Shane Spencer on Storm hitters

Shane Spencer has been surprised by some of the bats to come through his Lake Elsinore squad. On paper, the hitting was a question mark for the San Diego Padres High-A squad but has come through quite nicely under Spencer's tutelage.

We're about two and a half months into the season. Do you feel like you've got a good feel for your guys strengths and weaknesses and how to use them?

Shane Spencer: I have a good idea of what their swing is, the kind of power they have, and what kind of player they could be and where they're at.

How to use it? Not necessarily, because you're still in that fundamental stage where you're trying to get them to learn the strike zone. I think that that's the hardest thing as a player; learning the strike zone.

We only have a couple guys that are really good at it. For the rest of the guys, it's pitch control, and you can only do that in game situations so we had some guys last year in the same situation and they got it – so it all comes with playing time. So the guys that don't get playing time it's a little harder for them.

You've had a couple of guys make a turn around from the first month of the season to now, Brad Chalk we'll take as an example. Were there changes you made that he's going through?

Shane Spencer: Its been coming along the last two years. It's been the instructional league. He's always the guy who can run. He's a good outfielder, good base stealer, guys are playing him in. Defense is better.

Now, we've got to get him to drive the ball a little better, and he's been doing that. He's been driving the ball to right center and centerfield a little better.

He still comes off the ball on the pitch away, but he has the speed to beat it out, if he hit's the choppers to short. But we don't want that. Because he can run and if he hit's the ball through the gap it's a triple, so if you're on second or third on behind him, you've got a chance to drive in a run. So we've really been trying to get him to drive the ball, stay behind the ball and he's been doing a much better job.

He's been tight he comes out of his stance. But he's been working on it. He's just a good kid; easy to work with.

The other guy that stands out is Luis Martinez 11- or 12-game hitting streak and a 27-game on base streak during one stretch of the season.

Shane Spencer: He's doing a great job. He's not blessed with real impressive bat speed, so in spring training we were really trying to get him to get down with the ball. He hits the ball to right field. He's going to encounter.. ‘They're going to start pitching me in,' well, don't worry about that, just work on your swing. Work on getting good pitches to hit.

He's starting to get walks. When you get walks, that means you're getting better pitches to hit. That's kind of what I was talking about earlier; learning the strike zone. You don't have to think that just because you're not that good of a hitter you have to swing at whatever is thrown out at you.

That's what we have with a lot of Latin players. They want to hit that first pitch fastball because they're not used to it. In this league, they're going to throw offspeed, offspeed, and offspeed until you can prove that you can lay off it. A couple of guys are doing a lot better job at it. Carrasco and Martinez. Carvajal, he's hit or miss, but both Carrasco and Carvajal are really young so I have to spend a lot of time with them.

You mentioned Yefri Carvajal. There was a two week period where he was knocking the heck out of the ball. Then did he kind of fall into bad habits again before going to Fort Wayne?

Shane Spencer: Well he started chasing balls in the dirt, and until you lay off of them, they're going to keep throwing balls in the dirt. You play the same teams over and over. We play Rancho Cucamonga and Inland Empire 62 times this year, so if you have a weakness, they're going to keep throwing it. It's not like the Midwest league where ‘this pitcher is a fastball/curveball pitcher. Here it comes.'

If this guy's got a third best pitch and it gets you out, they're going to throw it. It starts from here and it goes up to Double-A, Triple-A, so, they're starting to see it and they've both gotten a little bit better. Carvajal is about where I expect him to be. I thought maybe the power numbers would be a little better. But, until he proves that he can stay on the curveball, his power numbers are going to be down.

Logan Forsythe. You mentioned a guy with great plate discipline. Has that been the key to his ultimate success here before moving up to San Antonio?

Shane Spencer: Yes he's here he's hitting .310, .320 the whole time. He's frustrated because he hasn't been driving the ball and sometimes that comes with being too passive. But he's got to be passive because of the guys that are hitting behind him. Go ahead and take your walk. But to stay right there, because as you move up guys are going to be able to hit behind you. For him, like a lot of the college guys have a real flat swing because of the aluminum bat. He would hit balls hard to center and left center, but they would be topspin.

We were just trying to get him to get his hands up and down through the ball. Now he's starting to drive the ball – backspin a little bit more so, he's going to be a great player in my book. He's a big-leaguer whose in A ball right now. He's not a big leaguer yet. But when you look at a team and other teams makeup and the way he plays third, his presence at the plate, he's got the gift.

Lance Zawadzki, before he moved up to Double-A, tore the cover off the ball - homers, RBI and extra base hits and he's got speed.

Shane Spencer: He's uncannily strong and he's got some speed, He can run, and he's got a cannon.

He needs to work on fine tunnig his things. Staying healthy is number one. He's had injury problems in his legs so we've got to keep him healthy. Not getting too big because he is driving the ball. Not taking a bad at-bat into the game and taking out the defense, which he has done before.

So, he's got those little things that he needs to work on. But he's going good and all of a sudden you're going bad and people are seeing you do bad then you've got to realize that it's not just the Padres that are looking at you. The other teams are looking at you too. That's one of the things that we preach here. There could be five or six scouts every night. You need to hustle you need to play defense. You can't just take your at bat on the field. You to be able to absolutely rake if you think you can make the big leagues as a hitter.

Has there been any surprises for you this year?

Shane Spencer: Martinez is probably the biggest surprise.

Beamer Weams has done a great job. We had him hitting left-handed and during the instructional league he said, 'hey I'm thinking about quitting left-handed and just hitting right-handed,' because he's got a lot more pop hitting right-handed. But he's been driving the ball left-handed. But from instructional league to spring training, he's gotten so much better. I said, ‘you're going to be with me this whole year unless something happens and you get moved up, let's just stick with it, you've been doing a great job.'

He's one of those guys who doesn't swing at a lot of balls. He keeps it simple and is not trying to hit home runs. He stays in his game and he's great at shortstop and now he's playing second base for the first time and playing great over there. He gets more upset with himself at defense than he does at offense so everybody really knows where he stands and he's doing really well. So Martinez and Beamer are probably my best two surprises.

Are you a fan of the switch-hitter? It just seems like there are so many more problems that can a rise when a guy is switch hitting. Especially at these levels.

Shane Spencer: There is. You can create bad habits. Carrasco drops his hand left-handed, but doesn't do it right-handed. But he has more power left-handed, but not right-handed.

So you've got to play both sides of it. The one thing you got to look at is, ‘hey you're going to get a chance to play more than most guys. So take advantage of it.'

If you're struggling one way, hey, we take more BP left-handed. If you're struggling right-handed then we take more BP left-handed. It's tough as a hitting coach when they almost have two different swings. They're never going to be exactly the same both ways so you just hopefully can get them to swing at strikes.

Danny Payne, seems like he lost a bit of confidence pulling off the ball, even in just batting practice. Is the mantal part the key to him continuing success?

Shane Spencer: Yeah, he was struggling mentally. You're always going to have a couple of guys who are struggling mentally.

Danny can run and throw – maybe the best in our organization and we've got to find a way to get him on base and (Tony) Muser is in here and we're working on things, but you can only work on so many thing because it becomes a mental thing when you're struggling and he's going to have to get over this mental thing and we have to keep giving him positive information.

‘Hey that was great BP,' and there was a game where I said, ‘I don't care what you do, just become unglued. And he had a great game.' But then he gets into these moods where he becomes too passive, ‘Oh well that's not my pitch.'

They're not going to throw potshots if you take the outer half strikes so he's got to understand that. There's going to be a game soon where I just say you've got to swing at one of the first three pitches at every at-bat. We've already talked about it in the organization and it's not going to be tonight…or maybe it will be…can't tip the hat. But those are the things.

We did that at instructional league with Forsythe because he was just taking, taking, taking, and we just said, ‘why don't you just take a couple of games and let it go and he had a great time just swinging the bat.'

He started doing that now. His selection has gone down a little bit and he started hammering some balls. It's an ongoing process.

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