Kevin Kouzmanoff ready to explode for Padres

The San Diego Padres are banking on a major contribution from Kevin Kouzmanoff this year, acquired in an off-season deal for Josh Barfield. Nicknamed "Monster" by his former teammate, Kouzmanoff is excited about the impact he can have now and into the future.

Talk a little bit about your thoughts on the trade to the San Diego Padres.

Kevin Kouzmanoff: I had no clue it was coming. What I was telling everyone is it was a big surprise and a shock. I had no clue. It was definitely unexpected.

I know I had read a quote from you that said, ‘whatever club you are with – that is your big leagues.' Is this the application of that?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: Yeah, the Indians were a first-class organization and I learned a lot from them. They already had their positions filled and I heard the Padres really wanted me and worked hard and long to get me. Now that I am with the Padres, I am giving my full support. Hopefully, I can be an impact player with the club and help them win.

Have you had a chance to look at the roster and find you know some of these guys?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: (laughter) One of the few guys I knew was Josh Barfield – and Ben Johnson, who was also traded. I know Paul McAnulty. I am pretty much going in not knowing anybody.

Is there someone on the roster that you are really looking forward to picking their brains, guys like Brian Giles and Mike Cameron who have been around the game for a long time?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: Absolutely. Those guys have been established and they have been around. I would love to be next them and pick their brains.

I am also anxious to see Russell Branyan hit the ball 600 feet. I have seen him hit a couple of homers that were just way out there.

As a rookie coming into spring training, do you just sit back and soak it all up or impart the knowledge you have gained over the years as well?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: I definitely go in ready to soak it up and learn as much as I can. I want to go have fun and take care of business, doing the best that I can. Every off-season I come back home and work as hard as I can to be ready for day one.

It is cool to talk to other guys because everyone has different backgrounds and it is cool to sit down and chat with guys to get different aspects on life and baseball.

Is there any fear on what PETCO Park could do to your power game?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: Well, it is a big park from what I hear. I am going to treat it just like any other stadium I have been in.

Talk a little bit about the back injury in 2004.

Kevin Kouzmanoff: That was in the Arizona Fall League and I was playing third base. There was a foul ball right above the third base dugout and I go running over there and put my arm out to feel for the railing of the dugout and I had about 10 or 15 feet to go and basically went right through the entrance of the dugout and just lost my footing and fell on the top stair.

It got a little sore and it has given me some problems in the past but I think I am to the point now where I am smart about it and maintaining and keeping it strong. I don't think it is going to be a problem for me.

When did you feel healthy and comfortable? Healthy is one thing and comfortable may be another.

Kevin Kouzmanoff: I felt great this year. I have felt great every year. I had just had that one setback and I feel as though I am always comfortable – even in the little slumps you run into.

You gained the mantra of playing hard on every pitch. Does that kind of all out attitude place the label of "throwback player" on you for wanting to get your jersey dirty?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: I think that is the way the game should be played. I think you should play the game at 100 percent every play. If you go home and look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I could have done better.' The old saying is you play the game like it is your last game. That is what I try to do and it is my mentality and just a habit now.

A grand slam on the first pitch you see in the major leagues. I don't think you can even dream that stuff up.

Kevin Kouzmanoff: It was definitely wild. It was pretty crazy and exciting. My family and friends were there to see it. It was a big moment in my life for sure.

You go out and break up a perfect game the next time out – did you quietly think, ‘this is going to be easy.'

Kevin Kouzmanoff: No (laughter). As soon as you think you have this game figured out it is going to throw you a curveball and you are going to dig yourself a hole. I make it a point to stay humble, just going out there like you still have a lot to learn and I do.

What were your overall impressions of the major leagues last year.

Kevin Kouzmanoff: It was tough to get into a routine because I wasn't sure when I would be playing. I would play one day and have two days off, then play two days in a row and have three days off. It was back-and-forth. It was tough to get a routine.

It is the big leagues. It is tough. Of course it is going to be tough. It is the best of the best. Definitely a lot better than Triple-A. It doesn't get any better. I had a great time up there and can hopefully get in the swing of things this year and keep it going.

What will be a successful season for you in 2007?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: I have some competition this spring. My goal is to make the club and be an everyday impact player with the Padres.

Are there number goals you set on yourself?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: No, I don't set any number goals. I don't think I have control over that. I just set goals that I have control over.

You always hear – and this is from the outside - this guy isnt solid defensively or some part of someone's game is lacking. Oftentimes we find that the skeptics aren't informed. What do people need to know about your defense?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: That I get the job done over there. I think I am a pretty good defensive third baseman and everyday I am improving. I have a lot to learn and every ground ball is different so it is important to get a lot of reps down there so when the game does come you get similar ground balls that you are training on.

I remember watching a game you were at and got to watch you hit. I have in my notes that you saw 19 pitches over two at bats that game. Is that the battler mentality that you won't give in till the pitcher gives you the pitch you want?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: Exactly. You go up to the plate taking it personal and it is a battle. He is trying to get you out and you are trying to beat him. I think every player should go up there and not give in. It should be a battle, regardless of what the score is, what inning it is. You shouldn't throw any at bats away.

You have shown the ability to have power to all fields where a normal power hitter is generally more of a straight pull hitter. What is the mindset going into the at bat?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: I am just thinking of staying in the middle of the field. If I try to pull the ball I will get pull happy and try to pull everything so I think middle of the field and react to anything inside or away on the black.

One of your teammates called you "Kuzi bear". Did you fight him on it for a better nickname?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: (laughter) I have a lot of nicknames and that was just one of them. A lot of guys call me Monster. It is never ending. It seems everyday there is a new nickname for me. It is fun in the clubhouse. I wouldn't get worked up about it.

Is there a better place to play baseball?

Kevin Kouzmanoff: No. You go down there, play down there and live down there – you could get spoiled pretty quick. I am definitely a fan of southern California and am originally from there. I love it down there. It is the best climate in the world.

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