MadFriars' Interview: Phil Plantier-Part II

LAKE ELSINORE: In part two of our interview with Storm manager Phil Plantier he discusses the progress of centerfielder Reymond Fuentes is making on becoming the Padres' leadoff hitter of the future.

What do you have to do to become an effective lead-off hitter - or speed guy - on the major leagues particularly in the case of CF Reymond Fuentes?

Phil Plantier: You are not going to make a living by going over the top of the outfield if you can't do it. A player needs to look in the mirror and honestly say what do I do well.

Fuentes can run well and his offensive game needs to be built around his legs. He's not going to have a lot of success going over the top. He needs to work low to the ground; low trajectory contact, ground balls. Line drives need to land in front of outfielders.

He'll split a gap occasionally - but the more he elevates the ball the more it will hang up in the air and the better chance that outfielders at higher levels will have a chance to run under it.

Convincing a young kid that he needs to hit a line drive in front of an outfielder that is 275 feet away and he only needs to hit it 200 feet on a line can be a tough sales pitch. But that is what he needs to do to become successful. Do that everyday and get a walk and you are going to play this game for a long time.

Now that he is on base he can put pressure on the defense, score runs and that plays to the strength of his game. The other thing he needs to do is to improve his bunting.

Is hitting a line drive on a low, as opposed to a high trajectory, about his swing path?

Phil Plantier: Its easier said than done. These guys have been doing something there whole life - and been successful at it, and now you start asking them to change. Reymond came to us with an uphill push. He hit too many fly balls to the opposite field.

When you get into the actual changing of a hitter they need to believe who they need to become - and that comes from an honest evaluation of where they are now, they are going to get better really fast.

If they have talent they will get better quickly because they can take all the repetitions and it will be building something down the road. The longer it takes a hitter to buy in, they are just treading water.

Rey is realizing that now, he needs to be the guy that hits line drives in front of the outfielders. Its a process for him to develop the swing and the strike zone discipline.

His knowledge of the strike zone needs to incorporate what pitches he can hit a line drive with.

He's still relatively young, he's only twenty. The only way you get better in this game is to play. Play, come back and self-evaluate and try to improve upon what you did. Keep going through it every night.

He does have more walks than he did last year, but needs to do better. The good thing is we are moving in the right direction. If we are looking at hard contact rate and pitch selection, which is something we constantly pound into him. Also are you hitting the pitches you are supposed to be hitting?

How is his pitch selection?

Phil Plantier: If you get a cookie the first pitch you need to hit it, whether its the first or the fifth. Its not about taking pitches, its about hitting pitches you are supposed to hit. The big thing in baseball is to be on time, put the barrel on it and have it go fair somewhere. You are going to have a chance.

He's on track as for his development; especially for defense and baserunning. His percentages could be a little better in stolen bases. The caught stealing have been poor reads off of lefties and over sliding second base.

If you are going to play that type of speed game you need to be very efficient at what you do and for me the prototype is Brett Butler. You have to be the best bunter on the team if not the league. You have to place the ball where you want to place it as a weapon.

That will get you some fastballs to hit. But when you get up to the big leagues if you can't place it exactly where you want to put it they are going to get you out. You just can't put it on the ground, you need to put it where you need it.

You have to be so efficient at hitting those backspin one hoppers through the infield, you just have to be really good at playing that type of game.

Its funny because I can remember watching you in San Diego and that was not the type of game that you played.

Phil Plantier: [laughs] No. Its important for coaches that we adapt to the player, that they don't adapt to us.

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