SAN DIEGO -- For years, as Austin Hedges was coming through the Padres' system, his wizardry behind the plate was his calling card. Any power he could add with the bat was supposed to be a bonus.Yet two months into his first season as a Major League starter, Hedges is
SAN DIEGO -- For years, as Austin Hedges was coming through the Padres' system, his wizardry behind the plate was his calling card. Any power he could add with the bat was supposed to be a bonus.
Yet two months into his first season as a Major League starter, Hedges is already threatening franchise home-run history. In Saturday's 10-1 loss to the Rockies, Hedges launched his third tater in his last three starts and his 11th of the season, tying him with the Royals' Salvador Perez for the most by a catcher.
Just 57 games into the year, Hedges is halfway to the franchise record for most home runs by a catcher. Mike Piazza went deep 22 times in 2006, and only two other backstops -- Terry Kennedy and Gene Tenace -- have cracked the 20-homer threshold for San Diego.
This for a player who had never eclipsed 10 homers in a single year until he made a swing tweak at the start of the 2016 campaign. After the addition of a leg kick, Hedges went deep 21 times for Triple-A El Paso.
"That's probably a big part of it," said Padres manager Andy Green of Hedges' swing alteration. "He comes out of nowhere last year and hits 20 home runs. He's on pace for every bit of that this year. He's a timing-and-rhythm guy. If he's on time, he hits balls incredibly hard."
He did just that Saturday, turning around a 1-0 cutter from Tyler Chatwood and sending it off the facing of the Western Metal Building's second deck. It was the only offense the Padres would muster on the afternoon.
Earlier this week, Hedges found himself mired in a 4-for-32 slump. He has since busted out of it with five hits in his past three games. As Green was quick to point out, Hedges' fortunes at the plate are generally tied to his timing.
"All the timing starts, really, before I even swing," Hedges said. "If I start on time, when the pitcher comes at me and I put myself in a good position to hit, I recognize the ball better and can put a better pass on it."
On the whole, Hedges' offensive numbers aren't where he'd like them to be, following his slow start to the season. He's hitting 218/.270/.455 over 179 plate appearance.
Still, seemingly out of nowhere, he finds himself on pace for 31 homers. No player has caught at least 100 games and eclipsed 30 dingers since Jorge Posada and Javy Lopez did that in 2003.
"I've been trying to slow it down a bit," Hedges said of his recent surge. "I feel like I've been a little rushed at the plate. But I think it just comes down to seeing the ball better, slowing things down and putting better swings on it."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.