Redmond sees possibilities with young squad
Longer Spring Training allowed rookie manager to get better look at Marlins' prospects
MIAMI -- When the Marlins decided they needed a major makeover, they also concluded a familiar face should be brought back to provide a new direction.
Enter Mike Redmond. Personable, passionate and professional rolled into one, the big league rookie manager inherits an organization in transition.
With so many new faces and a great deal of inexperience, some may say the former Major League catcher is stepping into a mess. Don't say that to the 41-year-old from Spokane, Wash. Redmond looks at the challenge as an opportunity.
Staring at long odds really is nothing new for him, because he was doubted from the moment he started playing professional baseball, so much so that the back of his first Minor League baseball card read: "Future coach." So taking over a team being written off before Spring Training even started is par for the course for Redmond.
During his playing days, it was clear Redmond aspired to someday manage. Although he had no previous big league coaching experience before this season, he did manage for the past two years in the Blue Jays' Minor League system. In 2011, he led Lansing in the Midwest League, and last year, he was promoted to Dunedin.
Now, he is making the leap from Class A to the big leagues.
In many ways, Redmond can relate to his young squad. When he broke in with the Marlins in 1998, that young squad lost 108 games. Five years later, Redmond and a number of players from the '98 club were part of the Marlins' 2003 World Series title team.
Redmond sat down with MLB.com recently to discuss his expectations for his first big league season as a manager.
W: Strasburg L: Nolasco S: Soriano
MLB.com: Spring Training was about a week longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic. This being your first camp as a big league manager, was the extra time beneficial as you got acclimated to the job?
Redmond: We talked about it this winter, about how important it would be for me to come in here and see as many guys as possible throughout the course of the spring. To see so many of the young players that we have, and to get them a lot of at-bats, it's been great. It's given me a sense of relief in a way, because I've gotten to see a lot of guys the organization sees as prospects. We've given them a lot of innings. I think we've done a good job with that as a staff, and as an organization.
MLB.com: You guys are looked at as the ultimate underdog. You're an inexperienced group. How do you look at that and deal with that label?
Redmond: It is what it is. Obviously, we've had a lot of change. We've had turnover. Really, nobody gives us a shot to do much of anything. I never liked it as a player whenever anybody doubted me or my abilities, or doubted what we could do as a team. I think it will be a nice challenge. Hopefully, we'll be able to go out there and prove some people wrong.
MLB.com: What are the traits and qualities you want to see from a Mike Redmond-managed team?
Redmond: As a player, I was a grinder. I threw it all out on the field. That's how I had to survive. That's what I want out of my guys. I want them to throw it out there and leave it all out there on the field, and at the end of the day, you see what happens. We're not going to be guys who make excuses. We're going to go out there, and we're going to compete. I think that's the biggest thing for me. When we walk through that door, no matter what our record is. Whether we've won 10 in a row, or lost a few, that when we come in that day, we focus on competing and preparing ourselves to win a ballgame. I think that's important.
MLB.com: You talk about accountability. What do you mean by that? How are your players to be accountable?
Redmond: We can sit in here and talk about the things we're going to do, and how we're going to play. But at the end of the day, we have to go out and do it. As professionals, we need to go out there, play hard and get the job done. We've got to grind it out. Everybody has a lot at stake.
I talked early about the opportunity. There is a great opportunity out there for a lot of guys. But at the end of the day, they have to go out there themselves and make the most of it. When we talk about being accountable, that's what we talk about -- taking the opportunity, showing up every day, competing, being a great teammate and being a great representative of the Miami Marlins. The guys who can do that are the guys who are going to be successful and have the longest careers.
MLB.com: How do you develop a winning culture?
Redmond: I think it takes time. I think you put guys in an environment where they can relax. Obviously, if they don't know already, they'll find out how much I care about winning and how much focus it is for me. We talk a lot about competing. We talk a lot about grinding it out -- grinding out at-bats -- and being a team. A lot of things go into creating a winning culture, or a new culture. But a lot is the guys you have on that team and in the clubhouse. I think already, from what I've heard, and people are talking about, that there is such a different vibe this year, and it's a good vibe, and it's a positive vibe.
MLB.com: Whether you're a team that is old or young, doesn't success pretty much come down to pitching?
Redmond: For sure, pitching is huge for us. We haven't been great pitching this spring. We still had a couple of jobs open with one week remaining in Spring Training. That's not how we drew it up, but it's just as it is. When you're evaluating guys, you look to see how they do under the pressure. We're definitely going to have to pound the strike zone. I think our defense is going to be good. We've got to use them. We've got to put the ball in play and give our defense a chance to make plays. If we can do that, we'll be good. You saw that in Spring Training. In the games we pitched well, we played well and we won.
That's going to be a huge focus, and bullpen-wise, too. We've got a few young guys, and probably a few veteran guys as well. But we're all focused on the same thing, and that's throwing strikes.
MLB.com: You are only three years removed from your playing days. When you are facing guys you once played against or were teammates with, how is that adjustment going to be for you? How do you make that separation?
Redmond: I think it's easy, because any guy who either played with me or played against me, they knew the way I was as a competitor and how focused I was when I was out there.
Everybody talks about me joking around in the clubhouse, but I had an all-business side of me too when I played. I was out there focused on winning. Making sure that pitcher was locked in, making sure he was accountable. If you ask any guy I caught, they knew when I was catching, it was all business out there. I was going out to beat you and do whatever it took.
That's me as a manager. Sure, I'm fun, and I like to talk to guys because I believe in communication. I believe in creating a good, positive atmosphere where guys don't feel pressure. But the same time, too, when that game is on, I'm focused on winning.
MLB.com: Obviously, you were a part of the 1998 Marlins team that lost a lot of games. How will experiencing a building process before as a player help you as a manager?
Redmond: That was a lot of young guys. That was 19 rookies. You're talking about Ryan Dempster, Derrek Lee, Mark Kotsay all getting their first taste of the big leagues. There were some rough days in there.
I think back on those days, and I remember taking every day for what it was. Every day was a fresh start. Whether we had lost a few in a row, or whatever it was, we were focused on that day. We felt like we always had a chance to win on that given day.
I think that's important. It's tough when you lose games. Hopefully, we won't go through any of those long losing streaks like we did that year. You never know. The biggest thing I took out of those years is the satisfaction of when we won it in 2003 -- how much we had come from, losing 100-plus games, and winning a World Series, and being part of all that. I think you learn a lot about yourself and your teammates when you have rough years. It makes it even better when you win.
MLB.com: What's the best advice you received from either someone in the game, or a friend, when you first took this job?
Redmond: There are probably two things. One of those was to be myself, and don't try to change and be somebody different. That one hasn't been that hard. I've never tried to be somebody else, but I don't think I'd be very good at it. I am the way that I am, and that is what has made me successful, I guess, up until this point. I've been myself.
So many people told me that. It's like, when you make it to the big leagues, people say, "Don't change." When you're a manager, everybody tells you the same thing. They say, "Be yourself, and continue to be the way you are. Don't change." Some people do. I feel like there is no way that's going to happen, because it didn't happen to me as a player and it isn't going to happen now. I'm going to be the same guy.
Sometimes, I'll joke around in the most heated of situations, but that's what relaxes me. That makes me me.
And the second piece of advice is to just trust my gut. It's something I learned from catching in [Class A] ball, and I've never forgotten it. And it's been good to me so far.