Padres Prospect Interview: Dan Robertson

Fort Wayne, IN: After a slow start, San Diego Padres prospect Dan Robertson has picked up where he left on in Eugene. His pre-game routine and the importance he places on the work before the game goes a long way towards his success.

When you are working on drills with hitting coach Tom Tornicasa, what kind of things does that reinforce for you?

Dan Robertson: I think it just gives you something to work on in the fire. Everything you do from 2:30 to 6:30 is all for that last bit of success that you want to have when you are in the box.

I like to think of baseball as a test. You study, study, study, and then get four or five questions a day. If you get a couple of walks or sacrifice flies – two or three.

When you are working early in the cage, you have to really be diligent about what you are doing because if you take it lightly or go through the motions, it will show up when it comes time and you step into the box.

It is the adjustments you have to make, but once the game starts, you have to trust that your body has made those adjustments. Now, you just have to figure out a way. Yes, you can tell yourself to sit back on a breaking ball but that is a little bit different. Mechanics-wise, you have to go with what you got. If you don't have it that day, you have to find a way.

Can you feel it? Every drill that Tornicasa seems to put you guys through is another way to feel how your body is reacting to different things so you are in tune with the true mechanics of your swing and can tell if something is off and make your own adjustments.

Dan Robertson: Yes, he has worked a lot with me. I struggled when I first came here and he helped with that feel and the whole process. Now, he just wants to make sure I never revert back to that point – to where the confidence was lacking.

You know you can hit. You know you can play this game. You know you can make these adjustments. The small things, ‘Remember when you were doing this? Feel it so it doesn't take as long to fix it.'

That is a much better approach versus trying to switch things up and go here or go there where you are taking 10 steps back instead of taking a step forward.

Did you feel like something changed from early on when you were struggling until now where you are seeing the ball well?

Dan Robertson: Yes. I started out on fire but the confidence didn't last, and I started to go outside of the things that I do. All of a sudden, I ended up in a tailspin and didn't know which way to turn. Torni just brought me back with the repetition of doing these things everyday.

The game doesn't change. That is what makes this game so hard is the mental aspect of it. It is not like football or basketball. In basketball, you have your jump shots – it is standard. In football, you are a running back and you grab the ball and run. Here, the game doesn't change. They have to throw strikes to get you out and if they don't you walk. But, it is having the patience to stick with that plan and approach.

You are hitting extremely well with runners in scoring position. What makes you so relaxed in those situations to make something good happen?

Dan Robertson: I just want to win. If I come to the plate with an opportunity to win – it just builds from there. Whatever I can do – break my bat and get a squeaker, hit a chopper and beat something out. The name of the game is scoring runs. If that is what I have to do, if I have to knock somebody in, I am going to try my best. If I have to pick somebody up than that is what I will do.

The little bit more confidence I have with runners on base is based on the fact that if I don't do my job, I have great teammates behind me who will pick me up. It is great to sit there and have that. If you see I am hitting .200 with runners in scoring position, I am saying that I feel like I have to do it all myself.

When you have guys behind me that can do the things that they do, it makes it easy, especially when you had guys like (Matt) Clark, and the guys we have now in (Allan) Dykstra and (Justin) Baum, you really don't need to go to the plate with any pressure. You go there saying, ‘I am looking for a certain pitch to hit. If I get it, I am going to do the best I can with it. I know I can do 100 percent of the things right and I can still walk back to the dugout without hitting anybody in. I have those guys who will pick me up.' It is a little bit more relaxing going to the plate in those situations.

You have played center field, left and right. I am not sure you know where you will be on a day-to-day basis. Is it difficult to go between the three, especially with all the angles that might come into play in different parks?

Dan Robertson: When I was in Eugene, yes. I went center 20 games, then left 20 games, then right. I got to know center, I got to know left then I got to know right. If I spot started somewhere else it was like, ‘Whoa. How did I play it again?'

Here, not at all. I have grown from a player that had two career starts in left field during college. Now, I play all three well. It is more the rules. In right field, if there is a ground ball to short, I have to remember to back up the first baseman. Sometimes I forget that because I am used to being in center. I watch the play. Then I find myself watching and realize I have to go run. Other than that, it is all reaction. If you get a play at third and are playing left, you are going to go back it up. It is all feel. I have a great feel for it and they have done a great job at making me comfortable at all three.

I feel like I came into the organization as a true center fielder. Now, it really doesn't matter. I feel as comfortable in right or left as I would roaming around in center.

You haven't struck out a whole lot this year but you also don't walk a tremendous amount either. Is that about not missing the pitch.

Dan Robertson: I am still mad about (the strikeouts). I am a contact hitter. I am your traditional line drive guy and gap-to-gap guy. I have put a lot of thought into some of those things – it is about makeup. I am going to put my at-bats in and pick out pitches that I want.

You said I haven't struck out much but I could probably pick out 10 or 11 of them that shouldn't have been strikeouts. It could be a lot less.

When I realize a strikeout is the same as flying out to center – what is the difference? An out is an out, except they don't keep that stat.

As far as walks, if I was a guy like Dykstra, I would be able to have those walks. I am going to get my hits and I am going to drive the ball, but at the same time, if there is a guy on first, you are going to come after me. You are not going to have to worry about hanging something and me putting it into the center field bleachers. My area is I will get my fair share of walks and will try not to strikeout. With the way I can run and do things on the bases, striking out doesn't really help my team.

As for the walks, I am going to battle for mine. Pitchers are going to come after me. That is how it is. ‘If you want it, here it is.' If I get walked it is because either I am driving the ball all over the yard and they catch me in a spot where I am hot or they think, ‘we won't let this guy hurt me right now.'

You look at a lot of guys in the big leagues who don't strikeout a lot. They don't walk a lot either. I think it is in my makeup.

This year, you have batted in every single spot in the lineup except the cleanup spot. It might be time to talk to Dougie (manager Doug Dascenzo) and have him hit you fourth.

Dan Robertson: I hit cleanup at Oregon State for the first 20 games. That is crazy. I learned a lot from my college coach. Our hitting coach used to always pride me on my ability to not really miss the ball that much. If I do miss it – for some odd reason I am swinging at a slider in the dirt.

I don't usually miss anything that is over the plate. Sometimes I have to be careful of what I swing at because I am most likely going to put it in play. With that ability, it allows me to hit in any venue and any spot in the lineup.

Last season, you were an exceptional hitter at home. In the Midwest League, you have been a better hitter away. Is there something about Parkview Field?

Dan Robertson: No, that is just the way some things are falling into place. We have faced a lot of good pitching here in Fort Wayne. Some of the top pitchers in the league, for some reason, we are facing them here. I don't find any difficulty here. Maybe it is I hit better on the road. I don't know what it is. I feel just as comfortable playing here as I do on the road. It is what it is.

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