“For us it was important to have as many right-handed weapons (pitchers) and give them different looks over a seven-game series, to have a lot of options that way.” — AJ Hinch.

October 12, 2019

AJ Hinch

Houston, Texas – pregame 1

Q. Even though the Yankees are predominantly right-handed, what are the challenges of you not having a left-handed pitcher on your pitching staff for this series?
AJ HINCH: I know it sticks out a little bit when you look at a lineup card, but in reality I think it’s important to have the most weapons you can against the majority of their hitters. Obviously I know Gardner and Didi and with Hicks — Hicks creates his own challenges being a switch-hitter.

For us it was important to have as many right-handed weapons and give them different looks over a seven-game series, to have a lot of options that way.

We’ve had some rosters we’ve had a lot of — some lefties and sometimes we haven’t in my five years here. But we had a lot of — the majority of the season, if not all the season, was done without a lefty in the bullpen, from the bullpen side.

Now, telling Wade Miley he’s not on the roster was tough. He’s had a tremendous year for us, and he was on the Division Series roster and he’s worked his tail off to try to get the feel back for his pitches. And he provided a lot of insurance and length for us in the first round.

That was much tougher than it is for me to worry about how we get through their lineup with no lefty.

Q. What did you think of your team’s offense during the Division Series? And how credit do the Rays pitchers deserve for extending it?
AJ HINCH: I think when you get to this time of the year to expect the blowup games and these monstrous offensive games is really tough. You’re not getting too many looks at too many guys. And the Rays did a good job of utilizing all of their good pitching in random order and different ways and matchups. With the exception of Charlie’s game, Charlie Morton’s game, it was all hands on deck for them for the four other games.

Give a lot of credit to them. And it wasn’t just about the number of pitchers they were bringing in; it was the elite stuff that they were throwing up there.

That being said we came through at the right time. We had some big, explosive — there were some guys that swung the bat very well in that series. But part of how our roster is built is to have any given guy at any given day have the good day that carries us in that particular game.

We may see much of the same. Obviously we want Jose to play just as well as he did, Yordan had a nice series. This might be the game that Michael Brantley, as we saw in Game 5, came up big, or Robinson Chirinos has done quite well or Yuli can get hot. We all get hot together and this is going to be an explosive offense, but this is still a really good pitching staff we’re going to have to go against.

Q. To what extent do you feel having Yuli and D�az has helped Yordan make the transition to the big leagues?
AJ HINCH: That’s a good point. I think in general across the board our position players have done a really good job of welcoming Yordan on to our team and giving him as many resources as you can. When you have a couple of countrymen that have relatable experiences and backgrounds similar to one another — I mean Yuli himself, being an idol in Cuba and across international baseball, I see it when we go to different teams. Any Cuban player is on an opposing team, they cherish their time with Yuli, and their reaction to him is so respectful.

When Yordan has an icon like that to come up and relate to, and with Diaz. At one time I think we had five or six Cubans on this team. And that is a comforting feeling for a player who is acclimating to the U.S., acclimating to the big leagues, and getting a lot thrown at him at a level which he’d never been before, so I think it was huge.

Q. Is there any tangible reasons for the home-road splits this year?
AJ HINCH: For Tanaka or for us?

Q. For your team.
AJ HINCH: I don’t know. I’ve sat in this chair and been asked by our media in ’15 or ’16, and we couldn’t win a game at home it felt like and we were crushing it on the road. There’s other years where you play really well at home and you struggle on the road. I look at other teams across the board, I’ve seen what teams do.

I think for us, this has turned into a really good home-field advantage. It’s turned into a place that we’re comfortable hitting. We have guys that hit the ball hard, and you get rewarded in this ballpark. We don’t strikeout, this can be an offensive ballpark when you put the ball in play with all the different configurations in the outfield and it can play a little bit fast.

Maybe it’s just a collection of a lot of different things. We love playing at home. We’ve had great experiences here, we’ve clinched divisions here, we’ve had the most epic Game 5 in World Series history. Add all that up and we just love playing at home.

But we did fight for home-field advantage all the way to the end, we played our guys all the way through to the end for this particular opportunity to have a Game 5 in the Division Series at our place, to open up the ALCS here. If we happen to advance to the World Series, we have the home-field advantage. I’ll play that up a ton that our home field is a big difference maker because of how we’ve played this year.

Q. There was a report Thursday that the balls might not be going as far in the postseason, and then the Cardinals dame out today and pretty much said point-blank that they didn’t think. Your thought if you noticed anything about the balls.
AJ HINCH: I don’t know. I noticed it a little bit more because elite teams are playing elite teams. And there games played in shadows, there are games played at different parts of the day, the travel, the matchups. We just faced Blake Snell out of the bullpen twice. You don’t do that during the season.

I think a lot of it has to do with the type of matchups that go on during playoff baseball when you’re trying to win. You’re exploiting weaknesses in hitters. Maybe you’re even able to exploit it a little bit more.

I’m sure there are a couple of balls across the way, across these games, that, Man, that looked like that should leave compared to the season. But the conspiracy of the ball, I’m so far away from caring about that. I want to try to win games.

And I appreciate the explosion of offense during the regular season. I hope every ball the Yankees hit is deflated and we get to catch it at the warning track. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on the difference in the ball.

Q. When the teams worked out yesterday it was unusually cold in your place, despite the fact that the roof was closed. Based on your experience how could that play?
AJ HINCH: You know, the roof — and when it’s chilly in there it impacts guys. I watched the game last night in St. Louis, it was really cold, and I saw more bunts out of those two teams than I ever saw in a game nowadays.

Maybe it changes style of play a little bit, the ball traveling. It will be warmed up a little bit when 45, 50,000 Astros fans get in here and start yelling at the Yankees. I don’t think it will play a ton.

When you get to October you start playing back in cold weather again, similar to how you do during the season. We get back here for later in the series, if we come back and have more games here in Houston, it will probably be 95. If you’ve been to Houston, you know it will change overnight.

Q. When I saw you guys during the regular season coming through Chicago playing the White Sox, you may have been joking, but I could have sworn you said you were going to order an intentional walk the last day of the season just to get the zero out of there. Of course you didn’t do that. Is there any scenario that exists at this point where you would order an intentional walk?
AJ HINCH: Of course. No, absolutely will. And I joked about walking Mike Trout at the end of the year. We finished in Anaheim with a four-game series, and I didn’t think I was going to escape four games without walking him and then he got hurt. So I switched to David Fletcher, and I threatened that I was going to walk him because he killed us all year.

I believe in the intentional walk. I believe there’s a place for it. I didn’t do it. I’ve gotten a ton of questions about it. And I even joked the last day of the season with our local media, stay tuned, I’ll probably do my first one of the year in the playoffs. There’s absolutely a place for it. And if I feel like the matchup is right and I feel like that it benefits our opportunity to win and doesn’t put us in jeopardy of giving them a better chance to score, then it’s a play that needs to be used.

I watched the other games, I don’t criticize these guys for managing their own team and intentionally walking all these guys, but it’s just not a play that I frequent.

Q. You kind of referenced the bullpen matchups a little bit. How much more sophisticated has that gotten as far as information that’s available to you as a manager?
AJ HINCH: I don’t think it’s just information, I think it’s the acceptance and the application of actually doing it.

I see the Yankees carry 13 pitchers, that will tell you right there that they’re willing to mix and match and use their pitching creatively, at least have the resources there to do a lot. Managing against Kevin Cash and the Rays last series, we knew that was going to be the case.

So there’s great acceptance to do it nowadays and there’s been some effectiveness. We saw firsthand in ’17, Boston did a great job last season and they won the World Series. When they do that and teams have success, it becomes very accepted.

The challenge is once you start that you kind of can’t stop. You can’t just go to the bullpen. You run out of pitching eventually. You have to have the right matchup and you have to have a lot of guys that have good days in order to do that.

But the information provided and where you think you can exploit teams and matching guys up perfectly is the chess match in the pitcher-hitter stuff. When it works you look brilliant; when it doesn’t then you overthought the game or overmanaged the game and ran your pitching into the ground.

But it’s part of today’s game that everybody has in their back pocket if they want to deploy it. And we may do that. You look at certain games and I’ve done that and then certain games I’ve sat in my chair and watched Gerrit Cole throw 118 pitches. You’ve got to manage the game effectively either way.

Q. What has Roberto Osuna meant? What will he mean to this club going forward?
AJ HINCH: He means a ton. When you have a closer with elite stuff and a calm demeanor and the ability to close out games. He didn’t sneak up on all those saves during the season. He was remarkably consistent.

This time of year when closers give up a baserunner, you get questioned a lot on whether or not they’re going to be able to handle October. I trust him. I believe in him. I think he’s got tremendous weapons and a demeanor and the pitchability to handle the ninth inning, the eighth inning, or seventh inning, or whenever I call down there. I’m glad he got the last game the other day in Game 5 because he had a rough stint earlier in the series. But he’s our guy. He’s going to get some big outs this series.

Q. Given the advances in technology and scouting and analytics, how much has coaching pitchers and managing a pitcher changed in the last couple of years?
AJ HINCH: It’s changed a little bit. First off supplying information comes from a lot of different ways. I think our front office and our pitching department, Strom and Josh Miller spend a ton of time with these pitchers, first off breaking down what they do well and then applying that to a game plan on how you’re facing these hitters.

The in-game coaching is a little bit different. You’re not going to go out to Zack Greinke today in the fourth or fifth inning and make a visit and tell him that his spin rate is down or up. You’re not going to utilize much — with him you can probably do it, with 99 percent of pitchers you can’t.

So I think the application of the game planning and how you go into a series knowing where you’re going to exploit hitters or where your best weapons are, there’s great knowledge that’s been deployed to these players more so than ever before. Once you get out on the field we want our guys to compete. They’re not analysts out there on the mound. We’re not generating a lot of computer reports trying to overcomplicate the game. We prepare them much better today than I ever remember.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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