Padres Prospect Interview: Luis Martinez

The winner of the Leadership Award at the San Diego Padres Instructional League, Luis Martinez has elevated his game in a number of ways. He is, however, not satisfied and eager to continue the improvement process.

Talk about your approach at the plate this year. It seemed like everything clicked for you this season.

Luis Martinez: I just stayed within my strengths. What I usually do when I am up there is look for a pitch on the outer third of the plate. My strength is going the other way.

We played Rancho and Inland a lot this year with guys that knew how to pitch to me in. When I expected a fastball in, I cheated a little bit. Most of the time, I get away with it and can get a base hit or a double.

Lately, I have been trying to stay up the middle and have been going to both left and right field.

What has been the key to that success. There were times last year where you would be out over your front foot and not staying back.

Luis Martinez: Staying back and keeping my weight on my back foot has been essential, especially on breaking balls and changeups, which most guys like to pull and are out in front of.

Looking the other way not only makes me good with the fastballs but also the sliders and off-speed, just because I get to sit back a little longer with those pitches. I have been real consistent with that approach.

Has there been a different mental approach with runners in scoring position – something you handled well in 2009?

Luis Martinez: Same approach – still looking for a pitch I can drive so I can be successful in driving in those runners in scoring position. I stay with the same approach I always do. Luckily, my game has progressed this year. I have learned a lot about myself with all of these at-bats I have had. It is about having at-bats and learning your strengths and weaknesses and going about it that way.

There was a game this year that you batted leadoff. How surprising was that and did you feel like you had to see more pitches in that role?

Luis Martinez: I didn't know what to think, honestly. It was quite the surprise. I stayed with the same approach. I have never hit leadoff before. I was in the two- hole before but never leadoff. I tried to keep the same approach and didn't change too much.

In the first month of the 2009 season, you hit into five double plays. I think you hit into two or three the rest of the year. What was the difference?

Luis Martinez: Just learning myself. The first part of the season, I was too anxious and trying to do too much. As I started playing more and the season started progressing, I started to relax and look for a pitch I know I can drive instead of going after pitches that would jam me or make me hit into the double play.

You are a right-handed hitter who has had some struggles with left-handed pitching. Any reason?

Luis Martinez: I don't know because last year was the exact opposite. I was hitting over .300 against lefties but this year was the exact opposite. I don't know. I have always felt comfortable against lefties. I guess I have been putting too much pressure on myself. I wish I could answer that.

You threw out about 35 percent of the runners trying to steal and the year before it was 36 percent. That is pretty good consistency. Are you happy with that number?

Luis Martinez: The difference between last year and this year is I had more opportunities to throw out runners. The pitchers have been more consistent with the slide step. I think I need more work on my accuracy and my footwork. Most of my throws are either high or down. I need to work on that in this off-season. I am happy but I also know I can do much better than that.

How do you work on those things?

Luis Martinez: Going out on the field before games and working through that. Throwing five or 10 balls down to get a feel for it.

What is the measure of success for a catcher. If an organization is looking at you, how do they determine if you are a good catcher?

Luis Martinez: How you handle the pitching staff, how you go about the game. Calling the game, how your defense is in blocking balls – there are so many things.

Do things like a won-loss record and a pitcher's ERA matter with you in the game? Is that a reflection of you?

Luis Martinez: (Hitting coordinator Tony) Muser told me this year, ‘Fifty percent of a pitcher's success and failures is on you because you are the one out there calling the game and helping them out.' Yea, it is a big part of it. I know I have to keep working on that part – helping out my pitchers, allowing them to have more success.

When an organization is calling for 20 percent changeups – is it up to you to go out there and tell someone they aren't throwing the changeup?

Luis Martinez: It is difficult, especially if it is their third best pitch and you don't want to call it when they are behind in the count. Most of the time when they are behind in the count, you are not going to call for the changeup. Some guys will shake you off – you call it again and they shake you off because they are not comfortable throwing it. It is hard in that sense. A catch-22. I try and call as many changeups as I can in a good count when they are ahead.

I don't want to get into a pattern either where a team picks it up and says, ‘When they are ahead 1-0, a changeup is coming.' It is difficult. You have to mix it in, though. At the lower levels, the Padres are big on the changeup, and for a lot of the guys it is their third best pitch. You have to find ways to work it in. It is hard at times.

How do you assess the 2009 season now that you can look back on it?

Luis Martinez: I am very happy. It was a very successful season. I still have things to work on, am still growing as a player, am still learning myself. From last year to this year, I am definitely satisfied with what I have done. Next year, I am looking forward to getting better and better.

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