The Oakland Athletics return to the post season for the first time in four years.
The headline story for A’s on the eve of the Wild Card is Bob Melvin’s decision to buck baseball tradition by starting reliever Liam Hendriks.
At today’s press conference, Melvin discussed his decision, the team’s relaxed approach, playing in New York and Oakland’s recent playoff shortcomings.
Q. Liam Hendriks will start tomorrow night. What went into that decision?
BOB MELVIN: Liam has done a pretty good job, obviously, with the role that we’ve thrust upon him, what is it, six or seven times or something now, so makes sense to start him. As far as after that, there are a lot of moving parts. I can tell you we’ll have 11 pitchers, we’ll have 14 position players. How it’s going to go after Liam? We’re still deciding who may be the last guy on the 11 pitchers. So I’ll probably withhold that at this point.
Your decision to use all these bullpen guys, how did that evolve? Was it the way Joe Maddon and Terry Francona in the postseason part of your thinking?
BOB MELVIN: For me there’s bullpen days, and then there’s an opener and a starter after that. To me they’re a little different. We’ve had bullpen days this year based on injury, based on a starter coming out of a game early. We did a game in Toronto that was a pure bullpen day.
But with as many injuries as we have had to our starters, we are trying to find a way to get a little bit better. Part of this was starting Liam, bringing a starter in after that, had mixed results as far as it went. Some games were good, some not. Sometimes we tried to extend Liam and tried to get him through a second inning; that didn’t work. So there’s been some trial and error with this. But I think the reason that we started looking at this is because we’ve had so many injuries in our rotation, and we’re just trying to do the best possible thing that we think for a particular day.
Your team is very loose. Do you feel like you guys are kind of playing with house money a little bit?
BOB MELVIN: As far as the looseness, it’s just kind of the way the group is. It plays well for us. They don’t get too far ahead. Obviously they’re going to be excited about this game. But we’ve been pretty loose all year long, so I don’t think that’s — we should handle things any differently. We’ll go through the same routine out there on the field leading up, and you insulate kind of in your preparation and so forth. But I think it’s just the personality of the team.
It’s just been such a fun group. We had similar results in 2012, where we weren’t expected to do a whole lot. We ended up having a great second half, great last month. So there’s some similarities as far as ’12 goes. But this group of guys, the mix of the veteran guys, the mix of the guys that Billy and David brought in, especially the bullpen guys and some of the starters meshed really well. It’s a fun personality team. We have guys in our organization that are really prideful in being Oakland A’s. I think that’s important, as well.
So it’s a group that literally plays for the guy next to him. I’ve had instances where I’ve pinch-hit for a guy, and the guy who’s being pinch-hit for is walking off the field high-fiving the guy that’s pinch-hitting for him. It’s kind of a unique trait as far as the group and how they mesh together and how they support each other. In that respect, it’s been as fun a year as I’ve had.
Being in New York, we hear constantly the pressure is all on the Yankees. Does that insult what you guys want to achieve and your goals and your mission when you hear a comment like that?
BOB MELVIN: I think when you get to this point in the playoffs, there’s pressure on everybody. You know, being in New York for a team that we just played here three times this year, it’s exciting, but there’s pressure, and it’s how you take the pressure. Certain guys love the pressure. Certain guys just try to insulate and take the pressure off. That’s just banter that’s being thrown about. I mean, our guys don’t think about it too much. We know it’s going to be a pressure-packed game for both teams. I wouldn’t necessarily say that there’s only pressure on one team. Any time you get to this point, there’s pressure on everybody.
How valuable is Blake Treinen’s ability to go two innings multiple times a year, how valuable is that to build a bullpen from the back to make going from the front, like you’re doing tomorrow, possible?
BOB MELVIN: No, that’s huge. I wouldn’t put past him being able to pitch three innings, to tell you the truth. He’s a former starter. He’s got a rubber arm. There are days that we have to tell him, “You’re not pitching today,” after pitching three days in a row, and he wants to pitch. He always wants to come in for one-plus.
In a game like this when the back end is going to be crucial and when you bring a guy in like that, we’re not afraid to use him for multiple innings, and that’s a serious benefit for us.
Q. You talked about Treinen’s ability to go to multiple innings and possibly a third inning, is that on the table?
BOB MELVIN: Part of potentially doing it this way tis you’re going to have to make some adjustments on the fly. You can look at it and draw it out how you think it’s going to go. Very rarely does it go exactly the way you think. So there’s going to be some moving parts to this, and one of those moving parts is more than one inning for him. How much, I’m not sure how much that’s going to be.
Q. The A’s had a lot of near misses the last 10 years or so. Have you heard from any guys from those guys, any of those alumni guys saying this is the year for us and watching them tomorrow night?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, I’m getting quite a few in the days of texts and all that. It seems to be an easy way to do it. So we are getting a lot of support from our ex-A’s.
Q. What do you think about the historical nature of this? I think it’s the first time an opener is being used in a playoff game. And B, what does it say about the team that as you mentioned, this is your best way of winning the most important game of the year, and you’d rather do this than put it in the hands of a single starter?
BOB MELVIN: As far as the historical part, I don’t think we’re thinking too much about that. We’re just trying to do what’s best for us. And you’re exactly right, we’re trying to run the best complement out there. We’re trying to figure out who goes where to benefit the strengths of our team. Maybe there is something to that if you’re a fan or you’re looking at this as the first time it’s happening in a playoff game, I believe, but we’re kind of past that right now, and we’re just kind of focused on the game.
Q. Stephen Piscotty has had a special year for a lot of reasons, when you think about his year both on the field and off.
BOB MELVIN: It’s got to be a very special year for him. It’s been pretty extreme from what he had to go through early on to where he is right now, but to watch him throughout the course of the season get to the point where he is right now shows you a little bit about what’s inside him because not only was this a difficult process for him, it was a long, difficult process for him. So when it’s over, it’s not like it’s over and now you’re back to normalcy. It took him a while, and he still embraces who he’s playing for and what other things that are out there for him.
But to see him from where we first saw him where he was really reserved, didn’t have a whole lot to say early on, coming to a new team, to where he is right now where he’s an integral part and kind of a centerpiece in our clubhouse, and watch his personality kind of change along the way, it’s been really cool to see. He’s a great guy. Don’t have enough good things to say about him and/or his path to this point.