October 3, 2019
Atlanta, Georgia – pregame 1
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak.
JOHN MOZELIAK: Good afternoon. Obviously it’s a very exciting time for the Cardinals. I think all the faces I see out here that cover the Cardinals, we go over the narrative of not being in the postseason the last few years. And for me I reflect back on we’ve only played one game where we’ve been eliminated over those three years, so I do think we’ve been a competitive club.
But to finally get into the postseason and to taste that Champagne, I think, was very meaningful throughout our entire organization so I think there’s a lot of pride in getting back to that, but as we sit here today, now we play baseball. And that’s the exciting part about this, and we really have a club that we have a lot of confidence in and we’re really looking forward to getting it going.
Q. Miles Mikolas, it’s kind of been a journey, you got him from Japan and now he has the great year. The contract and now he’s starting game one. Can you talk about some of the traits of Miles Mikolas that make you excited to have him on your team?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Well, I think back to when we first acquired him and really what he meant to our rotation. And Miles is someone that obviously had a tremendous year last year, but that’s in the past.
I mean, really what we’re talking about now is what are you doing for us. And I do think he kept us competitive throughout this year. Clearly from a performance standpoint he didn’t have the same year he had last year, but showing signs of what he’s capable of doing.
And I think he’s someone that relishes this opportunity to get Game 1, and we certainly hope he makes the most of it.
Q. Sticking with starting pitchers, Jack Flaherty just a few years ago wasn’t even your top-ranked prospect and now here he is one of the better — you had Reyes and there were other guys. Was there a breakthrough for him in the minor leagues where something just switched and you saw a different kind of guy?
JOHN MOZELIAK: So, a Jack Flaherty question, and sort of when did his trajectory change. And I think in Jack’s case he was always somebody that we were very excited about. I do think you always have to remind yourself in the Cardinal organization that we tend to push our prospects.
We tend to move them along. And I think sometimes when you have that pace happening, you don’t see maybe the development or maybe the success and performance that you might see in other organizations.
But he’s someone we’ve always been very high on. I think when you’re comparing like where he was relative to Reyes at the time, I think really just speaks to the depth of prospects at that point.
But, Jack, I think, when you talk about when did things change for him, I think it was really this year. And you look back to late June and what he’s been able to do since then, he’s been a different pitcher. And I think everybody could say why and what went into that.
But I think the biggest change for him was just his ability to throw strikes, be aggressive in that strike zone and learn how to get quicker outs. And I think when that light bulb went on he became an elite pitcher.
Q. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself, but what kind of confidence does it give you knowing if it comes down to it you have a guy like Jack that’s going to be capable of throwing two games in a five-game series here?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Well, I think anytime you have a starter that has Jack’s capabilities or skills, it’s obviously very reassuring that you know that’s in the rotation. But I remember Tony La Russa once told me, your number one is who is going that day.
And I think there’s some simplicity and some perfection to that kind of statement in the sense that that’s what we need today. And baseball, even though you’re playing the best of five, it’s still about today.
And so I think the way Mike Shildt and his staff and the players are approaching this is we’re worried about today.
Q. It’s fairly easy to imagine important moments in this series that can come down to Andrew Miller versus Freddie Freeman late in the game. What have you seen from Miller so far this year in his first season here, and has he lived up to your expectations you had when you all brought him in?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Clearly when we signed Andrew Miller we wanted someone that could handle high-leverage situations. Many of you may remember when we were talking about our negotiation with him, it was really about getting Rizzo, Votto, Yelich out. And that was the very simplistic strategy of why we signed him.
Obviously now we’re in the postseason. We’re going to face a club that has good left-handed hitters, if not great, and so I think you’re going to see a lot of Andrew Miller in this series. In terms of what we expect and what we hope is for him to be able to get those outs.
Q. As you’re putting together the bullpen, I’m wondering if performance being equal, good, bad or indifferent, do you find, as a tiebreaker, power, you decide it this time of year with power in some of these decisions?
JOHN MOZELIAK: When we were really looking at the roster and trying to decide how we should finalize those last pieces, obviously the names that we whittle down to, they did have horsepower. And so I don’t think that was necessarily the one variable that we were saying was going to break a tie.
We also were looking at the left-hand side. So giving us that extra left-hander, given their lineup, and also if we do need more than multiple innings you have Helsley and Ponce that can do it for you — Ponce being the one guy you could stretch out. That was really the tiebreaker for us.
Q. How valuable is it to have that power dynamic?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Well, I think in any postseason season game you tend to see starters come out earlier. So this trend has been going on for a decade where when you’re bringing in that fresh arm, you’d like it to be dynamic. You’d like it to be one that is eye-popping. And when you look at how our bullpen sets up that’s what it does.
Q. You have known Shildt obviously a long time as he’s worked his way up in the organization. He’s always been intentional about getting to this moment here, being the manager. Was there ever a time where you remember thinking back and going, this guy can be a big league manager and possibly in our organization?
JOHN MOZELIAK: So when did I think Mike Shildt might manage in the big leagues? I was attending a dinner with Shildty and a few other people probably back in 2017. We were at Chris’ in Frontenac. And I remember after that dinner I went home and I mentioned to my wife, I’m like, Mike Shildt will manage in the big leagues one day.
I assumed it would be for the Cardinals. That’s kind of when it hit me that he was getting — he was preparing himself for that next step.
Q. Mike Shildt, what did he say at the dinner that made you think he would be a big league manager?
JOHN MOZELIAK: We were discussing a lot of things that we were dealing with at the time, and I thought how he was prepared and what he was thinking about made a lot of sense. Needless to say, a year later we put him in that interim role.
So obviously Shildty I would consider a friend and someone — he’s been a part of my life for a long time. But you never always know what the future is going to hold. But at that night it occurred to me that this is going to happen.
Q. You were talking about power arms in the pen. Could you talk more about Genesis Cabrera, whose results at times were not great, but in terms of his, I guess, X factor, his upside?
JOHN MOZELIAK: I definitely feel like, when you’re looking at what he brings to the table, it’s electric, right? And I think just trying to harness that is probably most important. But I do feel like since he’s been a part of our club, the second time around, he seems to be maturing and growing into this role even quicker. So I do think he could be a valuable resource for us as we enter postseason.
Q. You’ve got two managers in this series who came up through the organizations, who didn’t play big league baseball themselves. Are they a template for other organizations to look at, you know, break a mold, if you will?
JOHN MOZELIAK: It’s a question I hear a lot. And obviously I’ve always admired Brian and his success and especially what he’s been able to do at the Major League level. And to see someone like Mike Shildt be able to do it as well, I think, is a great compliment to the people that are willing to start at the bottom and work their way up.
So, is it a template? I would think that people are going to look at it a little more seriously, because I don’t think — I think where the game is today, it’s not necessarily what you did on the field; it’s how you can understand information, process information in real time.
And obviously both of these gentlemen have had success at the Major League level, and they did it with a much different resum� than many people in the game have.
Q. Shildt announced that Wainwright would pitch Game 3, I’m going to ask you to think back also to about a year ago, if you could have put the odds on him having the year that he had and starting a postseason game for you guys?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Is Waino going to hear this? Obviously it would have been very low. But he’s one of those guys that — you always have that confidence that he can end up doing something special. And I think back to last year when we ended up doing that contract where it really was this very shared risk, low base, if he pitches he could make more money. He did that.
And I think for him, his impact on what he’s meant to this club, especially where he was a year ago, has been much more powerful. And he is — he’s a leader. He cares about this team. And couldn’t be more happy for him.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports