Padres Prospect Interview: Justin Pickett

Peoria, AZ-- The San Diego Padres have toyed with converting several players to catcher. Justin Pickett now falls in that category.

Drafted as a first baseman out of Walters State Junior College in Tennessee, Pickett began his career playing for the Arizona Rookie League Padres.

He missed the first two weeks in recovery from injury and ended up being used sporadically through the year, seeing action in 23 games and hitting .260 with 14 RBIs. He also hit .393 with runners in scoring position but did not have the trademark power that saw him hit 73 extra base hits in two years of JuCo ball.

Now in extended spring training, Pickett is being asked to convert from first baseman to catcher. It is a position he played when he was younger and will re-learn beginning on Saturday.

Last year, how tough was it to come in and not see the field as much as you may have wanted?

Justin Pickett: I came in here with the injury – I separated my elbow. I knew it was going to be tough. I knew I was going to have to earn it and I am still working really hard. I have a lot of things to prove. I enjoy being here. We have a lot of great guys and a lot of great first baseman. Hopefully, I will work my way into a good spot – whatever happens will happen.

How did the off-season change for you in light of the fact that baseball is the only thing you had to worry about and you could focus on a full year of playing to stay in shape through August?

Justin Pickett: I got a job at the YMCA so I could stay in shape, work out everyday, and a lot of rehab I had to do for my elbow. I wanted to get stronger. Last year, I came in here out of shape and had to sit out for about three months because I wasn't able to work out for three months and a little overweight. This year, I came in here in good condition. I have a few things to work on but am getting better everyday.

Was there something specific you felt you had to work on?

Justin Pickett: My timing is a big thing. Live pitching is really different. If you don't get a chance to see it everyday and our pitchers are unbelievable, they are really good. It is not college baseball anymore. You have to get adjusted to the wood and the main thing is hitting.

How do you feel you fit into the patiently aggressive approach the Padres want, considering you struck out a tad more than you wanted to and didn't draw as many walks?

Justin Pickett: I fit in well. I like taking pitches. I like getting into hitter's counts, I mean who doesn't? I really feel it is a great way to learn how to hit because you are not out there swinging at every pitch. You wait for a good pitch – we have situational hitting as well where you work on what you are doing and start getting into a repetition with things and it just happens and you don't really think about it.

I am really enjoying it. It is helping me out a lot as I try to get my timing down. I know I am not up there swinging at the first pitch. I am sitting back and waiting for good pitches in a good spot and it has worked out really good.

What will be it like working at catcher after playing first base for two years and who can you lean on out here?

Justin Pickett: I am a long way from where I want to be. We have a lot of great coaches. Our coaching staff is unbelievable. They work with you every single day. Any time you need anything extra they are always working with you. I think by the time the season starts I will be 100 percent ready.

Talk to me about winning the Arizona Rookie League Championship last year.

Justin Pickett: It was unbelievable. We had our ring ceremony and our rings are just unbelievable, especially for the Arizona League. One of our coaches told us he has won a Championship in the big leagues and they weren't even that nice. I am enjoying it. I came in here with a National Championship from college and it was unbelievable to get two rings in six months. It was awesome.

What are the expectations for the coming season?

Justin Pickett: I would like to win again. Our program is real big on winning Championships, from the bottom to the top. Mr. Fuson loves to win and we are going to do whatever we can to win. He made a good point when he said, ‘Winning from the bottom is just as important as winning at the top.' And we really take that seriously.

And do you have any personal expectations as you look ahead?

Justin Pickett: Of course I want to be in the big leagues. I have a lot of work to do. I am going to take my time, get adjusted, and move a little quicker as time goes by. I feel that in a few years, hopefully, I will at least get a chance.

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