Padres Prospect Interview: Robert Lara

San Diego Padres prospect Robert Lara struggled in minimal playing time last season. Given a bigger role this year, he has rebounded. But, he realizes he has to learn from the experiences of the 2009 season, especially if he finds himself in a part-time role in the future.

Obviously a great 104-win team last year and a first half title this season. Do you actually look at some of that stuff, the things the pitchers actually do? You're a part of that, too.

Robert Lara: Oh, of course, especially when you start to realize how many scoreless games you've caught and stuff like that. Last year, we worked so well together, the team. We had really good arms. The way we communicated, with certain pitches, mistakes, why did you throw this, why did you shake me off on that. That's the fun part, when you get to learn what guys like to throw on certain counts and you actually perform them. That's the cool part.

Where's the balance between looking at a hitter to see what he does, but you know the pitcher's strength? Where's the balance between pitching to the hitter's weakness versus pitching to the pitcher's strength.

Robert Lara: Oh no. You always pitch to his strength. Even if you're facing someone real hot, he still has to hit it. If his strength is going inside, you've got to go inside. So, you have to pitch more to his strength. Obviously, if a guy is 10-for-10, you have to make some adjustments here and there. You definitely have to call your game based on who's on the mound, what he likes to do, and what his best pitches are in certain counts, whether he likes to go in, likes to go away. You have to go from there. Hitting is too hard. Pitchers need to know that. Last year, we made that point clear. Hey, hitting's too hard, don't give them too much credit. Who cares if they're on a 9-for -10 run. Keep going right after them and pitch your game.

Last year's playoffs, 10th inning homer. Was that the highlight of the season?

Robert Lara: It was the highlight of my career so far. It was a pretty miserable season for me. Offensive-wise, I didn't do what I did my first year. It was kind of humbling. I worked so hard, and when I hit that homerun, it was just so much relief. After that, I did so well.

Then, the season was over.

Robert Lara: Yeah, the season was over and you have to start back up. Especially for that city. That city is unbelievable. They come out. Obviously, we had a new stadium and we were winning. The way they treated us. They loved us, and we loved it and we loved them.

How do you not put so much pressure on yourself, especially with not knowing what kind of playing time? Last year, the playing time affected you a little bit. You can tell me if that's a fair assessment or not.

Robert Lara: No, it is. It's very fair. My whole life, I've always been the guy. Especially with my first year, I did well. I thought maybe I deserved to be the guy. But, I wasn't. I grew up so much from that last season. Okay, you're the backup. So, what? You still have at-bats. When I went to go get an at-bat, I would try to get five hits in one at-bat. I just went downhill from there. The frustration got over me. Last year, I learned a lot. I definitely grew up a lot more in one whole year than I have in my whole young maturity life. It was definitely an eye opener in how things run. I have no regrets. I know I did bad, but I finished off well.

You struggled a little against right-handed pitching. You're obviously a right-handed hitter. Was there something specific you can pinpoint there?

Robert Lara: Yeah, I felt like I was cheating a lot. When you're doing well, it doesn't matter who's on the mound, even if it's a righty. There were a lot of times, I was trying to get pull happy. They noticed that, and they started throwing me away more. Towards the end, I felt more comfortable. When I'm hitting the ball right field, that's when I know I'm on it and I'm doing well. It was just all around not very good. Not very good at all.

On the mound, you were really good. Two innings pitched 5Ks. Did you joke around with the other pitchers, be like, "What you got?"

Robert Lara: Of course. You have to do that. Especially I did that. It also helped a lot of guys. They saw, ‘Hey man, it's not that hard.' It is hard, but when you go on the mound and you have the ball. If you bring it a little bit, the hitter has to hit the ball. You just throw it.

Were you bringing it?

Robert Lara: Low-90s. I can get it up there.

They saw that and said, ‘If he can do it.' Even the guys that were struggling. It helped a lot of guys. That was fun. I used to pitch back in high school. I know I have the arm strength to get on the mound. Hopefully, I won't have to get to that. Hopefully, I can hold my own on the plate.

Were you happy with the called stealing numbers?

Robert Lara: I'm pretty sure I threw out over 40 percent, and that was my goal. My goal was 50%, but that's pretty unrealistic.

I think they were mid-30s or something.

Robert Lara: I wasn't sure, but I was always striving for 50. If you can strive for a big number, I know I can throw guys out, pick guys off and stuff like that.

Where do the improvements have to come defensively?

Robert Lara: I have to do a better job. Last year, there were a lot of times where I was frustrated hitting. I went out there and I've never done that before. I have to do a little better job with that. Obviously, every catcher has to be better at blocking and receiving. When it comes to knowing the pitcher and calling the game, I'm pretty confident in that. Throwing guys out, I know I can do that. Obviously, you have to stay intact with the blocking and receiving. Last year, what I learned a lot was being buddy-buddy with the umpire. I did a real good job of that last year. That's a big key. You really don't think about it, but if that guy's real comfortable with you catching there, he's going to call a lot more strikes.

We all know you have a lot of great teammates and this does not take away from anyone you don't mention. If you could have one hitter hitting behind you in the lineup all season to offer protection, who would it be and why?

Robert Lara: I'd take Adrian Gonzalez. But, he's in the Big League. That's tough. I'd probably take Little Oompa Loompa, Jaff Decker. He played with me in Arizona, and then last year. He has such great plate coverage. I mean, you could take James Darnell, Logan Forsythe, Matt Clark, all of them. If I was to pick one, it would probably be Decker.

Who is the one pitcher you are glad you have as a teammate and why?

Robert Lara: I'm probably the best buddy-buddy with Brad Brach, our closer. He's a great guy. Simon Castro is unbelievable. He was really well raised by his parents. He's a great guy all around. Plus, he just has unbelievable stuff. Everyone here is a really great guy. Probably those two.

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