Day 3: Going Full Gorilla
PEORIA, Ariz. — Hey friends. We just wrapped up the third day of camp and the second full workout for pitchers and catchers. If pitching is your thing, well, you should probably be here. You can watch pitchers field ground balls, cover first base and throw off the mound for 10 minutes — all under the watchful eyes of manager Bud Black, his staff and the front office folks who usually wander by.
In other words, can some of the hitters please show up soon?
I’m only kidding, of course, as there are indeed catchers here and several position players have already trickled into camp for a little early work and to get acclimated to Peoria, the Olive Garden and every other chain restaurant known to man. I wish that I was kidding.
Pretty quiet day here, as things will start to pick-up the closer we get to report day (Friday) for position players and the first full-squad workout on Saturday.
I’ve wasted enough of your time. What’s with Going Full Gorilla? You’ll have to read on to find out.
— Saw Chase Headley today. We actually had a conversation about ostrich boots. Apparently, they’re super comfortable. I don’t own boots and am not sure I ever will. Aside from that, Headley talked about how he likes to get to Arizona a few days early to hit on the field, get used to the change in time zone (he’s from Tennessee) and to just generally get acclimated. He had a lot of good things to say about his January hitting session with new Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier. More on this at Padres.com.
— I’ve mentioned before how I like talking to the catchers, right? We’ve got a few good talkers here with Nick Hundley and newcomer John Baker. Baker is a Cal guy, so that he’s chatty and introspective isn’t really a surprise. He’s dressing next to Carlos Quentin (Stanford), so that should be interesting. Little known fact: Both of Baker’s parents went to Stanford. Anyway, Baker talked about taking on the responsibility of working with pitchers who he’s never worked with before. He uses a lot of video, something Jason Kendall taught him when Baker was coming up through the A’s system. There’s more at Padres.com, but here’s a snippet of something I cut for space.
“When I go into a game, my main objective is to never put down a sign I’m not sure of. You want to put the pitcher in the right position. I learned a lot from Jason Kendall, about taking ownership of what you’re doing. If you put the sign down and if it’s backed up with enough research and enough evidence and they give up a hit, then it’s my fault.” — Baker
— A day after the projected relievers throw off the mound, it was time for the projected starters to do so. Everyone threw for 8-10 minutes — again, only fastballs and change-ups. I shot some video that’s on my Twitter feed @FollowThePadres of Robbie Erlin. I was impressed with his clean mechanics and easy delivery. The guy pounds the strike zone, too. He’s a lot like Joe Wieland in that respect.
— Speaking of pitchers (and I have been — a lot), I talked with Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley briefly. He mentioned how good Clayton Richard looked today. Again, Richard, coming off shoulder surgery last July, was firing bullets by any means, but Balsley mentioned how free and smooth his delivery looked and how much more “flexible” he looked throwing, which I gathered to mean that Richard didn’t look so robotic or mechanical in his delivery.
— OK, so what does ‘Going Full Gorilla’ mean? That means coming out, in this case, early in camp, and trying to impress everyone with your velocity. As Balsley told me, again you can find this at Padres.com, he did it, Bud Black did it and everyone does it at some point. As Balsley said on February 21, “it’s not important to air it out.” No, that will come later, though it won’t likely stop a few pitchers from doing so in the near future.
— I wrote about the changing face of the Padres’ bullpen today. The story will be up on Padres.com this afternoon/evening. The Padres had the best bullpen ERA in baseball from the start of 2009 until they traded Adams on July 31 (2.79). A lot of this, of course, has to do with the work of Heath Bell and Adams. Now that they’re gone and have been replaced by Andrew Cashner and Huston Street, I look at how good the Padres really had it. As Bud Black put it, there was a real comfort level with Bell and Adams: “It’s a tremendous advantage for the team and it makes the manager’s job easier because of the performance.”
— Lastly, if you didn’t get a chance to read my story on Padres non-roster pitcher Jeff Suppan, here’s the link. He’s an interesting guy and from everything I’ve read and from those I’ve talked to, is a great teammate. He’ll be good as a mentor to young pitchers like Casey Kelly, Wieland and Erlin. And Suppan even owns a restaurant in Woodland Hills. He doesn’t change light bulbs but he will clean the restrooms and take out the trash.
Corey Brock, MLB.com