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Gyorko eager to work with Cabrera at camp

Padres' slugging second baseman looks to keep improving defensively

SAN DIEGO -- The bat has always been Jedd Gyorko's calling card, and his first season in the big leagues was no different.

Gyorko, despite missing a month with a groin injury, became the fifth rookie second baseman in Major League history to hit 20 or more home runs when he hit 23 of them for the Padres in 2013.

What might have been lost among the offensive accolades during Gyorko's rookie season was the work he did defensively, playing a position that was fairly new to him.

Of National League second basemen to have played 90 or more games, Gyorko had the second-fewest amount of errors (four). While he didn't score highly in the defensive metric ultimate zone rating, a mark that had him at minus-three, he impressed the organization with his footwork and glove.

"Jedd reads the ball off the bat really well, and he's got very good hands," said Padres third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, who works with the infielders. "That helps him tremendously in the middle part of the field. He's got good body balance, so when he has to go on the ground for the ball he's got such a good feel that he can make an accurate throw from his knees."

Gyorko, a third baseman by trade who started playing second base in 2012 in the Minor Leagues, spent a lot of time last Spring Training with Double-A San Antonio manager Rich Dauer, who was considered one of the top defensive second basemen in the game when he played for the Orioles.

"He's improved a lot around the bag," Hoffman said. "Earlier in the year, [shortstop Everth Cabrera] threw a bullet to him at second base, and he handled it. That caught my eye. That showed me the quickness that he would have. Working together, they're only going to get better."

Gyorko enjoyed working with Cabrera, even though the two weren't in the lineup together as often as they would have liked.

Gyorko went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin on June 10 and didn't return until July 12. Cabrera missed three weeks with a strained left hamstring between June 19 and July 5. He was then suspended for the final 50 games of the season on Aug. 5 after violating baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

"Toward the middle of last season, we were getting pretty comfortable with each other," Gyorko said. "Then I got hurt, he got hurt and then he had his situation and we lost all of that cohesiveness."

That's one reason Gyorko is looking forward to the start of Spring Training, when he can get a chance to get on a practice field with Cabrera and work with Hoffman and Dauer. They will work on timing around the second-base bag, learning each other's range and other infield factors.

"It's huge, having that [cohesiveness]," Gyorko said. "I think we're to the point where each other is going to be. So it's getting that back. We were working really well together as far as knowing where we needed to be. I don't think it will take that long to get back to where we need to be."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.

San Diego Padres, Jedd Gyorko