Q&A with Mark Reed

PEORIA – What a difference a year makes. Take this year, for example. Mark Reed again begins the season catching for the Class-A Peoria Chiefs. In 2005, he stumbled into the season, hitting only .135 in 14 games before being sent to extended spring training and then to short-season Low-A Boise.

This year, however, has seen a complete 180 ... as in the more than .180 points Reed had improved on last year's batting average with Peoria entering play Thursday night against Lansing. He was leading the Chiefs with a .324 average and a .419 on-base percentage.

In hindsight, the slow start last season was foreseeable. Reed was selected out of high school in the 2004 draft and celebrated his 19th birthday after the season began in Peoria last year. He was with the full-season Peoria team despite never playing a day in Low-A and only 10 games in the Arizona Rookie League.

However, his turnaround was predictable as well.

The Cubs thought enough of Reed's talent and potential to spend a third-round pick on him in that 2004 draft, and the Reed family genetics are already proven in the big leagues as Mark's older brother, Jeremy, plays center field for the Seattle Mariners.

In addition, Mark himself finished last year with better results than he started with. After his stint in extended spring training, he was sent to Boise where he hit .250 in 55 games.

Q: Last year you got off to a slow start, but now you are hitting over .300. What are you doing differently?

A: I definitely got off to a lot better start. My first game, I got a couple of hits right away and got that good feeling, and that's the biggest thing in this game – to feel comfortable and have that confidence every day. When I got here last year, I was young. I think I just put a little pressure on myself that I had to do well, that I had to get hits every night to stay here. Once I started struggling right away, I started to put more pressure on myself and I wanted to do better. I tried to get five hits when I only got three at bats.

Q: Did you feel added pressure because you were a high draft pick?

A: I wouldn't say it was because of that, but them having the respect for me coming here at that age, I wanted to show them that I was ready for it and that I'm [good enough] to be here. I just wanted them to feel that they made the right decision putting me here right away at 18.

Q: What are you trying to improve on offensively?

A: Last year, I struck out a lot more than I wanted to and a lot more than they probably wanted me to. Trying to cut my swing down a little bit and use the whole field, that's my game. [I'm] a singles and doubles guy, not trying to hit the home run. Those will come for me. I just have to rely on hitting the ball up the middle and the other way.

Q: Is being a left-handed batter a big advantage?

A: As a young player, I always heard, "The quickest way to the big leagues is a left-handed catcher who can hit," so it always stuck in my head. I'm naturally right-handed actually. I don't know really how it happened, but I think maybe watching Jeremy pick up the bat that way, something clicked in my mind where I felt it was the right way to swing. I'm very glad I did it.

Q: What are you working on behind the plate?

A: Calling games I think is the biggest thing [the team is] watching, like how I set up hitters and how I control the game. I think they like the way I threw the ball last year, throwing runners out. But I'd say this year, it's managing the game and being that manager on the field.

Q: How about throwing out base-runners?

A: I throw out runners because of my feet. I have pretty quick feet and can get rid of the ball and then have a chance to throw somebody out. Not just because I have a cannon. I have a strong arm, but I would never say I have the hose that some of those guys have so I have to be quick on my feet and accurate. That's why I have pretty good numbers throwing runners out.

Q: What catchers do you enjoy watching?

A: I've always loved watching Pudge Rodriguez. It's amazing how quick he is with his feet. He does have a cannon for an arm but he gets his feet in the right place with the right balance. I love watching Jason Kendall. Growing up in L.A., I watched Piazza for a while. Even if he wasn't the best back there, he always got it done. And he's one of the best hitting catchers of all time.

Q: To what big leaguer would you compare your game?

A: From a catching standpoint, I'd say I'm more of a Jason Kendall type player. A guy who is not the biggest guy, but who is fast, can run and steal a base here and there, and can bunt for a hit sometimes.

Q: What are your goals for the year?

A: I want to be a .300 hitter. Every year, I want to hit over .300. I think if I do that I will move up within the system, because I think that it's hard to find catchers that can hit. You see guys in the big leagues that are career .230 hitters who catch for 10-15 years because they are so good behind the plate.

Q: Your manager [Jody Davis] is a former catcher.

A: Yeah, it's incredible to have a manager who played over 10 years in the big leagues, who has a gold glove behind the plate and was a two-time all-star. If you don't stand around him and listen to him, and talk with him, and pick his brain ... then you're stupid, because he's right there for you, willing to help and willing to be there to talk to you.

Q: Do you ever regret not going to college?

A: I felt like I made the right decision. I'll never regret the decision to live my dream.

Q: What were your numbers in high school to get drafted so high?

A: I put up pretty good numbers. I hit over .500. It was fun, but it's over now and that's all in the past.

Q: I guess it's pointless to relive the high school glory days when you are a professional.

A: Exactly. Now I really have to put up the numbers!

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