trevor [Bauer], Carrasco, Danny[Salazar], whoever — and just let them matchup a little bit lower in the rotation, I think that helps their development.”

On Moss’ status for Spring Training:

“I think he’s going to be in great shape. As far as his hip, we will completely go on how he’s feeling. My guess is, before it’s all said and done, he’ll be able to play first, right and DH, which gives us a ton of flexibility.”

Murphy2On discussing situation with right fielder David Murphy:

“Chris did a really good job. When he traded for Moss, he called Murph I think that day just to say, ‘Hey man, this is what we’re doing.’ And Murph was, as you would expect, about as professional as you can be. He was like, ‘Hey man, if this costs me at-bats, but it’s better for the team …’ And again, I think Murph is smart enough to know that things happen and, if you’re helping the teams win, there’s usually a place for you to play.”

On Murphy’s role:

“Well, it’s hard to say right now, because we don’t know how healthy Swish or Moss are. So right now, Murph’s our right fielder. I don’t know if that’s going to change in the next month or not.”

On Corey Kluber’s Cy Young encore:

“The one thing he’ll have to guard against, which I don’t think he’ll have a problem with, is inevitably people want  to look at each start and go back a year. Last year’s done. Good, bad or in-between, it’s over. Now, you move on and try to do something this year. I think he’s certainly more confident. I think he’s smarter. I think he understands the league and I think he understands himself. I’m not sure every year of your career, your numbers can get better, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve. I know he wants to improve his changeup and things like that. I think you’ll start seeing him working on smaller things.”

On Kipnis’ defense:

“It was sinconsistent, as he was in and out. Sometimes when you’re playing with injuries, I think other things show on the field. Just because a guy is playing, that doesn’t mean they’re at 100 percent. He’s an outfielder that moved to second base, so he may never be the smoothest guy on the field, but he’s very athletic and I think he can be a much better defender than he showed last year, yeah.”

427SalazarOn Salazar already being in Arizona:

“We wanted to get Danny there about a month, six weeks ahead of time. He’s still young and he has so few innings compared to everybody else. … He’s had a habit of, by the end of the first half he’s ready to go. Even in his Minor League seasons, it took him a while to kind of ramp up into the season. When you’re in Double-A, that’s not the end of the world, but when you’re pitching with us, those are costing you wins. So, we were thrilled that he bought into it and he wanted to get out there, because I think it will really help him.”

On Anthony Swarzak:

“It kind of reminds me a lot of [Scott] Atchison. I don’t think that was the sexiest sing last year, but the guys that knew Atch had a feeling that he could really help us. And Swarzak’s done it now for a number of years, where shoot, I think he almost threw 100 innings out of the bullpen a couple years. He’ll fit right in. If he goes like 10 minutes without pitching, man, it’s like he breaks out in hives. We have Scott Downs. We have some guys that are coming in on non-roster. I think it will be healthy for our team to have some guys that are pitching. I know it’s not the easiest way to come into a camp, especially for a veteran guy, but it’ll be good forour team.”

On building bullpen depth through low-level signings:

“I don’t think you can just throw money at a bullpen, because the names may stay the same, but the production changes. It’s pretty volatile. And it wasn’t easy for us to sign guys, because guys look at our bullpen and they see the names and know guys aren’t going anywhere. But, I think it’s a good way to kind of enhance what we have.”

On teams going to bullpens earlier in games:

“Well, I think bullpens are so good that you have to make a choice. Your starter that’s nearing 100 pitches can face a hitter for a third or fourth time, or you can bring in either a specialty arm, a situational guy or a guy throwing 98. And most teams, most good teams, have those guys. You used to try to get to the bullpen early. Nowadays, you’re not always doing yourself a favor.”

On Carrasco’s turnaround:

“I think when it’s all said and done, Mickey, [former bullpen coach Kevin Cash], everybody tried so hard to get him to a point where he could get from the bullpen to the game and relax. He just really had a hard time doing that. They tried even quirky things, like staying in the bullpen or throwing out of the stretch. Although he still throws out of the stretch, he doesn’t need to do anything quirky anymore. He has a solid routine and if he just stays with his routine, he’s good, and I think he knows it. And that’s probably what got him over the hump.”

CarrascoOn Carrasco carrying success into 2015:

“I think he can carry the mentality. Now, again, he might not go 12 starts in a row where he has a 1.70 ERA, but I don’t think it was a fluke that, however [many] starts he had, he was at the top of the league in just about every category. He didn’t walk people. He struck out people. His stuff is off-the-charts good. It’s a nice feeling for us. … That’s why we’ve said it a number of times, ‘You don’t give up, even when it appears maybe like you’re being stubborn,’ because we can’t have those guys go somewhere else and be good.”

On outside perception after quiet winter:

“I don’t know if we’re flying under or not. I’m not sure I need to spend much time worrying about that. Again, we were in a little bit of a unique situation where most of our team was in place. You don’t see that very often anymore these days, so I thought the additions of Moss and Floyd were good and important. Now, it’s up to us just to see if we can go play better.”

On lefty-heavy lineup:

“Well, if we don’t hit lefties it does [create a problem]. But we have [Santana], who’s a switch hitter. Swish is a switch hitter. I think it comes down to how the guys do. The year before [2013], Carlos and Swish were pretty good right-handed and [Ryan] Raburn mashed. That was kind of the difference. There’s going to be a lot of times, if you have that many left-handed hitters and you face a really good lefty, you’re at a little bit of a disadvantage. But, those are the days you usually give a guy or two a day off and try to put a couple right-handed bats in there.”

On pitch clocks being tested in Minors:

“I think it’s great. I think it’s easy. I know they’re trying to speed up the game and I understand what they’re trying to do. They had these signs last year [in the ballpark]. They had red, green and yellow. I guarantee you no players knew what they meant, because I didn’t know what they meant. You put a clock up and the pitcher knows, ‘When it hits zero, I’ve got to be ready to pitch.’ … If you want to throw [warm-up pitches] in the bullpen, throw them in the bullpen. If you want to throw them on the mound, throw them on the mound. But,t when it says zero, we’re ready to go.”

On the 2015 Hall of Fame class:

“Our hall of Fame I think is so different than others. And I’m not taking away from any sport, but when you make it to the Basbeall Hall of Fame, it’s pretty special. And the guys this year are no different. And until they figure out how to treat the 90s or whatever, there’s going to be a cloud or [whatever you want to call it]. It’s kind of an unfair position right now to be a voter, so if they could clear that up, that would probably help everybody.”

On voting or not voting for suspected PED users:

“It’s not fair to anybody, because as an industry we kind put our heads in the sand maybe 20 yeas ago, so we’re paying for it now. But, I also don’t think that’s fair to hold somebody responsible, because somebody said they might’ve taken something. … I think at some point, if you do enough like that, you’re going to do somebody wrong, which isn’t fair. But then again, you come back, it’s not fair to the writers, either. I just think they should vote for the guys they think deserve it and then let the fans make up their mind whether they want to like them or not. Because, in baseball, the numbers are there and they’re not going away. … What do you do if somebody’s already in and they find out years later [he wasn’t clean]? … Nobody knows [for certain if a player from that era was clean or dirty]. That’s what I’m saying. There’s a lot of people that are playing judge and jury that just don’t know. Until you do, there’s no other way around it.”

–JB

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