PEORIA, Ariz. -- Earlier this spring, after a single by an unnamed Padre, first-base coach Skip Schumaker gave the player a hard thump on the ribs and told him, "Good job." Everyone on the Padres' bench knew what had gone unspoken."You just knew that slap was his way of saying,
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Earlier this spring, after a single by an unnamed Padre, first-base coach Skip Schumaker gave the player a hard thump on the ribs and told him, "Good job." Everyone on the Padres' bench knew what had gone unspoken.
"You just knew that slap was his way of saying, 'Hit the bag with the right foot,'" outfielder Travis Jankowski said. "He's very, very particular on doing the small stuff right. He expects you to do it right every single time."
The Padres are unquestionably a different team than they were last season. San Diego signed Eric Hosmer. The club traded for Chase Headley, Freddy Galvis and Bryan Mitchell. There's a new hitting coach in Matt Stairs.
Compared to those moves, Schumaker's presence might seem minor. But considering his responsibilities, it's clear he has a chance to make an impact.
Schumaker has been charged with overseeing the Padres' outfield defense. That means molding William Myers, Hunter Renfroe and Jose Pirela -- all gifted athletes without an extensive big league outfield pedrigree. It means raising Manuel Margot and perhaps Franchy Cordero and Jankowski to an elite level.
Schumaker has also been charged with overseeing the team's baserunning. The Padres are arguably the fastest team in the Majors, but they have been reckless on the bases and often underperformed.
"He's said we need to be the best baserunning team in baseball," Myers said. "We're too good not to be. He has these high expectations for us, and he does a good job of getting everyone to buy into them."
Myers' transition to right field was the first task placed upon Schumaker this spring. They have spent hours together after morning workouts going over wall balls, footwork and other minutiae of the position.
The two don't have an extensive history. Schumaker came to Padres camp in 2016 and retired in early March when it was evident he wouldn't make the team.
"He was one of my favorite teammates I ever had, and I only had him for half of Spring Training," Myers said. "There's so much I can learn from him."
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Schumaker takes his cues from longtime Cardinals coach Dave McKay, who also oversaw outfield and baserunning in St. Louis.
"Dave McKay is by far the best outfield instructor, the best baserunning coach I've ever had," Schumaker said. "For me to come up in his system, I'd be lost without him. I wouldn't be where I am today. I'm going to mimick everything he does: detail, accountability, don't let anything slide."
Manager Andy Green has long praised Schumaker's baseball acumen. He has wanted Schumaker around since his retirement.
After three months off, Schumaker signed on as an advisor in June 2016. Two years later, he finally committed to a role on Green's coaching staff.
"He's got an edge, he's got consistency and he's got knowledge," Green said. "Those three things line up."
Meanwhile, there's plenty of debate regarding Schumaker's "right foot on the bag" approach. Some coaches merely tell their players not to break stride. Schumaker argues that runners can do both, and he has a trove of data to back up his assertion.
Schumaker's point has clearly resonated. On Sunday, Myers homered and touched second base with his left foot. On a home run trot -- of course -- the Padres' staff didn't mind. But Myers' own teammates gave him grief upon his return to the dugout.
"It's a culture setter, too," Green said. "We have an expectation to manage the little things. At the end of the day, 'right foot on the base' says we have an identity we want to maintain."
With untapped potential on the basepaths and in the outfield, the Padres have long searched for that kind of identity.
"For a club like us," Headley said, "those little things will win games and lose games."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.