It wasn’t Austin Hedges’ time two seasons in the past, when the Padres, prompted by a scarcity of depth, introduced him as much as the majors and proceeded to start out him roughly as soon as every week. It wasn’t his time final April, when, regardless of a powerful spring, he reported to Triple-A El Paso. Nor was it his time all through the summer time, as he returned from hamate-bone surgical procedure to mash Pacific Coast League pitching and continued to earn rave evaluations.
Now, his time has arrived. Derek Norris, who began forward of Hedges in 2015, was traded to Washington this month, and, barring a shock, Hedges will catch the Padres’ first pitch of 2017.
Even when nearly all of his service time has been spent on the bench, the 24-yr-previous technically shed his prospect standing final yr. But he retains a few of these qualities, like the truth that he’s nonetheless awaiting his first substantial alternative on the main league degree. By subsequent April, that may change.
“He goes in clearly because the clear frontrunner,” supervisor Andy Inexperienced stated Tuesday at Colina Del Sol Park.
As a part of their group caravan, the Padres have been collaborating in a baseball clinic hosted by STAR/PAL. These available included Hedges, outfielders Alex Dickerson and Hunter Renfroe and senior advisor Trevor Hoffman. Instantly after Inexperienced launched himself, it was Hedges’ flip to deal with a gaggle of youngsters clad in yellow-and-brown jerseys.
With pitching the Padres’ most urgent query for 2017, a younger roster will lean closely on its main catcher. For an group that has plunged into an prolonged rebuild, a superb begin behind the plate would go a great distance.
“I feel what he must do is take command of the group from a management perspective, and I do know that’s very troublesome if you’re brief on time served within the main leagues,” Inexperienced stated. “However if you’re within the catching place, the shortstop place, these are positions of authority on the baseball subject the place you’ve obtained to return in and assist pitchers, deal with pitchers, speak to pitchers with confidence and never fear about how a lot time you will have on a serious league area proper now. I feel he’s obtained a few of these qualities which are intrinsic to him. Now it’s about letting these come out on the main league degree.”
Under that, Hedges has nothing left to show. The previous second-spherical draft decide appeared to shut the hole between his offense and protection final season, hitting .326 with 21 house runs for El Paso. Most scouts consider he’ll all the time be a glove-first catcher — between 2015 and final September, Hedges batted .161 in 161 huge-league at-bats — however on a regular basis alternatives ought to present a more true check.
“I feel I’m extraordinarily ready, and I feel that’s what this offseason’s for,” Hedges stated. “I’ve been at Petco day-after-day, been within the weight room, talked with the blokes, talked with the coaches, simply making an attempt to get on the identical web page. Making an attempt to determine that position so if you get into the season everyone is aware of who our guys are. And I hope I’m that man. I’m able to go.”
Who precisely will probably be throwing to Hedges and certain backup Christian Bethancourt stays to be decided. The Padres left the winter conferences final week with a greater sense of the free-agent market, although they’ve but to strike a serious league deal. Luis Perdomo, a rookie final season, and Christian Friedrich, a minor league signee final spring, are probables for the 2017 rotation. After that, there are three query marks.
The Padres, who might wind up spending extra money on their 2016-17 worldwide class than on main league payroll, absolutely intend to train restraint.
“It’s been a reasonably thorough course of, wanting on the listing of men which are obtainable, what worth vary we’re prepared to play in,” Inexperienced stated. “We have now our most popular targets in that vary, and we even have to attend for them to return at a price that we need to pay them.”
In the meantime, Hedges ought to quickly shed the “catcher of the longer term” label.
“I simply need to get a bit of bit higher every single day,” Hedges stated. “I’m not going out and making an attempt to show something to anyone. I simply need to go and assist the group win. I don’t care what meaning — if it’s offensive, if it’s defensive. Hopefully it’s the entire package deal.”
The Padres’ group outreach will proceed Wednesday, with the staff scheduled to host sufferers and households from Rady Youngsters’s Hospital on the Liberty Station ice skating rink. The caravan, billed as “10 Days of Giving,” will conclude Friday.