Rays manager Joe Maddon and pitcher Alex Cobb – who will start for Tampa Bay on Wednesday in the American League Wild Card game – met with media on Tuesday about 4 minutes after arriving at Progressive Field.
Here’s a partial transcript of what they had to say the day after the Rays beat Texas in the American League Tiebreaker game.
Q: How do you feel about the second wild card?
Joe Maddon: I love it. It’s the greatest concept ever. I’m glad they thought of it. We were in a pretty good spot a month or so ago and looking to win the division. In that regard, you hate this moment. Now, you like it. Now, it’s exciting to be here.
Q: How was the celebration (after the Rays’ win in Monday’s Tiebreaker game in Texas)?
JM: We celebrate every game we win. It was a little more involve last night. Everybody came through it pretty well. When we win, we celebrate, man. It’s a little more involved when you get to the postseason.
Q: Seven of the top 10 payrolls missed the playoffs; how good is that for the sport?
JM: I thought the level playing field through a solid drug testing program would benefit us. The elimination of PEDs in the game allows teams with lower payrolls to compete and win. So, I’ve thought that since 2006 and we’ve done a good job since 2008. Not once have I mentioned to these guys anything about payroll. That’s never been a concern for me. Concern always has been that we play it right and we play it hard. And it doesn’t hurt you have good scouting and development.
I know people make a big deal out of this money deal. But it doesn’t matter to us. You have to pitch really well. You can’t just bludgeon teams to death. We pitch well and play defense well, and those are the more controllable parts of the game. I don’t care what anyone else spends; it doesn’t bother me in the least.
Q: This pitching staff always talks about one-upping itself.
Alex Cobb: We have a pretty young staff. We look at David (Price) to lead the way. He’s been in the Postseason, and gotten us to the World Series. He’s done a lot of things we can look up to. I asked him, leading into a series, was what your mentality is going into that series. The team took last night as a playoff series. He told me to set the tone early. We try to one up each other; well, make itimpossible to one-up each other. Set the tone high for the playoffs.
Q: What have you thought about the turnaround the Indians have had?
JM: I’m a big Tito (Terry Francona) fan, we go way back. It doesn’t surprise me, the job he’s done. Theo rganization has had good players for a long time, and they’ve traded away guys in the interim as well. Speaks beyond what you do on the field. Talk about that with our group. It speaks to ownership, management. That’s vital. Tito is excellent in what he does, though. Good people skills. But it’s an organizational thing as well.
Q: Normally you guys come into the Postseason on a real roll. The Indians are doing that. Is there something to that?
JM: We’ve already played this Wild Card game a few times. We did it a couple days ago, we did it in Texas. We’re going to come here tomorrow and do it again. Don’t know if there’s a battle-tested component to that or not. You get immune to maybe that pressure and just go play. I thought we’d be relaxed yesterday, and we came out very nicely. David (Price) was struggling a little early, but (Jose) Molina told me, ‘He’s getting better, and better.” When you get into this momentum kind of thing … it’s in adverse territory. This is the stuff you train for and really dig. … You don’t have time to overthink it and get nervous.
Q: Your numbers may actually be better after you got hit in the head. Did you ever think you’d be here after going through that?
JM: When I watched this team when I was on the couch suffering from the injury, I saw the hot streak we were on. The feeling of being left out is indescribable. It’s a terrible feeling you don’t want to feel again. I think that was a little extra motivation to get back. It fueled that fire even more to get back to the Postseason and to know that we have a team capable of getting to the World Series.
Q: Talk about the decision to start Alex.
JM: He is one of the best pitchers in the league. His stuff to right- and left-handed hitters is in the elite category. He’s also a very competitive young man. Alex is a clone of (James) Shields (competitively). We have all the confidence in the world in him; his competitive nature is in the elite category and that’s why we’re excited to have him pitch tomorrow.
Q: David Price said last night that you guys were a dangerous team and no one would want to play you.
AC: It’s just a complete baseball team right now. Offense, defense and pitching has been at the top of its game. We went through a real struggle earlier last month, and I was happy about that in a weird way. This is a streaky game, and we went through that with enough time left to get it back.
JM: Any time you can pitch and play defense, you have a shot in a short series. IT’s hard to be in this position if you can’t pitch, and good defense is part of good defense.