“We’ve had a strong rotation the entire season. We’ve got more guys than JV and Cole. But it’s led to this hundred-plus win team and where we’re at, and the series lead in the ALCS. But having those two horses is a huge competitive advantage for us going into any series or any game or anything of that nature.” –AJ HINCH

October 17, 2019

AJ Hinch

New York – pregame 4

Q. What do you think of the allegations you guys were doing whistles to gain some kind of advantage?
AJ HINCH: Man, I’m glad you asked that question, and I thought it would come up today. And we talked about this the other day. And in reality it’s a joke. But Major League Baseball does a lot to ensure the fairness of the game. There’s people everywhere. If you go through the dugouts and the clubhouses and the hallways, there’s like so many people around that are doing this.

And then when I get contacted about some questions about whistling, it made me laugh because it’s ridiculous. And had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in Spring Training. And we would have got — it apparently works, even when it doesn’t happen.

So to me, I understand the gamesmanship. I understand kind of creating a narrative for yourself or wondering how things are going.

Now, the game in question, you know, we got three hits and no runs. And so nobody heard it. You guys have audio, video, people in places and nothing — and there’s no evidence of anything.

So to the Yankees, there’s no — nothing bad going on. Pitch tipping is a little bit of a different story. If you don’t want us to know the pitch is coming, don’t do something that demonstrates what pitch you’re going to pitch or what you’re going to throw. But they’re doing the same thing.

Every hitter wants to know what’s coming by virtue of what a pitcher is doing or not doing.

The problem I have is when other people take shots at us outside this competition. When you guys ask me this question, my face, my name is by my quotes, my opinions, my reaction is all for you guys to Tweet out and put on the broadcast. But we have people that are unnamed, or you guys have sources that are giving you information. I suggest they put their name by it if they’re so passionate about it to comment about my team or my players.

There’s nothing going on other than the competition on the field. The fact that I had to field the question before a really, really cool game at Yankee Stadium is unfortunate. But we can put it to rest. That will be the last question I answer about pitch tipping or pitch stealing.

Q. There are 15 pitchers who threw 200 innings this season, 5 are still in the playoffs. Only one is with his original team, Strasburg. Do you think the success you’ve had, success the Nationals have had, is going to lead to teams trying to develop starting pitching that can go 200 innings as opposed to trying to acquire it as a free agent on the trade market?
AJ HINCH: Any time you can do it within your own organization it’s good. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to do it.

In a perfect world the pitchers you draft and develop are in your system from the very beginning, are your horses. It’s not always the way it works out.

So I think teams are trying to do that anyway. It’s just the fact that the Nats have been able to hold on Strasburg, that’s a credit to them and their system. But there’s so much activity that goes on in players’ careers, in the movement in the industry nowadays, that doesn’t always work out that way.

I think teams have been trying to do that for a long time. And some teams are better than others. But when you get to building your team and you’ve got to go outside your organization to get the guys that help you win the World Series, then that’s what you’re willing to do.

Q. Whenever the Yankees talk about the series, they always talk about having to beat either Justin or Gerrit in the series. What does it mean to a team to have that kind of wall, to have them at the front of the rotation?
AJ HINCH: We’ve had a strong rotation the entire season. We’ve got more guys than JV and Cole. But it’s led to this hundred-plus win team and where we’re at, and the series lead in the ALCS. But having those two horses is a huge competitive advantage for us going into any series or any game or anything of that nature.

There’s other ways to win the series for us. We don’t have to just rely on those two. Tonight is a good example where Zack can go out and throw very well. He’s got a back of the baseball card that’s pretty impressive as well and can make it really difficult on them if we can continue to separate ourselves in this series.

There’s a ton of confidence when all of our guys are starting the game, but clearly when we have Greinke and Verlander and Cole, it’s one of the best trios in baseball.

Q. Two disparate questions for you. Back to Greinke; what’s it been like having him around and what relationship have you been able to develop with him?
AJ HINCH: It’s been great to have Greinke, when he got to Houston right after the deadline we immediately embraced him and kind of introduced him to what we do and how we game plan.

It’s funny, the first game that he had was against the Rockies, so he was right back into the NL West. And I was really worried about him having to pitch against a team that had so much familiarity with him. I was hoping when we got him part of the advantages that a lot of teams in the American League hadn’t seen a ton of him in recent years. And so I apologized to him that, man, your first start is going to have to be against the Rockies. No, he said, it’s okay, I’ll get to see if you know what you guys are talking about. He was quizzing us as much as we were quizzing him. So that relationship developed over game planning against the Rockies.

As I’ve said before, it’s kind of a match made in analytical heaven. He’s a brilliant guy with a real good feel for pitching. And we know what we’re doing with Strommy and Josh Miller and our analytical department. Hopefully this is something that we get a lot of innings out of him and a lot of wins out of him.

Q. I did a column about this a couple of weeks ago. You guys went a whole with season without an intentional walk. Do you think that’s a tactic that’s going away in baseball, because it’s diminishing all over the place?
AJ HINCH: Yeah, I think it’s diminishing a little bit, but I think it’s all circumstantial. There’s always a time when it’s important to do that. It’s not a bad play. I’ve tried to stay away from the bad ones where it doesn’t make a lot of sense or it doesn’t give you a better chance to win and it’s just a move to make a move because we’ve been taught in this game over the years that when there’s an open base and you have a chance for a double play that you should intentionally walk that guy and in reality it’s not always a good play.

I’m also in the American League, so we don’t have as many National League games as everybody else. I’d be curious to know if the DH is ever put all around baseball, if we see it diminished even more, because you don’t have the built-in eight hole hitter to the pitcher scenario that comes up in the National League.

It’s a play that I’m going to use again. And I think there’s always a place for it. I might even do it tonight. Hopefully I don’t have to but you guys will have something to write for the next time I do it because I’m sure I’ll get asked about it if I ever do it again.

Q. What’s the level of concern for the safety of some of your outfielders playing here and have you or the organization addressed this or mentioned this to Major League Baseball perhaps?
AJ HINCH: I went out on the field the other day I wanted the umpires to know that it was becoming a dangerous situation. Our guys have reported both in the bullpen and in the outfield, you could see the stuff thrown on the field. There’s no place for that. Both teams will agree. And it’s really hard to stop fans from doing that. But it’s also very dangerous. MLB is aware. We’re aware.

I will pull the team off the field if we get in that situation again where bottles are being thrown and balls are being thrown and it becomes unruly. There’s other ways to support your home team, and this place does as good a job as anybody to trying to police that while also trying to create an environment that’s all pro Yankees. It would be a very ugly scene for baseball, a very ugly seen for the Yankees, if one of our guys was hit by something from the upper deck. Something tragic could happen and nobody wants that.

Q. You’ve been very vocal about your trust in Yordan Alvarez and you’ve said he’s going to play a big part. How difficult is it for a manager to balance that faith in that player and that confidence between every at-bat with a player that’s struggling maybe a little bit in the ALCS and having that faith moving forward?
AJ HINCH: No, I don’t think it’s that hard when you know the talent that’s there, the work that’s being put in and the near misses. I know we can look at the results of the at-bats and often give our opinion based on how that at-bat went, based on what happened, whether he chases a last hit and punches out or maybe guesses wrong and ends up taking a strike that he normally would swing at or puts a ball in play where a guy’s throwing 99 miles an hour and happens to get in on him little bit.

So for me I’ve always asked my players to maintain that balance. I maintain that balance. I’ve got a history of sticking with our guys that I trust and believe in. I have moved him down in the order and put Yuli behind Bregman because they’re dancing around Bregman a little bit. Maybe that gives Yuli a chance for some of these line drives start to fall.

But I trust him. He’s one swing away from changing the scoreboard. That’s very impactful, especially in October. The more he gets challenged the more that I believe he’s going to be a pivotal player in helping us to win another game.

Q. Greinke is pitching right here at Yankee Stadium. When he took the field did you think there was no way that a trade would be made because he started that game?
AJ HINCH: Well, we didn’t take the field. We were in Cleveland and we were playing a night game. It was a day game here. There was a lot of rain and so once I saw Zack get on the mound and start the game, I was in my office in Cleveland and I immediately was a little frustrated. I was pissed that means the trade — there’s no way they’re pitching him and then going to trade him. My history in the game it doesn’t happen very often. It’s happened a couple of times. For the most part those talks are quieted once that player plays in that game because there’s a chance of injury. There’s a chance for something to happen.

So I knew we were talking to him and talking about him. I immediately just kind of watched the game, and the rain delay came and there was just a lot going on. Jeff was in contact with me. And then right as the deadline was approaching is when Jeff contacted me and said that we got Greinke. I went through a range of emotions, pretty excited that he was in consideration for us to pretty depressed that he was starting at Yankee Stadium, and I’m watching it in front of my eyes. It shouldn’t be real, he should be an Astro, to quite surprised that we were able to pull it off at the very end with the way the day went.

So it was a unique day to say the least.

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“If we’re going to win this series, our bullpen will still play a huge role, obviously. But we’ve got to be able to get a little bit of distance out of our starters probably if we’re going to ultimately be successful in these next several games.” –Aaron Boone

October 16, 2019

Aaron Boone

New York – Workout Day

Q. I was wondering what does your lineup look like for tomorrow and what does the rest of your pitching rotation look like for the rest of the postseason in this ALCS?
AARON BOONE: I have not settled on the lineup yet. That will be something we talk about today and possibly even into tomorrow.

As far as rotation goes, will be Tanaka tomorrow in Game 4, with likely Paxton then in Game 5. And then we’ll see where we’re at from there.

Q. Through your career as a former player, as an analyst, and now as a manager, is there something you’ve seen as a common thread in pitchers who are very successful in the postseason the way Tanaka has been?
AARON BOONE: Command and the ability to ultimately command your repertoire of pitches. In a starter’s case typically we’re talking three or more pitches. And Masa clearly has that and the ability to put the ball where he wants, the ability to not make any kind of a moment or start bigger or less than it is but having that ability to kind of really focus on pitch to pitch. And I think the guys that do that the best give themselves the best chance to be successful. And Masa has clearly demonstrated the ability to do that.

Q. Do you think that’s just part of his temperament?
AARON BOONE: Everyone’s a little bit different. There’s been guys across the history of the game that have had tremendous success with kind of different personalities. Some guys are very detail oriented, very meticulous with how they go about things to guys that are very intense or a little more fly by the seat of their pants. There’s no one way that is the ultimate way to be successful.

But Masa I think is a guy that is obviously very good at his craft, very meticulous, and understands his mechanics and his delivery about as good as anyone. And I think those things lead to him going out there with a lot of confidence.

Q. Gleyber’s at-bats against Gerrit were some of the best your team had last night. What impresses you about the way he’s able to control the at-bats even against a great pitcher like that?
AARON BOONE: I mean, that. He’s been so locked in and I think Gleyber clearly likes playing in these kind of games when it really matters. He has a lot of confidence in his ability. But I think the biggest thing is he’s not — he’s controlled the strike zone. He’s not up there, I’ve got to do something great here. And against these pitchers that are really good and the best at what they do, you’ve got to be able to control those situations even in the big moments.

And I think Gleyber has done a great job of that, and especially some big counts where a lot of times you get guys that will chase. He’s done a really good job of slowing it down. I think disciplining himself not only within the at-bats but before the game, I’ve just got to really focus in on winning pitches. And he’s done a great job of that.

Q. Can you give us an update on Stanton’s status and do you expect him to be in your lineup tomorrow night?
AARON BOONE: I have not seen him yet today. I’ll probably go from here actually and see how his treatment and everything goes today. I’m not sure. I’m not really close to making that decision yet. That will be something that we kind of work through today and possibly even into tomorrow before I make that decision.

Q. How much longer can you go with a 24-man roster in this series?
AARON BOONE: That will be another conversation. And even though G hasn’t been able to go yet, I did view him as a potential option off the bench in a hitting situation if we like something. So I don’t look at it as we’re entirely 24-man right now. I do believe we have his bat off the bench right now. And whether a situation for that arises, we’ll see. But we’ll continue to evaluate this as smartly as we can moving forward.

Q. In terms of Aaron Hicks, obviously he hasn’t played fully since August. What did you see from him last night that were some encouraging signs? Obviously he had the two walks and honestly looked very poised for someone who hasn’t played in two months.
AARON BOONE: Zone control, which is one of his overwhelming strengths is his ability to control the strike zone. Even throughout the year when he’s not at his best or swinging his best, he always does a good job of controlling the strike zone.

And it’s been really nice to see him here and obviously getting a full game of at-bats yesterday, coming in for an at-bat in Game 2. You always wonder what it’s going to look like when a guy hasn’t really seen live-game action in about a couple of months, what that’s going to look like. And he hasn’t missed a beat. He looks exactly like Aaron Hicks.

I thought his at-bats yesterday were excellent. I do think Aaron is one of those guys that the more you’re playing for, the sharper his focus is and the better he is. I think he relishes playing in these games. There’s a fearlessness to which he plays the game, and there’s a confidence in his ability that he knows he’s going to go up there and swing at strikes.

Q. Would Giancarlo’s status for Game 4 affect Aaron Hicks in the lineup?
AARON BOONE: I don’t know that yet. My feel right now is that Aaron will probably be in the lineup some way, shape or form. But, again, it’s not something I’ve finalized yet.

Q. You said likely for Paxton. Under what circumstances wouldn’t he pitch?
AARON BOONE: He’s going to pitch. I mean, I guess if something got really crazy in a Game 4 scenario, but he will — I plan on him pitching Game 5. We’ve prepared him for that. He threw a side yesterday so that’s our thought.

Q. I know you touched on it a little bit yesterday but why do you think Ottavino has struggled this postseason, and will you change the way you use him because of those struggles?
AARON BOONE: I still think he’s got to play an important role for us, especially against this Houston lineup that a lot of their great players are right-handed hitters. And just the way we’re built and set up, he’s going to have to still get important outs for us. I still feel like he’s capable of that.

I don’t think this is a situation where the moment or the playoffs or anything. I feel like he has the right mindset. I feel like he has confidence, he’s just struggled a little bit with his command. I thought last night was a good example of coming in, and obviously a tough spot in the lineup when you’re facing the top of the order there. And I felt like he was in the midst of having a good start to that inning with Springer where he got ahead of him 1-2, made some really good pitches, and then didn’t make a few good pitches where he ends up walking that leadoff hitter, which really obviously hurt him.

So I do feel like he can get back on track and I don’t feel like he’s that far off, but he’s got to find a way to command his pitch and really be able to dictate counts. And if he does that, he’ll be successful.

Q. What gives you that confidence that he’s going to be able to find the command at this point in the season?
AARON BOONE: Because, again, I do believe in the person and where he’s at. Again, I don’t think he’s — I don’t think he’s overwhelmed by the playoffs or all that goes into how we assess performance sometimes in this. I think it’s a question of he hasn’t executed great. And at different times for as great a year he’s had this year, sometimes the command gets away from him and that’s where he’s gotten in a little bit of trouble, which has certainly hurt him here a little bit in the postseason.

Q. You’ve shown that you’ll be aggressive in going to your bullpen in this postseason. With the possibility of four games in the next four days if this series goes the distance, how much longer of a leash do you anticipate having with your starters?
AARON BOONE: I mean, we’re going to have to get some innings out of our starters, there’s no question about it. So hopefully — obviously Masa is coming off a real good start in Game 1 where he was able to give us six innings. So between him and Paxton these next two days, they’re going to need to give us some innings if we’re going to be successful.

But again, you’re kind of — we’ve got to go out and win a game. So I’ll be aggressive in that sense but we do have to get some bulk innings out of some people, there’s no question.

Q. You were asked yesterday about the possibility of removing Sanchez from the lineup for Romine, and you answered very quickly and very emphatically no. What gives you confidence that he can break through?
AARON BOONE: Say it again.

Q. What do you see from Sanchez and his at-bats that give you confidence that he can break through?
AARON BOONE: Let’s start with the other side of the ball, which completely gets lost in this. And without sugarcoating at all, he’s been excellent behind the plate from a game calling standpoint, from a game plan target, receiving. A lot of people are making a lot of the block. There’s a lot of 94-mile-an-hour fastballs that guys don’t block. Guys aren’t always set up to block a fastball. That’s kind of a 50/50 play.

The bottom line is his body of work in this postseason, and frankly down the stretch in the second half of the season defensively, has been excellent. So that part has me feeling really good about him. And just knowing how talented of an offensive player he is, I always feel like he’s a pitch away or an at-bat away from really getting locked in and changing the course of a game.

So clearly he hasn’t been at his best offensively but with a guy as talented as he is, I think that’s right around the corner always.

Q. You were talking about getting some length from your starters. I guess what’s the challenge for you going forward here wanting to get that length but also understanding where the series is right now down 2-1? How do you manage the balance of getting length out of your starters but also not sticking with them for too long?
AARON BOONE: Yeah, that’s the line you’re walking all the time. If we’re going to win this series, our bullpen will still play a huge role, obviously. But we’ve got to be able to get a little bit of distance out of our starters probably if we’re going to ultimately be successful in these next several games.

So that’s the balance you’ve got to try and strike, and we’ll do it the best we can.

Q. You’ve had Tanaka a couple of years now, and each of his regular seasons have kind of been up and down. Does he just look like a different pitcher in the postseason? Because you’ve seen him obviously very good in the postseason back-to-back years.
AARON BOONE: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s so much different because I feel like we see this guy, or I have, a lot in these last couple of years. I feel like last year in the second half of the season he really got it going. This year I feel like has been mostly good. He’s had a couple of clunkers along the way that have kind of distorted his overall line from an ERA standpoint and whatnot.

But I feel like mostly this year, especially in a year where he was a little bit inconsistent with his split finger, I feel like he’s thrown the ball mostly really well, and we’ve seen outings like he had the other night throughout the season.

So it’s definitely the good version of Masa that I’ve gotten to see in the postseason but it’s also a version that I’m not surprised by and I feel like we’ve seen a good amount in the regular season, as well.

Q. Going back to S�nchez for a minute, we asked him I think in Houston if kind of the time that he missed with the injury, the sporadic playing time towards the end, if that threw him off going into the playoffs. He said that wasn’t the case. Do you see signs of that, of him trying to get up to speed and that’s why you think it might be around the corner because it’s been a bit of a process or does that not have anything to do with it?
AARON BOONE: I think that’s certainly possible. And that’s a question you get asked a lot or I get asked a lot is when a guy is coming back how long is it going to take to get back into the full swing. And hitting is fickle like that. Hitting is hard. Like we’ve seen with Aaron Hicks, he’s out a couple of months and kind of looks like he hasn’t missed a beat with the quality of his at-bats. Sometimes you kind of lock it right back in right away. Other times it takes a little while to find that consistency.

It’s hard to really predict, frankly. All you can do is get guys ready and prepared the best you can and hope that their talent goes out there and gets it done for them.

But I feel like Gary has been back long enough now to certainly be in the flow and the rhythm of regular play. Again, hopefully this starts real soon for him.

Q. As a manager when you get into these tight spots in the playoffs, what’s the kind of line that you walk between riding with your guys but also trying to make the hard decisions to do what’s right for this team?
AARON BOONE: Right. I mean, those are always the decisions. The reality is you have to get the 27 outs. Guys that are throwing the ball incredibly well and kind of locked in are going to be — but you’re going to have to lean on guys, too, that maybe are going through a tough time that have to step up and get you big outs if you’re going to move forward. And I consider Otta one of those guys.

Q. What’s your comfort level and confidence level if you have to use a reliever three or four days in a row? Would you do it? And what is your belief about them being effective and efficient on a third or fourth straight day?
AARON BOONE: Yeah, I think I definitely would do it. Now, that’s a case-by-case basis and depends on the individual. I would certainly be prepared to do that but we’ve also got to take into consideration where the guy is coming in each day. The reality is he may throw an inning or more than an inning and may come in and actually not be available.

So you’re kind of measuring where they’re at physically, trying to have that open quality dialogue with them and myself and Harkey and Larry and where they are, and trying to make good evaluations. So I’m certainly open to them running out there every day but it’s something that’s kind of always fluid with the different individual pitchers and how they’re able to bounce back.

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