MadFriars' Chat: John Gibbons-Part 1

SAN ANTONIO -- Missions' manager John Gibbons is in his first year with the Padres organization and finally get to stay home in his hometown of San Antonio where he graduated from MacArthur High School.

A first round selection of the New York Mets in 1980 he had the proverbial "cup of coffee" in the big leagues in 1984 and 1986. In 2002 he was hired as the bullpen catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays by his former minor league roommate J.P. Riccardi and moved up to become the first base coach in the same year.

Late in 2004 the Blue Jays fired Carlos Tosca as their manager and Gibbons took over. He managed the Jays until 2008 ending up with a .500 winning percentage with 305 wins and 305 losses.

After coaching with the Kansas City Royals for a few years afterward he decided he wanted to stay home in San Antonio and manage the Missions.

As he told the San Antonio Express-News he would like to get back to the major leagues but "is not obsessed by it" either.

Nate Freiman has been fairly impressive this year. What do you like about him?

John Gibbons: He's got big time power but he's more than that because he's also a hitter. His thing is to just keep getting at-bats and as he keeps producing we will see where that goes.

He's really ahead of most of the hitters in this league. He makes adjustments very well and he hits the breaking ball very well. Defensively it doesn't always look pretty but he has very good hands and gets the job done and because he's so tall he has some range too.

Gibbons likes Freiman's glove at first.

He's not going to miss many balls up top...

John Gibbons: Exactly [laughs]. I tell these guys all the time if you are going to miss throw it up. What he is 6'6" or what...I don't know he's tall. Throw it up, he's going to get it and you guys throw it in the dirt.

Dean Anna is someone that seems to get better as he keeps going up. What is the biggest improvement that you have seen in him?

John Gibbons: I didn't know Dean when I came over here at first. I heard he was a utility type player but he is better than that. He gives you really good at-bats and can really hit. Doesn't matter if its a lefty or righty. He does everything a table-setter does and you can play him anywhere.

He told us he has his first base mitt ready. John Gibbons: We will get him over there soon enough. He can really play anywhere and could probably even get behind the plate. To me he really is a pleasant surprise and just doesn't get the credit he deserves.

If there is any knock on him it may be his foot speed, but he gets on base and always has a very good idea of where he should be both on the bases and on defense.

Reymond Fuentes seemed like he has really improved on taking the ball the other way and on his bunting.

John Gibbons: Rey is still a young kid and as he gets a little older and stronger I think his game will take off. He's a very good defender, good arm and can run.

I like that he is staying inside the baseball and using the left side of the field. When he gets a little bit long and in pull mode is when he is vulnerable. As long as he stays short to the ball he can do some damage. He also has some pop, and has pop the other way.

I was a little surprised how much Jaff Decker has been struggling. Its tough to separate your personal feelings on this because I like Jaff a lot, but he hasn't been hitting.

John Gibbons: I like Jaff too. He got off to a slow start and if you watched him everyday and didn't look at the numbers you wouldn't believe what the numbers are telling you.

The batting average is down and his home runs are down. He still gets on base and his eye is great and he really has hit more rockets right at players than anyone I have seen in a long time.

He's swinging much better than the numbers indicate after a slow start. I think early on he started looking for the home runs a little too much. He has the potential to be more than that. He can use the whole field, put the ball in the gaps and I think it will come.

It really boggles my mind when I see his numbers because it just doesn't add up.

Your hitting coach Tom Tornincasa points out that you can only cover two-thirds of the plate. So it becomes kind of a mind game to figure out which third you are covering. So could that have been part of Jaff's problem?

And he still likes Jaff Decker's bat.

John Gibbons: I think Jaff can be a little too selective. Sometimes he just needs to air it out and come out swinging. If you look at his numbers last he struck out a lot, but he also hit a lot of home runs, drove in runs and walked.

He is a New York Yankee/Boston Red Sox dream. That is really what those guys like; walks and power.

Its tough hitting when you are down in the count. There are times he needs to come out swinging and not give them that first pitch. You want to make them a little hesitant some time, but not all the time.

Jason Hagerty he had a big year last year and with all the work you are putting him through I don't know where he finds time to be a switch-hitter.

John Gibbons: There is just something about Hagerty. He just has that type of look and this year he has battled some back problems which has kind of slowed him down a little. Catcher is a tough position to play with that on you.

Defensively I like what he's doing. He has good hands and blocks well from a low position for a big guy. Offensively sometimes he gets a little long with his swing.

Right now we are splitting him and Ali [Solis] because the organization likes them both behind the plate and sometimes that can affect your performance. He's another guy where there is so much more there than what we are seeing.

Tomorrow Coach Gibbons goes over the top pitching prospects in San Antonio.

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