For nearly every player being traded back to your hometown team is a dream but when Dickerson suffered a sprained left ankle after stepping on a sprinkler head in spring training last year the X-Rays revealed an abnormality in his heel bone which led to surgery that kept him off of the field until late July. So it wasn’t quite the outcome he imagined.
Despite missing most of the season, the left-handed still put up strong numbers hitting .321/.367/.496 in 146 plate appearances at AA San Antonio. He should start the year in El Paso, splitting time between the corner outfield spots and first base.
With the big club being very right-handed heavy he could be in line for mid-season call-up. We caught up with Alex to talk about last season and what it takes to be a professional.
Last year you got off to a tough start with your broken ankle but came back and were able to put up some numbers in AA San Antonio. Why were you able to do to perform so well?
Alex Dickerson: I knew I could compete and have never had a problem with that. Step in the box and see what happens; but I was never close to a one hundred percent.
I wasn’t supposed to play at all last year, but I really tried to force the issue. I got out there with little over a month and tried to put some good swings on the ball.
For your rehab were you hitting off of a tee or in the cage?
Alex Dickerson: I only hit about a week or two before I got out there, so not much. The one thing you are always nervous about is feel but I was lucky because right out of the gate everything felt good, hands felt right, timing was on.
Once I got past the nervous barrier I was fine but then the fatigue in my back leg set in and got a little cold and near the end the strength started to come back. It’s just a process.
I wasn’t expecting a ton, but I do think I did all right - but then again it wasn’t the type of season that I had hoped for before I got injured.
Where do you feel more comfortable at first base or in the outfield?
Alex Dickerson: I grew up as an outfielder, so I feel more comfortable out there. I did have a year and a half as a first baseman in Pittsburgh, so I do feel good there too. This spring I’ve had more time at first as kind of a refresher course and it is coming along slowly.
Right now I fee pretty good going in at both positions; either as a corner outfielder or at first. There is always someone better than you at a certain position, so you have to be able to move around.
When you came over in the Pittsburgh trade, as someone who grew up in Poway, you must have felt great.
Alex Dickerson: It was great. Growing up in San Diego I was a Padres’ fan. I was having a good spring last year so that was part of the disappointment that I didn’t get to play as much as I would have liked.
But I still feel rejuvenated by coming over here and hope I can have a good year.
What was your off-season like?
Alex Dickerson: I still live in Poway so I went down to PETCO about everyday this winter and worked with Mark Kotsay, the big league hitting coach. I saw Buddy [Black] quite a bit and also did some work with the strength coach. I wanted to make sure that I was able to get back to being completely healthy.
We’ve talked with a few guys who are in the same situation like, minor league players that were working out with Kotsay in the off-season. What exactly was he doing with you?
Alex Dickerson: For the most part he is not focusing that much on mechanics, it’s mainly just being on time and being ready. Once you get to the higher levels there isn’t much to change its just giving something that will get you back on track.
That is what you spend the majority of the season doing. If you are on a hot streak, ride it out if you are not trying to find out how to get back on.
Mark did a good job this off-season of bringing everyone in and just get a look at everyone and get them going and excited.
That is something that all of us kind of lose who played in Little League and High School, there really isn’t as much instruction going on at the professional level that we think.
Alex Dickerson: There are always times to change, but most of the time there is a reason why you are here. When things are going wrong it is usually so tiny adjustment that you have to tweak to get you back on track.
You can find it on video, in the cage or someone can point something out to you.
What do you rely upon?
Alex Dickerson: I don’t do video well. I try to make my own adjustments. The big thing is really just trusting your routines and having confidence in what you are doing. You have to deal with your struggles and how to get out them.
Is that the biggest challenge of pro ball not making some radical change when things are not going right?
Alex Dickerson: That is thing about pro ball. You know swings don’t change that much from when you played in college and even the competition to some degree.
But in you college you have those days off where you can breathe mentally and kind of re-group. In the pros you are going everyday so there is the fatigue factor that you don’t even notice and you don’t get that mental breather. So you have to figure out someway to stay fresh so once seven o’clock rolls around you are read to perform.
As you said you are healthy, so what is the biggest thing that you are happy about right now so far?
Alex Dickerson: Just playing the game. A year ago I stepped in a sprinkler and wrecked my ankle, so I am in a lot better place.