On the San Diego Padres off-day in Arizona, I had the opportunity to catch up with bullpen coach Doug Bochtler. He is in his first season as the teams coach in the bullpen and he has done an outstanding job thus far. The Padres have had many issues on the team so far this season, but the bullpen has certainly not been a disappointment. You have to tip your hat to the performance of this group of players.
Despite a couple of bad games during the groups first trip to San Francisco, the bullpen has really come together and been very consistent in their efforts. The group was not supposed to be a strength this season. With the loss of Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit, many experts predicted the bullpen would be horrible. That couldn’t be further from the truth to this point. The unit has been very solid and A.J. Preller did well in restocking the group.
The team is currently in Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks in an important division series. If the Padres want to get back into the race, now is the time to step up. Both manager Andy Green and Doug Bochtler coached in the D-Back organization last year. Green was the third base coach in the major leagues while Bochtler worked as a pitching coach in the minor leagues. They know this D-Backs team.
I asked about their familiarity with the team and he indicated both he and Green do have some extensive knowledge of some of the hitters, specifically the younger ones. However they still very much rely on the advanced scouting reports. They both clearly understand that hitters make adjustments and all input regarding their current status is necessary for success in the majors.
We briefly discussed how the formulation of the scouting reports against the opposing teams hitters are created. He tells me that Green, Balsley and himself get together and go over reports as well as some updated reports from the other teams last few games. It is very interesting to hear how the Padres coaching staff conduct this process.
I wanted to get a quick sentence or two on each member of the bullpen from Doug. Just some quick thoughts about each pitcher. I asked him to just say what comes to mind and he obliged.
“Knows who he is on the mound. Knows what he needs to do to get hitters out. Terrific work ethic.”
“Effective when aggressive in the strike zone; no nibbling. High energy and very high-octane stuff.”
“Confident kid. Got an opportunity and has made the most of it. New to the league and taking advantage of that.”
“A leader for the younger guys in the pen. A professional that knows his role with the team.”
“Very valuable bullpen arm. Available to work any and all situations in the game. A thrower.”
“Maturing. Upside. Mid 90’s fastball with improving slider. Showing that he belongs at this level.”
“Willing to take the baseball in any situation. Gives you all he’s got on every performance out on the mound.”
I asked some more about Perdomo. The rule-5 kid has impressed of late and gives the Padres a decent young arm for the future. Something they sorely lack at the upper minor league levels. He indicated that Perdomo is getting used to a two-seam fastball which he has been using more recently in his appearances. Perdomo has the stuff to attack hitter and the Padres staff is trying to get him to trust his stuff more. He is also working on harnessing his split-finger fastball to give him an effective off-speed pitch.
Brad Hand was discussed next as the lefty has been impressive of late. Doug tells me that the team has worked with Hand on “staying between his lanes”. The lefty has walked fewer batters so far this season than he ever has as a professional pitcher. Hand has blossomed and Doug Bochtler deserves a lot of credit for his development. Sometimes the games mental side can be too much for these pitchers. Bochtler understands that after many seasons in the majors. He helps to calm them and allow them to trust their instincts and abilities. This is a key to be successful at this highest level of professional baseball.
In my last conversation with Doug (in March) he and Darren Balsley had just begun to work with each other. I ask him his thoughts on the Padres pitching coach and he told me
” Daren Balsley is extremely consistent with his message to the guys. His methods are also consistent and the results are obvious.”
The Padres pitching coach has a lot of respect among the coaching staff. We briefly discuss the resurgence of Drew Pomeranz and of course it comes no surprise his development is under Balsleys’ tutelage. Pomeranz has really embraced the methods of the coaching staff and his confidence is just sky high right now.
In closing I asked about the bullpens’ goals for the rest of the season. He told me that the group works best when everyone does their job and performs within their role. Too many times pitchers try to do too much and that takes away from their abilities. The goal of the group is to continue to do their job and execute. Simply put the bullpen is in great shape with Doug Bochtler at the helm.