Jedd Gyorko is ready to take over as San Diego’s regular second baseman. He’s also prepared to fill in at third base, the position he’s played since being taken in the second round of the 2010 draft. With Chase Headley now on the disabled list, Gyorko (pronounced JER-ko) could play one of the positions on opening day.
Gyorko can swing the bat: The 24-year-old right-handed hitter went .311/.373/.547 with 30 home runs last year between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson. One of the top prospects in a loaded Padres system, he will contend for National League Rookie of the Year honors if he plays to his capabilities.
David Laurila: When were you first approached about playing second base?
Jedd Gyorko: Josh Byrnes called me as I was heading into the offseason. He said he wanted me to start getting some balls at second base and that it would probably be the position I’d be playing when I came to spring training. It was good to know that early so I could get in a full offseason of second base. I actually played there one year in college, so it’s not completely foreign to me.
DL: Did you have any issues with the move?
JG: I don’t think it would have mattered what I said, really. He’s the boss. Obviously, they saw this as an upgrade to help the team. Whatever they want, I’m more than willing to do.
DL: Who has helped you make the transition?
JG: All of the coaches here. We have what has to be one of the best staffs in baseball. I’ve been working with Glenn Hoffman a lot — out on the back fields, getting a lot of ground balls, a lot of reps. But like I said, I’d put our entire coaching staff up there with anyone’s.
DL: What has been the biggest challenge?
JG: Probably getting reads off the bat. It’s coming at me from a different angle. I’ve gotten pretty used to being around the bag, as far as double plays. I think I’m doing well at that. I have to keep working on my range. That first step is huge. But things are looking good. I’ve taken every rep at second base this spring.
DL: Does where you play have any bearing on your offense?
JG: No, I don’t think it really matters. Defense and offense are completely different to me. I don’t take my at bat to the field or my defensive ability up to the plate.
Bud Black on Gyorko: “He’s had a nice spring. We moved him to second base to help increase his chances and his versatility. This winter I made it a point to contact him — as did our club officials — to let him know we were going to look into the possibility of him being our second baseman, even as early as opening day. It would be based on his performance in spring training and our evaluation of him as a second baseman. So far he hasn’t disappointed us.
“He’s shown the ability to turn a nice double play. He’s got good hands, good feet, great baseball instincts, a great time clock for second base. All of the little nuances we look for defensively. Glenn Hoffman, Richie Dauer, Rick Renteria — our infield guys — have been impressed by his work. He’s shown he can be a good defender. He’s going to make plays.
“The thing about Jedd is, he’s one of those guys who wants to play. He wants to play in the field and it doesn’t matter where. He isn’t scared off by playing multiple positions. It’s not mental for him. He feels comfortable on a baseball field, whether it’s at second, at third, or in the batter‘s box.”
David Laurila: How would you describe yourself as a hitter?
Jed Gyorko: I’d say I’m gap to gap. I’m trying to put the barrel on the ball and if I get under one, hopefully I have enough to get it out.
DL: Are you satisfied with your plate discipline?
JG: Throughout the minors, I think I’ve been pretty good. I’ve been more aggressive this spring, trying to get my swing into tune. Obviously, walks are good. At the same time, you want to get your timing down. I’m pretty happy with where my approach is right now. I don’t want to change much.
The situation pretty much dictates what my approach is. My base approach is to try to get a fastball early in the count, out over the plate. I think you can say that about pretty much everybody.
DL; What do you talk about with Phil Plantier?
JG: We talk about the pitchers a lot. We talk about approach. Stuff like that. It’s pretty basic, kind of what I’m looking for in each at bat and how I can go about making sure my mechanics are right.
I have my routine, and if I’m not swinging the bat very well there’s probably a reason. Maybe I’ll try to tweak something here and there to get it right. It’s about being consistent.
DL: Are you the same hitter you were when you signed?
JG: There have been little changes, but not a whole lot. My approach has always been the same. As far as mechanics, my hands have dropped a little bit, compared to then. I’ve kind of closed off my stance a little bit, but nothing major. I wanted to get my hands and body in a better position to hit the ball more consistently. It’s a game of being consistent. I want to repeat the same thing over and over, and make it as simple as I can.
Phil Plantier on Gyorko: “Jedd earned his way. He did a good job of earning his opportunity to get to the big leagues because he put up numbers in the minor leagues like you’re supposed to. How that translates to the big leagues, we’re going to see.
“I think he’s more of a gap hitter. He’s a good hitter, a guy who should hit for a moderate to good average. He’s got a built-in double to his swing. I think he’ll have some stretches during the course of the season where he’s going to hit some home runs. He’s a doubles hitter who can leave the yard once in awhile.
“Just like any young hitter, he’s going to end up having to make adjustments as the season goes on. For young hitters it’s always going to come down to pitch selection. Plans at the plate and pitch selection.
“He’s kind of the guy we envisioned him developing into at this point. Our minor league department did a great job of getting him through the system. The major league game is going to tell. You can’t really simulate a major league game in the minor leagues. Every young player needs to make adjustments.
“The nice thing is that it’s about the aptitude of the player. It’s about whether you have the aptitude to make the necessary adjustments to stay in the big leagues and be there for a long time. Jedd has the makeup to do that. Mentally, he’s right where you want a player in his situation to be.”