Jake Gautreau Exclusive Interview

The Arizona Fall League is widely considered the place to send your best prospects. In Arizona, they can experience playing against better competition in hopes they handle their own. It is one barometer of a player's talent en route to the Majors. <br><br>The San Diego Padres sent Jake Gautreau out there one month and left him off the 40 man roster the next. MadFriars.com talked to Jake in an exclusive interview regarding his play this past season and the future of this second baseman.

Peoria became Jake Gautreau's home for two months. After a few weeks off, Gautreau headed out there with a purpose. His 2003 season was not the success he had hoped. Many players are asked not only to go to Arizona, but the big club will sometimes ask a player to work on something, whether it be bunting, hitting the other way, or just continuing to get better. The Padres wanted?

"Nothing (the Padres) wanted me to work on in particular," Gautreau said. "I just came out here – I struggled in my first year at Mobile and I just wanted to come out here and find something comfortable in the batter's box and stick with it. Just try to have a decent showing out here (in the AFL) whenever I played. It is going well."

One question will often lead into another. Struggles at the plate in 2003 led Gautreau to a .242 average. This followed seasons of .355, .309 and .286 in the Padres system. Did you change your stance during the year?

"During the year I tried a lot of things. I think that was part of the problem. So I came here I decided I wanted to find something I was comfortable with it and not change at all. It has worked."

At the outset it was mentioned that teams will often send the guys they think are on the upswing, prospects that will one day play in the organization. How good are the players in the Arizona Fall League? The 2003 All-Star Game in Chicago featured more than 20 AFL alums. Therefore, it means something to be sent to Peoria.

"It is an honor because every organization sends its top prospects and definitely a learning experience because it is a high level of baseball. I was out here last year so I kind of knew what to expect. It is good baseball out here. Something that really helps you work on stuff for the future."

This was his second stint in Arizona. The honor becomes compounded.

Gautreau batted .225 in 32 games in the Fall League in 2002. He went 23-102 with seven extra base hits and six RBI's. He also walked 11 times and struck out 24 times.

In 18 games this year, Gautreau batted .258, going 17-56 with six extra base hits and nine RBI's. He walked seven times and struck out ten times.

Translating that out further, Gautreau showed more power this year, timely hitting producing RBI's and better plate discipline by cutting down dramatically on his strikeouts. Last season Gautreau had more strikeouts than hits!

It wasn't always rosy in Arizona. The Saguaros met Mesa on October 27th and were one hit. It wasn't pretty as Padres prospects combined to go 0-10 on the day. It was a rout.

"Yeah it was. We didn't do (well). Dewon Brazelton started that day and he threw well and it seemed like every guy they brought in was throwing well. It wasn't overpowering, just everybody was a little off; we were trying to do too much."

Some have said you needed to have a good fall league this year, does that weigh on your mind at all?

"It is totally on my mind. I really wanted to come out here and do well. Let myself know and let other people know that I can still hit. It was kind of a rough one. I am not worried about not hitting, I just know I had an off year and I think everybody goes through one of those. Just so happens that this past year was my off year. Hopefully I learned from it and hopefully I don't have many more of those."

Gautreau is aware of the year he had. He makes no excuses when he clearly could have. His wish is to just get better. His attitude, combined with his work ethic, make it a surprise that he was not added to the 40 man roster.

We will continue the talk with Jake Gautreau tomorrow where we will find out who has helped his game, delve deeper into his 2003 season and find out more about this Padres prospect.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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