MadFriars' Interview: Matt Clark

TUCSON: 1b/OF Matt Clark, 24, was taken in the 12th round of the 2008 draft by the San Diego Padres after being previously selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007 in the 28th round.

Clark tied with Georgia's, and future White Sox star, Gordon Beckham for the lead in home runs with 28 during his one season at LSU in 2008 hitting .344/.447/.789. He is the son of former major league pitcher Terry Clark and is originally from Fontana California. Matt played two year of junior college ball at Riverside Community College before putting on the purple and gold.

Because he was a late round pick, the left-handed hitting Clark has always had someone in front of him and needed to produce immediately to get playing time. The year he was drafted the Padres too Rancho Bernardo High's Allen Dykstra with the first pick.

In 2009 Clark, not Dykstra, was the one promoted to Lake Elsinore in midseason on the back of an .836 OPS and while with the Storm he hit .292/.367/.524. This off-season the organization traded Dykstra to the Mets.

His big year was last season in San Antonio, where he hit the most home runs of any Padres' prospect in Nelson Wolff Stadium, including Kyle Blanks in 2008, blasting 28 out of the park while putting up an excellent slash line in the second half at 303/.382/.539.

This year he was forced to move to the outfield with the addition of Anthony Rizzo and split time at first and left with Blanks returning from injury, but Clark has put up some very good numbers in Tucson hitting .311/.368/.560 with 17 home runs going into Monday's game.

With all of the attention on Rizzo and Blanks, Clark has emerged as a legitimate candidate too for the carousel that is in left field and at first base.

You had a really good year in San Antonio especially in the second half. What was the reasons behind such a big improvement?

Matt Clark: I think I've always just been a second half player even when I was in college. That is when I really start to get my rhythm, start to figure things out and get going. I've seen everybody already and can take advantage of what I have learned.

Another way of looking at it is they have seen you.

Matt Clark: [laughs] True, but it always seems to work out in my favor.

You hit more home runs than anyone the organization had had in San Antonio last year so that must have made you feel good?

Matt Clark: It did show that I can produce in a park like that. Hopefully somebody up there thinks I will be able to do the same in PETCO.

How has your transition been to the outfield?

Matt Clark: Not that bad at all. I actually like playing out there. It took a little while to get used to it out there but the reps helped. I've been shagging fly balls my whole life so its now now second nature.

Wherever they want to put me I'm fine.

What has been the biggest adjustment coming to AAA? I've always heard in AAA there is much more off-speed stuff as compared to the big fastballs of AA.

Matt Clark: There is a lot more off-speed stuff at this level. Most the guys can control their off-speed more which is what you will see. To me the biggest adjustment is that I don't play consistently all of the time and that has been the hardest thing for me.

I'm usually someone that wants to play 140 games out of 140. One week its three days, then get a day off - then another as a DH; so it gets hard to stay in a rhythm.

When I do get consistent playing time I feel pretty good and put together some consistent at-bats. Its not so much the pitching, but figuring out what I need to do to be successful.

You seem to have a pretty simple swing. Not a whole lot of movement or timing mechanisms.

Matt Clark: Yeah, its more of just being in there seeing the live pitches and how it affects your eye. Just getting your routine thrown off a little bit can make you go 0-4 or something like that.

The big thing for me is trying to keep the consistent swing.

I have a little too much fascination with people who bat one way and throw another. How did you end up batting left and throwing right? Matt Clark: I was actually left-handed growing up. I switched when I was like seven, but kept the left-handed swing. My Dad said if he knew how tall I was going to end up he would have kept me as a pitcher.

I always liked to hit so it worked out for me.

You are playing left field and can throw. Have they ever talked to about moving to right?

Matt Clark: I'm fine if they do because I want to play anywhere. But no, they haven't talked to me about right yet.

I think I can play left, first and a little third, which I played in high school and a little in college. So I think that helps me for the big leagues that teams can see that I'm more versatile than they thought.

Ever since you were drafted you have had to fight every minute for playing time. When you were drafted you split time with the first round pick Allen Dykstra before passing him. This year the Padres traded for Anthony Rizzo and have Kyle Blanks back.

Matt Clark: The story of my life, the story of my life. I've always told myself just keep hitting and someone will find a spot for you. As you said, I've always had to fight for it but it has usually turned out ok. Everyone has always doubted what I can do but I've been able to produce.

Hopefully someone will notice and take a chance on me.

This year what has been your biggest goal?

Matt Clark: Just keep consistent at-bats and a consistent swing. If I can do that I think the second half will be really big. If you can do that, especially at this level, you never know what can happen at the end of the year.

That must take quite a bit of mental discipline because for all of you guys you are so close to realizing a dream that you have had since you were kids.

Matt Clark: True, you never know what can happen. Someone can get hurt, trade or something. You just have to keep doing what you are doing.

That is all you can control.

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