MadFriars' Interview: Mike Baxter

LAKE ELSINORE: OF/1b Mike Baxter was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. Last season he had his best season as a professional in AAA Portland hitting .301/.382/.517 with 18 home runs and 22 stolen bases earning a September promotion to the big club.

After making a strong push in spring training, Baxter injured his thumb late in spring training and then endured a few more before beginning a rehab assignment with the Storm.

WIth his rehabilitation period ending the Padres were forced to either put him on the forty man roster or clear him through waivers. On July 22 the New York Mets, with former San Diego executives Paul DePodesta and Sandy Alderson, put in a claim for Baxter where he should report to the AAA Buffalo Bisons.

Can you go over what your injury was?

Mike Baxter: I had a torn a UCL in my thumb and I had surgery about the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth of March which was about a six to eight week recovery. On my final day of rehab from that I pulled my hamstring in Arizona, so that was frustrating.

Came back from that and on the final day of that rehab, I pulled it again so that was another six to eight weeks.

How did you deal with that? You were coming off of your best year professionally and having a good spring training?

Mike Baxter: It was tough. I've been lucky because since I've signed I've never been on the DL. You just have to think that things happen for a reason. It was the approach that I took on it especially when you are trying to make a push to make the major leagues.

Last year you had your best year for power numbers. You are about the same size as you have always been. Is it more about learning what types of pitches you can really turn on as opposed to mass?

Mike Baxter: Experience always helps. You start learning more about your swing and what pitches you want to offer at really helps. The longer you play the game the more you are going to pick up.

You are able to take strikes early in the count that you shouldn't offer at. Your approach becomes more refined as you age. As you become more selective it leads to more power.

It seems like the biggest separator for younger players as opposed to older ones, is not every strike you should swing at?

Mike Baxter: [laughs] There are a lot of strikes you shouldn't swing at. Especially at the higher levels unless you have a specific approach its going to be tough for you.

When you got to the majors last year how did you understand what you wanted and needed to look at it with so much information available to you. We've spoken a lot in the past and you have even been a little too hard on yourself for wanting to do too much preparation?

Mike Baxter: You have access to a wealth of information but they do a great job of breaking it down to one sheet. If you want more, you can get more. The information that I liked the best was the video.

Knowing that I wasn't going to start I would check out the video of the right-handed relief pitchers because I thought those were the likely guys that I was going to be facing. You kind of have an idea of what your role is. You could see tendencies and percentages but you can't get too caught up in it.

How was it being a pinch-hitter? That is a really tough job.

Mike Baxter: You have to be realistic where you fit in. After playing five or six years you understand that I'm probably not going to go out and start in right field. You have to understand and prepare for the type of opportunity that you may get. Come off the bench and create a niche for yourself. I knew my path to the big leagues was going to be that route.

So for the past few years I've really worked on getting better defensively at a bunch of positions so I could fill that role.

When you are talking about a pennant race going down to the wire that we had last year where every at-bat meant something that was an incredible experience.

What was the biggest surprise going up?

Mike Baxter: There was a level of comfort just showing up knowing that you had played with the majority of guys. The other guys were great too and you could just feel that all of them really enjoyed being around each other.

Immediately from Day 1 you were put in a relaxed environment. Really I wasn't too surprised at anything. The pitchers are going to attack you the same way they always do. They might be a little more consistent than in AAA, you just have to hit the mistakes.

If you don't do that, then its going to be difficult.

You've played well since coming off of the DL.

Mike Baxter: I'm still missing pitches. Not driving the ball and still need to get some rhythm in. When you are fouling off pitches you should be driving that is the problem.

Here you can get away with it a little more, but if you miss a fastball in the big leagues you are going to pay for it.

When you are evaluating where you are at you have to be realistic in knowing where you want to be at. Where I want to be you are not going to get multiple fastballs to hit.


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