Padres manager Bud Black interview

Bud Black

San Diego Padres manager Bud Black looks at the brightening core of young talent coming through the system and is excited to see them start paying dividends. At the Winter Meetings, Black is looking forward to adding an outfielder and continuing the winning philosophy the Padres have created in recent seasons.

Halfway through the Winter Meetings, the ebb and flow already going on, how confident are you of making some changes to your ballclub?

Bud Black: Well, we're going to add to our team, obviously. We have some holes to fill. We feel as though we're heading into the right direction on acquiring some players, nothing concrete as of yet.

We're going through the process of identifying guys and narrowing it down and talking with some clubs. We made an acquisition a couple of days ago with Randy Wolf, which we feel very good about, and there's a couple other things we would like to do on the pitching side and a couple other positions players we would like to add.

Is it safe to say under the Christmas tree you would like a corner outfielder?

Bud Black: That would be a present that we would enjoy opening, a nice corner outfielder absolutely.

You mentioned Randy Wolf, just discuss what he does, a healthy Randy Wolf to your rotation?

Bud Black: Well, I think he's a winning pitcher. He has the ability to, you know, pitch 200-plus innings. He's done that before. I like that he's left-handed -- he's a great competitor. He's a guy that, to go along with Maddux and Young and Peavy, and we feel as though we've got four very capable, solid starters who have done it in the past and can continue to do it in the future.

The biggest news going on around here is what's going to happen with Santana. Ron Gardenhire is in that position. Do you ever concern yourself that you'll be in that spot in a few years with Jake Peavy?

Bud Black: Hopefully if things continue along the path of the last few days with Peavy, it would be quite a number of years before that would happen. And if that does come to pass, you know, hopefully I'm still here, because that's a long time down the road.

Given the way you guys lost in the tie-breaker, is that something that has to be addressed next spring, how to deal with that?

Bud Black: No, I don't think so. I think that we spoke after that game -- I spoke to the team and I think what I said, I think kept it in perspective for the guys. I think players have a great way of putting the past behind them, the winter, and then through the early months of January and February, have a great way of lending new hope to a season, and new challenges. So I don't think our guys will have -- it won't have an effect on them next year.

When you said keep it "in perspective," what did you tell them?

Bud Black: I can't tell you everything I told them, but it was that, you know, they played one of the greatest games in the history of baseball, I feel. It was a terrific game. A lot of excitement, a lot of great things happened in that game, a lot of good baseball, and somebody had to win and game and somebody had to lose. We just happened to be on the wrong ends of it.

But, our guys had nothing to be ashamed of as far as how they played last season. We won 89 games. We were in a one-game playoff. A lot of teams would trade for that opportunity. We went to a hostile environment, played 13 innings and got beat. It was a great game.

What's Wolf's health situation?

Bud Black: He's coming off a minor arthroscopic procedure of his labrum. Dr. Yocum felt as though once he went in there, he thought that the damage was minimal. He needed a little work, but it wasn't as significant as the clinical diagnosis maybe indicated.

So Dr. Yocum had to do a few things, shave a little bone, take care of some fringe on the labrum, and Randy is up and throwing, he's up on the mound. He's very confident how he's throwing, actually to the point where I think that he feels so good about his throwing program, he's going to back off for a little bit and then resume what he normally does, you know, in a healthy off-season, start throwing again in January and be ready for full activity February 15, 16, whenever we're on the field, first day, he's ready.

Yeah, he's encouraged. And Dr. Yocum is encouraged.

Still might not be done yet, but how excited are you to keep Jake in the fold?

Bud Black: I think it sends a great message to everybody in San Diego, and I think it's a great indicator of Jake's willingness to stay, of the Padres commitment to keeping our core players. We're excited to have him. He's obviously one of the best pitchers in the game, and to have him on board for it looks to be another six years, another six seasons, it's great. And he's still 27 years old, so he's got a lot of great pitching left ahead of him.

Does he help bring other free agents to San Diego?

Bud Black: Well, I think any time you have an organization like ours that we feel is a desirable place to play; not only location but you know being a competitive team, it always -- it doesn't hurt, put it that way, to have guys like Peavy and Maddux speak highly of the organization.

The acquisition of Heath Bell worked out very well for you guys last year; he came a pretty important part of your bullpen. Talk about how important he was last year and what his role is going to be this year.

Bud Black: Well, he's going to assume the same role he did last year which was pitch late in the game. He'll pitch in the seventh and eighth innings. And on those games when Trevor is not available or we need a save beyond the ninth inning possibly, he'll be the guy.

Without him, we wouldn't have been in the position we were in September. He was a valuable part of our bullpen, logged a lot of innings, almost from about the first of May on. As you guys know, anybody who pitches in a set up situation or when the team has a lead, those are impact games. And you know, those guys are just as valuable as the closer, and he did a great job.

And what was the scouting report on him? Was he somebody in the spring that you would look at in that kind of a role, or did he generally just gravitate towards it?

Bud Black: The Padres acquired him last off-season, so I had not really seen the scouting reports or heard much about the trade. My first experience was just basically what I did a little homework on. But when I saw him in Spring Training, and the way he threw the ball through March, I felt that if he threw he ball during the season like he did in Spring Training, he was going to have a good year.

With Trev and Linebrink and Meredith and the way Heath was throwing, we felt very good about how our bullpen was set up.

What's the biggest challenge to keeping a bullpen strong throughout the season?

Bud Black: Obviously you have to monitor the workload. I think what we try to do, and I'm sure every team tries to do this as well, is keep the communication open between the player and the coaching staff and me about how they feel; and not have any sort of breakdown of a player, not feeling as though he can go out there, and run them out there, when the players are extremely honest with us about how they feel and how their arm feels, whether they need a day, whether they need two days, or whether they are fine to pitch three or four consecutive days.

So I think that the communication, the trust, that relationship, I feel is very strong with our relief pitchers and our medical staff and the coaching staff.

Was that one of the biggest things you had to learn your first year is handling it -- I know you worked as a pitcher, but handling a pen, sometimes maybe having to give up a game in April to win two in August?

Bud Black: I think that one of the advantages I had coming in as a first-time manager was our bullpen was pretty much structured the same way it is in Anaheim. So, with a very good closer, very good set up men, and good starters.

So you could -- it almost worked, I don't want to say identical, but the same philosophies that I and Mike had in Anaheim, you know, sort of carried over to what we did in San Diego and basically what the Padres did prior to me as well, the way Boch handled Trev, the way Boch handled Linebrink was very similar to the way that Mike handled our relievers in Anaheim and, you know, the way we went about it. So it wasn't that big of a transition for me.

Is that true that sometimes a manager has to quote, unquote, lose a game in May or April to save a guy so that you know in August and September you have him?

Bud Black: There are games where you night not be able to use your closer and games where you night not be able to use your setup guy just because they need a day off. You know, they need a rest.

I don't know necessarily you try to lose those games.

That's the wrong phrasing.

Bud Black: Right. But sometimes you can't pitch Heath Bell, you can't pitch Trevor Hoffman, you can't pitch relievers every night you have a lead. You've got to use all six or seven guys.

Given the way your bullpen is set up - you came from Anaheim, good closers, good setup men – does it seem like that's a unique situation in baseball that bullpens are forever evolving?

Bud Black: No, I think that that's the challenge that you have to try to, you know, get that nice mix of six or seven guys who are going to be productive. And you know, for whatever reasons on some clubs, it becomes cost prohibitive to keep some guys. So I think more than ever in this day and age you see a process of developing bullpen guys right out of the draft in the Minor Leagues. You identify a little bit earlier than you did 10, 15, 20 years ago, and they are doing it now, they are doing it in college, they are doing it even in high school. I mean, there's closers in high school, which as a lot of us know, was unheard of when we were in high school. You know, if you were a starter, you went the whole game. I mean, you went -- you went seven. I think there's even closers in little league. (Laughter.)

With the pitch counts in little leagues, you have three innings, four innings, you bring the shortstop to pitch the sixth. That's over.

Do you think you can be a strong pitcher starting out as a closer in high school, is that a good way to develop?

Bud Black: I think you develop as a pitcher by pitching. I think the more innings you throw, the better chance you have to become a complete pitcher. I don't know whether you can throw one inning from the time you're 13 throughout your career. I'm sure it can happen, but I think the best way to develop as a pitcher, the best way to develop as any athlete is to play as much as you can. And for a pitcher, that means to pitch as many innings as you can.

I know that this is peeking ahead and there's moves being made, but can you assess the NL West a little bit? From my perspective it looks like it's certainly going to be one of the toughest divisions in baseball.

Bud Black: I think last year we saw the rise of the young player in our division, probably more so than any other division. The Rockies showed what their young players did; Diamondbacks; the Dodgers have a great group of young talent. The Giants have very good young pitching in Lincecum and Cain. They have good arms.

I think that the talent level has risen just because of the talent of the younger player in our division. So it's going to be very competitive. It's going to be two teams who won 90 games; we won 89; the Dodgers were over .500. I know the Giants will do everything they can to get back to where they were a few years ago, so it's a very competitive division.

Do you think it's hardened a little bit that particularly the Rockies and D-backs and your club to a certain extent, a lot of home grown talent, that they have been able to win that way, as opposed to some of the teams in the other league that they have to go out and spend megabucks?

Bud Black: There's a lot of different ways to skin a cat. There's a lot of different ways to win. It was interesting, I read some comments from Theo that they are very proud of the fact that they won with a lot of home grown players, Ellsbury, Youkilis, Papelbon, Lester; they are proud of that.

I think you're seeing the Yankees start to change a little bit, too, with their young players. So I think young players, if they are ready, and have the makeup and the aptitude and the mental side to handle it, it's great to have young players.

Speaking of young guys, you've got two pretty good ones at third base, how do you see that shaking out?

Bud Black: I think once we got past the first week of May, I think everybody saw what Kouz could do. He was great from that point on. He dug himself out of a big hole after one hundred at-bats, that's a tough hole to dig yourself out of. And he ended up -- I think he ended up leading our team in basically or just a couple points from it.

And Chase Headley, I saw Chase just for about ten days when we called him up in the middle of the summer but all our reports on him - he's going to be a very good Major League player and very desirable from a lot of clubs, and it's very desirable to have a lot of good young players.

I came from an organization the last few years in Anaheim has some very desirable young players and hopefully our guys -- and we're about a year away from seeing, you know, Headley and (Matt) Antonelli and (Wade) LeBlanc and Josh Geer and (Nick) Hundley and (Colt) Morton, a lot of young players that we think are going to be good players. So, it's good; it's exciting.

Antonelli, I guess I asked the same question about second base, how do you see your second base going into the season?

Bud Black: As of right now, today, and anything can change, but we have a handful of guys internally that we think are going to be given the first opportunity and Antonelli is in that group.

It would be ideal if we could go out and spend a lot of money to get players everywhere, but we feel as though second base is a situation where internally for right now, we're going to look to get that guy from within.

How long did it take you to get over the end of the season, the tough end to the season? Did it stay with you for several days?

Bud Black: Well, I think any of us who have played -- I remember losses from, you know, 1981, 1982. I remember losing a high school championship game. I mean, these things stay with you.

I was telling somebody the other day - if you understand what this whole business is about, at the end of it, only one team is going to be happy, truly happy, this year it was the Red Sox.

But like I said earlier, I'm extremely proud of how we played this season. We were disappointed, but we'll bounce back and it's part of it. As competitors, as players, coaches, managers, we've had tough losses, you know, along the way, I know, in our youth, high school, college, whatever. But that's part of it. You get over it. You get over it.

Heavy burden to carry even for somebody of (Trevor's talent)?

Bud Black: Here is the deal about any guy who is -- the thing about Trev, as you guys know, and you guys who know him well who have been around him; he cares about the Padres. He cares about his teammates. He cares.

So he was in that situation; you know, he was emotional, and just the amount that he cares, I'm sure it took him a while to get over it. But he's fine. He's fine.

How well do you know Joe Torre on a personal level or professional?

Bud Black: I don't know -- I mean, I know Joe. If Joe was here, we'd shake hands and exchange a few things. I don't know him well. One thing I do remember about Joe is when we beat the Yankees in '02 in the first round, he was very gracious, came over to our locker room which was -- we were celebrating. He was very complimentary of our club and I always remember how he came over. Joe's got a lot of dignity. He's a guy that he's passed the test of time. He's done a great job.

I look forward to seeing him 18 times, because I know that the way he goes about it, the way his teams go about it, it's very good. I like that.

Because of your background, both pitching and coaching prior to this job, you never seem like a quote, unquote, first-year manager, but was there something that happened during the experience over the course of the year which a changed your mind about one approach or not, something that surprised you or something that you changed or altered?

Bud Black: I just got that a little while ago -- that was probably the most common-asked question, did anything surprise me.

And nothing on the baseball side, nothing really surprised me about the game itself, about what to expect. Nothing really jumped out. I thought the seven years in Anaheim and all of the baseball that I talk with Mike and Joe and Ron and all of the coaches there and everybody else prepared me for this.

The only thing that I became acutely aware of is as a manager, you feel as though you're always -- you're always on-call, whether it's -- maybe not 24 hours, but whether it's from the pr side, the marketing side, front office, players. A phone call can come at any time, middle of the night, early in the morning, whatever. And that's one thing that maybe I didn't realize the expanse of that.

But I like it. It's fine. That wasn't -- it's not bother some or burdensome. I like that stuff. It's all right. I never realized that the manager -- you get a lot of phone calls on stuff that's not about baseball.

How much does the park, Petco, come into play when you're making out a lineup, or in the winter when Kevin (Towers) is putting together a team? Is it something you're conscious of or do you try to put the best team out there?

Bud Black: We put the best team out there. We play half our games on the road. Certain factors are going to come into play in our park. But as far as player acquisition and things like that, we don't really rely on park variables. We try to get good players. We try to get good players. We know that pitching and defense do play a premium in our park. That's how we win games and we hope that we have enough offense that we score runs in our park and some of our offense picks up when we're in smaller parks.

Could you see Maddux pitching long enough to win 400 games?

Bud Black: What's he now? Is he in the 350s yet?

347.

Bud Black: 53 more, yeah, there's a scenario out there for Greg. You know, it all depends on health and desire. I think that he still feels good. I know this year he was -- it wasn't a slam dunk that he was going to pitch again, but I sensed it was pretty strong probability.

Greg loves to compete. That's probably his biggest joy, whether it's cards, golf, baseball; he likes to challenge himself. As long as he has that -- still has that desire, I think that he can still win a lot of games.

If you count little league, do you have 400 career wins?

Bud Black: (Laughter) No, I don't have -- no.

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