Padres roving instructor Rob Deer

Rob Deer has been the San Diego Padres roving hitting coordinator since 2004 and despite a career that was highlighted by strikeouts, he understands the approach the Friars are implementing. He spoke about players such as Yefri Carvajal, Yordany Ramirez, Luis Cruz and Cedric Hunter, and other topics.

A guy like Yefri Carvajal that you were helping out in Instructs – everyone always says that the ball comes of his bat a little differently.

Rob Deer: There are a few of them out here. I have been real happy seeing the type of player that has shown up here this year. I think it is apparent to everybody that has been here and we have talked about it – there are a lot of fun projects to work with. When the ball comes off their bat it sounds a little bit different and that makes it that much more special.

Patience at the plate has been the motto – how difficult is it to get that into these young kids' brains?

Rob Deer: That has been the misconception. Whether you are myself or Grady Fuson it is the same approach – it is just worded differently. Grady and I have spent a lot of time going over this. We don't want to take away their aggressiveness. You get a good pitch to hit we want you to take a good swing. It is the guy that goes up there and gets a first pitch fastball and he is not doing much with it – we have to make an adjustment with him. And vice versa, if he gets 20 good pitches to hit early in the count and is taking all of them we have to make an adjustment. It is worded a lot different and people look at it different but realistically if you walk up to the plate and you get a good pitch to hit we want you to take a swing. We want to eliminate the bad at bats. The 3-2 ball a little bit out of the strike zone; we want baserunners.

I would never teach the way I hit. I had people around me that were getting on base and I was paid to drive them in. I knew how to hit .300 and I know how to hit .300 and just because I didn't do it doesn't mean I don't believe in it.

You mentioned this in the first answer – the people coming in from the draft are easier to work with since they have shown a pattern of power and pitch selection. That leaves you room to work on other fundamental things.

Rob Deer: And that is the case. We have drafted people with power that have a pretty good idea of the plate. That makes my job that much more easy. In the past, we had guys that didn't want to swing the bat. We had guys that overly swing the bats but on the whole we have guys that have a pretty good idea of the strike zone.

Yordany Ramirez struggled early on, had some injuries again but really came on in the end. If you see a guy like that, and obviously Tom Tornicasa had been working with him all year, do you make suggestions or are you working with Tom Tornicasa and making sure the suggestion is implemented or is he running it through you?

Rob Deer: I oversee to make sure we are all on the same page. If I have a suggestion, I would never go to the hitter without them coming with me. That is something I have tried to instill in all of our hitting coaches and they know this – we don't pull things out of our hat to make a suggestion. We always talk about it, we watch them for a day or two, watch a few at bats, watch BP – we suggest something then talk about it and suggest it to the hitter. I don't want guys walking up to the plate with eight million things about mechanics. It is hard enough. We try and keep things simple. We try to work on seeing the ball. If there is a slight adjustment it is one adjustment at a time. Nothing is ever done – and if I am in Portland and Torni wants to do something he calls me and says, ‘Robby, I want to do this with him.' And we talk it over, it sounds good, and we do it.

Was there something with Yordany? It seems like he really picked it up the last few months of the year.

Rob Deer: I think health is a big part of it and I just had back surgery a couple of months ago so I know what it is like to play with back problems. When you get in a situation – if you were to see Yordany three years ago and you were to see him now and you have a five-tool player you almost have to be patient and let it run its course. I think next year is a perfect example of letting him get healthy, starting off the season in Elsinore and I am a big fan of his because I know the improvements he has made, I know the adjustments he has made and he can go out and hit 25 homers and hit .320 next year and we have something for down the road.

Luis Cruz showed a little more power this year before tailing off in the end, perhaps because of the heat.

Rob Deer: A lot of that happens in that league. They run out of gas. It is terrible. Another talented player that we looked for big things out of. He is a good kid, wants to get better and comes to the ballpark ready to play every day.

The day-to-day at the Instructional League and the small changes you make – how many changes can you make so it is not overwhelming for these guys?

Rob Deer: And you can't do that, especially younger players. You get a guy that has been in Lake Elsinore for a couple of years and is not – we very rarely revamp somebody. Guys are still getting used to wooden bats. It happened to me when I was 18, 19. Some guy would come in and watch me take BP and would say, ‘we want him to hit 50 home runs and drive in 170 runs.' It doesn't happen that way. It is a process we understand as coaches or instructors or rovers. We understand it is a process that we go through and you try and be patient with them and take it one step at a time. At least as long as I am in control that is the way I want to do it. We want to work on one thing at a time and I want them to understand that we are not going to throw it on them when they walk up to the plate and there is eight billion things on their mind. They make one little adjustment and now I am thinking about the ball.

I saw Cedric Hunter for the first time. He has very little movement and just keeps it simple. It has to be hard training other guys who have grown up doing so many things with their body, bat and head.

Rob Deer: Fifteen years ago if someone were to say you can't hit with an open stance, can't hit with a hitch, can't hit right up on the plate – Canseco hit 500 homers. No one is the same. Everyone is different and I don't think there is any cookie cutting way to teach hitting. We all try and get on the same page of being patiently aggressive. When a guy walks up to the plate you get a sense of whether he can hit or he can't hit or he is getting close or is far away. That is the whole concept. It is a fine line. Someone is going to say this; someone is going to say that. There is a fine happy medium.

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