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How Cristian Pache stays ready for moments like Monday’s walk-off hit

PHILADELPHIA — If Cristian Pache looked Monday night like he knew what was coming, it’s because he sort of did.

Technically, when Pache stepped to the plate in the 10th inning against Colorado reliever Jake Bird, with potential winning run Bryson Stott at third base, he was seeing his first pitch of the night, having entered in the eighth to pinch-run for Kyle Schwarber.

But Pache wasn’t just readying in the broad sense. He had already dialed up Bird’s hard sinker on the Trajekt machine so that when the 97-mile per hour first pitch came, Pache was sitting dead red.

“We set the machine to throw the sinker in a situation that we could try and see it,” Pache said through a translator after his walk-off base hit in a 2-1 decision. “I was trying to be aggressive during the at-bat, and luckily we got exactly that and I put the barrel on the ball and got that result.”

Each player prepares a little differently when they have a day off and might be called upon in a pinch. Pache’s walk-off was a product of his routine and ability to lock in even with an irregular supply of at-bats.

Brandon Marsh, for instance, likes to get into the flow of the game on nights he’s on the bench. He’s developed a pretty clear niche, so he knows that if his number is called, it’ll be against a righty. His prep, which includes soft toss and high-velocity cage reps, eschews Trjaekt, a high-tech fever dream of a machine that can dial in the spin, speed and pitch profile of an opponent’s arsenal. Instead, Marsh focuses on the general attributes — high velo, righty arm slot — he’ll likely see.

Alec Bohm, who also got the day off Monday, is a tad more deliberate. Once he knows a game is close and he’s needed, he’ll ramp up his work midgame. By that point, he’ll narrow down to a couple of names to plug into the Trajekt to get a look at.

“I just assume I’m going to be getting an at-bat in a big spot against one of those guys, and that’s what I prepare for in the cage,” Bohm said. “… We have all that technology now, so we try to take advantage of it as much as possible.”

Bohm guessed correctly in his prep Monday that he’d face Bird. He grounded out to shortstop the at-bat prior to Pache.

Pache is partial to the prep the machine gives him.

“In all games, I go and hit in the cage during the games, to remain ready,” he said. “We try to run different scenarios on which pitchers and which scenarios I could be in during the game, so I could be focused and ready for that opportunity.”

Pache’s routine is one facet of a larger challenge. The talented 25-year-old has shown flashes with the Phillies, his third MLB franchise. But the emergence of Johan Rojas means that at-bats earmarked to develop a potentially high-upside, weak-hitting plus defender in the outfield have ceased going to Pache. Monday was only his ninth plate appearance, though he is 2-for-7.

Sample sizes on Pache are startlingly small. He’s in his fifth season, though he’s started only played 168 games thanks to injury troubles. Pache is a 1-for-9 pinch hitter, but four walks give him a .385 on-base percentage in a pinch.

Manager Rob Thomson is a big fan of how Pache stays ready for moments like Monday.

“He did a lot of it last year, playing mainly against left-handed pitching,” Thomson said. “He works extremely hard. He out here power-shagging every day and getting his work in, hitting velocity in the cage and doing all his prep work. He knows when the spot is coming, whether it’s running or pinch hitting. He’s always prepared, and he’s really good at it.”

As for Pache, who is lauded as a popular clubhouse guy, the chance to contribute on the scoreboard felt good. And it felt like reinforcement that his work is paying off.

“It’s extremely exciting for me,” he said. “I’m not playing as much, but I try to remain ready in the cage so I can seize the opportunity whenever it’s given to me and make the adjustments that I have to make in order to do that.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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