Padres Prospect Interview: David Freese

Tearing up the minors in his first year of professional ball was par for the course. David Freese did it all in 2006 and is aiming for greater heights in the year to come. We caught up with him to discuss last season, the Instructional League, and the expectations for 2007.

Talk about starting the year in Eugene and moving up pretty quickly to Fort Wayne – what was the experience like in the Midwest League?

David Freese: Getting called up to Fort Wayne was one of the few objectives I had coming into my first year of pro ball. I didn't really have any expectations but wanted to do the best that I can. I knew they were kind of short at third base because they recently had a guy retire. I went into Eugene to try and produce and see what happened. It was a great experience in Fort Wayne. Randy Ready was one of the best managers I have ever been with. It was a great experience.

Was there anything in particular about Randy that would make you say that?

David Freese: He just knew how to get the team going. He knew what to say and when to say it. He knew there were times when we would lose a game and he wouldn't even come into to talk to us. He knew – we had a group of guys together that knew how to win. We knew when we lost what we needed to do. He was real good at saying what was needed to be said.

You started out hitting really well in Fort Wayne but tapered off a little bit. Was that a bit of fatigue setting in or making adjustments?

David Freese: I think it was just the wear and tear got to me a little bit. It was, basically, the first time I have played 70 games in a row. You learn that going into pro ball. This off-season I am getting ready for the grind.

How does the off-season change for you – is it running more, increasing the lifting regimen. How do you get ready for the 140-game schedule?

David Freese: You just have to get ready physically as you always have. The main thing is during the season you have to keep your endurance up and keep your muscles strong. It is more about during the season.

You went down to Instructs. Was there anything in particular that you wanted to work on or the Padres wanted to see?

David Freese: One thing I wanted to work on was my defense. My defense is what I really need to work on. My hitting can always get better but playing third base – I have played there for a couple of years now. Gary Jones took me under his wing and it seemed like I was always on the infield working with ground balls but that is what I needed to be doing.

When you were originally drafted there were people who were knocking your defense. Was that an unfair assessment at the time or was it fair and now you have to get better?

David Freese: There were days that I would play really good defense and some days I wouldn't. It is just a matter of consistency. To the scouts it depends on what day you came out and saw me play. My hitting was pretty consistent but my defense wasn't at times. That is something I have worked pretty hard on and feel like I have done a pretty good job on proving I could play third base.

I was a little disappointed after getting the Instructional League stats and seeing you only had a .491 on base percentage. You couldn't hit the magic .500 – what is up with that?

David Freese: (Laughter) Actually, one thing in regards to hitting in Instructs is I tried to see a lot more pitches and wait for the one I could drive. Especially being an RBI type guy, I need to swing at pitches I can drive into the gaps.

I was fortunate in Eugene to have Epping and Antonelli hitting in front of me. When those guys are on base you can hit a ball into the gaps and they are going to score.

In Fort Wayne I had Venable hitting in front of me for two months. That was a complete privilege because that guy was always on base. I swung at a lot of pitches in Fort Wayne and I tried to work on being more patient and my walks went up a lot in Instructs. I just need to see the pitches I can drive.

Now, do you get to see how many pitches you see per at bat – something that clued you in to the fact that you needed to work on this?

David Freese: I didn't see them but they had them. After every game I would rethink my at bats. There were times when I got myself out on pitches that were strikes but weren't pitches I could put the barrel on every time. When you move up, the pitchers, obviously, can throw their pitches and throw all of their pitches for strikes. Grady and all those guys are trying to get you ready for the big leagues, not just the level you are at.

You saw 4.2 pitches per plate appearance down in Instructs. That is pretty good.

David Freese: They want you to be around four. The more pitches you see, the more experience you have with that pitcher and the more mistakes they are going to make. If you go after the first pitch, maybe you will see a better pitch in that at bat. Seeing more pitches draws more walks and opportunities to get that pitch you can drive into the gap.

David Freese: That is kind of the hard part about it. Grady talked to me one time – he wants guys to walk but my job is to drive guys in. There is a fine line between trying to get on first base with a walk and driving the ball in the gap. It gets difficult but you just have to trust yourself and if you see a pitch you think you can drive you have to go after it.

What is the rest of the off-season like for you?

David Freese: I have been running ever since. I am trying to lose a little weight before I put some muscle on. Danny gave us a great workout. I am going into the weight room to hit it. I stayed away from the field for about a month and getting ready for spring training.

Did you already set goals for yourself this year, kind of like you did last year with the quest to make the Fort Wayne squad?

David Freese: I would like to start out at Lake Elsinore and am going to do everything I can to do that, especially with my age. It is up to them. It is up to Grady and all the other guys. I just want to go out there and prove myself again that I belong in the system and have a chance to be a big league third baseman.

You mentioned your age. Does that put any pressure on you and let the thought creep in that you only have a limited window here?

David Freese: No matter how old you are you have to prove yourself wherever you are playing. I guess it puts a little more pressure but I handle pressure pretty easily. You have to perform. Being 23, and I will be 24 in April, I got one shot so I have to do the best I can and hope it all works out.

Word is you got a chance to workout at catcher – was that just an experiment?

David Freese: I was working with Carlos a little bit just to see what I look like back there. Grady likes me at third base and wants me to progress there.

I love catching so it is always an option. I caught 25 games in college my senior year.

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