As the Padres' players amble sleepily into the clubhouse some three to four hours before game time, they see strength and conditioning coach Jim Malone sitting patiently by a scale with a clipboard near the players' dining room. Most opt to stop by before breakfast, a few adventurous souls drop by after, but whether or not they do so on a full stomach, every San Diego player steps on that scale to have their weight recorded in Malone's master chart.
Though often jokingly treated as such by players and coaches, the weekly weigh-ins are not a test with extra sprints or less dessert awaiting those who "fail." Instead, the weigh-ins are one method the Padres' training staff uses to monitor the fitness of their players through the long haul of a 162-game, six-month season.
"We just try to see across the board if they're trending in one direction or another, make sure there's no big swings," Malone said. "If they're going too far in one direction ... I've got to determine whether or not they're gaining bad weight ... or in the other direction if we need to increase their caloric intake."
If a player is gaining weight, Malone said, it's more than likely "bad weight," because the players' in-season lifting program is not necessarily aimed at adding muscle.
"I don't like the word 'maintain,' but that's probably more the case, just because they play so many games," Malone said of the goal of the in-season lifting program. "It's not realistic to expect that they can train invasively enough for them to make any kind of big changes."
That doesn't mean they aren't training hard during the season. But often, training can be limited by playing time: The amount of work a player puts in in the weight room is often dictated by the amount of work required of him on the field in a given week.
"Starting pitchers are the easiest guys to program for -- you know what they're doing because they're pitching every fifth day," Malone said. "The other guys, even if you have a plan, you can't set it in stone because it may be a day you're expecting a guy to come in and lift and what if you played 13, 14 innings last night. There's some fluidity to it.
"I tell them at the beginning of the year there's 26 weeks -- in a perfect world you'd lift twice a week, but it's not going to be a perfect world. Fifty-two is the goal, [but] probably not going to get there," Malone said. "But if they're lifting every third or fourth day, for the kind of loads and rep ranges I try to keep them within, it's going to be enough to keep them where they need to be."