“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.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

“It was our plan if this (the rainout Wednesday) happened. It’s Zack’s normal day, he was going to pitch on Thursday no matter what it was. JV on regular rest in Game 5. As soon as we can use our best pitchers the better for us. It was an easy decision.” — AJ Hinch.

October 16, 2019

AJ Hinch

New York, New York – Workout Day

Q. How beneficial is this?
AJ HINCH: You know what, it gives everybody a day off and kind of an opportunity to collect ourselves before Game 4. It changes our pitching a little bit.

How beneficial it is is probably easier to answer after I see how guys perform and how the pitching plays out. But like I said, it’s kind of a wait and see. But it does solidify who we start in Game 4 and Game 5 without having to go to a bullpen game.

Q. Is that a pretty easy decision, Verlander and Greinke on their normal rest?
AJ HINCH: Yes, very easy for us. It was our plan if this happened. It’s Zack’s normal day, he was going to pitch on Thursday no matter what it was. JV on regular rest in Game 5. As soon as we can use our best pitchers the better for us. It was an easy decision.

Q. How do you feel about how the series stands right now? Up 2-1, 2 potential games at home, you still have Greinke, Verlander, and Cole all set to start if needed.
AJ HINCH: I see it as an opportunity for the next game. I know there’s a lot of what-ifs. Now that our pitching is set for the next couple of nights, we know we’re going to have pretty good weather based on the forecast. But I think it’s also important for us not to look too far ahead of Game 4. We know we’re going to face Tanaka.

It’s an important game. Every game is magnified as you get deeper and deeper. Very disciplined, only care about the next game, and that’s what we’re focusing on.

AJ HINCH: We’ll look at it based on how the games play out. But we haven’t even played game one of a potential four-game stretch. Right now our goal is to win the next game. But we play four games in a row all the time during the season. From the beginning of this stretch — we do it all the time. It’s something that players are equipped to handle from the very beginning. But it’s really a non-topic.

Q. You were talking about Tanaka. What made him so effective against you guys in his last start?
AJ HINCH: He was really good at making his pitches and he stayed with his game plan. He doesn’t throw a lot of fastballs. He didn’t change his approach. He stayed with his split and his slider. He was really good at locating his pitches. It looked like strikes and ended up barely balls.

Anytime the moment gets really big he is good at slowing the game down himself and maybe taking even a little bit off of his pitches as opposed to powering through it. We’d like to see us have a more disciplined approach, but that’s easier said than done with the stuff he has.

That’s the cat-and-mouse game when you face Tanaka is to stay disciplined, wait for a pitch to hit or if it’s there to hit early in the count, be ready then, too.

Q. Greinke has been a little bit homer prone in the postseason. What do you attribute that to?
AJ HINCH: Well, the first pitch he was on 10 or 11 days’ rest. I don’t think he had his best secondary pitches. And then the other day against the Yankees that was really the only damage they did were the home runs, which this team — it’s one of their strengths.

I think for him execution is always key. He’s one of the best at it when he gets locked in with his mechanics and timing and delivery. He makes his pitches when he makes his pitches and he’s really, really difficult to hit. And you can see that just based on how good he is for as long as he’s been good.

And I think it will all come down to pitches.

Q. How are you feeling about the series so far, for Joe Smith and for Ryan Pressly, the jobs they’ve done?
AJ HINCH: They’re both pitched in a couple of games. I think Joe Smith was an unsung hero in Game 2 with the multiple innings. And then coming in last night got a big out against Encarnacion. He’s very valuable against these right-handed hitters. Given his veteran status and how much he’s been around, it’s nice to see him contribute, having battled back from a very significant injury.

Pressly has pitched in a couple of games, as well, and we’re going to keep giving him the ball and give him the opportunities to pitch in these leverage roles, because he’s got some of the best stuff on our staff. He hasn’t been back to his All-Star caliber level yet, but that doesn’t mean the next time out that he doesn’t handle that situation and get the outs that he needed.

It’s easy to remember that relievers give up a couple of runs or a couple of hits, there are also some encouraging signs in his first outing with some good stuff.

Q. As you mentioned, not having a concern playing four days in a row, and you guys normally do. Any concern that you might deal differently with that?
AJ HINCH: We’ve traveled from the West Coast. The trip from Anaheim getting in at 4:00 in the morning, the trip from Seattle getting in at 4:00 in the morning, from Oakland. I’m not saying it’s routine for us, but we do it quite a bit. But if it comes to that we’ll handle it just fine. The adrenaline helps. The excitement of every game helps. It’s not really on my radar to be concerned about it.

We’ll look into whatever Game 6 is going to bring, but there’s so much baseball that has to be played we haven’t begun discussions on if or when or whether or not that would even be important or relevant at this point.

Q. A couple of games in this series Springer looks like he’s limped or looked uncomfortable. Last night at third base you went and talked to him a little bit. Is he dealing with anything that is a concern?
AJ HINCH: In Game 2 he had a couple of instances of cramping in his legs and it bothered him in Game 2. Actually, the conversation that I had yesterday had nothing to do with health, it was all about the first iteration with the infield being halfway or being in, and Britton generating some soft contact with Brantley, we wanted to have him fully aware of what we wanted him to do on the bases. I didn’t have one conversation with him about his health.

Q. The overall philosophy of the organization of embracing who’s the best and never hesitating from the start of spring training. You’re the best team in baseball and you’re supposed to win and what you’re supposed to do, and how that plays out in given situations like this, where there’s a change in schedules, playing at Yankee Stadium, that you guys are not intimidated but want to be intimidating.
AJ HINCH: I think when you have expectations you have a couple of ways teams try to play it. Some teams try to play it off and be low key about it. I think the best route for us is to embrace it. We have to do a lot of things to have the team that we have. We need to stay humble and continue to do the work to be a good team in all facets of the game.

And you can’t — you can’t just show up and play just because you think you’re the best team in the league. You have to go out and prove it day-in and day-out. Our guys embrace it because it’s going to be there regardless. People are going to talk about 300-win seasons in a row or a World Series title in ’17 or winning your division. They’re going to put it all out there for you.

And I’ve taken the approach with our team to embrace it and note it, and get after it with the preparation to try to continue.

Q. You said before that you guys had played four-game series, but we all know the pressure of the postseason, the intensity of those innings, those outs, that it is a harder task. In terms of the bullpen usage can’t be anticipated, but is it fair for us to think that this isn’t just the typical four-game series, this is really an intense series for bullpen guys that might be used to stringing together a regular season four-game series?
AJ HINCH: We don’t have a choice. It is what it is, the way the schedule is. So we’re not going to panic about it until we know what’s in front of us. And we’re not going to talk about Games 2, 3, and 4 until we get through the next game. It’s just not our mentality to worry about the things you’re talking about.

We’re here to win, and win as fast as we can. If it takes all four games, if our bullpen gets used a lot and our pitching gets used a lot, then that’s what it’s going to take to get to the World Series. But honestly, it’s not something that we’re going to talk about internally going into the next game in this playoff series, it’s just not.

Q. S�nchez had success against you guys during the regular season. Is it something you guys are doing or something on his side?
AJ HINCH: You know, I don’t know. I don’t want to give my opinion on anything we’re doing until we see what’s next. Obviously we’re trying to attack guys where we think we can get them out. We’re trying to avoid the big swing and big moments, with S�nchez in particular. We’ve done a pretty good job of making pitches but from a strategic standpoint, we’ve got too much baseball left to play for me to evaluate his performance.

Q. You guys have seen a good amount of the Yankees bullpen.
AJ HINCH: I think anytime — the more you see a pitcher the better, whether it’s in one game or playing a team over and over. And I get this question all the time is about what is the order for a starter or whether it’s a starter seeing the same team in back-to-back starts during the regular season. The more you see them the more beneficial it is. It doesn’t make it easier to hit elite, but it does give some comfort to the hitter as you continue to mount at-bats against the guy that you’ve seen their pitches. You see the sequences and how they’re trying to get guys out. For both sides. Two starts for Tanaka and Paxton and for Greinke and JV are all coming in back-to-back against the same team. Same thing applies to them.

Q. Do you buy into the splits for success for pitchers, like for example Tanaka had such a lack of success at Minute Maid Park, had much more success at home, that happens with your pitchers, too? Does that matter in the postseason?
AJ HINCH: I don’t think it is an exact science with any of these numbers. These are humans, they’re still trying to play the game and they can certainly kind of outperform expectations or even underperform expectations when the numbers are in their favor.

I think the postseason is a completely different set of circumstances and a completely different environment for everybody. So I think — they’re interesting things to look at. They are certainly trends or tendencies or previous behavior but I think you’d be foolish to think that’s exactly how it’s going to play out every time, otherwise why play the games.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports