By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
5:53 PM EDT, October 8, 2012
Orioles manager Buck Showalter spoke with the media this afternoon before Game 2 of the ALDS at Camden Yards. Here's a full transcript of his press conference:
One of the hallmarks of the Yankees playoff teams over the last 15 years is the fact that they're so patient at the plate. We saw that again last night. How do you deal with that?
SHOWALTER: It's hard. It's part of what makes them good. It's kind of like someone said, why does Randy Johnson throw so many pitches. Well, not much comes out of his hand that you want to swing at that looks inviting, and on the flip side of that, they're good hitters. Challenging them a lot of times down the middle of the plate is usually not a good idea.
But it's tough. It's tough. That's why everybody looks for that. But they can very quickly get into that pass the baton mentality, and there's not many, if any, outs in their lineup. It's a challenge that you have to face, and that's why some of our guys -- a lot of it has got to do with command, too. I think it's not all that they're good hitters, but if you make good quality pitches, your pitch count will be down, and they won't walk much. It's not really that complicated.
But they can get into that four-corner soft Dean Smith in a hurry. They step out a lot. I think everybody knows what their time of games are going to be.
How important has Matt Wieters been in the development of your pitching staff?
SHOWALTER: Oh, he's been -- every once in a while you have to remind yourself how old he is. Matt is very wise, and he has a lot of confidence. I think he creates a lot of confidence because of the work he puts in, and the pitchers all know where his priorities are.
He knows that -- he does the math of four at¿bats, 140, 150 decisions a night behind the plate. I mean, the play he made last night on the short hop from Robert, a lot of people I'm sure think that's easy. That's a remarkable play. But fortunately we get to see something like that every night. He made a pick of a short hop early in the game that John Russell and I just looked at each other and went, really? Go grab a mitt and try to do that with a catcher's mitt. He does something every night where I just kind go, that's pretty special. Best catcher I've ever had, and real lucky to have had him pass my way.
Q. When you guys added Machado, you make a pretty good case. It improved you defensively at three different spots. How big a part of this run has the improvement in your defense been, and did you guys really foresee the kind of impact that would have?
SHOWALTER: Yeah, we dodged some baseball gods' rules of thumb with some of the defense early on, and we knew that that would catch up with us. I think when you bring a young player up, the thing that allows you to run him out there, because they're going to have ups and downs offensively when they come up here, it's the biggest jump in professional sports from the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues in the level of play. You all have heard this. Guys come out of the NFL and they are All¿Pro. Guys come out of high school and they play in the NBA. In baseball their ability to play defense is what allows you to keep running them out there while they figure it out offensively, and that was the one barometer we kept talking to our guys in the Minor Leagues about defensively, and they felt like he could do fine there, and they were right.
And then Mark settled in at first base, and Nate has helped us in left field. I think our club improved dramatically, which allowed us to be consistent in making leads matter.
You guys have been playing this whole David versus Goliath thing all year long; nobody expects us to win and that whole thing. It seems like you guys have almost thrived on it with that as your kind of theme. I'm just wondering after a tough loss like last night, do you remind them of all of this as far as preparation for today and facing Andy Pettitte, going back to New York?
SHOWALTER: No, they would look at me and say, no, and call me Captain Obvious. We've had tough losses a lot this year. That's the peaks and valleys. I've said it a few times to our guys: I've been on clubs that have been around -- been around a club that won 100 games and. There were periods where I didn't know if we would win another game. And I have gone through, you lose five or six and been on expansion clubs that lost 90 something and we went through periods where we didn't think we'd lose another, playing really well. So that's trying to keep a grip on reality. But obviously the sense of urgency changes a little bit because of the math of the series.
Our guys know that, and they don't -- it's not something that you dwell on. The David and Goliath or whatever you're talking about, that's not something that's a mentality for us in there. There's not flukes in baseball. There's no Cinderellas. You play too many games. You play 162 games. And that mentality might go for a short span, but it don't play for very long, believe me. People don't care about your problems and they're real happy you got them. They feel that way about us and we feel that way about them. You don't hear us complaining about injuries and this, that and whatever. It's just another opportunity to show your mettle.
I was just curious to see what you think of all the "BUCKle Up" billboards and tee shirts that you see around. Do you kind of embrace that, or does it feel a little odd as a manager being the focal point?
SHOWALTER: Because it's the players. I don't even like talking about it. It makes me uncomfortable. But it's -- you know, believe me, it won't, the focus after this year -- and it is on the players here, trust me, and I've got it. But there's some things I've learned here that they don't ask me about because they know the answer. They know more about it than I do, so I try to stay out of it.
I'll tell you one thing: If Monica was right, it's the last time I'm going to mention a story about being on a roller coaster in a post game meeting, I can tell you that. I think maybe that's where it came from. I'm not ad-libbing any more because there are cameras everywhere and microphones.
You've known Andy Pettitte obviously a very long time. He wasn't supposed to even be pitching this year, and now he's here and he's pitching against you guys. First of all, were you surprised that he came back ans second, what has made him so effective all these years?
SHOWALTER: I'm not surprised at all. I wish he would have stayed retired, but that's why they approached him, I am not sure how it was. Y'all know more about it than I do. In the offseason. They were prepared for this moment. It seems to be happening some in baseball where they know guys physically have some issues and they're willing to do half a year. It doesn't surprise me anything Andy is doing. And he's pitching for the right reasons. Obviously he has a real affection and love for the organization and the fans, and he's been there his whole career, and he's one of those holdovers from all the good things. They like their chances, and rightfully so, when he goes out there. He's got great presence, and he brings a real competitive been there, done that, and then doesn't get flustered, a lot like the guy last night.
You've talked for years about this team playing in a big game atmosphere. Has the atmosphere at Camden Yards, at least last night, is it what you expected it to be?
SHOWALTER: Oh, yeah. The only regret, other than losing the game last night, was that our fans had to sit around in the weather that long. It was a topic, and our three or four players mentioned, gosh, I wish -- to wait so long for a moment like that, and they're sitting around underneath -- but it sure didn't seem to dampen their enthusiasm and it didn't seem like anyone went away. I thought it took a little -- I don't want to say maybe some butterflies or whatever you want to call it, I think it kind of with the players was actually good, kind of got everybody -- I hope it doesn't happen tonight.
But no, it was everything I thought it would be and more, and I was real proud of our people and our fans who showed up. A lot of people made a decision, and in today's economy and the whole nine yards, it wasn't free, and we're appreciative. They made it worthwhile and they were part of us being in that ballgame last night. They really were. Our guys fed off of it.
The reason that you guys are here, a big reason is the bullpen and Darren O'Day in particular. How valuable has he been to the success of the pen and the success of the team this year?
SHOWALTER: Darren, with one exception, a couple hiccups right after the All-Star break which was my fault for doing that skit or whatever they call it, that prank on him, I think that's why he did, he's been rock solid from day one. You know, Darren just gives himself a chance to have success. He understands -- the one thing he's done really well this year is attack left-handed hitters. He's learned how to defend himself against left¿handed hitters. That's unusual with a guy with his arm angle. Rick made an adjustment with him after the break that he had changed a little something there, and also they talked about the things he could do to be a little better against left-handed hitters.
He's been so versatile for us. Usually a guy like him is not that versatile. You don't like seeing him face multiple hitters. But you've got a left¿handed starter a certain night, you know you're going to see more right-handed hitters out of the pen initially.
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