When the number one overall pick from the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft got on the field for the first time, it was a bumpy road.
His first game was deemed a success when he went 1-for-4 with a stolen base playing for Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League. But it went downhill from there. The fielding errors went up while his average went down.
The shortstop had a stretch of seven games where he went 1-for-27 playing for Peoria. Not only was his time at the dish a problem for Matt Bush but also his fielding was inconsistent at best and injuries hampered the Mission Bay High School product.
"It slowly went throughout the game," Bush said of his hamstring injury. "When I wasn't playing, I wasn't doing anything. I was running and that was about it. I think it was coming from high school and not being used to playing everyday. That was a real big change for me. My arm got pretty sore. I played through the sore arm – that was ok. My legs were ok but for some reason my hamstring just slowly went throughout that one game."
As the number one pick in the draft and early troubles with the law, it is likely that Bush was pressing to play through his ailments. The longer he sits, the more doubts that creep in about his selection. There are enough of those to go around already.
Not so says Bush. This is baseball. You play through the minor injuries that will eventually hit everyone.
"I don't feel any different than any other guy on the team," Bush said. "That is just how I am. I want to play. I always want to play. I can't stand not playing. Competition – I always want to play and show myself."
Unfortunately, his play wasn't anything special. Late in the season, however, he got a promotion to Eugene of the Northwest League. The Padres had been eager to give him a sampling of life at a higher level. He is, after all, their top pick in the draft.
Plus, it was a chance for Bush to actually play in a "real" game. Sure the games down in Peoria were real and counted in the standings, but there was no crowd to accompany the action.
What is a baseball game without fans in attendance? That was the story in Peoria.
"It was real nice to get out there and play for something, in front of a crowd at a higher level," Bush admitted of his first game in Eugene. "It was a lot of fun."
He responded by going 1-for-4 and driving in two runs.
But the errors still plagued him. He had ten in 21 games for Peoria and proceeded to make one in each of his first six games with Eugene. After a one game hiatus, Bush finished his season with an error in his last game, giving him seven in eight games and 17 in 29.
"When I was in Peoria, the same thing happened," Bush said in reference to his high error rate with Eugene. "Right off the bat I was making errors in most of the games. Then I got it down and wasn't making as many errors, making all of my plays right before I left. I wasn't making many errors.
"Another change of pace and change of level and once again I got some plays that I really haven't seen this year – some situations where the ball bounces a different way that I haven't seen in a while. There are a lot of ground balls that I haven't seen in a while and I needed to know about a little more – needed instruction on those ground balls."
Coming from high school, the ball jumps off the bat a little more than Bush anticipated and the players that are assigned to minor league clubs are the elite across the country. Without knowledge of the game at this increased speed, it can be overwhelming to a youngster.
"It is all about playing and getting some games under you. I need to see all of them plays and get all the errors out of me. All of them plays are going to happen this year so next year I am going to be ready for them – I am going to remember them all errors and mistakes that I made. I will know and prepare myself for them."
For now, it is back to the drawing board. Bush will go home and donate $10,000 to Mission Bay High School and take some much needed rest. It is the longest stretch of games he has ever played in such a concentrated period of time.
The hamstring will heal and he will be ready to go for next year – wherever the Padres send him.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Bush
MadFriars Top Stories
Sam Geaney on the San Antonio MissionsWe caught up with Sam Geaney, the Padres’ Director of Player Development for the fifth segment of our six part interview series on the top prospects in the system for 2016.
MadFriarsFriday at 2:09 PM
MadFriars Interview Missions' Stu PaulThe San Antonio Missions got off to one of the worst starts in club history and finished the first half with a Texas League and franchise worst 22-48 record. Behind strong…
MadFriarsWednesday at 8:30 PM
Texas League Pitcher of the YearA resurgent pitching staff in the second half saved what was on the verge of being a historically-bad season for the Missions. Plenty of pitchers had a say in the turn-around.
MadFriarsWednesday at 8:22 AM
Texas League Player of the YearIn a rough year for the San Antonio Missions, only a few position players contributed consistent value throughout the year.
MadFriarsTuesday at 7:53 AM
Sam Geaney on the Lake Elsinore StormWe caught up with Sam Geaney, the Padres’ Director of Player Development for the fourth segment of our six part interview series on the top prospects in the system for 2016.