Oakland A's Spring Q&A: Kevin Melillo, 2B

Kevin Melillo has risen to the top of the Oakland A's middle infield prospect charts thanks to two consecutive strong seasons. Coming off of an All-Star season with Double-A Midland and an appearance in the Arizona Fall League, Melillo is currently attending his first major league spring training camp. He gives us his thoughts on big league camp, winning the AFL title and two former USC teammates.

Kevin Melillo jumped up from relative obscurity to the spotlight of the top prospects lists in 2005 with a standout campaign that saw him move up three levels and bang out 24 homeruns. Melillo followed that season with a solid effort for Double-A Midland, where he hit .280 with 12 homeruns and made great strides on defense.

Melillo enters spring training this season as one of the A's top middle infield prospects. On Wednesday, we spoke to Melillo, who is in Phoenix taking part in his first major league spring training camp.

OaklandClubhouse: So how is everything going?

Kevin Melillo: Everything is going really good so far.

OC: Are you enjoying big league camp?

KM: I'm really enjoying it. I'm excited to be up here and getting a chance to work with some of these guys. I think it is really going to help me out a lot.

OC: Are there many differences between big league camp and minor league camp?

KM: To be honest with you, not much is different. Obviously, the group of players and the caliber of players is different. There is similar camaraderie with the guys. Teammates are teammates and that is what spring training is all about: getting to know one another and having a good time on the field and in the clubhouse.

The drills and the fundamental work that we do is pretty much the same. They really try to implement those at the minor league levels so that if someone has a chance to be called up, everything sort of stays the same for that player. The work that we have been doing has been relatively the same, but the guys are different. It's just fun to walk into the clubhouse and know that you are with 30 or so big leaguers. It's quite a difference.

OC: Have you been spending a lot of time with Mark Ellis and Marco Scutaro in drills and stuff like that?

KM: I have been trying to. If I see them, I have tried to go out of my way to maybe pick their brains to see what they would do in certain situations. We have been split-up into groups early, and today was actually our first day at the stadium [Phoenix Municipal Stadium]. We've been over at Papago and have been split-up on different fields, so I haven't really had a chance to work out with those guys as much as I would have liked to, but hopefully I get a chance to over the next couple of weeks.

OC: You guys played intra-squad games yesterday and today, right?

KM: Yep, we played two-and-a-half innings yesterday and two-and-a-half innings today. I didn't play yesterday, but I started today and got an at-bat and played some defense. It was good to get out there because we open up tomorrow.

OC: Is it good to get back into game action after so many days of practice?

KM: Yeah, everyone is getting really antsy, everyone is really ready for the season to start. Everyone is looking forward playing in these games and moving away from the drills that we have been hammered away at for the last couple of years. [laughing]

OC: How has your knee been? I know last off-season you spent a lot of it rehabbing it back into shape.

KM: I hasn't been an issue. To be honest with you, it was still kind of bugging me in mid-January, so I called Jeff Collins, our trainer, and for precautionary reasons, he said I should get it looked at. They took a picture of it and I had an MRI and all that stuff and everything came back negative. It was just some tendinitis and things like that and they were able to work its way out. It hasn't been an issue since I got down here. I haven't even thought about it and it has been fine.

OC: We spoke at the beginning of the AFL season, but didn't get a chance to find out how the rest of the AFL season was for you. What was the experience of winning the AFL title game like?

KM: That was an awesome experience. It was a lot of fun playing with different guys from different organizations and being competitive. That league was extremely competitive and being able to pull out a win in the Championship Game was sweet also. We are going to get our rings here in a couple of weeks and I am anxious to see what those look like.

It was a great experience to get out there and play and make a name for yourself. You get a chance to play in front of a ton of scouts and agents and other people who are really involved in the baseball world. It is a great opportunity to go out there and be able to showcase yourself and your talents to other baseball people and to the fans who were out there. They did a great job of supporting us and having the cards out there for us to sign, of course. It was really a great opportunity to play in front of a lot of baseball people.

OC: Did it change your off-season preparation at all to be playing those extra weeks?

KM: I have certain timelines that I set for myself for when I am going to start working out, when I am going to starting doing this and that. Because the off-season was about two months shorter, it basically meant that I just got a shorter break before I started in on my timeline. I was still able to get all of my off-season workout programs in and felt healthy and felt ready to go coming into camp.

OC: What was the rest of your off-season like?

KM: Actually, we closed on a house in August just before the playoffs with Midland started. I was able to come home and stock up on some furniture. I also got engaged this off-season.

OC: Congratulations!

KM: Thank you. I did a lot of stuff to get ready for the wedding. I wanted to get my hands into the planning as much as possible before I had to leave. It was an exciting off-season. A lot of life-changing events coming up. I'm excited about it.

OC: Landon Powell was added to the major league camp invite list kind of late in the off-season. Was it nice to have a long-time teammate like Landon around at the start of camp?

KM: It is. But, you know, everybody has been playing together for so long now that I really feel comfortable around many of the guys. Kurt Suzuki and I are great friends. Travis Buck and I are great friends. There are a lot of guys that you meet that you become close with.

Landon is another example of someone who I have been playing with for six or seven years now and he has dealt with some issues in his career, but I would be the first one to congratulate him on how great he looks now and how much work he has put into his off-season program to come into camp in great shape. I wish him the best in '07 and I think he has really put himself in a great position to have a lot of success this season.

OC: Have you hit off of Marcus McBeth yet?

KM: I took some pitcher's batting practice the other day. We had the health screen in front of the mound and batting cage up, but I haven't faced him in a game situation yet. He was on my team today, thankfully, because that guy is something special on the mound right now. He has a great future.

OC: Did you guys play together at South Carolina or did you miss each other?

KM: The year he was drafted was my redshirt year, so I was there, but I wasn't actually on the team or playing. He was a centerfielder, obviously, at that point. We knew each other pretty well, but we had never had a chance to play together [before last season with Midland].

OC: How has it been to work with all of the A's new major league coaches?

KM: The first couple of days of camp I worked with them a lot. We all line-up at Papago and they blow the horn and you run from station to station. I have also had a chance to work with the new infield coach, Bob Schaefer, quite a bit, and with Ty Waller on base-running and things like that. I have also worked with Ty Van Burkleo, the new hitting coach, and he has had his input with me.

It has been great to work with these new guys and hopefully these guys will be the coaching staff for the next few years and if I am able to make a name for myself and build a relationship with these guys early, I think it will help me out in the future.

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