Padres Prospect Interview: Kellen Kulbacki

Eugene, OR-- The Padres 40th overall pick this year got off to a slow start in Eugene but has turned on the jets of late, hitting .346 during the month of August. We caught up with the outfielder during our recent trip to Eugene.

Talk to me about the season for you. You started off a little slow before seeing some success.

Kellen Kulbacki: It is exciting. I am glad that things worked out in the draft and got things rolling. There have been some ups and downs but that is baseball.

The first games I played professionally and I was kind of getting adjusted to the higher level of play. I think things are going to be fine. I am not too worried. There is never anything to get caught up in. You have to take your ups and downs when you play this game and learn to accept failure a little more often at a higher level. Once you understand the concept things work out more.

Could you pinpoint any factors that contributed to the slower start than you wanted?

Kellen Kulbacki: I think it was just the higher level of play. I think when you jump from a college level to a professional the overall play from position to position is that much better. You have guys that are fighting everyday to make it. It is not a huge difference but you definitely see it from one level to the next.

Did you feel like you had to make a statement early and that led to a bit of a mental block coming in as the 40th overall pick?

Kellen Kulbacki: I can't think that way. In some regards, there may have been a little bit of that but you have to stay cool and not try and do too much up there. The hits and all that will come by taking a patient approach and controlling what I can control and not doing much outside my element.

What is it like working under manager Greg Riddoch who knows so much about the game?

Kellen Kulbacki: It is an understatement to say that for a first year guy to play under him. He is an amazing manager. He understands what we have gone through. He has been there before. He has seen it all. To have an experienced, veteran coach with leadership – I could not ask for anything more than that.

You have a pretty young hitting coach in Jose Flores – does that create an interesting rapport with the hitters here?

Kellen Kulbacki: I would say he does everything he can with the hitters here to get us to be better hitters. He researches and analyzes everyone's approach up there. Every pitch he is into, helping us to be the best hitters we can be. He gives us updates on how we are doing. I think that as a hitting coach it is what you need – someone that is persistent in trying to get you to be a better hitter. He lets you know when things are going wrong and you are struggling and I think those are great signs of a hitting coach.

It seems like situational hitting is a big thing he has focused on having the team improve upon – two outs, a runner here or there, what count and what you want to do with the ball. How does that help you in the game?

Kellen Kulbacki: It is definitely an important part of a ball game. When you have runners in scoring position with less than two outs it is important you get those runs in. It was one of our struggles as a team hitting-wise and I think everyone knew that.

If you put yourself in a position to make yourself do something it is almost worse than going up there with a clear mind and whatever happens, happens. I am trying to drive this ball.

Is it almost a mental game with yourself where you think about these things in the on-deck circle and when you step to the plate you throw everything out the window?

Kellen Kulbacki: Even in the on-deck circle you can't think too much about it. When you are thinking at the plate you are already in a tough position because you want to have a clear mind when you are hitting.

So, what are you thinking about?

Kellen Kulbacki: 'See it. Hit it.' I don't try and position myself to think. When I am seeing the ball well I am thinking, ‘This guy can throw anything at me and I am going to hit it, regardless of who is on base or how many outs.' I just want to hit the ball solid and where it is pitched and hopefully it will do the job.

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