Padres Prospect Interview: George Kottaras

MOBILE - Most Padres' fans that follow the team's prospects have been hearing about catcher George Kottaras for some time now. After a very good 2004 in Fort Wayne, Kottaras caught forty-two more games in 2005 than he had before in his career.

Splitting time between Lake Elsinore and Mobile, he held up despite concerns that his relatively small frame (6-foot, 190-pounds) couldn't withstand the punishment of a full season.

Kottaras epitomizes the type of player San Diego is trying to develop, a player with gap power who controls the strike zone. Last year, he hit a career-high in home runs [11], and projects as someone could hit between 15-20 home runs at the major league level. His defense has come a long way from last year, although some question whether he is willing to call enough off-speed pitches, and he has continued to hit better every year as he has risen in the system. This year he has only made three errors in 40 games and has an OPS of .962, which is good enough for fourth in the Southern League. I've talked to you in the past and you've always claimed that you are just trying to hit the ball hard, but it seems like a lot more balls are going further or over the fence. So something had to change.

George Kottaras: Yeah, you know I just try to hit the ball hard and where it goes it goes. If it doesn't, then that is part of the game too. I'm just trying to have good at bats, which is what everyone is preaching. Work the count, get a good pitch that you can do something with.

Have you gotten stronger in the past year? Has there been anything different with your weight training?

George Kottaras: As I mature I'm beginning to know what it takes to get my body ready. I do feel a little stronger, but I don't think that is the reason for the increase in power. I'm starting to recognize pitches better and my approach has changed so its allowing me to succeed a little bit longer.

Is it possible that some of the increased power may be coming from that you are centering the ball better which allows you to hit it further and more consistently?

George Kottaras: Sometimes its not about how hard you swing but where you hit it. So yeah, that could be it.

You didn't start playing organized baseball until you were 15 instead you played fast-pitch softball. It seems that the ball gets on you much quicker in that game, how has that helped your baseball career?

George Kottaras: It helped me being short and quick to the ball and not having a long swing. This helps me here because it allows me to stay back and recognize pitches a little longer.

The only knock on your defense recently has been your transfer from the glove to your hand when runners are attempting to steal. How have you worked to improve upon it?

George Kottaras: Its just repetition, its all you can do. Repetition.

What is the biggest part of your game you are trying to work on defensively?

George Kottaras: Controlling a pitching staff, recognizing swings, blocking pitches…just everything.

When you say "controlling a pitching staff" what exactly does that mean? Recognizing what a guy can throw, when to call it?

George Kottaras: Exactly. How to deal with each guy, when to get on him, when to pat him on the back, know what it takes to get them going, when to calm them down. Knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are.

One other thing when we were comparing you to all the other guys in the organization is you don't seem to get tired as the season wears on. What is your secret?

George Kottaras: Just trying to stay ready for the game, eating right and making sure I get my rest in.

What is your typical day like during the season?

George Kottaras: Its all about getting rest to the body. After the game we are just mentally and physically exhausted because there is so much going on during the day.

You have to come out here and catch bullpen, batting practice and then play a game, so it seems like a long day.

George Kottaras: Yeah, and then there is infield. We work out around 10 in the morning until about 11:30, get some lunch, come in for treatment, then its extra work, batting practice, bullpen and infield.

I've got a pretty good idea what your answer is going to be on this, but I'll ask it anyhow. How difficult is it not to think about the major leagues as you're getting closer to the big leagues?

George Kottaras: It is difficult, but all I can do is control what I do on the field. Other than that, just waiting for an opportunity and hopefully I will make the best of it.

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