KANSAS CITY - As Orioles manager Buck Showalter joked with reporters again today before heading to the field for batting practice, it was impossible to tell whether his team was up or down two games in the American League Championship Series.
After a Kansas City sports radio personality introduced himself for a second time - it’s not necessary to do it once, let alone twice - Showalter said, “I remember you.”
Showalter also wondered how reporters came up with new story angles every day.
“I don’t know how you do it,” he said. “There’s only so much you can get there.”
Reminded that he did it at ESPN before taking the Orioles job, Showalter replied, “I made up a lot of stuff there.”
Here’s more from Showalter:
Q: Jason Vargas and Miguel Gonzalez had a couple of really good matchups last year. What do you remember about Vargas?
Showalter: “I’ve always liked Vargas a lot. We actually tried to acquire him, too. But he’s a professional, solid left‑hander, does a lot of things well.”
Q: Anything in particular that he...
Showalter: “Locates the ball well, changeup, pitches on a good plane, athletic, goes in when he needs to, very smart pitcher.”
Q: The layoff that Gonzalez has had, how do you feel he’s going to come back?
Showalter: “Well, as opposed to what? How do we combat that? You can only play so many sim games. Same thing with Jeremy (Guthrie), and they’ll be fine. They don’t get to this level using things like that as an excuse. I think we’re all operating on the same... it didn’t rain out for one team and not the other team. The wind is not blowing for one team and not the other one. Everyone has the same off-days. Matter of fact, we had the same off-days coming into it. We’re on a level playing field. There are challenges that are presented all year long that you have to respond to. I mean, the real challenge of the postseason is it’s such a completely different routine than you have during the season. That’s why it’s such a different type of baseball. The travel is different, the off-days are different. You’re traveling with families, which is great, but still it’s different. So off-days, extra off-days, I try to stay all season long, try to keep our guys’ routine the same. That’s why start times fluctuate so much. But during the season, the other team may get to the hotel half a day before you do. But it all equals out over the course of the season. It’s part of the challenge. And it will be different than something they’ve done during the season. But I think everybody is facing those same challenges.”
Q: Being down 0‑2, what do you tell your guys about the pressure about a game like this tonight?
Showalter: “I don’t know. I know our local guys have heard it a lot, I don’t want to be Captain Obvious here. They get it. They’ve gotten it. They know who they are. And it’s unconditional. I have respect for them. Sometimes you can get so involved in results, we live in such a result‑oriented society. That’s part of it. Why is everybody here? You’ve got to make sure that people are paying for you all and me to be here. We’ve got responsibilities. So you try to stay in the moment and not want something too much. Sometimes, you can want something too much and get in your own way. I know that nobody is going to out‑want us. Our curiosity is always satisfied. It doesn’t always mean you like the results, but you’ve got to stay in the process. Unfortunately, this time of year it’s all about results.”
Q: Ned (Yost) said that being up 2‑0 influenced his decision, his pitching the next two days. Being down 0‑2 influence you?
Showalter: “It’s something I’m aware of. We have to win. All of our starting pitchers have to pitch well, regardless of what order we pitch them in. But they’ve earned that luxury, so to speak, by winning the first two days, so he’s able to do that. We’re not in that position yet. No, I just know that regardless of who we pitch... it’s not like we’ve had somebody go out there in the first two games and dominate them from a starting pitching standpoint, where you definitely want to get somebody back out there as soon as possible. But we also hope and think that that’s always got the potential to be around the corner. If you look at all the playoffs, what’s been the longest stint of anybody starting pitching? I think there’s been periods where pitchers have, I don’t want to use the word ‘dominated,’ done very well, but there’s been such a great concentration level this time of year, you grind so many at‑bats, and pitchers have a tougher time with staying out there as long. But we know a guy like Jeremy Guthrie is capable of that, as is Wei‑Yin. That’s what makes it fascinating to see what’s going to happen.”
Q: Does it surprise you at all the Royals’ roster has five guys with any kind of postseason experience at all have played this kind of clutch?
Showalter: “Surprise? No. The only reason someone doesn’t, same thing with our team, they haven’t been given the opportunity. Just because someone doesn’t get an opportunity doesn’t mean they’re not capable of it. So nothing surprises me what these guys do. There’s not a night goes by I don’t see something on the field, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’ These guys are really good. Even when it hurts you, you still have the respect for Lorenzo Cain making a great play in a clutch situation or great hit. It hurts, but you do have that very quiet respect for what it takes to do that. So I think sometimes, what does that mean? In a lot of cases it means that you are on a real good team. It doesn’t necessarily mean you were part of it if you’ve got a lot of experience. What does experience really mean?”
Q: This is kind of a follow‑up - you’ve been very patient with your starting pitchers throughout the season, letting them go a little deeper, when they get in trouble a little bit early. Will that change?
Showalter: “I think it already has changed some. That’s the difference. They know that. If I had taken some of them out the first two games like I have, we’d probably have had to have a conversation. They take a lot of pride in that. You do so many things during the season for it to be conducive to long‑term success. And there’s just a sense of urgency in that pitch, that inning, that batter. Gonzo could start tomorrow, but we would use him in the bullpen tonight if we had to and figure out what tomorrow brings. We’re going to do what it takes to win that at‑bat, that inning, and that game. When the smoke clears, see how many bullets we have left and if our powder is still dry. It is different and it’s already been different. But the problem is you have such a track record with these guys that you know that a bad... giving up a run or two, and you see them go six innings without giving up one. Which one is coming? You’ve got more bullets at your disposal that are rested and ready to pitch. You’ve almost got too many toys to play with sometimes.”
Q: Because it’s the postseason, there’s so much attention, does it make away games that much harder? Does it seem that much longer than a normal two days would be?
Showalter: “Of course. What about you? It does. But I don’t think anxiety comes in. It’s like I told the guys, they earned this. They worked real hard to get this opportunity. I like Kansas City a lot. I think it’s one of the best towns in baseball. I really do. It has a lot of similarities to Baltimore. But it seems like we’ve been here a while. But we’re hoping to stay here tonight and two more days. I’m sure they’ll have something to say about that.”
Q: You mentioned maybe guys trying to do too much or wanting something too much. Is there anything you maybe say to your hitters or anything like that that you noticed yet?
Showalter: “No, you can’t. I’m not taking that want-to from them. What comes first? You want them to be - what’s the lady, Doris Day, that sang ‘Que Sera, Sera.’ We don’t live in that world. It’s important to our fans. Important to a lot of people. I tell them all the time, if we’re playing the Nationals in spring training or the Yankees and the fans think that’s important and they’ve put it on a different scale, then it should be important to you. That’s really the barometer. You can’t take that away. You can’t make somebody want something less. But just try to stay focused on the things that really are separators. There’s such a fine line in all these teams this time of year. That’s what makes it intriguing for people that watch it and cover it and whatever, because it can turn on one play. And then we can sit there and triple analyze it afterwards and talk about it for days.”
Q: One of the biggest cliches that you hear now is that the Royals are built to win in the postseason. What exactly does that really mean?
Showalter: “They’re built to win, period. Every team, they’ve done a great job. There’s a part of you, just like when your grandmother makes you go get a switch to whip your own butt with, it’s not much fun. Don’t come back with a little one. There’s a part of it that really pulls for people like them, and their front office people and their coaches and Ned, for that matter. Someone has to go home unhappy and feel unfulfilled and that’s sad. You try not to dwell on it. But it’s the reality of the world we’re in right now. They qualified for the playoffs. What did they do? They earned it, they earned it. And you can’t say somebody is getting hot at the right time. We play too many games. That’s not the case at all. You are who you are. This case, you seek your level. And because we play so many games, there are no Cinderellas in baseball. Play too many games. Starts back in February and Sarasota and Surprise. I got to be real close with the organization because I think we shared complexes. I know how much it means to them and how hard they worked. Two forces, we have a lot in common, I think.”
Q: What contributed to the decision for Nick Hundley over Caleb Joseph in this game?
Showalter: “Oh, it’s 51-49, almost a flip of the coin. Obviously, it’s a little more than that. With the game tomorrow Caleb is going to catch. Even though the day game, night game doesn’t play at all for me like it does during the season. Just looking at some things that we’re trying to not be at an advantage or disadvantage at. I’m not going to go into particulars. But John Russell, our catching guy and catching coach and bench coach, and Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti and I will sit down and go over a lot of things. I feel perfectly calm either way. We’ve had two catchers all year, and we feel real good about either one of them being there. And just a very small tiebreaker now that we decided to go with.”