MadFriars' Interview: Phil Plantier

LAKE ELSINORE: On July 2 Carlos Lezcano, the long time Storm manager abruptly resigned for family reasons putting Hitting Coach and Poway High graduate Phil Plantier into the role as Lake Elsinore's manager.

Plantier, who played eight years in the major leagues with his best coming with the Padres in 1993 when he hit 34 home runs, had previously been with the Mariners organization guided the Storm into the playoffs.

We caught up with him at the end of July to talk about some of his position players.

Lets talk about 3b Jedd Gyorko and C Jason Hagerty. If you could talk about their strengths and weaknesses.

Phil Plantier: Hagerty is a switch-hitting catcher with some pop from both sides. A little bit more thump from the left than the right. I saw him really grow in learning how to handle a staff and I think he's a future big leaguer.

When he gets there, he just needs at-bats and playing time, and what he does translates to the upper levels.

The first thing Randy Smith wanted to talk about last year was how well his defense progressed even though he was coming off of a huge second half offensively.

Phil Plantier: Yeah and you really saw that in how he handled the pitching staff. He was calling a good game, blocking the ball well and was pretty durable behind the plate.

How about Gyorko?

Phil Plantier: Great pure hitter. Very good hands and feet. Very intelligent baseball wise too.

You said the other day you think he can play second on a big league level. Not great, but he catch everything hit at him.

Phil Plantier: I think he can really play about any position on the field. He's a baseball player. Wherever they need to get his bat in he will fill the spot.

You never know what the big league club needs, he can play multiple positions. He plays a great third base, can play second, could play left and right and even be a spot starter at short.

I don't think you are going to get enough range out of him to be a plus defender there but the balls he does get his hands on he will make the plays.

Gyorko get hits a lot of different ways. He can go to all fields, he hunts pitches and I've never seen a player at this level that can set pitchers up.

How about your giant first baseman Nate Freiman?

Phil Plantier: Is a very hard worker with plus power. Is very prepared everyday and I think he will find his potential. He is one of those guys who never takes a day off with his work. He is a real grinder.

At 6'8" that is a real big strike zone.

Phil Plantier: Yeah and guys at this level sometimes take longer to develop. Sometimes their baseball age is really younger than their actual age. It takes a long time to put all those moving parts together, to get the right balance whether you are a pitcher or a hitter.

When you get it, it is a real advantage.

Nate just keeps putting up numbers wherever he goes. He's been collecting hits and to me that is the most important thing he has done; improved his contact with his strikeouts going down at a higher level.

Because he is putting the ball in play more often that is why we see his RBIs going up.

His big challenge is to be a little more discipline early and understand that even though he can hit certain pitches early its better to wait for something better. Hit that type of pitch if you have too later in the count.

He still has a lot of excess movement and has to eliminate it as he progresses. Nate is a big rhythm and timing guy. You can't take that away from him because that is what gets him going but at the same time if he can shrink it he will be a lot better.

How about 2b Jonathan Galvez and SS Jeudy Valdez. What do you see that has improved in their games?

Phil Plantier: They have both really progressed at the season has gone on. Both of them really want to learn. There is a lot of Baseball 101 going on because their emotions are more under control and are not getting in the way of their physical tools.

They are more consistent emotionally which is reflected in their performance on the field. We have made their work very routine oriented so they are doing the same things every day. When those guys do their drills, it just comes out in the game.

When you are working with the type of athleticism you put them through the drills then just get out of the way.

Sometimes when you are young and have that many tools it takes time because there is so much to work on. We have had weeks where the offense is good and the defense struggles and then the opposite.

Right now they are getting to a point where the whole game is coming together.

Tomorrow we talk with Phil about CF Reymond Fuentes and what it takes to be a leadoff hitter or as he puts it playing in front of the outfield.

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