Last year PETCO fans got a brief glimpse of Rymer’s talent when he was called up to the major leagues in mid-August, after putting together an impressive season after sitting out 2013 with Tommy John surgery.
, The plan probably was to keep him in Triple-A and not bring him to the majors but a combination of a tough year by the big club - and Liriano’s .452/.521/.661 slash line in 16 games with the Chihuahuas - made the promotion unavoidable.
While he showed some promise with the Padres, a trip to the big leagues also exposed some holes in his offensive game as he posted a .220/.289/.266 line in 118 plate appearances.
This year in El Paso he has occupied a variety of roles ranging from lead-off hitter to hitting in his more familiar spot in the middle of the order. Coming into Saturday’s game he was at .270/.376/.405 and was hitting particularly well at home with a .325/.434/.509 mark and 12 stolen bases.
We caught up with Rymer earlier this month to talk about his growth as a player.
Have you made any changes at the plate this season?
Rymer Liriano: Yes, I was reaching too much with my hands, so I was getting beat inside. Once I made that adjustment I started to hit better.
Randy Smith spoke last year that you were used to pitchers always throwing you outside so when you got to the majors it was a bit of an adjustment with all of the inside pitches you were seeing on the major league level.
Rymer Liriano: Yes, it was very different and made me change my swing so I didn’t roll over. This year I’ve improved on both sides and made the adjustment.
We’ve been writing about you for a long time and one of the things we would always comment on is that you had to learn to be more patient at the plate.
Now you are leading off and you on-base percentage is way up. Have you become that much better at recognizing pitches?
Rymer Liriano: I’ve learned to read pitchers more so I am more aware of what they are trying to do to me in the count than before. This helps me to anticipate what the pitcher is trying to do.
A lot of getting better at being more selective is just studying the game. In certain counts you can look for fastballs more than breaking pitches, which helps.
It sounds like you’re biggest growth in the game the past few years has been on the mental side?
Rymer Liriano: Yes, I’m still young, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve always liked to work to improve my game but now I am doing it as much on the mental part as on the physical side.
One thing that people used to say in the organization that you worked too hard. If something didn’t go right for you on the field you would go in the gym for three hours.
Now it sounds like you are putting that effort into both the physical and mental side.
Rymer Liriano: You have too because if you want to get better that is where you can improve the most. It is also what makes a big league player.
I saw you in Fort Wayne when you stole 65 bases. The Chihuahuas have put you in the leadoff spot some this year. Do you like it?
Rymer Liriano: Oh yeah, I feel really comfortable there. I’m a big guy but I like to run.
What are you weighing now?
Rymer Liriano: I’m about 240 pounds and around six-foot-one.
It’s kind of fun to watch pitcher’s faces when they see me run. They don’t think a big guy can move like I do. [laughs]
What do you need to do to get back to the big leagues?
Rymer Liriano: Just my swing. So I can handle both the inside and outside parts of the plate. If they want to throw me more inside, then I can really hit the ball pretty far.
And I am always just trying to become a better player at everything.,p>