Padres Prospect Interview: Luis Martinez

San Antonio, TX: Catcher Luis Martinez was drafted in the 12th-round of the 2007 draft out of Cumberland University by the Padres, a small NAIA school in Lebanon, Tennessee. Martinez, 25, has always been known as a strong defensive catcher with the ability to put the ball in play and draw some walks.

Last year with the Lake Elsinore Storm, Martinez hit .300/.389/.414 and this year he has been off to a strong start in San Antonio, including April when he hit .340/.410/.509.

You are hitting as well as you ever have in your career and this is supposed to be the most difficult place in the organization to hit. What happened?

Luis Martinez: I try not to do too much and know that my strength is going the other way. When I go up there, I am looking middle and middle out. If it is early in the count then I'm not going to swing at it if its not where I want it.

I thought most of the guys in Double-A would be a little more consistent on the inner half of the plate and it really hasn't worked out that way. Most of the time when you go up there, teams are trying to pitch you away and it has worked out for me.

It also helps me stay on off-speed a little longer. I know the wind blows in here, but I have more of a line drive swing so it really doesn't affect me as much.

The Padres are always big on being selective at the plate, which they measure in walks. They are up this is that the result of you being more selective at the plate?

Luis Martinez: Actually, this year I have been a little more aggressive you know the new approach being "aggressively-patient" instead of "patiently-aggressive". So far it's worked out for me. This year if I see a pitch that I think I can drive, I'm going after it even if its early in the count.

It doesn't seem like that big a change between the two. It seems like the key is to still swing at good pitches.

Luis Martinez: Oh yeah, they are very close. You can't just go up there and start hacking. You need a game plan, especially in looking for a pitch you can drive.

I think we could be doing a better job, especially with the talent that we have here and it will come.

What makes this place so tough to hit. It seems like not only do the winds blow in but they swirl which keeps quite a few balls in the air.

Luis Martinez: We have quite a few lefties and the wind comes in from right-center so that affects them, so its pretty tough.

As a catcher you spend so much time around pitchers how much does that help you as a hitter?

Luis Martinez: It helps quite a bit. You are in the game every play and you pick up what they are trying to do as a team and individually. So you may pick up things a little quicker than a position player because you are so involved with your own team's pitcher in trying to pitch to strengths and staying away from patterns.

To me, its amazing what you and Mitch Canham go through everyday. You catch bullpens, do weight work, have individual catching sessions, infield and then have BP; how do you keep that much energy?

Luis Martinez: [laughs] It really is tough with the Texas heat, and its only going to get worse. You try to get your rest and eat as much as you can. You can't really go out partying and drinking too much after the games because it will catch up with you. We are the first ones out here with the pitchers and be as strong mentally as you are physically. That is the job description that comes with being a catcher.

How do you balance between defense and offense? When you talk to coaches and managers, the first emphasis is always on how you call games, block balls in the dirt and so on; but if you are doing all of those things well and hitting .180 then no one cares?

Luis Martinez: No one cares, but if you are hitting .180, it's even that much more pressure. You have to learn how to separate offense from defense. You might have a bad day at the plate, but you can't take that out on defense. You have to think about what this hitter does and how to pitch to the next guy on deck, what pitch is working today and which one isn't.

To me, there is so much to do behind the plate I really don't get a chance to think about my hitting.

What is the toughest part of being a catcher?

Luis Martinez: For me, its the mental part because you are just so mentally drained after every game. Sure your body is tired, but if you take care of yourself with your stretching, workouts and ice afterwards, you are going to be ok.

With the mental part, you have to do so much the day before the game, what they hit, what they don't and your own pitching staff.

Who is the most underrated player and why?

Luis Martinez: We have a lot of talent on this team and I think the most underrated is Andy Parrino. He is always working and in early just trying to get better. He's been pretty hot every since he got here. He can play all over the field and he even pitched for us last year in Lake Elsinore, but I don't think that was his best position [laughs].

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