FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Anthony Contreras is entering his fourth season of managing in the Summit City and fifth with the Padres after beginning his career with the AZL Padres. He is only 34 and played in the Padres system from 2009 to 2013 as a middle infielder and is young enough that we even interviewed him once as a player when he played with the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2008.
MadFriars’ Travis Barnet had an interview with him earlier this year, this one was done in mid-June.
MadFriars: Nick Margevicius has had a really nice year with the TinCaps. What do you see with him?
Anthony Contreras: To begin I think just the way he prepares himself for his starts. He is very routine oriented both on his off-days and the day he has to pitch.
He does the same thing each time and it carries a lot of weight because it translates onto the field. He’s very competitive out there and really locked in. You see a lot of young pitchers they can lock it in for a few innings, but then it stops so they are constantly going through this rollercoaster
Nick, for the most part, doesn’t do that. He’s on point from the first pitch.
Since he’s developed his curveball a little more, it’s helped him. He’s always been able to command his fastball, but from what I understand because I wasn’t with him last year, it’s a lot sharper. He can throw it for strikes or drop it in the dirt, which goes along well with his changeup.
For us, he’s a kind of top of the rotation guy. He’s very intelligent and really understands the game plan. Because of that, he has an ability to go deep into games.
As a lefty, does he have a cutter or two-seamer with some run to go along with his four-seam fastball? Or is that not really your focus at this level?
Anthony Contreras: At this point, you are trying to establish command, that is our first priority here. I’ve played catch with him a few times and he has a natural two-seam run to his fastball. As for cutters that is usually developed later in their careers.
Right now we are really happy with the way he is executing his pitches.
[Editor’s note: Nick Margevicius has since been promoted to High-A Lake Elsinore.]
I saw Osvaldo Hernandez last year at both Tri-Cites and Fort Wayne. Ben Fritz, his manager with the Dust Devils, said that they were working on getting him to focus more on throwing his fastball and cutting down on the number of pitches that he throws.
Is that a change he has made this year?
Anthony Contreras: I think we were more concerned with the number of pitches he was throwing as opposed to what he was throwing. Our pitching coach Burt Hooten has done a great job at recognizing what type of pitcher he is and Osvaldo has a tendency to work fast because he is a very athletic and energetic kid.
You have to be able to harness that energy and get it going in the right direction. If you don’t you start rushing your mechanics and spraying them through the strike zone. Burt has implemented some things to help him calm down, stay in rhythm and in control. When you see that he is a lot more consistent with his pitches regardless of what he throws.
Both Luis Patino and MacKenzie Gore are extremely athletic pitchers and can repeat their deliveries very well. What do you see?
Anthony Contreras: MacKenzie has a very unusual delivery but he is able to repeat it and has been very successful in doing it. He throws well and looks like a position player when he’s on the mound in his ability to field his position.
Luis is the same way, and Osvaldo is also like that. Luis [Patino] actions in the field are that of a middle infielder and is really sure-footed. I’ve even seen him juggle a soccer ball and kick it around, and he looks like a soccer player too.
The Padres like athleticism in players and we try to expand and see what we can get in the whole package.
Gabriel Arias is a lot of fun to watch defensively, what does he need to do to become a better hitter?
Anthony Contreras: He needs to become more consistent at finding the barrel. He’s trying to find a batting stance and a swing that is consistent. He has always been very good at going opposite field the other way. He’s now learning how to pull the ball the right way.
He knows that he needs to get better at using the whole field and finding a better two-strike approach. He’s starting to understand what they are trying to do to him better and when you are able to do that you are able to lock in and wait for your pitch more effectively.
He’s been having slow progress, but he is making steady progress each day.
This trip I was really impressed with the all-around game of your catcher Luis Campusano. What have you seen?
Anthony Contreras: He’s a really good hitter. He’s very focused on the game and gets angry at himself when things aren’t going right. You have to have that drive and passion to not only play but try to get better.
Defensively he is learning the finer parts of catching and he really wants to get better. He is watching the top catchers all the time and we have been working extremely hard to fine tune his defense.
Right now he looks very confident at the plate and Campy always looks like he is up there to do damage. He is one of the top hitting catchers in the league.
Tirso Ornelas and Jeisson Rosario are two good hitters, but both of those guys have very good plate discipline. Where does that come from?
Anthony Contreras: I wish I could say it is something that we do, but those guys are kind of a special breed when it comes to their plate discipline. Rosario I know was around .400 in the AZL and Tirso was good too.
For the most part, they are very stubborn about what they are trying to do at the plate. It’s really exciting because they are only 18. I look back at myself when I was that age and no way could I have done that.
As the manager at this level, you are increasingly getting more players that are teenagers and experiencing full-season ball for their first time. We’ve spoken with you in the past about you deal with this, but you also have some very experienced coaches under you for hitting [Jon Matthews], pitching [Burt Hooten] and fielding [Jhonny Carvajal].
What is your process for knowing when to also coach up players without overstepping what your coaches are trying to do? Because in the end, you are responsible for everything.
Anthony Contreras: When I first got into managing everyone told me the hardest thing I was going to have to learn to do was how to manage a staff. I didn’t really understand that at first, because everyone has their responsibilities and you do what you do, but now I see how everything has to work with each other and there has to be some type of order to my day or things get out of control.
Naturally, because I was a position player my first few years – and even now – it’s natural for me to be pushed towards the position player side because that is my comfort zone. Last year I made a conscious effort to go more towards the pitching side; watch more bullpens and listen to Burt. Watch what they are trying to do, understand more about pitching sequences so I could offer something useful when I watch the game and see what they are trying to do,
I’m not going to watch the game and tell Burt how someone should pitch, but I try to put myself in everyone’s shoes. I have to be able to do it from all sides. We will have some disagreements but they term into more structural talks where we are going to be able to get something out of it and make the team and the players better.
I want to be able to spread myself evenly. If I have something to say, or point that I think should be made, I’ll go to the coaches first and make sure that we are on the same page. If we do have issues, we communicate about it.
It’s one of the best things about baseball. After the game, all of us are in the room and we talk about it, some of it’s heated, some of its funny but at the end of the day we are all working about trying to make everyone better.
Other Padres’ Minor League League Managerial Interviews
El Paso: Rod Barajas
San Antonio: Phillip Wellman