2014 A’s BlogFest: Q&A with Manager Bob Melvin

On Wednesday, I gave you the BlogFest press-conference style interview with A’s Assistant General Manager, David Forst. In the second of three interviews at BlogFest, we got to talk to A’s manager Bob Melvin.

He discussed Stephen Vogt‘s role, coming on his five playoff starts, and how he plans to have John Jaso catching this year, despite a season-ending concussion last year. Bob also expanded on how he plans to spread out playing time between the guys that are coming back and the new additions. Here is my transcript of the 10-minute interview session with him.

Stephen Vogt’s role this season and  his plans for John Jaso…

Well, obviously very comfortable, and you know the role that he had last year. Started every game of the playoffs based on the match ups and got one of the game-winning hits and a guy that fit in very quickly. So, we have a lot of confidence with him. The plan with Jaso, from the beginning will be to catch. So we’ll see how that goes for him. We do like to rotate the DH spot. Whether it’s a day off for Coco (Crisp), whether it’s a day off for Yoenis (Cespedes), certainly Jaso in an option, everybody’s an option there. We don’t like to get locked into saying this is our DH, but I think a combination of things, with the workload that a catcher gets, there is a day potentially where potentially, he DHs too, but more than anything, I think we have to see how he comes through Spring Training. He’s been cleared to catch in Spring Training and we’ll see if he’s over all those issues and obviously we’ll monitor him very closely in spring.

The idea of carrying three catchers…

There were times last year though when I did have our DH catching, and we were in a position at times which is hard, but you know, where I have my second catcher in a game, and you’re always on pins and needles, and hopefully something doesn’t happen. We do have the luxury of having Josh Donaldson, who has caught before. I don’t want him behind the plate, but that’s one of the reasons we would be able to do it potentially.

The depth of the 2104 Athletics, compared tho the 2012 and 2013 teams…

Well, I think we increased the depth. We add a couple more switch hitters. (Alberto) Callapso was here for a portion of the season. So therefore, we feel like our depth is even a little better.  Obviously, (Nick) Punto was the other guy I was talking about. We’ll look at maybe Callapso some at first base against left handed pitching potentially. The versatility and the depth gets more so each and every year and I think it’s better than it was in 12 and better than it was in 13. That doesn’t mean things play out exactly the way you plan it, but the division has gotten better as well, so you always feel like you have to get better and address the deficiencies that you think your team had the year before.

Winning the division and living up to expectations, despite other teams in the west bulking up…

It’s more important how we feel about ourselves and what our expectations are. We don’t care what the other expectations are, we have expectations as a group, and that’s the most important thing. It was a little different last year, after winning in 12, that it felt like there was a little more of a target on our back, and then when you win two in a row, it’s going to be accentuated that much more. Again, that’s not something we try and think about too much. We also still relish that we still could be an underdog, and I think we have played very well in that role before. But, it’s more about what our beliefs are in our team, rather than what people think about us.

Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld‘s roles in 2014…

Both great pickups for us. Both of them increase our speed, matchups on either side, even though Sam’s kind of a reverse split guy. Sam does a little bit better against lefties, at least recently. Gentry’s a guy we’ve had our eye on for a while. Number one, just getting him in our uniform means he’s not beating us. He’s been a guy that’s been tough on us. He can play all three of the outfield spots. He’s got a great track record against left-handed pitching, even though he’s hit righties pretty well. For a guy like him, I’m not sure as far as how many starts he’ll get, but my redirect to him will be just because you don’t start a game doesn’t mean you won’t be the biggest impact player of the game. He has the ability to change a game, whether you’re ahead, it’s defensively,  whether it’s pinch running, whether it’s pinch hitting, he’s one of the premier guys in the league in being able to handle a role like that. He’s going to get his share of at-bat’s, that’s for sure.

Pinch hitting…

So, if we have a 3, 4, 5 run lead, I’m a little less apt to do some things. You know, the lineup could turn back around, you’re dependent on the other team’s bullpen. It’s more in the leverage situations when we’re either one run up, even, or behind, that you’re trying to maximize that potential situation for somebody who is on the bench. You know a lot of it goes into it, you look at our pinch hit numbers last year,  I think us and Tampa were at the top of our league and do things kind of similarly. It’s more about how leverage that particular opportunity is.

What he’s taken from the last two years…

You know, any team that makes it into the playoffs has to be considered having a good year, especially our marketplace and so forth and winning the division a couple of times. A couple of giants within our division to be able to compete and come out on top… You always try to take the confidence that you had and what you’ve accomplished in years past and we’ve accomplished some good things the last couple of years. You also find some motivation in getting beaten in a certain fashion a couple of years in a row, so we wouldn’t be scared of that situation again. We would relish it if we got it again, but I think more than anything you try to find what’s best for your team that motivates you the best, and I think for us, I think it’s bringing our confidence with us  and getting past what was a sour taste for us the last couple years.

Nick Punto’s role with the team in 2014…

It’s to be determined. He’s another guy that his actually his versatility probably plays against him, as far as some of the starts. We have some in-game guys that can really impact the game, whether it’s defensively, baserunning, or offensively. As the game goes along, he is certainly one of those guys that we’ve identified to do that. He will get his share of starts, because you have to keep a guy current and getting the x-amount of bats to stay ready for the opportunities, but I don’t think at this point in time, there’s any specific amount of at-bats that I’m looking at for him.

The difference between managing the A’s and other teams…

Well I like managing the A’s a little better. I grew up here in the Bay Area and there’s some specific consequence for me in pride factor, growing up in the area. We’ve had as good a group of guys come through here over the last three years and we continue to bring in great people that accentuate our team. Just getting along with the front office, the ownership in the fashion, and the fans are a big, big, key for me here for that added pride of being an Oakland A.

How he will rotate players…

I think we find that out in Spring Training and then we try to play our best matchups on a particular day, that’s just the way we do things and the guys know it. You know, if we have some history with a potential role-player, against a certain pitcher, and they’ve done well, we’ll look to identify that start for him, we try to put our guys in the best possible position to succeed and that’s a day-to-day and an ongoing thing.

With closer Jim Johnson in the room, on Sean Doolittle and Jim Johnson sharing the closing role…

No, we like having a closer, and that’s why we got Jim Johnson, and it keeps Doolittle in the role that he has and (Ryan) Cook and (Luke) Gregerson, and (Dan) Ortero, it just goes on and on, we signed (Eric) O’Flaherty, (Evan) Scribner has done a good job. Our bullpen depth is our strength, and we do like to find roles, and that’s what it’s going to be, coming out of spring… And that wasn’t just for him [Nods to Jim Johnson].

[Laughter in room]

Well. There you have it! The BlogFest session with A’s manager Bob Melvin. Check back on Friday or Saturday to read the interviews with pitchers Jim Johnson and Sonny Gray. Thanks for reading!

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Nick Badders is a blogger for MLB.com. He writes the blog, 7000 Coliseum Way, and you can follow him on Twitter @RFNick149. You can also LIKE his blog on Facebook. This blog entry was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

4 Comments

great interview when will you post about the actual fanfest? (clubhouse tour, memorabilia sail, etc…)

CONNOR-
Hmm… I still have another BlogFest entry to write, so we will see. Hopefully next week?
-Nick

next week ok great cant wait

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