Buddy system: Black leans on newcomers to help lead

Kemp, Shields step to fore as ninth-year Padres manager embraces roster makeover

Buddy system: Black leans on newcomers to help lead

PEORIA, Ariz. -- San Diego Padres manager Bud Black is preparing for his ninth season with the team. He recently took a few minutes to answer questions from MLB.com about the upcoming season, the role of leadership on the team, power in the game and the teaching component that goes on at the big league level.

MLB.com: In regards to leadership, you told me early on that you empowered Matt Kemp and James Shields, two newcomers, as guys who wanted to be leaders with this group. Why them?

Black: From the other side, I saw a certain element to Kemp's game, his presence, with how he played, and talking to others about him, he had those (leadership) qualities. Where he's at in his career, with what he wants to accomplish, when we talked about this, he was extremely on board. He wants to be out front of a club. He says the right things, goes about it the right way. And everything I've heard about Shields, he's done that everywhere he's been. Talking to Joe Maddon and Ned Yost, he lives that every day. He's all about winning and comes every day with an edge. That sets a great example for our players.

MLB.com: I had someone describe to me what A.J. Preller did to this roster in the offseason as a "grand experiment." I know I've never seen anything quite like it before. You've had six weeks in Arizona with these guys. How have the new guys assimilated themselves into the mix and how do you think it will work going forward?

Black: First, I don't see it as an experiment. I think a lot of the moves that A.J. and his front office made were calculated and measured to what we needed as a team. I don't sense we're mixing a bunch of pieces together to see if they work. In six weeks, I do see things coming together, players integrating together, seeing a team build. We feel good about the new acquisitions. The holdovers here are excited about the new guys and the new guys are excited to be Padres.

MLB.com: We've talked in the past about how one of the top, most sought-after commodities in the game is top-line, starting pitching. It seems like it's shifted to power; with the scarcity of offense and power in the game. Do you feel like the offensive numbers in the game have slid some, and to that end, do you think you'd address some needs in that area?

Black: I do think the game has subtly shifted back toward the pitcher. Pitchers have made great strides, even at the amateur level, most notably with velocity in all pitches, sliders, even hard slurves, those have risen to levels we haven't seen before. But we feel we have legit guys, guys who have raw power, power that has played in the big leagues. This is different than we've had before, where we have had to press it with hit and run, running the bases aggressively and putting pressure on the defense.

MLB.com: Your staff has always struck me as a real "teaching staff." With a little bit of an older group, especially with the guys coming in, does the teaching component shift a little?

Black: It does, but you still teach. When you have a number of guys with big league service time, Kemp, (Justin) Upton, Shields, the teaching becomes more subtle, fine. You're talking more about intricate things. But the teaching never stops. You'll find that most great players never want to stop learning. I remember when we had (Greg) Maddux in 2007-08, and here was a guy on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer and one of the best pitchers of all time, and he still had a thirst for more information, he was open to it. Most players want to get better and you get better by learning, listening and taking in information.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.