Small Ball

Being aggressive can get you in trouble. Being aggressive can also get you noticed. When you ask San Diego Padres prospect Todd Donovan whether there is such a thing as being too aggressive, get ready for a response you won't likely hear from too many players.

"I think there is for certain players," Todd Donovan begins. "If I didn't play the way I do, by running into walls or sliding head first or diving for balls in the outfield, I probably wouldn't be where I am right now. I am not a very big guy. I don't hit a lot of home runs. There are few players in the minor leagues, or even the major leagues for that matter, that can do what I try to do day in and day out, stay healthy and take advantage of times when their team really needs them.

"As far as the style of play that I have, I don't think you can be too aggressive. If I didn't do it, than somebody else would be and I wouldn't have a job. This is the way I need to play if I plan on making it in the major leagues. This is why I have gotten to where I am. Hopefully it will carry me to San Diego."

Donovan has trained hard all offseason to get back on track. He is a former member of the 40 man roster before injuries robbed him of time on the field. When he returned he was not the same player that prompted the team to include him on the 40 man.

His stats dropped the last two seasons in Mobile after four consecutive seasons where he hit above .284 and three above .296. His stint in Lake Elsinore included a 43 game span where he reached base every game.

"That should be my goal every season. I am not a prototypical leadoff hitter where I like to take pitches and draw walks. I am more Alfonso Soriano or Nomar Garciaparra (in regards to taking pitches). Unfortunately, my mindset is I don't like to take a lot of pitches and I know it hurts me and it is going to hurt me down the road. But something to where I am reaching base that many games or that many days in a row si something I should make my goal. For what I bring to a team or what I bring to an organization getting on base, stealing bases and scoring runs. That is the game of baseball. Teams win one to nothing and it is that one run that separates them from the other team."

It is that little ball that got him one step away from the top.

"Exactly. Old school baseball. Northeastern baseball. That is the way we play up here. We are very fundamental. We manufacture (runs) and that is the way I was brought up and try to bring to any team that I play for.

"Lake Elsinore I did it well, Fort Wayne I did it well, Idaho I did it well. Unfortunately, I haven't done it well at Mobile yet and I think that's due to all the injuries I have had in the past. I think my injury that I had in big league camp got me sent back down tot the minor leagues. It really took a toll on me physically and mentally. I have never been able to fully recover.

Now Donovan is faced with a true challenge. At 25, he realizes his time is limited and has taken this offseason to change his game. With an offseason to dedicate himself to baseball, for what may be the first time in his Minor League career, Donovan will come back with a new option. He will be batting left-handed for the first time in his career and hopes to take advantage of his speed.

"This is the first offseason where I can dedicate myself to baseball. I have hired a personal trainer. I work with him every morning and I plan on coming into camp and surprising a lot of people.

"I will come in to camp left-handed. Due to the facility here," at America's Game where he spends his offseason, "I get to hit left-handed everyday. It is something (the Padres) have talked about in the past. Come in about 10-15 pounds heavier. I think due to this place and due to my time that I dedicate to baseball this offseason next year is a year I am never going to forget due to the steps I take next year, which I have planned. I am looking forward to it.

"I think me coming back left-handed will have a big – that will be the deciding factor. If I come back left-handed for the first time in my life, I will probably have to start in Mobile. Even though I struggled as bad as I did last year, which I like to think is a fluke; I think they have that feeling in mind too. It was just a bad year; it was the most games I have ever played. I have never really dealt with struggling before on the baseball side. Injuries I have. As far as slumping and day in and day out, I never had to deal with that. I think last year was a big learning experience."

With that experience could come the last hurrah. Donovan realized this and has taken the steps to change his game – for the better. The road may still be long, but his attitude and willingness to develop a new facet of his game cannot be overlooked. What he does with it will ultimately decide his future.

If it isn't on the field, Donovan says he will get into coaching. Baseball is "in his blood" as he likes to say.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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