PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres feel strongly about Rene Rivera's ability to call a big league game from behind the plate, how he handles a pitching staff and the other components that go into catching.
They're starting to feel better about his bat, too.
Rivera took a .474 (9-for-19) average into Sunday's game against the Royals, the result, he said, of work he's put in the cage, work on his swing that at various points last season had become too long.
"Since spring last year, [hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell] and I have worked to get more consistent on staying shorter to the ball," Rivera said. "By the end of last year, it really clicked. I tried to do the same routine in winter ball. I'm just trying to get a good pitch and put a quality swing on it."
That was certainly the case in 2013. Rivera was the starting catcher for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in Tucson, when he hit .343 in 276 plate appearances. He was later recalled by the Padres after Yasmani Grandal was lost for the season in July with a knee injury.
Rivera hit .254 in his 71 plate appearances with the Padres after his promotion.
"Last year was a work in progress. I was trying to be more consistent on a daily basis. So I think this year will be a good one," Rivera said. "I feel like I have a chance now. I'm recognizing pitches and am able to better put a good swing on the fastball."
Rivera doesn't have any remaining Minor League options, so the Padres risk losing him if he's not on the team's 25-man Opening Day roster. The club still isn't certain if Grandal will be ready for the start of the season on March 30 against the Dodgers.