Padres Prospect Interview: Craig Stansberry

When the San Diego Padres claimed infielder Craig Stansberry off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in December, they probably expected to get a player who would hit a little and play gold glove quality defense.

What no one could have expected was that the 25-year-old would have an offensive resurgence and be knocking on the door of the big league club by mid-May. Stansberry has been tearing up the Pacific Coast League all season with the Portland Beavers, and has to be viewed as a potential replacement for the scuffling Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Thorough 37 games, Stansberry is hitting .352, which is almost one hundred points above his career average coming into this season. The former Rice Owl is also showing off his power stroke, as he is second on the Beavers with four homeruns and first in runs batted in with 29.

Stansberry has always been known for his defense, even in his college days at Rice, where he won a national title in 2003. While he was mainly a third baseman in college, he was drafted by the Pirates as a second baseman and played there for his first four pro seasons. Since joining the Padres organization, he has shown his versatility by playing both shortstop and third base.

If Stansberry continues to dominate in Triple-A, he may leave the Padres no choice but to promote him and give him a chance to break into the everyday lineup in San Diego.

Bill Conrad: How did you find out that you weren't going to be in the Pirate's organization anymore?

Craig Stansberry: The director of player development called me and told me that I had been claimed by the Padres. I didn't know anything about the Padres organization, other than what I had seen on television, but I did know a few guys that played in the organization.

Bill Conrad: You have been hitting the ball very well lately, was there anything you changed about your swing that has helped you hit this year?

Craig Stansberry: Not really. I worked hard in the off-season to get stronger and to hone my swing, but I have done that each off-season. With my swing, I sit down and look at it. I try to see what exactly I am doing and try to see what about my swing might be hurting me. I try to improve on my weaknesses and get as many reps in as I can.

Bill Conrad: You struggled with the bat some in the minors last season, why do you think that was the case?

Craig Stansberry: I just got off to a bad start. I had some tough luck early and then again at the end of the season. I had a strong middle part of the season. I was in Double-A and was hitting the ball really well, and then I got promoted to Portland and kept hitting really, really well. I slumped at the end of the season and didn't have enough at bats to keep the average up there.

Bill Conrad: What is it like playing with Vince Sinisi [the two were teammates at Rice in 2003] again?

Craig Stansberry: It's great playing with him again. He is a good guy and a good player. He has a real good personality and is a good teammate all around.

Bill Conrad: You have been a part of several championship teams, talk a little about that?

Craig Stansberry: I enjoy playing in the postseason. That is what we all play baseball for. I understand the point of baseball is to win, so having the experience helps me to play well late in the year.

Bill Conrad: How did playing for head coach Wayne Graham at Rice help your baseball career?

Craig Stansberry: I learned a lot in my one year at Rice. I improved in every aspect of baseball, both mentally and physically. I definitely gained a lot in my one year at Rice.

Bill Conrad: You have played second, third and shortstop this year for the Beavers. Is it hard to get to the ballpark each day and not know which position you will be playing that night?

Craig Stansberry: It is not too hard. You really have to take ground balls at each position. At shortstop, you really have a long throw across the diamond. You also have a long throw at third base, where the ball also gets to you very quickly. You really need to get in the game at each position before you can get a feel for all the angles and spins that the balls have at each position.

Bill Conrad: Which defensive position do you feel the most comfortable playing?

Craig Stansberry: I have played a lot of second base over my pro career. That is where I played as a Pirate. I have had a lot of reps there the last few years, but I see myself being able to play all three positions well.

Bill Conrad: Being in Triple-A, you are very close to the major leagues. How much do you think about the possibility of being called up?

Craig Stansberry: It definitely enters your mind, but I try to just keep playing ball and worrying about what I can control. If that phone call comes, that would be great, but I really can't concern myself with that while I am playing.

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