Madfriars' Interview: Blake Tekotte

MadFriars' John Conniff caught up with Blake Tekotte, possibly the Padres top center field prospect, on how the season has been going so far.

SAN ANTONIO: CF Blake Tekotte was taken in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft by the San Diego Padres. Tekotte, 24, is from Columbia, Missouri and starred at the University of Miami before leaving after his junior year hitting .353/.468/.590 with 27 stolen bases in 33 attempts.

The left-handed hitting Tekotte should be considered an ideal candidate for PETCO with his plus defense, gap power that is generated off of a low line drive swing and his ability to steal bases. Since coming into the organization he has put on good fifteen pounds of muscle to go along with an increasingly strong arm.

He was called up to San Antonio last year for the second half and so far this season has gotten off to a blazing start hitting .375/.474/.675 in April with 12 extra-base hits, six of them that went over the wall.

We caught up with Blake at the beginning of May to go over the changes in his game, his preparation and the concept of "soft focus"

. Last time we talked we spoke you were kind of worried about trying to hit for too much power. I think you said that I have just enough to get in trouble. This year you are one of the leaders in quite a few categories, so what is going on?

Blake Tekotte: It is something that can get me in trouble but I try to stay away from getting too pull happy. I think as I get more relaxed it helps me out too because I just kind of react in and pull some occasionally.

Is it possible because you are not getting in as much trouble because you are shorter to the ball now as opposed to when you first came into pro ball?

Blake Tekotte: I have gotten shorter to the ball and kind of got rid of that wrap. I really worked on that with Tourny [Tom Tornincasa, the Missions hitting coach and his hitting coach in '09 with Fort Wayne] and now have a simpler approach that is easier to maintain. It has helped me increase my power and drive the ball into the gaps. Also getting stronger has helped out too.

You guys always come in at April in great shape but it seems like you have such a busy schedule during the season - you are playing over 140 games - how do you keep pushing yourself in the gym without hurting your performance on the field.

Blake Tekotte: You have to just get into a really good routine. It helps that everything in spring training is early in the morning so you just get used to getting up and getting something in. The key is to keep active either lift, ride your bike or do some stretching. A lot of guys want to sleep in after a late game and start to blow things off.

Anthony Contreras is my roommate and we are really good at pushing each other to keep going. It's kind of like this team if one guy isn't hitting then the other ones will pick them up.

One of the bigger knocks on you has been on your arm. This season you've had a couple of nice throws form the outfield so what have you done to strengthen your arm?

Blake Tekotte: I've been working on my arm strength with bands and long toss in spring training.

Quite a few people talk about how much long toss helps them. Is that what helped to put you over the top?

Blake Tekotte: Just keep building up and moving back. Sooner or later your arm is going to get stronger and get more backspin on the ball.

Last year you were pretty successful stealing bases. Is that a big part of your game that you are looking to keep on improving this year?

Blake Tekotte: I've always wanted to learn about stealing bases and my coach at Miami - Gino DiMare - really helped me with the basics of stealing bases. He wanted me to run all the time and I just became more comfortable with it.

Doc Roberts really helped me out too in spring training and always has a lot of good points to pick up on every time you speak with him. The soft focus on the pitcher, your lead and maybe just a little hitch towards the pitcher; it's about preparation.

The "soft focus" is really just about being aware of what is going on in the field, of concentrating and clearing your mind.

People like us in the stands always assume it's about speed and it really isn't. What do you look for in a pitcher when you are watching the game?

Blake Tekotte: The first thing is to know the time to the plate, and Doug [Dascenzo, the Missions manager and his manager in Fort Wayne in ‘09] and Tourny are giving those to us in the dugout. Whether the pitcher has a slide step or has anything else that could be considered unusual. The catcher's arm – it's not about blazing speed, but I think I have good instincts. Start low and come up gradually and not pop up to quickly.

It sounds like your defensive philosophy in center. You can obviously run if you are out there but what seems to separate you is your jumps that you get.

Blake Tekotte: It's all about anticipating. I try to anticipate the ball, the soft focus approach and just really concentrating. And all of us really enjoy competing, just go get it.

All of you guys have played off on together in the outfield for the past three years. How has that improved the team's outfield defense?

Blake Tekotte: I know what they can and can't do, sometimes if DRobb is out there I can sometimes cheat over a little because he has so much speed. Everyone gets good jumps and can throw. We take pride in that and really try to not give up triples. We all really feel like we can cover some ground out there.

Everyone talks about the wind out here so much but only for offense. How does it affect fly balls in the outfield?

Blake Tekotte: It does play a huge factor. I can play a lefty in left center and know if he pulls a ball into the gap in right center it's going to hang up there for awhile and give me a chance to get it. That is nice too because it makes my range better.

What are some of your biggest goals that you can share with us?

Blake Tekotte: Main thing is to try to stay more level headed and not ride the roller coaster as much. Try to learn from failure but not take one at-bat into the next or out into the field. Just to go out and try to have fun and it's pretty easy with this group.

We went out and won 101 ball games in Fort Wayne so that was a great time. To me it's not really about numbers but my approach and effort because right now it's all about development. They tell me what they want out of me and I try to execute it.

The consistency is a huge thing, get your routine in and get it done.

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