SAN DIEGO -- The Padres signed roughly two dozen minor league free agents last off-season. Some are still with the organization, a few have been released but Ryan Schimpf may have been the best signing of all.
The 28-year-old infielder spent the first seven seasons of his professional career in the Toronto organization, where despite five straight seasons of at least 20 home runs, the former LSU Tiger never received a promotion to the big leagues.
The five-nine, 180 lb. infielder opened the eyes in the Padres organization with a solid spring in big league camp before he was sent to Triple-A El Paso to start the season.
Schimpf was arguably the best player in the Pacific Coast League before his promotion to San Diego, as evidenced by a monstrous .355/.432/.729 batting line with 15 homers before the Padres purchased his contract.
Schimpf got off to a slow start in San Diego, but in July, Schimpf raked like he did in the Pacific Coast League. The rookie slugger hit .269/.387/.795 with a franchise rookie-record nine home runs. The infielder talked to us before a recent game at Petco Park to reflect on his journey.
MadFriars: What brought you to sign with San Diego in the off-season?
Ryan Schimpf: I wanted to go somewhere to get the opportunity to play. I talked with Andy Green and a couple other people within the organization. After all of that, it just seemed like the right fit. I had a chance to go to big league camp and play in Triple-A. I was excited to sign with the Padres.
With the red-hot start you got off to in El Paso, do you look at the big league roster construction and wonder where you might fit in?
Ryan Schimpf: I didn’t let it consume me. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you keep looking at all the moves. All I could do is try to get better and play well. I tried to not let all that other stuff affect me.
The hitting environment in El Paso has been known as a hitter’s haven. Do you think that plays into your stats, or were you just locked in?
Ryan Schimpf: It’s a great ballpark and a wonderful place to but I’d leave it up to others to speculate on that. I think if you put a good swing on it, it will go out anywhere.
Before you got hot, you started off in a bit of a slump. Did you make any adjustments or is just a byproduct of seeing big league pitching?
Ryan Schimpf: Overall, I had some good at-bats early on, I just had nothing to show for it. I just missed a couple of pitches. Overall, it’s just about staying with the process and the right approach. Obviously, up here, they have a lot of information available about you as a hitter but you just have to be firm with you approach and not give in to them.
It seems like you hit your home runs in bunches. Is that always how you’ve been as a hitter?
Ryan Schimpf: I’d have to take a step back and look at it. I’m not sure on that one.
Can you describe your approach at the plate? Are you always looking for the fastball to drive?
Ryan Schimpf: I think everybody likes the fastball. (laughs) I just try to look for something over the plate that I can hit hard. Anytime you get the fastball over the heart of the plate you want to do some damage to it.
After seven years in the minors, can you describe what winning Rookie of the Month means to you?
Ryan Schimpf: It’s special and pretty cool. But that was last month and now I have to turn the page. It wasn’t expected — I was trying to go out there and get better and help the team win some ballgames.
What are your goals for the remainder of the season?
Ryan Schimpf: Keep trying to get better. Not get complacent and continue to have good at-bats. Communication with the coaches is important and I just want to keep learning.