Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More From Willingham & Olsen

After the formal Press Conference concluded yesterday afternoon at Nationals Park, Josh Willingham & Scott Olsen answered a few more individual questions from the assembled media. Here is the transcript from those gatherings.

Josh Willingham

“I know that this is one of the teams I have hit really well in my career. And now, maybe, that had something to do with me coming over here, maybe not, I really don’t know. But now since I am over here, I am looking to continue to play well and take it out on some other guys.”

But why The Nationals have you had such good success?

“I have no idea. It’s just one of those things were you are going to have a team that you are going to do better than anybody else. And you are going to have teams which you are going to struggle and can’t hit. You don’t have any answers or reasoning for that—there is really nothing I can explain about that other than it just happened. There are a lot of things in baseball that just happen and you can’t really explain. That’s one of them.”

I was reading earlier that nearly a quarter of all your home runs are against The Nationals.

“A quarter of them.”

Yeah it’s like you have 63 Home runs and 13 are against The Nationals.

“Well, again I can’t explain that. We play these guys a lot so it’s either going to be these guys or The Mets, The Braves or The Phillies where I am probably going to have the most Home Runs—because we play each of them 19 times a year. But, I don’t know why it’s this team. No idea why.”

Jim mentioned earlier he is looking at you as a corner outfielder. This team has a lot of outfielders. How do you see yourself fitting into one of those positions?

“Well, I see myself playing leftfield. I think that’s why they went and got me because I play leftfield and I have been hitting in the middle of the lineup. We will see what happens when Spring Training comes, but that’s where I see myself doing and hitting in the middle of the lineup and playing everyday. That’s what I want to do and that’s what I’ve been doing the past three years. And it’s what I expect to do here.”

Where you surprised to be traded to a team within the division? A lot of teams don’t like to do that?

“Yeah, it is, but The Marlins did the same thing back in ’05 when they traded Carlos Delgado to The Mets. I really don’t know why that happens, but it did, and it’s going to be weird having to play those guys so many times next year. It’s going to be another one of those challenges that comes with it.”

Playing with Scott Olsen for a couple of years—have you seen him grow and mature as a pitcher?

“The thing about Scott is that, even when I first saw him in 2005 when we came up together, I learned he’s going to compete. Whether he goes out and throws a shutout or gets hit, he’s going to compete all the way to the end. And that’s the main thing about him that is a great quality. He’s such a competitor. Now, as far as stuff, he’s got good stuff. And I think last year was the first time he got the most out of his stuff. And his demeanor matched his stuff. Previous years he might have gotten a little rowed up a little bit and let the game affect him. Last year we didn’t see that. If he was pitching well, he continued to do it. And when he was not pitching well, he was trying to keep us in the game last year.”

Did he (Scott Olsen) change something last year or is that a part of getting older and more experience?

“It’s getting experience. You learn to channel your emotions in different ways and learn how to deal with them. It’s one of those things where if you let your emotions get to you, it can affect your performance and that did not happen with him last year.”

You mentioned your back injury during the press conference and you saw your production after you returned from the DL, and your production the previous two years, the numbers are there to back up what you can do?

“Right, I missed 50 games last year and I still hit 15 Home Runs. If I stay healthy, you have to figure it’s going to be over 20, 25 Home Runs. In ’06, I hit 26 and drove 74 runs and in ’07 21 and drove in 89 runs. If I stay healthy, the numbers are going to be there. They always have been in The Minor Leagues and The Big Leagues. That’s the plan, I am going to stay healthy and have a good year, next year and try to play in 155 games.”

You were referencing Zimmerman when you mentioned he’s a vacuum over there. What is it like to be able to play with him on the same team?

“Well, it’s one of those things where he is such a talented player. Hanley Ramirez is the same way. He’s such a talented player that you find yourself watching those guys play. And even when we weren’t playing The Nationals, you kind of kept up with Zim. But it will be fun playing with him. It will be and it’s always fun to play with really good players.”

You mentioned in the press conference you were not expecting to be moved and you didn’t find out about it until last night?

“Was I expecting to be traded? (Yes) No, I wasn’t. if you had told me when the season started that The Marlins would trade me I would have said no. But that was just a gut feeling. Again, when you have so many players going through arbitration you know that’s a possibility going in. You just don’t know who they are going to trade. Was it surprising—a little bit—but not really because you always knew it was a possibility.”

Has it been tough seeing so many players come and go in Florida with the revolving door that been in place there for some time?

“I actually think it’s tougher for the fans because the fans want someone to be able to root for and when you keep turning the team over and turning the team over, it’s tough for those guys (the fans). As far as me playing, I am playing baseball in Washington now and that’s what I love to do—play baseball. That’s how I make my living. So, I am still playing baseball it’s just with a different team.”

Was it tough playing in Florida with the limited fan support?

“When you don’t have fan support, it’s a little discouraging sometimes. But at the same time, you have to be professional and go out and play the game. And play like you would if there were 100,000 fans there. But yeah, it was a little discouraging.”

I notice you now have Uniform Number 16, you can’t have 14 because that’s Manny Acta’s number.

“I am going to fight Manny though to see if I can get it. (Busting out laughing)

Scott Olsen

What kind of things have you learned about yourself, getting to the next level like you were talking about?

“It’s hard. It’s very hard work. No one is going to give you anything in this game. It’s a long, long season and if you count showing up for spring training in January, you try to play until the end of October—it’s a long season. It’s kind of a grind. One thing I have learned is not too get too high and not to get too low. I keep an even keel the whole year and everything will work out.”

How hard is that to develop? You are obviously a competitive guy—a fired up guy on the mound.

“On the mound, it’s not so much of an issue. On the mound, the intensity and fire I have helps. I am talking off the field, I am just trying to keep an even keel and realize it’s a long season and you have to last until the end.”

The fact that you were able to throw the amount of innings you did last year and the year before, kind of building on what you had done previously. On a maturity level type of thing for a pitcher, what does that say about you?

“I don’t know what it says about me. I don’t really know how to answer questions that are about me like that. I would say ask him (Josh Willingham). He’s been around me for three years. He’s from the outside looking in. I think you would probably be able to get a better answer from him.”

But from a durability standpoint?

“I pride myself on being out there (on the mound) like I said. I don’t want to miss starts. I don’t like that. I want the ball every five days no matter what and that is something I look forward to doing here and to carry it on here.”

You mentioned earlier, you were expecting to be traded. Is there a sense of relief to be leaving Florida?

“Not necessarily a sense of relief. I am just glad that it’s over now. I heard about these trade rumors for a couple of weeks now. So, I am just glad it’s finally done and it’s over. Now, I have a home here.”

Looking ahead, what do you wish to improve on for next year?

“Build on last year. Consistency is one of the biggest things for a starting pitcher. Just to be consistent. I would like to lower my walks a little more than they were last year. But overall, just stay consistent and be healthy.”

What have you noticed about this team (The Nationals) from the other dugout in terms of what will be behind you in the field?

“The defense is good—at least the defense that I have seen has been good. Like he said, you got a vacuum over there at third base (Zimmerman). There is speed in the outfield. They can run down and get the ball for you. They play hard, real hard and there is not a given in baseball. Anytime you come play them, it’s always going to be a fight and they always gave us a fight every time we played them.”

Have you had the chance to talk to anybody that has played here over the past couple of days about coming here?

“No, not in the past couple of days. I know (Lastings) Milledge a little bit, from when he was with The Mets. In the minor leagues we played against him a lot and I’ve talked to him when we have played them here. I know (Aaron) Boone from ’07 when he was in Florida. Dmitri (Young) I know a little bit. That’s about it though, really. There are not too many people on the team that I know and are friends right now. Hopefully, I will end up being friends with all of them.”

Does working with a new catcher bother you?

“Working with a new catcher really isn’t a big concern for me. In ’05 we had (Paul) LoDuca catching. In ’06, we had a combination of (Miguel) Olivio and Matt Treanor. And we had John Baker this year. I think that's an important relationship, but it’s something that can be figured out pretty quick. And especially being in the same division, these guys know me pretty well, I think. So, their catchers probably already have a pretty good idea, for the most part, what I want to do out there.”

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