In this previously unpublished interview, Savage asks two of Freese's former coaches about the player before launching into the Q&A with the Missourian. Freese discusses his hitting, defense, work at other positions and much more!
Q for high-A Lake Elsinore Storm manager Carlos Lezcano: David Freese hit from start to finish. How can he improve his game moving forward?
Lezcano: He is right there with the best I have seen play third base. He is a very durable guy also. A hard-nosed player that is a good hitter. He just needs to keep playing. He needs to just stay strong and keep playing the game. If he keeps playing the way he is playing he has a good future in this game.
Q for Storm hitting coach Max Venable: David Freese was a consistent performer during the 2007 season. How has he grown over the last year?
Venable: He is a workhorse. At times he is a little hard on himself because he wants to do well – he shows his aggressiveness because he knows he should hit this ball in the gap or hit it out.
Maturity with him. He set an example as far as leadership. Just his presence on the field and making plays at third base and at the plate. He got guys motivated at times. Being on time. He was a captain to and that signifies where he stood with our team. His hard work was contagious. They saw him working and everybody else jumped on the wagon and worked really hard. His leadership in the clubhouse – his maturity on and off the field – he has grown up a lot since last year. It is structured a little bit better than it was last year.
Q&A with David Freese
When you look back at the season, did it meet your expectations?
David Freese: At the beginning of the year, I wanted to come in and build on what I did last year. I felt like I had a pretty good first season with the Padres and wanted to keep proving myself.
I guess the one thing I am really satisfied with was my defense. I felt like I have come a long way. (Roving Minor League infield instructor) Gary Jones really helped me out with that.
Hitting – I was real comfortable with my hitting but was happy with my defense.
You fell four RBIs shy of 100 – were you thinking that mark was in your sight a few weeks before the end of the season?
David Freese: That is just one of those things that happens. Last year I finished hitting .299. It is part of the game. Hopefully next year that can happen. We were joking around – (Sean) Kazmar hit 20 doubles in 40 games and hit in everyone else in front of me so he is the reason I didn't get it (laughs).
You mentioned your defense and working with Gary Jones. Is there something specific you can point to that Gary taught you?
David Freese: My feet – that was a big thing. I always thought I had pretty good hands. My feet got a little quicker and it helped my range. My confidence going out there – every pitch I wanted the ball. More times than not, I made the plays.
How do you get quicker with your feet? Is that a drill you are doing?
David Freese: Routine ground balls – just practice. Repetition. A got a lot of ground balls in Spring and Gary Jones would come in and keep working with us. The main thing is day in and day out to keep practicing, especially during batting practice when the pitchers can hit you fungos.
The hitting was there last year and this year – looking at this off-season, what is the ultimate goal?
David Freese: Keep doing it. I definitely want to get stronger and faster. Strength always makes the game easier.
I want to keep working on finding one swing. There were a lot of times this season where my stance would change. I am still trying to find one stance that works. My stance is a lot different than last year and I think it is a lot better because I have a little more leverage. But, I am still trying to find that one stance that clicks every day.
That was a topic I wanted to talk about. It seems like you have freed up your hands a little bit and that has allowed you to have better balance and go with the pitch rather than always trying to pull it.
David Freese: One of the big things coming into this year was definitely freeing up my hands. I feel like Max (Venable) has helped me out a lot with that this year. Going to the next level, you still have to wait for your pitch. Seeing that one pitch to drive is definitely what will help me progress.
How difficult is it to change your swing when you have been doing this since you were a kid. Fiddling around is one thing if it is basically the same but you have made some bigger changes.
David Freese: It is tough. They always say it is going to go downhill before up. I kept with it and things are looking on the upside with my stance and swing. There is always room for improvement and I am excited about that.
Next year, you are expected to go to Double-A – another step up. This past year, the Padres' third baseman in Double-A got a chance to go to the majors. Do you look at that and say, ‘It could be as soon as next year.'
David Freese: You have to always keep that in your sights because that is the main goal. When Chase (Headley) got called up I was so happy for him because he completely deserved it. He came in this year with questions about his power and totally rewrote the book on that, which was awesome.
It is definitely in my sights. I have to just keep getting better. That is the main thing, to separate myself from the rest.
The Padres have a third baseman, Kevin Kouzmanoff, in San Diego and Chase Headley is directly ahead of you. Do you consider that and believe you need another position – and you caught and saw some time at first in Instructs – to expand the knowledge base?
David Freese: Obviously, I play third base but when there are other positions the Padres want me to work on I am always up for it and ready to work on it. Getting to the big leagues with the Padres is definitely what I want to do. There are 30 teams in the league so whatever happens, happens.
The off-season workout – you mentioned getting stronger, does that include adding weight and how difficult was it to keep on this year?
David Freese: This year I did a real good job. I only lost a few pounds. Last year was a learning experience. I lost so much weight. This year, I knew what I needed to do and keep the weight on much better. I felt a lot better this past August and September than I did last year.
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