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Hoffman's work ethic shapes Padres' bullpen

Current relievers sing praises of former closer as he readies to enter HOF
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- It's been 10 years since Trevor Hoffman last pitched for San Diego. His influence on the Padres' bullpen remains intact.

Hoffman will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y. He'll have a particularly captive audience 3,000 miles away in the home clubhouse at Petco Park.

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SAN DIEGO -- It's been 10 years since Trevor Hoffman last pitched for San Diego. His influence on the Padres' bullpen remains intact.

Hoffman will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y. He'll have a particularly captive audience 3,000 miles away in the home clubhouse at Petco Park.

View Full Game Coverage

In his role as special adviser, Hoffman is constantly around the club, making himself regularly available for questions. Even when he's not around, his presence is felt.

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Pitching coach Darren Balsley spent six seasons working with Hoffman. He learned "how the pros do it" from Hoffman, he said. Bullpen coach Doug Bochtler was Hoffman's catch partner in the mid-'90s. He pitched middle relief on the staffs anchored by Hoffman.

"He was the leader down there," Bochtler said. "His demeanor, the way he acted, it carried over to everyone. That's the biggest way he impacted what I do. I try to create the bullpen culture that we had with him."

Video: Get ready for the 2018 Hall of Fame weekend

Generally speaking, Bochtler and Balsley have maintained Hoffman's legacy. For all the Padres' struggles in the past decade, their great bullpen has become something of a tradition. This year, Padres relievers have combined for the highest fWAR in the National League.

Balsley has drawn acclaim for his ability to resurrect the careers of castoff relievers. Brad Hand and Adam Cimber went to Cleveland last week for a top prospect. Both were forgotten commodities not long ago. Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen currently anchor the Padres' bullpen. Last spring, both were available for next to nothing.

Balsley said the wisdom he imparts is a direct result of learning from Hoffman.

"I was just super lucky, because the year I came up, Trev was rehabbing, 2003, and I just got to see him work," Balsley said. "Even though he wasn't pitching, it taught me, OK, this is what the real pros do."

The Padres' current pregame training regimen is shaped by Hoffman's methods from his playing days. Hoffman conditioned early. Thus, it's no coincidence that Bochtler has his relievers on the field at 3 p.m., when they typically won't pitch for another six hours.

It's clear Hoffman has made a tangible impact on a number of the active Padres relievers, too. During Spring Training, the club penciled "Trevor Time" into its daily schedule. A group of two or three relief pitchers got the chance to pick Hoffman's brain on any subject they wanted.

In one of those sessions, Hoffman was asked for his thoughts when the bullpen doors opened. "Strike one, the whole way," was Hoffman's response. Stammen took that answer to heart. He now does the same.

Video: Trevor Hoffman to enter the 2018 Hall of Fame

"It's amazing," said Stammen. "Getting to know him and being able to talk to him about baseball and different things, he's so easy to talk to, and willing and wanting to help and make this organization better."

"You learn how to carry yourself, how to act," said righty Phil Maton. "He just personifies a big leaguer. We're very lucky to have a guy like that."

Closer Yates recalled a 2006 game in which his brother, Tyler, flew him from their hometown in Hawaii to San Diego. Tyler was pitching for the Braves, and Kirby had only just graduated high school.

"I remember getting to see Trevor come in at Petco Park when they did Trevor Time and played "Hells Bells" super loud," Yates said. "That was awesome. I remember getting goosebumps."

Now, Hoffman is accessible to Yates and the rest of the Padres' bullpen. When he isn't available, Balsley makes his impact felt.

"I share a ton of stories with the younger kids when they come up, just to explain to them what it takes," Balsley said.

Balsley's favorite Hoffman story? He recalled a game in which the Padres were losing late by about five runs.

"He's doing his same sprints in the hallway like he always did, and I was this close to saying, 'Trev, save some bullets here,'" Balsley said. "But I wasn't going to say that to Trevor Hoffman. He treated it like we were winning by one run, even though we were down by a lot. ... Lo and behold, we come back, take the lead. He was ready. That one time out of a hundred, he was ready. He was always ready. He went out and got the save. That's when I knew, 'OK, this is how the pros do it.'"

"Follow him around for one day," Balsley added. "And you'd know he was a Hall of Famer -- even if you never saw him pitch an inning."

Noteworthy
• Right-hander Bryan Mitchell (right elbow impingement) threw three simulated innings on Friday afternoon at Petco Park. He's likely slated for a four-inning rehab start at one of the Padres' affiliates next week.

• Righty Jordan Lyles has struggled mightily in his two rehab starts with Triple-A El Paso, allowing 11 runs over 5 2/3 innings. As a result, he's due for at least one more rehab outing as he works his way back from right elbow inflammation.

• Lefty Jose Castillo (right hamstring strain) worked scoreless innings for Triple-A El Paso on Wednesday and Thursday. He was back with the Padres on Friday and could be activated as soon as Saturday.

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

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