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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 04-14-2009, 11:14 PM Thread Starter
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Lefebvre injects life into Padres' bats

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NEW YORK -- It was at some point during Jim Lefebvre's rookie season with the Dodgers in 1965 when pitcher Sandy Koufax approached the 23-year-old out of the blue and imparted words of wisdom Lefebvre still clings to today.

"He said that you don't beat hitters ... you have to beat the lineup," Lefebvre said. "It's easy to beat [individual] hitters. You just eliminate them. But it's hard to beat an entire lineup."

These words have served Lefebvre well during his career as a player, manager and now as the first-year hitting coach of the Padres (6-2), who enjoyed an off-day on Tuesday in New York and are riding high on a five-game winning streak.

Granted, it has largely been the quality of pitching that has helped this team get off to such a quick start, as the Padres rank third in the National League in ERA (2.88). They have surprised and succeeded with a bullpen that looks nothing like the lot they took to Spring Training in February.

But make no mistake, the offense has made improvements under Lefebvre. Sure, their team batting average is 11th in the league (.238), but their on-base percentage is up from 2008 (.330, compared to .317), and their strikeouts are down and runs are up.

Yes, eight games makes for a pretty small sample size, but Lefebvre and manager Bud Black insist they like some things they've seen from the offense and from several of the hitters, instead of simply relying on Adrian Gonzalez and Brian Giles.

"You look at the timely hitting, we are getting those. You're happy with how it's going right now. It starts on the mound and continues with getting good at-bats," Black said. "Our situational hitting has been pretty good."

The Padres' 6-5 victory over the Mets on Monday is a good example. With two outs and none on, San Diego strung together four consecutive hits, including a two-run double by David Eckstein in a three-run inning.

The Padres, who have seen the second-most pitches in the National League (1,155), had three hits with runners in scoring position in that game, a critical statistic given it was a one-run victory.

"We're staying away from lazy fly balls," Lefebvre said. "I'm looking at the quality of the at-bats. We've seen that. I've told people to check back in two months, but for now, the quality of those at-bats has mostly been good. But I think it's coming along good.

"We've worked the count. That's what we want to do. We've gotten walks, and we've gotten baserunners."

In other words, trying to turn around a team that finished last in the NL in runs (637) and on-base percentage, and second-to-last in batting average (.250) all while compiling the third-most strikeouts (1,259) in the league won't be easy.

But the Padres feel they have the right guy on the job in Lefebvre, who started working with individual hitters in late fall after he took the position. He has forged relationships with many of the hitters, particularly the young ones like Nick Hundley and Chase Headley.
Lefebvre injects life into Padres' bats | padres.com: News



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