Padres Prospect Interview: Robert Perry

FORT WAYNE, IN: Robert Perry was selected by the Padres in the 16th-round of the 2007 draft and was one of the better late round selections. Perry played at three different levels last year, going from the AZL to Lake Elsinore before finishing off the season in Fort Wayne.

This spring Perry, 23, played well enough in spring training to earn the starting left field job in Lake Elsinore, but a .165 average in 38 games sent him back to Fort Wayne in late May. He responded with a .330 average in June, and being reunited with hitting coach Tom Tornicasa appeared to do wonders for his confidence and ability to make some minor mechanical changes that set him back with the Storm, which can sometimes be the difference between moving up and going home.

When Perry is on, the former Long Beach State Dirtbag is one of the more versatile Padres' outfielders with an ability to play all three outfield positions with a very strong left arm. At bat, he's the classic leadoff hitter, and despite not begin the biggest guy in the world, he has an ability to hit the ball into the gaps.

You've put up some numbers in Fort Wayne, but you got off to a slow start in Lake Elsinore before coming back down. Any idea why the big change? The Padres were raving about you in spring training.

Robert Perry: I was just doing what I've been doing through spring training, and I picked up a bad habit in Lake Elsinore. My shoulders weren't square, and I was wrapping around the ball, I was really trying to do too much. I got into a slump and started to overanalyze things. When I got back here and started to work things out, got my shoulders square and started to see the ball well again.

When you are saying that you are trying to do too much that is always a part of your game that I liked the most, you can do so many things, run, hit, hit with some power and throw.

Robert Perry: It's natural for any baseball player when you've had success to start trying to solve what you have been doing wrong. I wasn't getting on base, I wasn't helping the team – I wasn't a factor for the Storm. So the Padres had to make their decision to send me down to have me try to come here and help out here. I'm trying to do my best.

That is a really great attitude but it's easier said than done. How do you stay so positive when it has to be disappointing to you to come down?

Robert Perry: It's kind of a love of the game thing. I love playing, and when the game is on the line, I want to be the one at the plate. I want to be the person to help someone over the top, which is how I've always tried to play.

You've always played all over the outfield, are you like most center fielders that your favorite position is in the middle?

Robert Perry: I've played there all my life, so I'm always comfortable in center – but, of course, I will play anywhere they would like.

What parts of the game have you really seen improvement on since you've come to Fort Wayne? Obviously your batting average has gone up quite a bit.

Robert Perry: On the set up approach I think I've improved. As you go higher, guys will pitch you a little more precise, out and in and up and down. I've gotten to the point where I'm really looking for a pitch that I can handle and trying to put a good swing on it and also using the whole field.

It sounds like the problems in Lake Elsinore were more with you than anything having to do with the talent level in High-A.

Robert Perry: Sometimes I think you can try too hard. When I got back here and made a couple of adjustments and started feeling comfortable then I thought, ‘This is where I need to be.' Talent level wise, these guys here are awesome. I've seen some really good pitchers here. Talent wise, it's just another year of experience it's the same game anywhere you go.

Even though it's a higher level, the Midwest League is much tougher place to hit because of the weather and the fields. So it's kind of funny your numbers are so much better here.

Robert Perry: I've seen it happen out there. You just kind of have to go with the flow regardless of the conditions. If you put a good swing on the ball and hit it hard then you've done your job.

We always try to explain how much work you guys put in, can you go over what your day is like. For example, you don't just roll in here around five-thirty take a few swings and go play.

Robert Perry: [laughs] Everyone tells me when you play baseball that is so much fun and it is, but it's also a lot of work. You get here at 2:00 PM go through your routine, and then you are on the field stretching, doing extra work in the cage, infield and consistently working until the game starts. Once the game starts you try to apply what you learned in the game. It's a much longer day than many people know. We just don't put on our uniforms and start playing.

It seems like you are on the right track, what do you need to do to have success at higher levels?

Robert Perry: I just have to stick with my plan and show the type of player that I am which is getting on base. Let the guys behind me drive me in. Play solid defense, try not to do too much and try to learn something new every day.

If there is a silver lining about being sent down, it appears that you are mentally stronger because of it?

Robert Perry: It did. I was punishing myself a little bit, thinking maybe I'm not that good – but then I thought that I showed I could play in spring training. I am good, I just need to be strong and show. Every baseball player goes through it; I won't be the first or the last.

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