Two days after the Braves were eliminated from the postseason, Braves general manager Frank Wren shared his thoughts about where the Braves go from here. In a candid interview Friday with selected members of the media, Wren said he didn’t envision Derek Lowe with a spot in the starting rotation next season as of now. He said the Braves have no plans to trade Jason Heyward but he will have to fight for a job in right field. And he stood behind the job manager Fredi Gonzalez did despite the Braves’ September collapse.
Here are excerpts from that hour-long interview.
Q. What about Derek Lowe?
A. He had a very tough finish to the year, and going into next season there’s, it’s hard to project him as one of our starters at this point, based on the young talent we have. But that’s something we’ll figure out when we get closer to spring training.
Q. So the bullpen is an option, if he’s not traded?
A. It’s an option we have to evaluate at that time.
Q. Has it become redundant to hear him say he needs to make mechanical changes?
A. No, I just think it’s a situation where you want to put the best five starters out there, and right now the way we project, I’m not sure Derek would be one of our best five starters. I’ll just leave it at that.
Q. What’s your response to the rumor that the Braves have discussed trading Jason Heyward?
A. We’ve never had one discussion about trading Jason Heyward. That’s the furthest thing from our mind. That’s never come up. Nobody’s contemplated it. Nobody’s talked about it. I’m not sure where that came from. The reality is Jason made some progress this season; he’s got to continue to make progress. And he’s going to be in a battle unless he continues to progress at a good rate. It’s not a given he’s our right fielder. We’re going to go into the offseason (keeping) in mind that we’ve got to have offensive production from right field. And we didn’t get that this year.
Q. Did he get away with things as a rookie because of his physical gifts?
A. There’s a general consensus that the reason guys sometimes struggle their second year is not that they lost their ability, it’s the league adjusted and they didn’t. So as we go forward, we’ve got to look at what it takes for him to make those adjustments. And that’s been the crux of this whole season, what he’s worked on mechanically and tried to accomplish….He’s worked hard at it, but he’s not there yet.
Q. How close is shortstop Tyler Pastornicky?
A. He’s progressed very well. When we have our meetings in Florida the week after next… we’ll have a better sense what our real offseason projections are. But he’s very close to being a big league shortstop. He did everything he could do at Double-A and Triple-A and he was really on a roll at Triple-A when he had the ankle sprain.
Q. Is re-signing Alex Gonzalez still an option?
Q. Did his lack of offense become a greater liability because of the team’s overall offensive struggles?
A. He’s just such a magician defensively, that it’s fun to watch him play on a nightly basis, but we struggled to score runs and when you’re struggling to score runs, it seems like it always finds the guy that’s struggling the most.
Q. So your biggest needs to fill could be shortstop and outfield?
A. Yes and utility infield. You’re always looking to add depth to your bench.”
Q. Will your payroll be about the same?
A. Yes, generally the same, maybe a little increase.
Q. Given the criticism of Fredi Gonzalez, how did you feel about the job he did?
A. There’s plenty of blame to go around. This was a really tough finish. It was kind of inconceivable, really, the way we finished up. But the reality is there’s no one person that you can point the finger at. I think it’s really unfair. There was no shortage of meetings, there was no shortage of conversations, no shortage of one-on-ones with veteran players, with young players trying to lighten the load as it got heavier and heavier in September. The reality is, it just didn’t work. It didn’t come out like we wanted. It’s tough for everybody.
Q. Looking ahead, how do you view your abundance of pitching?
A. We have a lot of pitching but I think it’s not something that we’re looking to trade from. I think we want to go into spring training with lots of options…. If these kids continue to mature at the pace they are, we could have a lot of really tough decisions in spring training. And that’s a real good thing.
Q. How did Jurrjens do in his instructional league start Thursday?
A. We got great news on Jurrjens last night. He threw five innings and was the old Jurrjens. He was up to 91 (mph) and looked like Jair. He was pretty dominant and felt good coming out. So of all the bad things the last few days, that was really a positive. He would have been in line to start on of the playoff game based on what we saw last night.