MadFriars' Interview: Nate Freiman

SAN ANTONIO -- Nate Freiman, 25, was taken in the eighth round of the 2009 draft by the San Diego Padres out of Duke University.

At Duke, where he was originally recruited as a pitcher, an arm injury curtailed his career on the mound but it ended out working out on the field where he left as the Blue Devils' all time leader in home runs.

Despite a solid career at Duke and his immense size he was considered a so-so prospect because of his questionable bat speed to go along with a very big strike zone at 6'8". Throw in the fact that he was a senior sign as a Blue Devil and big Nate was going to get very little love from prospect mavens.

However players like Nate Freiman are what make the minor leagues interesting, he has performed regardless of whether he is "old for the league" or any other stipulations. Every year his numbers have improved and coming into the year he had a career .291/.357/.484 line.

This year the big first baseman is second in the Texas League in home runs and RBIs despite playing in a severe pitcher's park and with the promotions of Cody Decker and Jedd Gyorko, not much protection.

First, exactly how tall are you?

Nate Freiman: I think about 6'8", in shoes 6'8".

Coming out of college you were considered as kind of a raw player. What is the biggest part of your game that has improved upon since college?

Nate Freiman: Trying to be consistent and pick better pitches to hit. I've stopped thinking about trying to hit a home run at every at-bat and worked on making hard contact and driving guys in.

For someone that is 6'8" you have a fun strike zone for a pitcher. How have you been able to overcome that?

Nate Freiman: There are a lot of pitches that are strikes but aren't good pitches for me to hit. I've really been working on just putting the ball in play.

My strike zone is bigger so I'm probably not going to walk as much as I should and I still swing at some pitches that I shouldn't. My mentality is try to go up there ready to hit and put the ball in play.

If they make the pitch, give them the pitch not the at-bat.

In the few years that I've seen you play you seem to have gotten much better at going deeper in the count.

Nate Freiman: Its just as easy to get yourself out by swinging at pitcher's strikes as it is at balls.

I need to get better at really waiting for my pitch to hit.

A big part of your improvement has to be your two strike approach this year.

Nate Freiman: The last few weeks I got away from my approach and was trying to do too much. The other night I really just tried to put the ball in play and it worked out for me. [Nate had five RBI's on four singles, all of which went up the middle or the other way].

What has been the biggest difference between the levels that you have experienced? Do you have to adjust your approach.

Nate Freiman: The biggest difference I've noticed at the AA level is players command the inside part of the plate much better than at other levels.

So that is just another thing you have to be ready for and not trying to spin off of the ball or cheat.

Everyone always looks at first as a rather easy position defensively but its much more difficult than it appears. Last night you talked about how important it is to not range too far over towards the second base side.

Nate Freiman: I made that mistake twice last night and it cost us runs. When I see a ball my first instinct is to go after it and that can screw us up sometimes. We have some really good second basemen in Dean [Anna] and Galvy [Jonathan Galvez] and I have to realize they can get to a lot of balls and me covering the base is a better option than the pitcher.

Your slugging percentage is up and your on-base percentage is a little down. In the past your on-base has been pretty good in the past is that something you are working on getting back up?

Nate Freiman: Its a long season but yeah definitely. Right now I don't want to worry about numbers just about my approach and being consistent.

How much discipline does it take to not carry bad at-bats and bad games over?

Nate Freiman: Its tough and I catch myself doing it sometimes. I try to always remember that is a long season and a grind.

Its kind of strange that you were a History and Math major at Duke. Usually math people hate to write and the history people hate numbers. How did you end up doing that?

Nate Freiman: Actually I was a Math minor, just a few credits short of being a double major. I couldn't really decide which one I wanted to go into.

You mean like the pure math classes?

Nate Freiman: It was hard and it got to the point when we weren't even dealing with numbers any more, all letters.

It was a good challenge.

It makes hitting the slider that much easier?

Nate Freiman: No [shaking his head dejectedly], hitting a slider is harder than anything in advanced calculus.

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