Braves manager Brian Snitker celebrates. (JASON GETZ/SPECIAL TO THE AJC)
Photo: Jason Getz
Photo: Jason Getz

Snitker: No surprise Braves back in playoff hunt

Braves manager Brian Snitker addressed the media before Game 1 of the Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals that starts Thursday at SunTrust Park. 

Here is a transcript of what the skipper said:

Q: Flowers caught Keuchel most of the time in the early season. Is this a righty-lefty type thing or what was your decision? 

BRIAN SNITKER: He and Mac have been through this before. That wasn't intentional. I told both those guys, it kind of happened. Mac, I think it was when he went through his DL or IL spot, and it just worked and it kind of happened to line up right. I talked to Dallas about it at length, and he’s good with either of them, loves both of them. 

Q: I think you had 12 of the 25 guys on your playoff roster weren’t on your opening day roster to start the year. Who was maybe a pleasant surprise or two throughout the year to get to play right now? 

SNITKER: It's just an indication what you go through over the course of a long season — injuries, performance, the whole thing. I think we’ve done a really good job organizationally of filling some holes when the need arose. 

And unfortunately we had a need early when we left spring training. We pretty much didn't have our rotation at all. And it took a while to heal that. And then toward the end we lost, at one point we lost three of the eight starting position players for an extended period of time. 

So we’ve been really good organizationally at filling those holes and having guys that came in and that made an immediate impact. And so it doesn't really surprise me a lot. 

Q: You’ve been part of this organization since 1977, four-plus decades. You've managed at all different levels and had great success. Now you're sitting here representing the organization in the playoffs for a second consecutive year. What does it mean to you to represent the Braves organization and to basically be a lifelong Brave? 

SNITKER: It means a lot. I’ve been through a lot in the organization. I've been here a long time. I feel it’s a great responsibility — I had no idea when I took this job the responsibility that it entailed — and the responsibility to a fan base, to an organization, to a huge group of people. 

I’m honored to be here right now. I’m blessed to be here right now and have this opportunity. I never thought in my wildest dreams three, four years ago that this would ever happen. 

I’m very proud of this organization and what we've accomplished over the last — the only thing I know the last 40 years, that great run of 14 consecutive division titles and having a part in that, and developing players that came up here and were a big part of that. 

I’m honored, proud and blessed to be sitting right now in front of you all. 

Q: You had a stretch in June, July where you were arguably as strong as any team in the majors, offensively a juggernaut. Even in September you got hot again for a while. You go into this on a bit of a lull with some injuries. Does it make you feel any better having the veteran leaders that you do in the clubhouse than it might be if you didn't have those guys? 

SNITKER: Yes, because I know the confidence that those guys have. And, like I say, I kind of feel like this last three days off that we're starting today and anything can happen. Anything can happen. And it’s kind of a new year. 

But having the veteran presence — and those guys have all been through this. And the majority of that clubhouse actually probably has been through this and experienced the playoff scenarios. 

So I think we’re fortunate — I felt fortunate in March and in April that the veteran guys that we had on that club, with the young players around them, that it was the right group of guys for us. 

Q: When you made the decision to send Folty down, what did you tell him at the time in terms of what he needed to accomplish to get back to where I guess he is now? 

SNITKER: The biggest thing is you need to take a step back to go forward. And I think not having spring training was huge for him this year. 

And it was just — I think it’s one of those things that you think about. It’s like you’re going to do it and then you just live with it. And all of a sudden it's, like, you know what, this is the right thing to do. 

And when we talked to Folty, he was on board. I think he felt like he needed to step back a little bit to get going again. 

And he did. And to his credit he went down there and worked his rear off, competed, and got himself back again. And, you know, you look back and it was absolutely the right thing to do. And it probably was at the very right time. 

I think we played it out exactly as long as we needed to, because it’s just one of those things that after that last start and when we talked about doing this, it was, like, this is where we need to go if we're going to get this guy back to what we know he's capable of. 

Q: I’m sure at that point you figured you were going to need him before it was over. But did you think he could get back this season to the point of being your Game 2 starter? 

SNITKER: We sure hoped he would when we sent him back. Because we had seen, the guy was an All-Star and a Game 1 starter in the playoffs last year. 

So we knew where he could be and how he was trying to get there here in the Major Leagues; it was pretty evident it wasn't going to happen here. And I told him, I said you're not the first and you won't be the last of guys that have to go back and kind of recharge yourself and take a step back. 

And, like I say, he won’t be the last one that’s going to experience that in his career. And, again, I gave him a lot of credit for how he went down there and went about it, because when he came back he was the guy we had hoped he would be. 

Q: For those young guys that you have that made their postseason debuts last year, how have you seen the mentality or the approach change for them going into their second playoffs? 

SNITKER: I just think they’re, starting in spring training, they’re a more confident group. When you go through what they went through last year and to have this success that some of them did that — it’s a really a great stepping stone for them in their career. 

And they never — I don't think any of these guys ever feel like that they’re a finished product. And if you watch them work and you watch them go about it on a daily basis, I think you’d see why, that they all feel like they can get better, improve and become a better ball player than what they are now. 

And I think all the experiences that they went through last year aided them in what we went through this year, even from the beginning. There was no letting down. There was no, well, we won the division last year, I don’t think anybody took — if we just show up it's going to happen this year. 

I think they know and I want them — two things, know how hard they had to work to get it last year; and the second thing was how good they felt when they did accomplish what they wanted to last year, which was winning the division. 

And to a man, I think all of those guys put that, the experience they had to the perfect use this year in preparing for what they went through this year. 

Q: How much of yourself do you see in Mike Shildt as far as organizational guys who spent a long time in the organization and then finally got a chance to do this? 

SNITKER: It makes you feel good that the industry will allow guys like us to have this opportunity. I think I'm probably a little bit older than Mike, but just in today's industry, with where we’re going sometimes in the managerial hires that you see guys, it makes you feel good that — and this is two really deep-rooted organization, with a lot of baseball history. And that makes you know — I think it says a lot about the organizations when guys like us get this opportunity, that it’s just good, solid baseball organizations and how they view things. 

And it’s not easy — probably wouldn't have worked if either of us would have went to another organization and tried this job out. But because your familiarity with the players and having a hand in their development, and they know who you are and what you're about and your passion for the job makes it to where we can succeed sitting in this chair. 

Q: You talked about how you've helped cultivate players over the years. How does that all come home to roost in a game like this, when your opponent also has spent a lot of time cultivating? 

SNITKER: I think the biggest thing is the trust that your players have in you because you’ve known them a long time, you've been through a lot with them. 

I think what happens is even the guys that maybe aren't real familiar with you, as they talk to the guys that are, then they'll buy in, when it comes from credible people, because they may have doubts. But when somebody's been in the organization, got a lot of time in the Major Leagues and they go to them -- because they're going to do that, they're going to ask about you or their manager -- and when you get positive feedback in that situation, it helps foster the relationships that you're handed to have with all these guys. 

So I think the familiarity with all these guys and myself with this group here, we've been through a lot. We've had a lot of dirt kicked in our face over the last few years. 

And to accomplish what we did last year and then again this year just kind of makes it all feel like all that -- everything that we went through was worth it. 

Q: We talk a lot about the veteran leaders and what they bring to this team but at the top of the order you have two, young, dynamic, possibly superstars in the making. What do Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies bring day in, day out on the field, in the dugout, in the clubhouse that sets them apart and sparks this team? 

SNITKER: Energy, passion, excitement, that looseness, and those guys love playing baseball. 

Somebody asked me, we were at the All-Star Game before the Home Run Derby, if I thought Ronald would be nervous. I said, the baseball field, between those two lines, is the last place those two young men are going to be nervous. 

They’re in their element when they're on the baseball field playing. I don't think any situation is going to be too big for them because they have the passion, energy, that excitement and they just love competing and playing baseball. And I think everybody feeds off them and they feed off that. 

That's what I thought got us through last year was the just the energy that all these guys bring, the passion with what they play, the emotion they show, the whole thing, and how much fun they're having, how much fun they're having playing baseball. It rubs off on everybody. 

Q: When you look at Joe Madden get fired, Mickey Callaway got fired today, there’s other guys, how good does it make you feel, because things can change so quickly, obviously, but to have so much support from the players and also now from front office and your coaching staff to be in place and so strong, how good does it make you feel to be where you are right now, considering how things could have changed in the last couple of years? 

SNITKER: No, I feel real good sitting here right now, but believe me I tell people, you're never guaranteed tomorrow in this business. You're never guaranteed in life. That's why you live for today. You worry about today because you can't control what's going to happen tomorrow. 

I don’t sit and think about all that. I know all those guys that you just mentioned and they're really good baseball men. But we all know there's 30 of these jobs in the world. And, like I say, you better cherish each and every day of it because you're never guaranteed tomorrow in this business. 

It doesn’t matter how good you’ve done or what you’ve done; you're always based on today. And I just — I don't sit and expand on — I don't sit in my chair at home — I do think how blessed I am to have this opportunity, but I don't feel like by any stretch that I can just sit there and lay down and this thing's going to continue to happen. 

I gotta keep pushing and grinding and working every day as hard as I can to make that day the best that we have.

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