Padres Prospect Interview: Robert Lara

FORT WAYNE, IN: When catcher Robert Lara, 22, is behind the plate and runners are on, everyone, infielders and the opposition, better have their heads in the game. Lara is blessed with a cannon of an arm and has never been shy about showing what he can do with it as the Midwest League has found out this year.

This year he has thrown out nearly 40 percent of opposing baserunners and had a .985 fielding percentage going into the last weekend of the season. The big question for Lara, as it has been throughout his collegiate and professional career, is can he hit enough to make it to the big leagues?

Last year in the Arizona League, he hit .344/.490/.484, with a 37/30 BB/K ratio and opened quite a few eyes. This season, although he has been stellar behind the plate, he's struggled hitting .219/.283/.311.

As someone who hasn't seen you play before the past few days, you have quite an arm. How did you develop it or is it simply god given?

Robert Lara: Oh man [laughs]. I do remember my dad and I would just long toss so much and he was obsessed with trying to make me throw as hard as I could. God definitely did bless me and I can get rid of it pretty quick.

You aren't afraid to toss it around the bases either. Is that something that you work with the infielders on?

Robert Lara: I make sure that I remind them before the game that I love to throw. I think I have ADD or something [laughs]. If you can keep them close, you might be able to prevent them from taking that extra base or even get an out. It could save a run and that is huge.

I love to throw and am pretty confident in my ability to know where it is going.

Everyone told me that I missed a big play you did where you gunned someone down at first base with a left-handed batter in the box from your knees. How do you practice throwing from your knees?

Robert Lara: I actually think I throw better from my knees. I'm not very fast and if you can get rid of it quicker, the better. On that play, the guy at first couldn't really see me so he didn't have much of a chance. I know when I'm on base if I see a catcher pop up, I'm getting back.

I noticed that you pitched a little in college and even for a few innings here in an emergency. Does this help you deal with pitchers better in knowing what they are going through on the mound?

Robert Lara: I think I work very well with the pitchers and we really have some good communication going on what they want to throw in certain situations. I really want to have open communication with them so they can run anything they want by me. We talk about so much, which is one reason why we have had so much success.

But when I went out on the mound it was different to actually see what the catcher was doing. It really helped me out to understand how I should set up and what to do.

Catchers have always impressed me the most because the workouts that they put you through before the game are brutal. You guys catch multiple bullpens, do physical training, go to the pitchers meetings, infield, BP and then you play. With all a big part of how you are judged are the offensive numbers that you put up. So how do you balance everything?

Robert Lara: That is kind of what screws me up because sometimes I would over think, "What is this guy trying to do to me?" instead of just hitting. It really is kind of relentless with everything and is just part of what comes with being a catcher.

I did a little bit of research on you. You went to LSU and Central Florida and the report on you was that you were a very good defensive catcher with a questionable bat. Last year in the AZL you really put up some numbers.

Robert Lara: That is always what people have said. As long as I could hit, I would always have a shot. When it comes to catching I'm pretty confident that I can play back there with anyone. It's not just me talking, I just have confidence in myself that I can catch, throw and call games.

Being consistent at the plate has always been a problem. Last year, I was working with Bob Skube who helped me so much and this year has just been about battling. This year, I got off to a rough start at the plate and just wasn't as consistent.

What are some of the main things that Skube worked with you on?

Robert Lara: It was more about being positive than mechanics. To me he and Torni [Tom Tornicasa, the Fort Wayne hitting coach] are very good coaches. So much of it is about just starting with confidence.

What are you trying to improve upon the most to make it to the next level?

Robert Lara: For me, just being more consistent at the plate and hitting the ball with authority. Defensively, I'm still working hard on getting better at blocking the balls in the dirt.

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