Yeah, we're getting close. My wife is on bed-rest. We're getting really close. The due date was supposed to be April 1, but it seems like he might come a little early. It is a boy.
Congratulations! Baseball-wise, you played in the Mexican Winter League again this year. What was it like the second time around?
I really enjoyed going down there. I went before for about a month and a half and I was really excited then, but I struggled a little at the start of the season. When you're not playing well, it always makes it a little more difficult to adjust. This past year, I got off to a much better start and felt a little more comfortable with my surroundings. I ended up having a great time there.
I was pretty disappointed when we got knocked out of the playoffs. Those guys aren't really concerned about individual numbers as long as you're winning. That's always nice because I've been blessed to have a group of guys I've played with in the minor leagues share that same mentality. Some guys aren't that fortunate and they get stuck with some guys that are looking out for themselves and aren't really concerned about winning and losing. At the end of the day, that's why we play the game: to win, no matter what level we're at. It was kind of nice to go down and have everybody expect you to win and not really accept anything other than that.
What made you decide to go back?
One of the places offered me a job there and I also liked the experience there. I was looking at it as somewhat of a challenge; not necessarily to prove myself, but to show that I can go down and help a team when there. I wasn't really pleased with the way my stint went the first time around and wanted to see if I could make up for that. I guess I'm relatively pleased with the way this year went. We've talked before that I think there's something wrong if you're completely satisfied with the way you played, because obviously there are always things you need to improve on.
What things would you like to improve on?
One thing is just proving my consistency and trying to work through some of the ups and downs that you go through during the course of a season. I felt that at the end of last year, I made some strides as far as my consistency and day-to-day approach and mechanics at the plate. I wanted to go down and continue to work on that and just improve mostly on making sure I had a good approach every at-bat, one that was suitable for the situation where I would stick to that game plan and see it through.
I think it was good for me down there. They have a little different style of pitching there. There are a lot more off-speed pitches and a lot more cautious pitching in the middle of the order. It takes some more discipline and that's something I've wanted to work on at the plate; not helping to get myself out and making the pitcher work to get me out.
That was actually one of the things we wanted to ask you – the style of pitching you saw in Mexico and how it differed from that in the regular season at Iowa.
I think that Mexico gets a bad rap for not having the arms and the depth. I noticed a big difference from last year versus this year. The pitching there was pretty comparable to what you see at Triple-A. There were some guys that were pretty hard to hit and a couple of guys that threw the ball well.
You look at the Rule Five Draft and the guy that was taken second overall (Joakim Soria) was pitching down there. He had an unbelievable Winter and we had Les Walrond down there throwing. There were a lot of guys that had good success at Triple-A that have a chance to be in the big leagues. I was pretty impressed with the strides they made as far as the pitching goes.
Did you know that you ended up with the longest consecutive on-base streak (34 games) in the league, plus a 16-game hitting streak?
No, I wasn't aware of that. I knew I had a little bit of a hitting streak, but at the time it was going on, our team wasn't playing very well. It's always good to try to find a way to help the team and that's one of the things I wanted to work on – the days that you're not hitting very well at the plate, try to find a way to get on base, or move a runner or drive somebody in.
You've always been a guy that's never shied away from taking your walks and getting on base. How self-conscious are you about walks?
In the past, I don't think it's something I was necessarily conscious of. As I've progressed as a player and a hitter, I've realized that hitting a single is just as good as getting a walk. It's sometimes more beneficial getting a walk because you get the pitcher's pitch count up. By doing that, you can get to the bullpen a little early and wear them down, which may not pay off until the third or fourth game of a series. But I think that's something that as I've gotten a little older I'm paying more attention to.
By no means am I going up there with the intention of walking, but at the same time, I'm trying not to make easy outs and make it easy for the pitcher. My focus is more along the lines of getting a good pitch to hit than it is to go up there to walk. I don't think I've ever went up to the plate looking to walk, but the better I've gotten at waiting for a good pitch to handle, I've noticed that the walks come and you get better hitting counts.