SAN ANTONIO — If there’s one thing that the Padres have consistently been able to do, it turns relative unknown bullpen arms into legit major league contributors. With the trade deadline looming and relievers like Brad Hand and Kirby Yates on the trade block, it’s worth noting that there are still some minor leaguers ready to step up should a vacancy in San Diego open up.
Among those is righty Robert Stock. Signed by the Padres last November, Stock was originally drafted in the 2nd round by the Cardinals in 2009 – as a catcher. In 2012, he made the transition to pitching, which has taken him to the Pirates and Reds organizations, as well as the independent leagues and Mexico.
Today, he reached the first of his biggest goals; he got called up to the big leagues.
After a strong showing in Spring Training this year, Stock began the year in Double-A San Antonio (where we spoke to him before his promotion to Triple-A El Paso). In the Texas League, he posted a 2.00 ERA in eight outings (nine innings), where he struck out 15 batters against three walks. He’s continued his success, to the tune of a 1.93 ERA and a .177 batting average against. After a month in the bullpen, he began to earn consistent save opportunities and has racked up seven for the Chihuahuas, along with an impressive 15 K/9 rate.
MadFriars: This Missions team is pretty young, among the youngest in the league. You are… not one of the youngest players in the league. How does that dynamic play out in the clubhouse?
Robert Stock: I think it’s pretty seamless. I think maybe if it was other old guys that aren’t me, they might bash heads, but I’m not a grumpy old guy. There might be some music out of the clubhouse that I’ll be like, ‘Really, is this what we’re listening to?’
So if you were in charge of the clubhouse, what would you be listening to?
Robert Stock: We’d be listening to Led Zepplin and Radiohead, but I wouldn’t put that music on other people since I know that’s not what they like. Recently, our post-victory game is the yodel kid remix. It’s like a dubstep version.
Wow, that’s… something. Anyways, you were originally drafted by the Cardinals as a catcher – what prompted the change to a pitcher?
Robert Stock: I was in big league training camp as a catcher in 2012, and (Cardinals manager Mike) Matheny called me into his office and said “Hey, we’re changing you into a pitcher,” so it was nothing of my doing, I didn’t really have an option.
There are currently three catchers on this Missions team, but if something were to happen to all three of them, could you step back in behind the plate?
Robert Stock: Oh, I’ve already had that conversation with (Missions manager Phillip) Wellman, I’d love to go back there and catch an inning.
For those that don’t know, what is your repertoire out there on the mound?
Robert Stock: Fastball, slurve (slider/changeup/curve), and changeup.
I think most fans know that you’re able to hit 100 MPH, did you do that for the first time before or after you joined the Padres organization?
Robert Stock: I signed with the Padres in November, when I was playing for Tony Tarasco, who is a field coordinator in the Padres system. At the time, I hadn’t hit 100, and then I went home (in December) and was throwing bullpens with my brother, working on velocity, and I started throwing 100. So the Padres didn’t sign me because I could throw 100, it happened after the fact.
Does having a catching background affect your pitching at all?
Robert Stock: If I had really good command, it would, but there’s no point in knowing that “Oh, if I can go up and in and then follow that up with a pitch low and away,” because you have to be able to do it, so… no, not really.
You pitched this winter with the Charros de Jalisco. As a big fan of the Liga Mexicana del Pacífico, I’d love to hear how that experience was for you? How would you compare the level of competition in the Mexican winter league to the Texas League?
Robert Stock: That was extremely enjoyable, not only for the competition but also for the life experience, seeing an entirely different culture and how they play baseball. It’s so hard to compare the two leagues because you’ll have guys that are 34-years-old and really craft and smart and experienced but don’t have the same physical capabilities as, you know, a 20-year-old in this league.
You can stick them together and the older guy might win because he’s more experienced or the young guy might win because he just has more talent.
What was that experience like in Spring Training, getting to throw against major leaguers?
That was a blast. Getting to face the heart of the Cubs order or the Dodgers order, that’s something that, even though I’m older, I’ve never even played in Triple-A, so getting to test your chops against guys you watch on TV, there’s nothing more fun than that.
Here you go. Enjoy! pic.twitter.com/FStkUjZtjx
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 8, 2018
At the start of the season, some thought you had an outside chance at making the big league squad. Did they give you some things to improve on or to work on while you’re here in Double-A?
Robert Stock: Yeah, my off-speed pitches, and I couldn’t agree more. The moment that I’m in there pitching, the hitter looks at the board and goes “This guy’s throwing really fast, I’m going to get ready to hit something fast.” I gave up a home run last night, where I think that if I could just throw over a breaking ball, it makes it a lot easier for me.
There’s a guy that used to pitch for the Padres, Trevor Hoffman, and he had a pretty good changeup. Have you worked with him on that at all?
Robert Stock: Yeah, in Spring Training, we definitely talked about that, and he impressed on me how good a changeup can be right-on-right (right-handed pitcher vs. right-handed batter) because it’s not a pitch that they see as often, and I could definitely incorporate that more.
I saw on Twitter that your favorite taco place is now in Little Rock, Arkansas. Have you tried any places in the San Diego area?
Robert Stock: I haven’t tried anything in San Diego, but I’m from Los Angeles, and they’ve got some good taco places there. When I went down to Mexico, it was just a different style of taco, where it’s mostly just tortilla, meat, and salsa, and this place I went to in Little Rock, the blend of everything I really liked, even though it was as far from authentic Mexican food as you can get, I still enjoyed it.
I never would have thought I'd find my new favorite taco joint (Tacos4Life) in Little Rock, Arkansas but here we are.
— Robert Stock (@RobertStock6) April 7, 2018
You also mentioned on Twitter that you’re an avid reader, do you have any good baseball books that you recommend?
Robert Stock: I can’t recommend any baseball books. I don’t read baseball books.
So what do you read then?
Robert Stock: Game of Thrones is technically called A Song of Ice and Fire, and I’ve got a Lord of the Rings tattoo because I love Lord of the Rings so much, so fantasy books. Also, for instance, the movie Interstellar that came out, Kip Thorn is the physicist that they consulted for all the science of it, and he wrote a book afterward explaining how everything in the movie had a scientific basis for being possible, so it’s a really interesting read.
I haven’t been in the clubhouse after a game yet, are you the only one with a Lord of the Rings tattoo, or are there others?
Robert Stock: I highly doubt that anybody else has a tattoo based on any books… I guess maybe The Bible, but that’s it.