Q: Let's talk about the off-season and how that's gone. What has been your itinerary these winter months?
A: I've had a very short off-season. I went to the Dominican Republic for a month from the middle of October to about the end of November. The Cubs sent seven of us down to the academy for [The Dominican Instructional League], basically a second Instructs. It was a great experience; it helped us understand the Dominican culture and to really see where they come from, and how they step onto our turf not really knowing our language. For us to go down there for a month, I think it gives a bit of perspective.
I've been working out at a place called Sparta in the south bay, south of San Francisco. I've been working out with Chase Utley and a few other pro guys. It's a great facility with great coaches.
Q: Working out with Utley has to be kind of humbling. Not everyone gets to train with World Series Champion players. What has that experience been like?
A: What's most impressive about Chase is that he's just a normal guy. He speaks with his actions. For the most part, we don't talk a lot. I try not to bother him too much, but just being around him and seeing his work ethic has certainly rubbed off on me.
Q: It's become kind of a tradition it seems for first-round picks to get the invitation to big league spring camp. Were you expecting the invite?
A: I found out when I found out. It wasn't in my contract and my agent said there was a chance that I would be, but I was excited to get the call from Oneri Fleita and am really looking forward to spring training and being around some of the guys I really look up to and try to learn from. Some of these guys are my role models. I'll probably be pretty nervous, but it should be a great experience.
Q: When you got to pro ball last season from Cal, you did nothing but hit. Did the home runs (seven in 112 AB's) at Peoria come as a surprise to you?
A: I guess you could say it was a surprise. I've always had the potential to hit home runs; I've just never done it consistently. In Peoria, I really found my groove and found a place I was really comfortable. Our chemistry as a team was really contagious and winning makes playing individually a lot easier. I really settled in, settled back into learning how to play every day, dealing with wood (bats). Unfortunately I got hurt at the end of the season heading into the playoffs. Not to say that I was the reason we ended up losing in the playoffs, but I really wanted to be a part of that team. It fell apart those last few days of the season, which was really hard to watch from the sidelines.
Q: Can you describe the injury that shortened your season?
A: It was an interesting injury. I sprained my finger. It kind of gradually got worse and I think it was from a sliding injury. With each swing it gradually got worse. I was in the training room for a couple of weeks in Instructs. It got strong and I haven't felt anything since. Hopefully that's behind me. We were really cautious coming back (in Instructs) and wanted to make sure I was 100 percent coming back.
Q: You spent time at three different levels last season. Did all the moving around help you stay fresh and not get complacent?
A: I don't know if that played an impact on me being fresh, but I think it was a good experience because that's very likely (to happen) in the future. It's a strange transition when you get close to one team and then you're gone the next day and meeting guys you've never met before. You're in a different uniform the next night and for me, when I went from Boise to Peoria, I took a 6 a.m. flight out of Boise, landed at 4:45 and went straight to the field and was leading off for the Chiefs at 7:05 when I hadn't met anybody on the team. That is certainly not an easy transition, but with the guys in our organization, it certainly made it easier. I made some great friends. I think the Cubs are doing a great job of creating chemistry throughout the organization. We all have the same goal as every individual in baseball – to get to the big leagues. Everyone is pulling for each other, same position and the like. I'm just really excited to be a part of this.
Q: Have the Cubs and Bob Dernier worked with you on your speed and stealing bases?
A: I'm always trying to work on all aspects of my game. Speed is definitely a huge aspect of mine I think and I'm taking some time off my sprints and have worked with Bobby Dernier on technique, learning the times to steal and the times not to. With Peoria, we hit the crap out of the baseball. I found myself on base a lot of times in front of Ryan Flaherty and Rebel Ridling, guys that drive you in. I did my best to steal bases, but I don't think you want to take the bat out of their hand. I'm excited to see what I'll do on the bases in my first full season of pro ball and see what that transition is like; going from partial season to full and learning how to handle the day to day for seven months.
Q: With that out there, do you have an idea as to where you'll start the season in a couple of months?
A: If I had to guess, I'd say Daytona, High-A, if I were a gambling man. In all seriousness, they haven't told me where I'll be. I anticipate High-A, but baseball is baseball, wherever they put me. My goal remains the same: to get to the big leagues and help them win as quick as I can. We'll find out after spring training. ... I've enjoyed (the off-season) to the fullest, but it's definitely that time of year when you start itching to get back into that uniform and get back on the diamond.