Cubs Prospect Interview: Brian Dopirak

Brian Dopirak isn't thinking about 2006, in which he was hampered all season by a lingering injury to his left foot. With a clean bill of health heading into 2007, the 23-year-old Cubs prospect is as anxious as ever to get back on the playing field.

Plagued by a broken fifth metatarsus (the pinky toe) in his left foot, Dopirak batted .257 with one home run and 23 RBIs for Double-A West Tennessee a season ago. He suffered the injury to his toe in the club's season opener on April 6 in Birmingham, Ala., and would undergo surgery days afterward.

While Dopirak would return to play in 51 games, he eventually opted for follow-up surgery after being shut down in early August.

How is that foot/toe feeling now that it's been a few months since the follow-up surgery?

Doing real good. Feels good. I started to do some running on it and have been doing a lot of cardio. No problems, knock on wood.

Besides all of the cardio work, what are some things you've done the past few weeks to get ready for Spring Training?

It's all very time-consuming. It's all bone and you have to give it time to heal. Part of my rehab was keeping my muscles stretched out and trying to keep them from atrophying with lots of massage therapy. I did some running in a pool to keep my motion going, but not necessarily putting any weight or pounding on my foot during the healing process.

Do you feel you're 100 percent recovered?

It's not something where I'm going to go out and run five miles. It's one of those things where you're building yourself up. I'll slowly run and jog more and more every other day or three or four times a week; whatever the case may be with my cardio. It's just something that's going to have to be built up on. You can't just go out there and blow it out.

In light of the past two years, how anxious are you to get back on the field?

You have no idea. I have never been as hungry as I am today to get back on the baseball field. It's something that I've been thinking about mentally and physically. I can't wait to get back on the field and hopefully perform healthy. I haven't been this hungry in a long time. It's amazing how much you really miss the game when it's taken away from you.

What's the hardest thing about being so hungry when there's still a good month or month and a half before you really get into the swing of Spring Training?

Just pacing myself with my workouts. Just being in good shape when Spring Training rolls around and being able to take a couple hundred swings and couple hundred groundballs a day. Being able to do those sprints on the field, and having my body physically ready to handle all that and not being too shot out.

Obviously, most everybody that gets invited to big league camp – especially those on the 40-man roster such as yourself – are fighting for some spot or another on the team. Are you focused on trying to win a spot on the 25-man roster out of camp or would you be content with another stint at Double-A?

Anybody who goes in with the attitude that they're going to settle for something less than what they're trying to accomplish, they're backing up. I want to go in with the attitude that I'm going to try and make that team. It's going to be up to them about whether I'll go to Double-A again to play for Pat (Listach), which would be awesome. I loved playing for Pat in the time that I spent with him. Whatever the case may be, my mind frame going into Spring Training is I want to try and make that team. I'm not going to let anything else make me think otherwise.

We hear so much about the Cubs wanting all of their young players, particularly infielders, to add some versatility to their step and learn a new position or two. Has the organization talked to you about a position other than first base?

Last year, they had kind of thought about moving me around to the outfield a little bit and just giving me some more options, but obviously I didn't get that chance because of my foot.

Right now, is it more about getting your swing back under you, or just the usual things you always work on heading into camp such as defense, staying around the bag and so forth?

I'm working with the same guys as I did last year and the year before. I'm taking the same amount of swings. Basically, it's the same thing going on. I'm just trying to get a consistent routine on what works for me.

What would you say does work for you?

For my swing, I need to have good balance and a good load, and I've got to use my hands. If I'm doing those three things, I feel pretty confident at the plate.

When did you resume swinging this offseason?

I didn't start hitting until about the end of December on into the first of January. That was about the time I got cleared to start doing some of my baseball stuff. I wasn't going to push it, especially when the doctor hadn't cleared me.

Off-topic: Did you enjoy the Ohio State-Florida game? Being from the Tampa area, I take it you were pulling for the Gators.

I'm not necessarily a Gators "fan," but when you've got an out-of-state team and a Florida team, I'm always pulling for the Florida team.

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