Padres Prospect Interview: Robert Lara

Robert Lara came to the San Diego Padres system as a pure catcher. Any hitting would be a bonus. In his first year, Lara earned plenty of bonus points with a high average and high on-base percentage.

You had a solid season in the Arizona Rookie League. What were your expectations coming in and did you meet those?

Robert Lara: I did. I wanted to do well and leave a good impression. When I first got here and we didn't play – that was probably the biggest week of my baseball career. They fixed a lot of things, and from the first game, I felt good. There were a couple of valleys but I got through it. It was tough in the beginning. When I got used to playing every day it was fine. I had a lot of expectations. I wanted to prove myself out there, especially as a catcher.

You go to Arizona – perhaps a little old for the league – is that a little bit of added pressure?

Robert Lara: I didn't see it like that. When I first came out, I didn't know what I was getting into. I didn't know the difference between the Arizona Rookie League and Eugene. Once they said I was going to Arizona, I really didn't care as long as I was playing. I didn't look at it until after the season when I read I might have been a little too old for the league.

Whatever - they were pitching and you still had to put your bat on the ball. You had to throw guys out. I didn't care if it was Arizona or Midwest League you still have to do well. Maybe if I did bad they would be saying, ‘cut him.' Now they are saying the reason he did well was because it was rookie league. Lose – lose.

I didn't look at it like that. I didn't care. I wanted to get in and become a starter so they knew I could play every day.

You mentioned that first week that ‘they fixed some things.' What were those things?

Robert Lara: I had a couple of holes. I always have had a couple of holes in my swing. I can always catch. I can catch and throw with anybody. I am not being cocky but am confident behind the plate. When it came to hitting, I had my ups and downs.

Baseball is a horrible game to love – a horrible game to love. I have learned that. There are so many things that require you to be consistent with what you do. That is why they pay the big guys so much money.

It was a couple of things. They got me staying back on the ball. They got my swing shorter. Once I learned that and got some confidence, it didn't really matter who was on the mound. It was good.

How tough is it to change something that you might have been doing ever since you were a little kid?

Robert Lara: I hear you. It was tough. You pretty much had to break it down. Drastic. Baseball players – they tell me something and I will move a little bit because I am so used to routine.

You have to trust them. Something has to change. You have to do something different. I did. I trusted them. I worked a lot with Skub (Bob Skube). I love that guy. He changed a lot for me, and it was good for me.

You mentioned being a good catch-and-throw guy. What makes you so good in that particular area of the game?

Robert Lara: Mechanics – doing it every day. People say the mechanics have to be right and they are correct. You are doing it every day so the mechanics should be right. When you see a runner go, it is a competitive thing. You have to get the ball there or he is safe. Getting rid of the ball as fast as you can – God has blessed me with an ok arm. As long as the ball is in my hand and the pitcher gives me a chance – because sometimes it does not happen – I am pretty confident I will throw them out.

What was the goal you wanted to work on at instructs?

Robert Lara: Everything. When I first got to Arizona, I didn't do well at catching. I don't know if I was tired or the heat or whatever – I wasn't blocking very well. Towards the end, I thought I did better in the night games.

Pretty much anything you can work on you do. We were there from eight o'clock in the morning till three or four. It was great. There is no pressure on you. It is not like you have to go 3-for-4 or else your job is on the line. You made the team already. In instructs, it was working on everything – going back side at the plate, getting an approach and going with it, behind the plate blocking balls and making sure your timing is on.

The two pitchers that I think of right off the bat in Arizona who were phenomenal were Stiven Osuna and Chris Wilkes.

Robert Lara: They both learned that if you throw your changeup and fastball for strikes – and I am pretty sure that is any level. If he can command his fastball to both sides of the plate and control the changeup and spin a couple, you are going to get outs.

Osuna – his changeup was phenomenal. Wilkes' changeup was ridiculous, really good. Jose DePaula got that – some games it would be there and some games it would not but when he had his changeup it was amazing.

Osuna and Wilkes have great arms. I didn't think Osuna should have been here with me but he was. His changeup was unbelievable. He would make batters look retarded.

With Chris, it didn't matter what count it was he would throw his changeup. If you are throwing 2-0 changeups down the middle it is huge. It is a big weapon to have.

How much of an advantage is it for you as a catcher to be bilingual?

Robert Lara: I can relate to all of them, especially the Latin guys. It is tough for a lot of them coming here for the first time. It is tough; they are overwhelmed and don't know what to expect.

Spanish people are taking over. Guys out there with an American catcher – it might be hard in certain situations. If you can go out there and communicate with them and slow them down by speaking their language is a huge advantage.

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