Padres Prospect Interview: Robert Lara

Fort Wayne, IN: Robert Lara has always been known as a terrific defender. Last season, he made his mark as an offensive player. The San Diego Padres catching prospect is trying to make that a yearly thing.

What kind of help has Duffy Dyer provided and have there been any specific things that you can point to and say, ‘I never thought of that before but it sure will help my catching skills.'

Robert Lara: He's awesome. He's definitely been in the league – he has experience. He knows how to work with pitchers and how guide us. He's a great defensive guy. He knows a lot of stuff: from throwing to blocking from defense to running the game. He just has a great game IQ. We pretty much soak up everything he says and respect him. He's been in the game for a while. Guys like that, you have to respect and soak in. There's so many things. The way you turn your body, just little things. The other day we were working on blocking. The way he says ‘just get your butt up a little higher.' Or ‘turn your body a certain way.' He just has the littlest things but it all affects the way you catch, the way you receive. What I like is the way he tries to help us communicate with the pitcher. As a catcher, you always have to try to communicate with the pitcher. He teaches us certain ways…There's a lot of weird pitchers out there - some weirder than others, but most teams that are good is because they have that communication between the catcher and the pitcher.

You have 10 extra base hits this season. Do you see the power numbers going up?

Robert Lara: I hope so. I'm in better shape now, but hopefully we'll see. Hopefully, I can get rolling again and I know it's a long season. So I'll have more at-bats in the second half and have a chance to get those numbers up. But hopefully they don't get any worse.

A solid foundation is a good starting point. Do you feel like you've developed that solid foundation?

Robert Lara: I hope so. I've given myself a good start. But who knows. Last year I didn't feel good coming in, but I did good. So who knows. It's just a matter of seeing pitchers and getting timing. Hopefully I get that going and it just goes. I feel comfortable behind the plate, the hitting is the hard part.

A .534 OBP with the bases empty is kind of sick – numbers from last year when you were playing every day. Does the philosophy change when the bases are empty as opposed to men on base?

Robert Lara: When there are runners on base, the pitcher tries to be more aggressive. I've always had a pretty good walk to strikeout ratio. As a catcher, I kind of understand how pitchers try to get you out. But sometimes that's my weak point. I think too much. But I have an idea, and most people who walk a lot is because they kind of know what's coming or what the pitcher is trying to do to them. Here they preach patiently aggressive. I love it. I look at it as don't look for a ball to hit. But look for a ball to drive. That's what makes my on-base a little bit higher.

Do you think there were times where you were too aggressive with men on base and got away from the patient approach trying to make something happen?

Robert Lara: Definitely. With a runner on base you don't want another guy to do the job for you. You want to drive in the guys. With a runner on third and nobody out you try to be overly aggressive and get the ball in play.

You have been hit by quite a few pitches over the last two years – I think 12 times. Are you standing over the plate and when a pitcher hits you, does it affect you in future at-bats?

Robert Lara: I didn't know it was so many. That's a lot. I don't know. Once I saw the ball coming, but it just kind of hit me. Maybe I did once in a while get a little too close. I'm one of those guys that if the ball is coming, I'm not going to dive away from it, if it hits me it hits me.

What was it like hitting behind Jaff Decker last year and seeing him again this season.

Robert Lara: He's amazing. Coming from high school, he showed great discipline. He doesn't really look like much of a ball player…He's like 6-foot-2. But he's good. He's really good. He has a great eye. Great hands. He's an amazing player. I can see him doing great things.

Defensively, What is it you need to do?

Robert Lara: I was in the bullpen I wasn't blocking very well. When I'm catching new guys, I have to see what they're doing. Just keep throwing guys out. I love doing that. I don't know what it is. It's part of my personality. Once that ball hit's the dirt, I love blocking it. I don't know if it's a catching thing, but I love it.

Do you go to the pitcher and say ‘there's a guy on first base, just give me a chance'?

Robert Lara: That would be nice huh? I don't think there are very many people that can steal off me.

What's the funniest thing you ever went out to the pitcher and said just to calm him down?

Robert Lara: I don't know x-rated stuff – just kidding. I don't know. There's a lot of guys you can just see it in their eyes. They're praying, ‘please help me.' You just tell them a joke, or mess around with them or say something about taking a shower. Some guys just need to be calmed down. They're way too competitive, and others are just like, ‘come one tell me something.' You just baby them a little bit. It depends on the pitcher. There's just so many different personalities.

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