Padres Prospect Interview: Brian Hernandez

The San Diego Padres drafted catcher Brian Hernandez in the 19th round out of Vanderbilt and after originally being tagged for Eugene, he began the year in Peoria for the AZL Padres. He talked about the ordeal, working with a young staff and fellow prospect Matt Buschmann, among many other topics.

Talk a little bit about the oppressive heat in Arizona.

Brian Hernandez: You know what, I am from Florida and I thought it was hot there. It is a little bit grueling but it's not bad.

How difficult was it to be in Eugene and the minicamp there only to find out you would be going to Peoria when the Padres' staff barely got a chance to see you?

Brian Hernandez: It wasn't that difficult at all. I was in Eugene and got to know the guys for about a week and they told me I was coming down here and I would have the opportunity to play a little more which is all I really wanted. It wasn't too bad coming down here and getting to know these new guys and so far everything is working pretty good.

Not only were you just getting comfortable with the pitchers in Eugene but you basically had to start over with a whole new pitching staff in Arizona. What challenges has that presented?

Brian Hernandez: We had a couple guys throwing that I hadn't really caught before on the sidelines or the bullpen so that was difficult. As of now, I have gotten a good look at everybody whether it was in the bullpen or during a game. I am getting to know what these guys can do. It is going to take time – that is basically the only thing you can do to see what gets them going or what doesn't get them going, their strengths and weaknesses and what is his out pitch. You also want to be on the same page and understand what the pitchers mentality is and that will take more time than knowing what their stuff does.

A catcher's strength has always been studying hitters versus pitchers and knowing what works in a given situation. Is it all a bit of guesswork right now as you begin to learn these new hitters?

Brian Hernandez: Yes, it is. I have not seen a lot of the hitter's before. We have a plan as a pitching staff that the coaches would like us to execute and we pretty much stay on that page. When guys come to do something, that is when your gameplan changes a little bit and you have to tailor it specifically to that batter – if a guy is a first pitch guy, you might not throw him a first pitch fastball. It changes every at bat that a guy comes up and you notice little things like where he stands in the box. If he is a fast kind of guy than he probably likes that pitch away to slap it and you have to bust him in – stuff like that. It is pretty much just knowing the game and what kind of hitters they are.

You were drafted out of high school and we realize you have matured from that time but how have you really grown as a player?

Brian Hernandez: I originally started out at Duke and went to Vanderbilt; it was probably one of the better decisions I made. I really learned a lot of stuff playing in the SEC. it is a tough conference. Facing the quality teams that I faced, the pitching, and the pitching we had at Vanderbilt it allowed me to develop and it basically allowed me to learn the game of baseball and how things were supposed to be done.

The catching position demands that you take a leadership role. Talk abut that and establishing that swagger at the professional level.

Brian Hernandez: In college, especially my last year, my senior year, I was looked to for leadership on and off the field. Down here it is the same thing. I have always said when you are catching you are basically just another coach on the field. Coaches can't always come out of the dugout and talk to pitchers at certain times and you have to be that guy that directs everybody. You have to take a leadership role. You have to be vocal. You have to let everyone know what is going on. I haven't really changed anything from college as far as on the field leadership but I am trying to get used to the guys and know what they do. I am still trying to be the same player that I was.

Is it difficult going to the mound with some of these guys that you are just meeting and are you comfortable going up to them and telling them they just don't have it tonight?

Brian Hernandez: When a guy has given up a couple of runs, you don't want to go out there and tell him he is doing something wrong because he is trying to figure it out on his own as well. You go out there and try to give him a little more confidence because confidence is something he probably lacks at that point. That is what I try and do.

Talk about your game as a hitter. You had a lot of doubles at Vanderbilt, is that a staple of your game?

Brian Hernandez: I realize I am not a power guy who is going to drive the ball out of the park on a consistent basis. I go up there and have an approach to drive the ball back up the middle or execute anything I have to execute if there is a guy on. I like to hit the gaps and try and get doubles. I am not the fastest guy in the world so I wont hit singles and turn them into doubles but if I was to say what kind of hitter I am, probably line drive hitter.

One of the things that stick out is a definitive patience at the plate. It would seem more catchers would have that advanced eye. Talk about the approach.

Brian Hernandez: I like to have an approach at the plate and have a good plan of what I am doing. Within the organization we do a couple of different things as far as hitting and hitting philosophies where we try and be patient and get the pitch that we want and then take a good swing at it. It is one of the things I have always done. I have a pretty good eye at the plate and try and one of the advantages of being a catcher is knowing the umpires and what they are going to call because you are back there with them. I just try and be patient as I can and get a pitch to handle.

What can you tell us about Matt Buschmann, a Vanderbilt kid that was taken in the 15th round by the San Diego Padres?

Brian Hernandez: Matt is a competitor. He is a real athletic pitcher. I think when we were in workouts he ran a 6.4. He is a guy that has a lot of movement on his fastball, which he uses. He throws a changeup and a slider. When those three pitches are on, he is a great pitcher. He is a great guy and a great competitor. He is out there to win every time and he leaves it all out on the field every time.

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