Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Antonelli

One of two players to make the jump from short-season Eugene to Double-A in less than a year, second baseman Matt Antonelli continues to thrive.

Talk a little about Instructs first last September when you debuted at second base and began working there. You came to Spring Training and landed at third base. A few weeks later you were back at second. How is it going?

Matt Antonelli: It is going ok. I knew second would be different but I feel like I am kind of picking up on it. I played two or three games in college – which isn't a lot – but the coach had us practice there to make sure in case I ever needed to play I would be ready. So, it was not a brand new thing. I am still learning and it is coming along.

Was the biggest thing getting help from fielding instructor Gary Jones when you were at Instructs – did that propel you?

Matt Antonelli: Yes. Jonesy was a huge help. Every day in the morning he would take me out – a 1,000 groundballs a day. It was good to be able to work with him everyday. It was nice to be able to work with someone just on your infield defense. That is his expertise. He knew everything I needed to learn.

You skipped a level and were bumped up originally only to find yourself in Double-A – three levels up from where you played last year. Talk about that challenge.

Matt Antonelli: It is nice to know they have confidence in me and other guys. You just have to play baseball. It is the same game just different guys. It is good to be challenged and have to keep improving. You just have to push yourself and hopefully it comes along that you play good baseball.

You start the season playing against Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver. So the challenge took on a whole new level. If I remember right that first day against Colon wasn't so good for you but it must be nice to see where you stand.

Matt Antonelli: No, it wasn't good (facing Colon). It is good to be able to face those guys and see where you are. It wasn't real fun facing them, but we make it out of the game and you feel confident because, ‘Now we have to face minor league guys. This should be easy.'

It is nice to face them and see what they have to offer. Obviously, it was some good stuff. I struggled against Colon with two strikeouts but it was a fun time. You can't get upset about that.

You are in a system that doesn't have a whole lot of speed. Looking at each of the teams you play for, you have been the speed. Does that put a little more pressure on you to swipe a few more bags?

Matt Antonelli: I don't know. Last year, I didn't run a whole lot. I kind of ran when I had to. I think I had nine. I am not going to try and run more because we don't have a whole lot of guys who can steal bags. When coach needs me to run I will run – if it is a good situation. I won't put any more pressure on myself to run.

How have you improved since last year. You got a chance to lean on Doug Dascenzo last year who is very good at teaching the nuances. Yet, you have almost 20 over two leagues but have been caught more.

Matt Antonelli: Dougie helped me a lot. I am just trying to remember the stuff he taught me. He taught me the stuff I really needed to know. I feel like I have retained most of the knowledge. I try to pick my spots well and when I feel like I have a chance to make it I will go.

Do you want to be more aggressive on the basepaths as well – taking the extra base when you can?

Matt Antonelli: Sure. You do not want to be passive out there. Anytime you have a chance to take a base you have to. It gives your team a chance to score more runs. Baserunning is important, just like hitting and defense is. It will lead to more runs for us by paying attention. That is what we are looking for.

You have always been a patient hitter. It seems like you are being more aggressive than last year and trying to swing at more pitches you can handle.

Matt Antonelli: Last year I was patient but perhaps too patient and not swinging at pitches I could drive. I would get 2-0 and the pitcher would throw a pitch I could hit and sometimes I would take it and work the count a little more. This year, I still want to get my pitch but if I get it I want to put a good swing on it.

Last year, I think I took the first pitch in every at bat – I think I might have swung once. This year, if the guy puts it in there and it is in my zone, I am going to try and take a good rip at it. Those are the only things I have changed a little bit from last year.

Has your swing changed since last year, especially considering the increase in power numbers aren't all attributed to weight and muscle gain?

Matt Antonelli: I worked on a load – getting my hands loaded up a little bit and just getting my front foot down a little earlier. Sometimes last year I was a little late with it. I was a little herky-jerky and tried to slow it down, slow my head down a little bit. Everything is a little slower and the ball seems slower.

So far, there are times when I feel real good when I do it. There are times when I go back to my old ways for an at bat or two and have to get myself to slow down and not be so jumpy. When I do it right it feels good. I just have to do it on a more consistent basis.

What was Major League Spring Training like?

Matt Antonelli: It was pretty cool to hang out with those guys and see how they do it. I tried to learn as much as I could with them. I tried to be quiet and not bother too many people. It was good to watch them play. Seeing how quiet they were at the plate – they don't move around a lot and everything is slow for them. That is one big thing I noticed – now trying to emulate what they do.

You hit the homer in Yuma and Bud Black was out there. What did the guys say to you?

Matt Antonelli: Good job. They didn't say too much. Nothing special – act like I did it before. I was excited but everyone else was more like ‘Way to go.'

He was a good pitcher. I just got lucky to get in a good count and put a good swing on it.

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