Cluck offers a subjective appraisal

The San Diego Padres have brought a wealth of knowledge into the fold. Former general managers dot several spots on the major and minor league side but it does not end there. The Padres have infused experience into minor league development and no one has the candor of consultant Bob Cluck.

All of the personalities brought together by Grady and Sandy Alderson compliment each other well and have a wealth of knowledge. It is a complete staff dedicated to being better.

Bob Cluck: The more opinions the better, especially if they are a diverse group. Randy Smith evaluates the system. I look at the system. Randy and I come from two different places. We see it through two different kinds of eyes. That is helpful. That is just one example. Organizations have a tendency to over evaluate their own players. When they have an objective source they would be silly not to use it and that is where I come in.

Mike Ekstrom had a great year and picked up some velocity along the way. You mentioned to me that your opinion is subjective since it has no ties or emotion tied to it. What can you tell us about Mike?

Bob Cluck: I loved him. It is very typical for guys to have a let down in velocity after they sign. It takes a year or so to get the batteries charged back up and that is probably what happened to him. He is a real pitcher. He knows how to move the ball around and do the things he needs to do. Guys like that will end up being like (Woody) Williams. He is a pitcher.

What did you see from the guys in Fort Wayne when you were there.

Bob Cluck: They pitched pretty well when I was there for five days. I got a lot of good impressions. They had some trouble before and after but they have some good arms in there.

I like Delabar quite a bit.

You go to several stops each year and then double-back – is that to see who has made progress over the course of the season?

Bob Cluck: Yes. I have my cheat sheets and notes and I write down little things I saw and I go back in and say ‘this is better. This is worse.' Most of the time it is steady progress over the long haul. It is tough to see when you see it everyday. The things that change will stick out.

Did you get to see Manny Ayala this season?

Bob Cluck: He has a great changeup and knows how to pitch.

What does pitching really come down to in terms of effectiveness and being a true major league prospect?

Bob Cluck: It usually comes down to command of the fastball. Guys go as far as the command of the fastball takes them. Some guys throw harder than others. Some guys have more movement. The ones that command the fastball move up and if not in the big leagues, close.

Is there a way to teach command of the fastball?

Bob Cluck: Sure. That is what Wally and the rest of the guys do every day. Doing drills, moving the catcher outside and they are not very good at at first but it is a gradual climb. You are still doing that at the big league level every day.

I was catching guys doing drills every single day, trying to improve them. And that is 90 percent of what you work on – command of the fastball.

Do you work at all with the catchers since you get to see everything they do to help the pitchers?

Bob Cluck: I mention where they are setting up in what counts, those kind of things but I don't talk to the catchers much. I have talked to Colt Morton some, only because I have been in (Lake Elsinore) so much. Most of the time I tell the manager ‘did you know he is setting up on the corner at 2-1 and that guy has no command of his fastball? It would be a good idea to get some more of the plate.'

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