MadFriars' Interview: Tommy Medica

EL PASO, TX:   Few players on the Padres' current roster better exemplify  how fickle draft analysis and perceived value can be than Tommy Medica, who was recently called up from San Diego's AAA El Paso Chihuahua affiliate.

Medica, 26, was drafted in the fourteenth round of Santa Clara University in the 2010 draft as a catcher.  With the Broncos he was considered a plus receiver but multiple shoulder surgeries sapped his arm strength and durability behind the plate.

However, the injuries did not limit his ability to hit where he finished his four year collegiate career with a.370/.448/.573 slash line. After a so-so debut with the short-season Eugene Emeralds in 2010, he was able to advance to High-A Lake Elsinore in 2011 where in 93 games he hit .302/.440/.502 at 23.

Still, the knock on Medica was that he was "old" for every league he competed in and much of his value, hence his prospect rankings, were negated because older right-handed hitting first basemen aren't worth as much as catching prospects. In essence, conventional wisdom was that sooner or later Tommy wouldn't hit.

However, although the Padres limited his catching career to five games, they always believed in the bat. As Randy Smith said on multiple times, "he can really hit" and found a place for him at first base.

Last year in AA San Antonio Medica once again showed he could "really hit" with a .954 OPS in the swirling winds of Nelson Wolff Stadium and turned some heads with a .290./380/.449 line in a September call-up with San Diego.

He made the roster out of spring training but was sent down in late April before, as written above, being recalled to San Diego.

We caught up with Tommy during his brief sojourn in El Paso.

Can you talk about how surprised you were getting called up to the majors from AA San Antonio last year?

Tommy Medica: I was surprised because we were going to go play in the Texas League Championship and going to the major leagues was the last thing on my mind.

I remember getting a from Rich Weimert [the Media Relations Director for the Missions] talking about happy they were for you but at the same time in a joking manner that the Padres killing their chances to win.

Tommy Medica: [laughs] Yeah, they probably weren't too happy but they also ended up winning it in the end. It was a very exciting day for me.

You made the club in the spring despite many players having much more experience than you. What were your expectations going into camp?

Tommy Medica: They kind of told me that my best chance of breaking with the squad was being able to play some outfield and first base. I put in a lot of work in the outfield and I happened to swing the bat well.

How different was it getting used to using an outfield glove? You were drafted as a catcher and then went to play first, so that had to be a little unusual.

Tommy Medica: My arm never really got back to where I wanted and needed it to be to catch and that was probably my biggest tool coming out of college. I could always hit and that helped. I've been learning first for the past few years and now the outfield.

It looks a lot easier than it is, but the reads are tough. Learning how the ball comes off of the bat differently from a left-handed hitter as compared to a right-handed hitter takes some getting used too.

I've always thought catchers are somewhat similar to point guards in basketball. When they are not involved in every aspect of the game; their attention tends to wander. Was it like that for you?

Tommy Medica: With catching you are in every play and one of the last things on your mind is hitting because you have so many other things going on. Going from catching to first was a little easier because anything hit on the ground you are going to at least touch the ball.

You are involved much more than you are in the outfield but then again I haven't really been catching in the past five years, so I've gotten more comfortable.

After you came back down from the big club what is the biggest thing you are trying to work on?

Tommy Medica: Just trying to become more consistent. I had minimal time when I was up there, only around 30 at-bats. It was what it was. When I'm here, you are playing every day and its about trying to keep your at-bats consistent and doing the right things to prepare.

You try to figure out what works and duplicate it to give you the best chance to succeed.

When you were in the major leagues and getting sporadic at-bats and you didn't do what you wanted to do, how did you deal with it? Here, you know you are getting up in a few innings but up there its something different.

Tommy Medica: When you are getting one at-bat a game you can end up putting too much importance on it but then again you have to be prepared for it. In the major leagues every field has a cage by the dugout so you can get warmed up physically to hit. Mentally its a little different, you have to really work to stay in the game.

The guys that do well pinch-hitting are ones that usually have a lot of experience in the big leagues and know how to make the most of their opportunities.


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