Padres Spring Training Notebook

First-pitch swinging? How far does the San Diego Padres new aggressive attitude go? Minor league field coordinator Randy Johnson outlined the plan for hitters and pitchers while giving his impressions of the minicamp.

Can you talk about your first impressions of seeing the young players in the system for minicamp and the first full squad workout, which was on Monday.

Randy Johnson: Minicamp gave me a chance to see some of our younger, better players. It was an outstanding week before the pitchers and catchers showed up. I got to see and know those guys pretty well. Now, with the full squad in, it is making sure everyone knows where they are supposed to be.

It is hard for me to make any judgments on anyone this early, but there are some physical kids here. There are some multi-tool kids we are excited about. I can't wait to get the games going.

The philosophy of the previous regime was waiting for your pitch in a patient aggressive manner. While that still seems to be true, and correct me if I am wrong, we have added in being aggressive on the base paths and the small ball mentality that will work in Petco Park. Talk a little about that.

Randy Johnson: We are hitting the aggressiveness in all phases of the game. We love the patience these kids have shown but we want to turn it a little bit to the aggressive side in hitters' counts, mainly in 0-0. We want them to hit like it is a 2-0 or 3-1 pitch. If it is a good pitch – a fastball in their zone – let it rip.

I know in the past – I don't know if they were graded on how many pitches they saw but it was harped on them to see a lot of pitches. On-base percentages were high because of that but we'd like to concede a little bit of the on-base for a little higher slugging and maybe a little more damage.

Nobody walks their way to the big leagues. That is what we are trying to get across, especially to the big power guys. Walks are great, but you have to do damage to get there and stay there.

I know it is early, but has as there been any consideration to going to a six-man or eight-man rotation with a piggyback. It seems like the pitching depth is high at places like Lake Elsinore and Fort Wayne.

Randy Johnson: I heard someone mention it to me as a possibility, but I do not see it happening, at least initially. The kids we are hoping to go to Fort Wayne can handle the 135-140 innings. We have them all penciled in at a certain number of innings. Unless they are getting close at the end of the year, maybe we spread it out. We are not going to do the piggyback. I know it has been done in the past. Internally, it has been decided that they do not want to do that. We have not talked about it. It has been mentioned that it is not going to be done.

I am going into this saying no. We will go into a normal year where we have a five and maybe sixth man at times, depending on what things go on and how they map out.

What are you hoping to get out of Spring Training as far as what the message you want to get across to the players heading into the season?

Randy Johnson: Besides the aggressiveness on the hitting side, we are spending the spring being aggressive on the base paths. We know the games are close and low-scoring in Petco, and we are trying to develop kids that can do a few different things – multi-talented, not just one-dimensional. We want these kids to try and take the extra base, put pressure on the opposing defenses.

Be more aggressive at the plate – not worrying about balls that don't go out. We want line drive hitters. The home runs will take care of themselves. A line drive is a hit in Petco, just like anywhere else. Try to get away from – and the same thing happens in San Antonio when kids hit fly balls and they don't go out and get frustrated. That is the same thing they will run into in Petco if they get there. There is no use complaining about it.

Hit the ball on a line and use the whole field and good things will happen.

How do you temper the aggressiveness so it does not become recklessness?

Randy Johnson: For certain players, it is going to happen. We preached that we want them to err on the aggressive side. If you are going to take a fastball right down the middle – that is not what we want. We also don't want them swinging at sliders or breaking balls outside the zone. That is hopefully something that the more they see and experience the better they will do at it.

It is a well-known fact that 0-0 is one of the highest batting average counts in all of baseball. To go up there and take good pitches you can do some damage with is detrimental. We want to do damage, and we think 0-0 is a hitter's count.

On the pitching side, three pitches or less and first-pitch strikes seem to be carryover traits. Has there been any change in philosophy?

Randy Johnson: That is baseball – get ahead. We preach to our pitchers to get ahead, mainly with the fastball on the first pitch.

Why not (for the hitters) be up there looking for a fastball when that is what you are going to get? If you take the first pitch and are down 0-1 – that is not a good situation to be in.

On the pitching side, we want them to command their fastball and minimize the pitches – master three pitches or two pitches. We want them to be able to command one of their fastballs to both sides of the plate.

We have seen enough major leaguers to know that if you can't command your fastball, you probably aren't going to be there long – if you even get there. It is very important that you can command it to both sides and change speeds.

The changeup is still important but we want to be a fastball dominant organization.

There has been movement in putting more emphasis on holding runners at the lower levels. Is that something that will still be the case or do we worry about mechanical first and then the runners?

Randy Johnson: It is a double-edged sword there. You don't want kids that aren't ready to speed up their delivery and they end up walking the yard.

We saw what happened at the big league level a couple of years ago with everyone running all over the Padres. It is frustrating to be on that side where we watch people run and can't do anything about it to throw them out.

I know we want them to be able to hold runners better, mix in a slide step, be quicker during their normal kick. It is not something we harped on yet. If it becomes a problem or still is we will harp on it. Once we get into these games, we will see which guys need to slide step more and which guys need to pick it up a little bit.

Working with velocity and command – the other stuff may be stuff they learn down the road. For the younger kids it is fastball command.

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