Before being hired by the Padres organization he served for three years as a bullpen catcher and staff assistant with the Cleveland Indians. On a team where nearly half of the club hails from Latin America, the Dominican-born Morales greatly helps with the adjustment of young players who are not only away from home for the first time but in another country.
We caught up with Coach Morales to learn about his adjustment to being a manager and his thoughts on some of the prospects in the Summit City this summer.
You were in AA last year as the hitting coach with San Antonio. What is the biggest change in how you approach your job this season and in dealing with younger players?
Francisco Morales: For me it is just being responsible for everything, on and off the field, and coaching all aspects of the game. As a hitting coach you can just get caught up in so many things when you are in the cage you kind of have tunnel vision; which you kind of have to for that job.
But trying to make these guys better at all aspects of the game and off the field is what gets me going everyday. I always ask myself if I am doing all that I can to put these guys in the best position to succeed.
Is there a difference in dealing with players that are so young as they are here compared to last year when you were working with more experienced players?
Francisco Morales: Sure, obviously because the guys at higher levels have been through this. When you are around them they have an idea of how to handle themselves.
At this level you are trying to teach guys how to get better, how to learn to work on their own and how to use the information that the coaches give them.
It is tough enough for young American kids to make the transition to pro ball. This team has so many young Latin Americans who are not only away from home but in a different country. How do you work to make them feel more acclimated?
Francisco Morales: For them the hardest thing is the language barrier. On the field stuff is easy but off the field is a little tougher to just get used to the culture and the food.
When I was in spring I really liked what I saw from Franchy Cordero. I thought he had all the tools to play shortstop. One, why do you think he struggled and two, do you see the move to the outfield as being permanent?
Francisco Morales: I wouldn’t call it a struggle but a twenty-year old kid playing a tough position. For me his biggest problem was body awareness, of knowing what he can and can’t do in the field. In the outfield I think he has handled himself very well because he is a good athlete, so that should be much easier for him to pick up.
Why not teach him another position so he can be more versatile?
The other day you made a comment that the biggest thing you need to get Michael Gettys to do is to learn to relax more at the plate so his talent can take over. How do you do that?
Francisco Morales: He has to believe in himself. That is the biggest thing I need to help him to understand. To believe in himself and the process that he uses to improve and to not make changes because something isn’t working right now.
He is like every kid and wants to do well and help out the team but it is a process and it is difficult. Right now Michael is learning that and we can see the improvement.
Nick Torres has hit well and is a bit older than the rest of your players since he went to college. What do you like about his game?
Francisco Morales: He is bat to ball. He knows how to put the barrel of the bat on the baseball. He has very good hand-eye coordination and he is a competitor He doesn’t give at-bats away and does it on a consistent basis is what impresses me the most.
We can look at the offensive numbers and see the Ruddy Giron has been pretty good. How is he defensively?
Francisco Morales: He is pretty good. He has very good instincts out there and knows how to deal with the stage - playing in front of people. We get a lot of kids who come up from the AZL where there are not many people in the stands to see those games and they have some adjustment period to learning how to play in front of crowds.
That wasn’t the case with Ruddy.
How would you describe Colby Blueberg, your closer? What makes his so effective?
Francisco Morales: He throws strikes and goes right after hitters. His mentality is if you are going to beat me, then they are going to have to do it with my best stuff.
That is what closers do and you have to have that mentality.