MadFriars' Interview: Dean Anna

TUCSON, AZ: Quick. Name the Padres' middle infielder that is hitting .321/.389/.537? Unless you really follow the ins and outs of San Diego's system you aren't going to get it, but that should change soon.

Tucson's Dean Anna, 26, a 2008 twenty-sixth round pick from Ball State, a school that is better known as the alma mater of David Letterman, has been scorching the Pacific Coast League.

In his sixth year in the organization he is finally getting regular playing time, albeit not at just one position. Last year Anna saw time at five different positions but so far this year they have kept him in the infield. The left-handed hitter's strengths, beyond his solid defensive versatility, is to provide what is known as a "professional at-bat".

Which means he is going to make the pitcher work for anything they get. He's he's tough to strike out. Going into Thursday night's game with 16 strikeouts in 149 plate appearances and a .371 batting average with runners on base.

It is hard to not see Anna getting a chance somewhere in the near future either with San Diego or someone else. A solid left-handed bat with the ability to play all the infield and outfield positions is a valuable commodity.

You played well in the past and last year San Antonio was kind of a breakout season for you. You got regular playing time and except for a bit of a slide at the end you really put up good numbers.

It had to be great coming into spring.

Dean Anna: Oh yeah. The one thing that really helped me out last year was really understanding my swing and what pitchers are trying to do. That was the big advantage of playing every day, just getting a better understanding of everything. And finally getting to experience the day-to-day grind was also a big help.

It has to be tough playing only two or three times a week in the past and trying to put up numbers.

Dean Anna: It is tough. Its not just me but a lot of other guys are going through it too. So much of hitting is about getting a rhythm. You don't have to be in the cage 24/7, you know you are going to get your at-bats and you have your rhythm.

You have an interesting swing. You put your legs very close together, lean forward and then you rock back and explode into the ball.

Dean Anna: I'm not a big guy so I have to develop momentum. As you said, I lean forward on my front foot and then I rock back and it helps me with my timing. It really helps my timing after I've seen one or two pitches.

It's a little complicated, but you don't miss that much either when you swing. You've never been a player that strikes out a lot.

I mean you describe all of the things you are not but one gift you must have is pretty good hand-eye coordination.

Dean Anna: I guess so. I have pretty good timing too and am usually able to get a good swing on the ball.

You also got bigger. In spring and here I've noticed the ball is traveling a little further off of your bat. Some guys get bigger but it doesn't seem to translate at the plate, but not with you.

Dean Anna: I did put on some weight and what I have I am going to use [laughs]. I worked out a little harder this winter and improved my diet. The cardio is better and really I am just trying to keep everything up.

I learned last year that playing everyday you have to stick to your fitness routine or you are going to wear down which happened to me at the end.

That is the big goal for me is to stay healthy and push through it.

We can talk about eating right and keeping up your lifting routine but playing everyday also had to help your understanding of the game. It seems like you are starting to see certain pitches that you know you can drive.

Dean Anna: Absolutely. I had 400 plus at-bats and that is just huge for developing. Understanding yourself and the game.

There are some good pitchers that are going to get you out. But when you start seeing the pitch around the area that you want and you are going to hit it because its been there so many times before. It's very different in game conditions as compared to the cage.

Practice reps are good but the game reps are just a whole new level.

You have an interesting career. Most people struggle more as they go up and you are the opposite. Do you think its because you finally just got an opportunity?

Dean Anna: Right when I got drafted I was ready to play but there are prospects that come up, so you got to be patient and be ready.

But I've always believed that anything can happen; you just have to keep grinding.

You have played some second, shortstop and a little bit of third. So just one glove this year?

Dean Anna: [laughs] Just one so far but I still have my outfield and first baseman's mitt ready.

You've been getting to play a lot of shortstop this year as compared to last.

Dean Anna: I love playing shortstop. The angles and it just feels more natural because its where I've been all of my life.

I like to get rid of the ball really quick and keep my feet moving.

The heat in San Antonio was brutal and Tucson may be worse. How do you plan to push through the summer?

Dean Anna: We have a great trainer and I'm really focused on my diet this year. I also know what to expect, so I think I'm ready.

The thirty-minute workouts in are tough. Because you are a little tired to begin with but once they are done you just feel so much better.

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