MadFriars' Off-Season: Vince Belnome

Vince Belnome, 23, was taken as a twenty-eighth round pick by the San Diego Padres in the 2009 draft despite compiling a .388/.477/.573 career line at West Virginia as a teammate of Padres' top prospect third baseman Jedd Gyorko.

Upon arriving at Eugene he instantly demonstrated that he could do what he has always done: hit.

A left-handed hitter who is very good at going the other way, Belnome batted .297/.431/.500 and also put up solid numbers in Lake Elsinore in 2010 with 48 extra base hits and a .397 on-base percentage.

This past season for the Mission the 6', 210 lbs. Belnome played first and third for the Missions but saw most of his time at second. Despite missing five weeks with abdominal and groin injuries in the middle of the season he hit .333/.432/.603.

The big improvement in his game this past season was a better use of taking the inside pitch to right field, which increased his power, and an improvement defensively in the field.

His best positions are third and second base, where Gyorko and Cory Spangenberg, two of the more highly regarded Padres‘ prospects play. However after the offensive year he put up in the Texas League he is in the discussion.

What have you been doing in the off-season to get better?

Vince Belnome: Mainly just trying to do as much as I can with my physical training; weights and cross-training in the morning. In the afternoon I work on baseball stuff.

You had a tough year at Lake Elsinore defensively in 2010 and last year you talked about increasing the number of ground balls that you took in the winter and you really improved - you only made eight errors.

This past year you were at second, what have you been doing to improve defensively?

Vince Belnome: The cross training has really been helping me with my lateral movement because if I am going to stay at second that is one area where I need to improve upon. As with last year for my baseball workouts I'm just taking as many ground balls as I can.

I saw you at the end of April and you were doing ok, especially with your on-base, but you were upset because you weren't driving the ball the way you wanted too.

Obviously you figured that out. What changes did you and Tourny [Tom Tornincasa, the Missions hitting coach] make?

Vince Belnome: At the end of April we had one little mechanical issue that we had to fix with my swing. It was with my load, my front hip was flying open and it was a bad habit that I picked up last year.

Another thing was that I started to not miss my pitch. Sometime during your at-bat you are going to get the one pitch that you have a chance to do something with and you can't miss it.

Can you describe your injury that you had in mid-season and how do you feel now?

Vince Belnome: It was a slow ball up the middle and I scooped it up one handed on the grass and threw it to first base. Immediately I felt something in my lower abdomen and when I tried to stand up it really hurt.

I ended up coming out of the game and took a few days off. Then I came back too soon and my groin started to hurt. The only way to really get better was to rest it, which was killing me since I was having a good year, for about five weeks.

How were you able to come back with little or no rust?

Vince Belnome: It was mainly mental. I wanted to get back on the field so bad that when I sat on the bench I tried to stay in the game as much as I could. About a week before I got back I did a lot of work with Tourny, but my swing is not that complex so it wasn't that big of an adjustment.

I saw some balls from one of our pitchers off of the mound and I felt like I was right back.

How much fun was it to get to play with your old college teammate Jedd Gyorko?

Vince Belnome: It was great. Jedd and I always have a good time especially when he is hitting third and I am at four. Just like in college.

San Antonio is easily one of the more difficult places to hit in baseball but you hit .327. How did the winds not affect you?

Vince Belnome: I didn't think it was that bad but then again I am more of a line drive hitter with quite a few hits going the other way. If I was more of a pull hitter who hit balls in the air it would affect me.

If you keep it down you are going to be ok.

You put up the best numbers of your career at the toughest league you have been in yet. What came together for you last year?

Vince Belnome: When I was in Eugene I remember our manager Greg Riddoch told me that if I could keep hitting like I was it was only going to get easier. The reason is that as you go up pitchers are around the plate much more.

There are more pitches to hit and if you get your pitch hit it. Also I got a little more aggressive and became less patient. If I got that pitch early in the count, I went after it.

What are your goals for this upcoming season?

Vince Belnome: My main goal is always to help my team win and individually I want to make it as far as I can, hopefully to the big leagues. I've been doing everything I can to get better both physically and as a baseball player. Hopefully it will pay off.

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