Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Padres rave about Hedges' work behind plate

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- For the first week and a half of the season, Austin Hedges didn't hit much of anything. For the last week and a half, he's hit just about everything.

Through his early struggles -- and now his recent hot streak -- Hedges hasn't wavered behind the plate. In the long term, there are still plenty of questions about Hedges' impact at the dish. There are significantly fewer questions about his impact behind it.

View Full Game Coverage

SAN DIEGO -- For the first week and a half of the season, Austin Hedges didn't hit much of anything. For the last week and a half, he's hit just about everything.

Through his early struggles -- and now his recent hot streak -- Hedges hasn't wavered behind the plate. In the long term, there are still plenty of questions about Hedges' impact at the dish. There are significantly fewer questions about his impact behind it.

View Full Game Coverage

Pitching coach Darren Balsley has raved about Hedges' defense and his ability to handle the Padres' staff. In fact, Balsley already trusts Hedges enough that he's allowing the 24-year-old to essentially run the pregame meetings with that day's starting pitcher.

"There's natural, extreme talent there," said Balsley. "He catches the ball great, has a cannon, is a good blocker, always has been. He does his homework. As far as our game plans are concerned, he's taken more responsibility in it when we have our meetings pregame. I actually let him run our pregame, and I'll add in when I can."

To a man, the Padres pitching staff raves about working with Hedges, and recent results have backed his ability behind the plate. Hedges caught four consecutive quality efforts from his starters before being given Sunday off.

"He puts in the work, watching the film and reading the scouting reports," said veteran left-hander Clayton Richard. "He knows the numbers and the game plan and he also knows the pitchers, our traits. There's a better bond between the catcher and pitcher because of all the knowledge he has."

Said Jhoulys Chacin: "He's never out of the game. He starts 0-for-20 or something like that. But he's always doing something for the pitchers. He's always doing something to help the team. He wasn't thinking about him. He was thinking about the 12 pitchers that he has. That's something that you have to appreciate."

Video: SF@SD: Green talks Chacin's start, Hedges' defense

Hedges has only thrown out two runners this season, but his opponents have only attempted eight steals in the 139 innings he's caught. In Balsley's eyes, Hedges' arm scares opponents enough that his pitching staff can maintain its primary focus on the hitter.

That's not the only benefit of having Hedges behind the plate.

"Man on third, a lot of our guys have good breaking balls, there is no hesitation for them to throw it," Balsley said. "They know he's going to block it."

Through three weeks, Hedges leads all Major League catchers with three defensive runs saved. To be fair, the sample size is far too small to draw any serious conclusions.

But the early data seems to back everything the Padres said about Hedges' abilities. They only just handed him the keys to the position this past offseason.

Even those numbers don't quantify Hedges' effect on the pitchers.

"They trust the fingers he puts down," said Padres manager Andy Green. "That's what you want. I think every last one of them does. ... People trust him because he does his work."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Austin Hedges