After being drafted in 2008 and spending his first full season with the Stockton Ports in High-A, Michael Spina has adjusted well to the jump to Double-A with the Midland Rockhounds this season. Spina played third base throughout college, and made the switch to first base last year in Stockton. Spina's transition across field didn't start out exactly as he would have liked with a few too many errors, but he has made a dramatic improvement this season.
Along with working hard on his defense, Spina has also been looking to be more patient at the plate. He has been walking a lot more this season compared to last, and has been trying wait for the perfect pitch. His on-base percentage has jumped from .348 to .392 and his slugging percentage has soared more than 70 points, as well.
Spina was also one of the top RBI guys on the Ports last season and he is having another good year in Midland, currently leading the team in RBIs with 43. Spina is also leading the Rockhounds in HRs (10) and is second in OBP and third in BA (.280). Spina's 908 OPS is 11th best in the Texas League. His 10th homer of the season came at an opportune time, as he connected for a two-run blast in the 12th inning on Thursday night to give Midland a 6-4 win over Tulsa. Spina is looking to finish out the season strong and help Midland to the Double-A Championship.
We spoke to Spina on Wednesday about his adjustment to a new level, his more patient approach at the plate and more.
Gabby Micek: What has the biggest adjustment been in making the jump from High-A to Double-A?
Michael Spina: Honestly, the traveling. The bus rides are definitely a lot longer. For example, we just got off the bus after a 12-hour ride to Tulsa. Just the time spent on the bus definitely wears on your body. The longest bus ride in Stockton was about six hours, now it's 12 or 13.
GM: How do you think you have adjusted?
MS: I've had good success so far. I feel like I have adjusted pretty well. Obviously the pitching is going to be a lot better, but I don't think there has been a huge difference other than the traveling part.
GM: You seem to be walking more this season as compared to last year. Is that something you are concentrating on doing?
MS: I'm thinking about trying to be more patient at the plate, and trying to find my pitch. I struck out a lot last year, and so I've wanted to make an adjustment of not doing that, and try and get a couple more walks this year. That way I could help my batting average, as well as my OBP. I want to be a more patient and professional hitter, and not just freely swing as much.
GM: Do you have a routine you use pre-game?
MS: I go in the cage and work on hitting the ball to the opposite field. Just work hard during batting practice really. It depends on how they're pitching me, and honestly it also depends on where the wind is blowing.
GM: After playing third base in college at Cincinnati, then switching to first base last year, are you feeling more comfortable defensively at first base now that you've had a full year at the position?
MS: I feel really comfortable there this year. It was tough adjusting from third to first so I've worked a lot with our infield coordinator and our manager to help get adjusted. I'm getting really comfortable here and I'm just enjoying it and making it fun. As long as I'm playing every day I don't really care where I am, as long as I'm getting my at-bats. Me playing well defensively at first base is what it's going to take to get to the big leagues.
GM: Do you have any specific goals for the rest of the season?
MS: Just to finish strong. I've done better than I did last year in hitting and in fielding, having a lot less errors. Just try to get us to the Double-A Championship and hopefully get called up to Triple-A by the end of the year.
GM: Is there anyone you look up to?
MS: Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox, a first baseman. He went to school at my alma mater Cincinnati. I broke his single season record of homeruns and RBIs. I look up to him and watch a lot of his games. Also, a few guys I played with at Cincinnati just got called up a few weeks ago, Josh Harrison and Tony Campana, so I talk to them pretty much everyday and see how they're doing and how they like it. I like to keep in contact with a lot of UC alumni.