Plantier already working hard to boost offense
New Padres hitting coach getting head start on camp
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are apparently extremely serious about improving their sickly offense from last season, so much so that new hitting coach Phil Plantier said recently he is willing to go to great lengths to ensure such gains.
How far? That depends on what week it is for Plantier, who has been busy since he was hired to replace Randy Ready on Oct. 30.
Consider that on Thursday, Plantier got on a plane bound for Tennessee to work with and talk hitting with two players -- infielders Chase Headley and Logan Forsythe.
This is not the first time this winter that Plantier, a veteran of eight Major League seasons including four with the Padres, has gotten on a plane to meet with and talk hitting with some players in advance of Spring Training next month.
"Fortunately, the Padres have been very supportive about getting me in contact with the players, allowing me to take trips to see them at their home," Plantier said.
"In one way or another, I've been able to see a lot of guys. It's face-to-face time and an opportunity for us to build a foundation going forward."
Position players don't report to the Padres' Spring Training facility in Arizona until Feb. 22, but Plantier wasn't willing to wait that long to get started.
Really, he said, he couldn't, not with so many new faces and surely not after a forgettable season for the Padres, who stumbled to a 71-91 record in large part because of their offensive struggles.
How bad was it?
The Padres are coming off a season where they ranked 28th out of 30 Major League teams in runs and on-base percentage and 29th in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
The team also had the second-most strikeouts in the big leagues (1,320), only three fewer than the Nationals (1,323).
"There's no secret that this team didn't score enough runs last year and struck out far too much," Plantier said. "The bottom line, this game is about scoring runs on the offensive side. There are a lot of things we can do better.
"The quality of at-bats needs to improve and the hard-contact rate needs to improve. I don't think there is one magic formula that you can apply and everything works. I do believe it's working with each guy one guy at a time."
Which is why it's not uncommon to see Plantier working in the batting cage inside Petco Park, plugging away with players who have come to town or with the handful of players who live locally, such as outfielder Will Venable.
"He's a cage rat, he loves being in the cage, he loves being around guys hitting," Venable said of Plantier. "I think he has the right combination of the right ideas of enthusiasm for hitting and the knowledge of the game and dedication to be available for everyone."
Even if it means being available for more conversation at this point than offering any mechanical advice.
"The most important thing now is listening to what they have to say," Plantier said. "A lot of times, they have the answers. It's a matter of organizing those thoughts and also helping them get a plan to go forward with. I've found the most valuable time is when they're talking to me.
"I believe if you put yourself together right during the offseason, it will help when Spring Training rolls around since you'll already have your foundation."
Plantier said that he is itching to get to Peoria, Ariz., for the start of Spring Training, where he and new assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell will get more face time -- and cage time -- with hitters in preparation for Opening Day.
"I'm excited," Plantier said. "I think we got a lot better this offseason. The acquisition of the new players, the depth we have ... it's going to create a competitive environment in Spring Training. I think that's good for the players.
"I couldn't be happier with the players being receptive to me and the work ethic they have shown so far."