Q&A with Joe Simokaitis

After struggling in the first half at Class-A Daytona, shortstop Joe Simokaitis is quietly having one of the better second half's of any Cubs prospect. Last year's 10th-round pick from the University of Nebraska is batting .265 with 15 hits in his last 36 at-bats.

Inside The Ivy: You're really starting to come around. What have you been doing differently since about the beginning of last month?

Joe Simokaitis: I've been trying to stay relaxed, that's the biggest thing. I've been working a lot with Richie [Zisk], the hitting coach, and Antonio Grissom. I strained my hamstring earlier this year, nothing major. But I had about four or five days off, so I had a chance to get my energy and strength back. Coming in toward the end of the year, I wanted to finish as strong as I could.

Inside The Ivy: You've played a little bit at second base this year. Coming out of college, shortstop seemed to be your default position. Is this the first year you've ever mixed the two together?

Joe Simokaitis: Yeah, in Instructional League last year, I played a little at second. It's still fairly new to me, but I get out here early and work with [Daytona manager] Buddy Bailey and our infield instructors on extra grounders. It was a little weird at first. It wouldn't seem that way, because a groundball is a groundball, but there are different angles. It took a little getting used to, but now I'm comfortable with either/or.

Inside The Ivy: What's been the biggest difference between the two for you?

Joe Simokaitis: I think it's just that you have a little bit more time at second base. You make shorter throws and don't feel as rushed. There aren't too many instances where you have to get it and immediately get rid of the ball. Turning double plays and being around the bag from that side is different. I think repetition before the game really cures all those worries you have.

Inside The Ivy: When you were struggling earlier, how much did it affect you mentally?

Joe Simokaitis: I don't think it weighed on me that much. It was still early and I knew it was a long season and that there were a lot of games to be played yet. I just grinded it out, worked on my swing and went to the cages quite a bit. Since I wasn't playing that well on offense, I tried to play as good as I could defensively.

Inside The Ivy: You never seemed to struggle against the left-handers. Was that something you paid attention to?

Joe Simokaitis: Not really. Maybe early in the year I did because we saw a lot of left-handers and I got quite a few AB's.

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