Asuaje making 'huge strides' defensively

Asuaje making 'huge strides' defensively

CINCINNATI -- Last September, the Padres asked Carlos Asuaje to spend the offseason working on his defense -- specifically his footwork -- at second base. And when Carlos Asuaje is asked to work, he works.

"Drills everyday, agility ladders, side-to-side, stuff like that to get that first-step explosion," Asuaje said. "I also did a lot with reading the ball, getting better angles, using the entire field, going back if I need to."

Asuaje put in the necessary hours to improve at second, and it's shown in his performance there this season.

"We just gave him some direction, and he's run with it," said Padres manager Andy Green. "It's to his credit. He's done a tremendous job. He turned some really nice double plays yesterday. Those were game-saving plays for [starter Luis] Perdomo. I couldn't be more pleased with his defense. He's taken huge strides."

Asuaje's offseason work began in winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He did early work before games and noticed the pride the Latin players in the Majors took in their defense. They possessed a combination of confidence and flair that Asuaje wanted to emulate.

Asuaje's slick play at second

He developed a daily routine, which he believes is the backbone of his success. Asuaje hits in the Padres' first batting-practice group. During the second group, he takes 10 grounders to his left, 10 to his right and 10 in front of him -- at a minimum. Then, during the third batting-practice group, he works exclusively on double-play pivots.

"When I go into a game, I've always had a game plan with the pitcher; offensively I have a routine," Asuaje said. "Even if I go 0-for-4, it doesn't matter, because I feel like I'm ready, I prepared the right way for that day.

"In the past, defensively, there was less structure. Now when I go onto the field, I feel confident that I've done the prep work to be ready."

The sample size isn't large enough to draw any conclusions from Asuaje's defensive metrics. But they have him pegged slightly better than league average among second basemen. He's made a couple flashy plays, but Asuaje takes more pride in his consistency.

On Tuesday, he started two impressive double plays -- one in which he ranged to his left and another to his right. On the first, his quick release started a rare twin-killing of Reds speedster Billy Hamilton. In the fifth, Asuaje's deft tag turned what appeared to be a Hamilton stolen base into an out at second. (It marked the first time Hamilton had been doubled up and caught stealing in the same game.)

Asuaje's overall improvement is palpable. So where does Green see it most?

"The confidence with which he approaches every ground ball -- it's all built on the work he does every single day," Green said. "He's getting after it on his ground-ball work. He takes it incredibly seriously, and it bleeds over into the game."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.