Over an eight-year career coming into the year, Searles had compiled a 35-29 record with a 4.04 ERA over 265 games, including 29 starts. He has been traded with current Padres right-hander Chris Young. He has been taken in the Rule 5 Draft. It has been the typical whirlwind of any prospect.
The one thing he has not done is traverse past Double-A, spending much of the last four seasons at this level.
This year has been much of the same. He is 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA over 15 appearances for the Missions, allowing runs in five of those outings. The problem has been the big inning. He has given up 14 of his 15 runs over just four outings with three or more runs crossing the dish each time.
We recently caught up with the Ivy Leaguer before a game in San Antonio:
Were you disappointed to begin the year in Double-A again?
Jon Searles: No, not really. I would like a Triple-A opportunity, but I knew when I signed as a free agent with the Padres. They were very up front and told me that they had a Double-A opportunity with me. They said that if I was willing to go there, work at it, and come to spring training in shape, that this is where I'd be. I have no problem with it. Double-A is a great league. Triple-A is a better league, but there's a lot of good prospects and a lot of good players in every Double-A league, so I have no problem being back here.
You've been through a few different organizations. How have you changed as a pitcher while going through the different organizations?
Jon Searles: I got Rule 5'ed, I got traded, and I've signed as a free agent twice now. I've been with a few different organizations and I've had to learn to become my own best pitching coach and best coach in general. I've had great pitching coaches along the way, but when I go to a new one every year, it might take the first two months for them to figure out who I am and how I work as a pitcher. I kind of have to know my body and know my mechanics and be as aggressive as I can.
This is your first year with the Padres organization. What's your impression so far?
Jon Searles: I like it. Spring training was one of the best, if not the best, times that I've had in spring training. Normally spring training is such a grind with so many guys. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle. It's usually hot and the facilities are hit-or-miss. But Arizona is beautiful, the weather is great, and the Padres facility is the best I've seen. The food is the best, they treat you like an adult, and I've really liked my time here so far.
When you were in the Expos organization, they were being talked about as a candidate for contraction. How does that affect you as a minor league player?
Jon Searles: I didn't really know much about it. If they got contracted, I don't know if we would have been dispersed amongst the rest of the minor league systems or what. I know that I was pulling for them not to get contracted. I know I was answering a lot of questions as to what would happen if they did get contracted, but I didn't really know. I think baseball is a great game, I think it is America's pastime, and I think there's enough people in the country to support all 30 teams without having to shrink down.
You were traded from the Pirates to the Expos with current Padres pitcher Chris Young back in 2002. What do you remember about him?
Jon Searles: Chris and I played all year in 2002 with Hickory and we won the South Atlantic League that year. Chris and I have a lot in common, so we became friends pretty quickly. He went to Princeton and I went to Penn and they're both in the Ivy League. We're similar in that regard. I just remember him always being a hard worker. He was very diligent, very mindful of what he wanted to accomplish, and he was very focused. I think it translates over and you can really see that in him. He's driven, he knows what he wants, and he knows that there's only one way to go about getting it. He's pretty prepared and it shows.
Did you get a chance to catch up with him in spring training this year?
Jon Searles: I did. I stayed with him for the first two weeks. We talked during the offseason and hung out. We went out to dinner a couple of times and we caught up. I hadn't seen him in about a year, but it was good to catch up.
You're off to a pretty good start to this season. What's been the key to your success?
Jon Searles: I'm just trying to throw strikes and force contact. You can live with base hits and home runs. As much as you don't want to give them up, you can live with them. These guys get paid to hit, as well as we get paid to pitch. But you just can't walk people. I've really tried to cut my walks down and they're still a little too high for me. But even if I had one walk, it would be one too many. I think I've been around the plate and I try to get all my work done before the game because it gives you the best opportunities to succeed during the game.
You've been very good this year when it comes to stranding inherited runners on base. How do you prepare mentally for a situation like that?
Jon Searles: When a manager brings you in, you specifically are coming in for a reason. Maybe he likes the matchup, maybe he likes your slider, maybe he likes the righty-on-righty. You just don't take that for granted. You have to know that you're coming in and it's on you. Even though I didn't put them on base, once I come in the game, they might as well be mine because I'm just as capable of not letting them score. When I'm in the bullpen, I know the situation and I started pitching to a simulated batter in the bullpen to get ready for when I'm on the field so it's not just brand new to me.
We're almost two months into the season. What do you see out of this Missions team so far this year?
Jon Searles: I think we're young and I think we're good. I think we're a solid baseball club. We just got done with a stretch of 32 games without a day off. While that might seem like it's just 32 baseball games and it's fun everyday, it'll wear on you. We had a long road trip and I think it might have started to show towards the end. But I think we're going to be in it. Between Frisco, us, and Midland, there's three pretty good clubs in this league. Everyone is a good club in Double-A at some point and we're all going to be in the hunt. But we can't worry about those other teams. We have to stay competitive amongst ourselves. I think we have a lot of good young guys here. We've got a good mix, we're going to be all right, and we'll be in the hunt all year.