Spring Camp: Q&A with Matt Cerda

Matt Cerda was drafted on the eve of his 18th birthday from Oceanside High School in California with the Chicago Cubs' fourth-round pick. Announced as a shortstop when the Cubs called his name on the first day of the draft, Cerda quickly suited up behind the plate and caught a handful of games in the Arizona Rookie League.

Like most catching newcomers, Cerda's first professional taste of life behind the plate was not complete without its lumps. He was charged with seven passed balls and committed one error in 13 games at catcher. He threw out five of 21 opposing runners for a caught-stealing percentage of 23.8 percent.

With the bat, Cerda hit .253 with two home runs and five doubles in 154 at-bats, recording 13 multi-hit games. He drew 21 walks to 25 strikeouts.

InsideTheIvy.com caught up with Cerda during minor league spring training in Arizona and asked him about the move to catcher, and more.

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Q: Is the plan still to catch full-time going into this season?

A: I'm catching right now. I don't know if I'm getting any playing time at second or not, but I've taken some groundballs there every once in a while. But we're focusing on catching right now just because it's a new position.

Q: Were you pleased with your reps at catcher last season in the Arizona League?

A: Yeah, I had just started out so I knew I needed to improve tremendously. That's what I went to Instructs for and what I went to the Dominican Republic for. Now in spring training, I'm trying to get (reps) in there.

Q: Can you talk about Instructs and your time in the Dominican Instructs?

A: Instructs was good, I learned a lot. There were a lot of catching drills and what not. I just need a lot of repetition just to get comfortable behind the plate and become familiar with the position. The Dominican Republic was a good experience just to see where my teammates come from and what not, and [to see] how hard it is trying to make it over to the United States to play ball.

Q: Was this your first time playing ball outside of the U.S.?

A: That was the first time [in the Dominican]. Actually I went out of the country when I was about 9 years old and played in Mexico for a couple of games … I went outside of San Diego down to Tijuana a little bit just for a couple of games.

Q: You mentioned learning more about what its like for some of your teammates to come here and play. It sounds like you really got a new perspective on things.

A: You get to see where they come from and how hard it is and how hard they work just to get over here. It was an eye-opening experience; a good experience. I had a good time and learned a lot out there.

Q: Since you're fairly new to catching, is there any one particular area behind the plate where you feel you could use some work and improvement at the moment?

A: I'm working on all parts of the game right now but mainly it would probably be blocking. That's one of the toughest parts: blocking, and just working on receiving and the position itself.

Q: How difficult has the transition been? Do you feel you've adapted well?

A: I'm learning day by day, you know. I'm trying to take in as much information as I can and work on all the things you need to work on to try and get better.

Q: You mentioned second base and you got some reps there last year and this spring. Are the Cubs just keeping that open as an option to you?

A: When I got drafted they told me I would play both, but I think they're focusing on me catching right now so I can get better at it and because it's a new position, there's a lot to learn.

Q: But you expect to open the regular season behind the plate?

A: I think so. For the most part, I feel like I'll play catcher most of the time and maybe have a few appearances here and there at second base.

Q: Head to head play begins this week in minor league camp. Do you have an inclination as to what level you'll begin the season?

A: I'm not sure at the moment. Right now we're still working out and doing drills.

Q: A couple of questions about your bat—your walks to strikeouts last year were impressive. Can you talk about how you were able to parlay that good feel for the strike zone in amateur ball over into pro ball last season?

A: I didn't have much of a transition period at all. I just pretty much stayed with the same approach as I did my senior year of high school and what not. I look for good pitches to drive and that was pretty much it.

Q: Did the Cubs work with you on your swing very much?

A: They worked with me a little bit with getting my foot down early and loading early just because the guys are throwing a lot faster. The earlier you get it down, the more time you're going to have to recognize what pitch is coming and what not.

Q: Do you envision yourself developing a little power to go with your swing?

A: I'd like to believe so. As I get older and stronger, maybe add a little bit of power. I can drive the ball to the gaps right now … I think getting stronger and keep working hard and keeping my swing short and driving the ball [will enable that]. And experience.

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