Padres Prospect Interview: Greg Sain

High strikeout totals have been Greg Sain's problem since he was taken in the fifth round of the 2001 draft out of the University of San Diego, and while those strikeouts might have been the reason he hasn't moved up, home run totals are the reason the Padres haven't given up on the first baseman yet. He set a Mobile Bay Bears record with 28 jacks in 2004, and looks forward to 2005 being the year where he connects even more consistently.

MadFriars.com caught Greg Sain between building a pond and renovating his brother's home in Southern California to talk homers, strikeouts and fatherly advice.

MadFriars.com: Was it a tough decision for you to pass up pro ball coming out of High School and go to the University of San Diego?

Greg Sain: At the time I wasn't committed to a four-year university yet, so taking the Tigers offer was definitely an option. High school guys usually carry more leverage and can get a bigger signing bonus because they always have the option to go to whatever university they are committed to, but since I wasn't committed I didn't really have leverage and couldn't get what I felt I was worth, and I just landed in the perfect situation at the University of San Diego..

MadFriars.com: What do you think going to USD gave you?

Greg Sain: That's one thing that's hard to say. In pro ball I play with guys out of high school, they'd had the other experience, you know, coming up through the pro ranks. I can't really tell you that one has an advantage over the other. For me the life experience is really what the biggest thing, that and the fact that your playing in an environment where winning is the goal, which is a little different than the minor leagues where it's all about individual development.

MadFriars.com: Coming out of college you were primarily a 3rd baseman/catcher, how much of your move to first was predicated on the shoulder injury in 2001?

Greg Sain: I think it was more a case of availability of position. The year before in the Cal League I got to play a lot of third, catcher, and some first. I did have my fair share of errors at third base, but when I got to Mobile, Jake Gautreau was playing third. He's a number one draft pick, and they'd just moved him to third to make room for Josh Barfield at second, and Barfield's obviously one of the top prospects in the system, so I was just lucky that I'm able to play a couple different places. I really don't think it had anything to do with the injury, because my arm strength is as good, if not better, than before the surgery, and I'm totally pain free.

MadFriars.com: You've called your Dad your mentor, how often do you talk with him, how much does he help you with your swing, and what are the Padres' feelings about his help?

Greg Sain: I talk to my Dad about ball, I see him almost everyday, especially now in the offseason. We're remodeling my brother's house, building ponds from scratch, all sorts of projects. So we spend a lot of the time talking about baseball. I've never heard anything negative from the Padres about my father's help, and frankly, if the Pads have a problem they can kiss my (rear). I mean there aren't that many people who have your best in interests in mind, and I know he does. He's been through it, made it to Triple-A, and has that same love and passion for the game that I do. I know he has fatherly moments where he's pulling for me or thinks I should be moved up, but he's very knowledgeable, both about the physical and mental parts of the game. Besides, it's not like my Dad's telling me to do things that are different from what the Padres are. There's not a whole lot the Padres have me do that I disagree with. I'm not the almighty Baseball God, but what I try to do is take a little something from everyone and put it together into what is best for me.

MadFriars.com: You seemed to have a lot more success in the 5-hole than hitting 3rd or 4th, is there something about that spot in the batting order than made you more comfortable?

Greg Sain: You know, I don't really recall having any more success. I'm sure there might be some correlation to having runners in scoring position, or having more guys on in front, or maybe the guy in front was clearing the bases so the pitchers aren't as worried about me. There's really no psychological advantage though, it didn't matter to me hitting one through nine they still know it's me coming to hit, and they pitch to me the same way. The situations might have been different, but as far as I was concerned I'm just going up there trying to hit.

MadFriars.com: What are you working on specifically in the offseason to prepare you for next year?

Greg Sain: I've working on my body a lot, dieting, becoming a little more functional as far as range of motion, flexibility. I think a lot of the down parts of my season are about my body breaking down. I've noticed that I seem to hold up really well until August, and then August and September are killing me. So a lot of what I'm working on now is stamina and strength for the upcoming season. As far as my game goes you can't really work on not striking out in the offseason. I'm just trying to get to know everything about my body, and everything I can do to stay strong and fresh all season. I wish there was a drill I could be doing to help me strikeout less, because if there was one thing I was working on that would be it.

MadFriars.com: What was one thing that was different last year at Double-A?

Greg Sain: This year I was really pitched to differently than in the past. For the first time there were times when I flat out knew I wasn't going to get anything to hit. I knew walking to the batters box that I was going to get walked, and I think I had twice as many as any of my past seasons. I had career high in walks, but I also had 20 more strikeouts than ever before. It was difficult for me, as an aggressive hitter, to learn to be patient. I wanted to drive guys in and get big hits, and sometimes I knew that I wasn't going to get anything to hit, and the best thing was just to take the walk, but it's hard to be in that position. I'd be sitting there 2-0 or 3-1 waiting for the fastball, but In Double-A guys are more apt to throw breaking balls and off-speed stuff behind in the count, so that was a big adjustment.

MadFriars.com: What are some of the other things that the experience of playing in Double-A last year taught you?

Greg Sain: Everybody says there are better arms in Double- A and better pitchers in Triple-A. Guys with more experience at the higher levels are always around the zone. Even when the pitch is a ball, it's just off the plate, so I had to really work on the strike zone. Every year you see the same guys, and you start to learn what kind of pitches they favor, what they like to do, so you start learning, and keep learning, and hopefully it pays off.

MadFriars.com: What were some of the highlights of the '04 season for you?

Greg Sain: Winning the first half and clinching a playoff spot were pretty cool. Its been awhile since I've been on a championship caliber team. At USD we were a winning team, but not a playoff team, so it was the first time since high school that I was in a playoff atmosphere. And I'd be lying if I said the home run record wasn't pretty cool too.

MadFriars.com: Was that added pressure on you?

Greg Sain: Well, it's not like it was McGwire or Bonds or anything like that, but fans around Mobile were excited about it, and I think it really did play a little psychologically on me. As you get deeper in the year your body's fatigued and your power numbers are naturally going to go down. So then I've got fans saying, "Are you going to do it tonight," or "It's my birthday can you do it tonight?" Even simple stuff like "It's Friday night fireworks, hit it tonight," and I think I started changing things trying to hit that home run, not consciously, but unconsciously, and it really hurt me in the long run because I didn't get that home run until the second to last day of the season.

MadFriars.com: What are your biggest goals for the '05 season?

Greg Sain: It's all about progression for me. The way its been going for me, I haven't been getting called up midseason for whatever reason. If I'm getting promoted that means my numbers are good. I want to make it to the big leagues and I think I'm pretty close to ready. Numbers are great but if I'm sitting in Double-A hitting .300 with 30 homers that doesn't really do anything for me. It's all about working hard and getting to the show.


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