Cerda Back In His Comfort Zone

After playing in just seven games in 2009, Matt Cerda is off to a fast start at Class-A Peoria. The Cubs' fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft from Oceanside (Calif.) High School was 7-for-19 with a .520 on-base percentage in the first six games of Midwest League play. In the field, Cerda has returned to his infield roots and that has him back in his comfort zone.

Cerda was drafted as a shortstop at age 17 but quickly moved to catcher after signing for $500,000 in the summer of 2008. He spent most of his professional debut season in the Arizona Rookie League and was ready to begin 2009 at short-season Class-A Boise before a hand injury caused him to miss most of the season.

Rather than keep Cerda in extended spring training to start 2010, the Cubs assigned him to Peoria and so far their decision has been rewarded. Cerda picked up a season-high three hits in the Chiefs' 1-0 victory over Beloit on Tuesday while also drawing his sixth walk versus four strikeouts through the first week of games.

Defensively, Cerda has moved back to the left side of the infield, though not at shortstop. InsideTheIvy.com caught up with Cerda to assess how his latest position change has gone and what has fueled his fast start at the plate.

Q: How is your hand feeling now that you're back in action?

A: I had surgery and was out for about six weeks. It's 100 percent now and behind me. It feels good. I played a little bit in Instructs (last) year and went back to the Dominican (Instructs). … It was my right hand. In extended spring, I fouled off a couple of balls straight back and felt like something changed on the side of my hand. I didn't think anything of it and then I went up to Boise and couldn't handle the pain anymore. It was constant and I ended up being diagnosed with a broken right hamate bone. We tried to rehab it without surgery, but it was still bothering me.

Q: You've been on base quite a bit in the first few games and have drawn some walks. Are walks something you're overly conscious about?

A: I'm just trying to work on seeing the ball. It's a long season. I want to play the whole year because last year I didn't get to play much. I need the most AB's I can get because the better off I'll be. I'm just seeing more pitches, being more patient, getting my pitch to drive, and getting on base so the big guys can drive me in.

Q: I asked this to Brett Jackson recently: What's your idea of a quality at-bat?

A: You can go up there and hit a ball right on the nails and line out. That's a quality AB: to hit a ball hard. A quality AB can just be working the count and getting on base for the team. In certain situations, it all depends.

Q: With that said, you drew a fair amount of walks (21) versus strikeouts (25) in 2008. Would you consider yourself a patient hitter?

A: I'd like to think so. … You still have to go up and try to get your knocks in, but while trying to do that, you have to be patient. I think patience is a big part of this game and people struggle with that and get themselves out. That's what pitchers want you to do. They throw certain pitches to try and get the hitter out, but hitters get themselves out (plenty). It's all about having a good plan up there and staying with that plan.

Q: What is your plan?

A: It varies, depending on who's on base, what inning, and how we're doing with the score. But you have to have a plan and if you don't, you're just up there swinging.

Q: When you were drafted, you were moved to catcher and this year you're back in the infield at third base. Is catching on the back-burner for now?

A: I got drafted as a shortstop and they tried me at catcher. We put that on the back-burner for a while and now I'm back to the infield where I know what I'm doing a little better. Catching is tough and now that I'm back in the infield, I feel a lot more comfortable. I get to play baseball and that's really all I want to do: get back in the infield, go out and have some fun and go play everyday.

Q: What reasons did the Cubs give you for moving you to catcher?

A: They just wanted to try and change me to catcher. When I got drafted, I thought I would have some time in the infield also. Then, catching being so tough, all I was doing was catching. I have a lot more respect for catchers now.

Q: How do you like third base?

A: When I came back from my hand injury, I played a little third in Instructs; third and second. We have (Logan) Watkins here and he's our everyday second baseman, so I'm playing third. I'll probably play second a couple of times, but I'm feeling comfortable at third every day. It's a new position, but it's not such a drastic change (from shortstop). It's a little different angle off the bat, but other than that, it's the infield. It's where I feel comfortable.

Q: What do you think of the team you're on in Peoria and the guys you share a clubhouse with?

A: I think it's a great group of guys. Our pitching staff, they keep us in a lot of close ballgames and hitting-wise, we haven't really shown what we can do yet. Once our bats break out, I think we're going to be playing some really good baseball. As far as the guys, they're a good bunch that plays the game the right way and hustles in and out.

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