While he wasn’t cut, he was exiled to a purgatory known as “Extended Spring” with the hope of a call-up or an injury might create an opening on either the Triple-A or Double-A rosters.
Even though he hit .275/.339/.397 for the Chihuahuas in 2015, the Padres just had too many infielders at the upper levels in Nick Noonan, Jemile Weeks, Alexi Amarista to name a few for there to be room for him.
Luckily for Casey an injury and a few promotions opened a spot for him and after a slow start he has been the hottest hitter in the Padres’ organization hitting .418/.433/.582 in 17 games and 58 plate appearances for El Paso.
He’s not the biggest guy at 5’8”, a recurring theme with this year’s Chihuahuas’ infield, but the left-handed hitting McElroy has always had some pop in his bat with his best positions in the field at second and third base.
We caught up with him by phone before last night’s road game in Las Vegas to talk about his hot start and bouncing back from adversity.
You were left off of the full-season squads to begin the year. How did you deal with that?
Casey McElroy: It was pretty tough to deal with especially when you believe in yourself, but you also have to ask yourself what am I going to do about it? For me I knew I was going to get an opportunity to show everyone that I could play and I was fortunate that it came along pretty quickly.
You are 26, was there ever any thought of hanging it up?
Casey McElroy: Those thoughts will go through your mind but I also thought that I could still play. When I’m done with playing baseball I want to be done and not regret not giving it my best shot.
In your first seven games you hit .188. How did you deal with the pressure?
Casey McElroy: A lot of those at-bats were as a pinch-hitter, which is brutal on you if you are not used to it; especially with your timing. It was tough. I had no bargaining power because you are hitting what you are hitting. What got me through it was that I knew what I had done in the past and there was no reason I couldn’t do it again.
Success starts with one at-bat at a time.
All of these things are easy to say or better yet easier to write about what you should be doing, but was it a little tougher in practice?
Casey McElroy: Yes! [laughs]. It is tough everyone wants to do well and everybody wants to play. But part of being here is you have to learn how to ride out the good and the bad – so this was definitely a challenge.
Was there any turn around, something that clicked that started you off on this tear?
Casey McElroy: One – and maybe the only – advantage of not playing too much is you get a chance to work on a lot of things in the cage. One thing I started to do was to just move my hands forward a little bit, which is barely noticeable on video, but it helped me with my load and things just started to click.
I am doing my best to try to hold onto it.
You have gotten this hot before. I remember when you first got called up to Lake Elsinore in 2012 you were on fire [he hit .513/.587/.846 in his first ten game for the Storm].
Do you have any superstitions?
Casey McElroy: When I’m going well I try not to talk about it, look at video or think about mechanics – which of course, makes this a great time to do an interview [laughs].
Seriously, to me it’s always been a day-to-day thing as opposed to looking at the big picture. The next day when I am hitting off of a tee or in the cage I might be thinking when I made the out what did I do wrong? Could I have done something better?
Everything really is just one at-bat at a time.
You were a shortstop in college, played most of your pro career as a second baseman and now have seen most of you’re playing time this year at third. What is the toughest position for you out there?
Casey McElroy: Right now the toughest part is the positioning with all of the shifts. When I play shortstop it’s usually you will shade one way or another depending upon the batter. With third and second it’s much more about where you position yourself many times as opposed to your range.
My favorite position is probably second base because I have played there the most in the past few years. I’m getting there with third and really I feel comfortable anywhere in the infield.
Have the Padres gotten you that first base glove yet?
Casey McElroy: [laughs] No, they haven’t gotten around to that yet.
You got to pitch this year and got Brandon Nimmo to fly out to center. When was the last time you pitched?
Casey McElroy: Wow, I didn’t even pitch in high school. At the beginning of the month Rod [Barajas] asked me if I would be willing to pitch if there was a blowout and I said definitely, I would love too.
It was fun getting out there. James Loney, who was pretty good in high school as a pitcher, has also messed around some with bullpens; so I’m sure he’s ready to get out there too.
Are you going to do it again?
Casey McElroy: [laughs] Who knows? But if they want someone that can throw strikes, they know where to find me.