The left-handed hitting Ciofrone came to the Padres in 2004 as the proverbial player to be named later in a trade with the Boston Red Sox for Brandon Puffer, who at 31 is actually back in the Texas League with the Frisco Roughriders. Although he's never really had a stable defensive position within the organization, the one thing that has been consistent is his bat. Ciofrone has a career .368 OBP in six minor league seasons and many within the Padres' organization believe he has as good a strike zone judgment as anyone.
Before the Texas League playoffs, the year has been an off-year for him, with a .261/.339/.365 line, but still is hitting .309 with runners on base. Ciofrone is not going to blow anyone away with eye-popping statistics or great tools, but he's the type of player every team needs, a player that can handle multiple positions, provide quality at-bats and get that big hit.
Since we've last talked to you at the end of April you've kind of had an interesting season, you had a decent first half in San Antonio, .261/.344/.366 were promoted to Portland because of some injuries and are now back in San Antonio. Can you tell us a little about your experience in Portland?
Peter Ciofrone: It was a really good experience going up there and seeing what Triple-A was like for the first time. It was good, got to know a lot of the guys, some veterans and they taught me things. Of course Rick Renteria was there which helped. Renteria being there obviously helped because I was with him last year in Lake Elsinore and he's a great manager.
You didn't get as much playing time as you were in San Antonio.
Peter Ciofrone: When I first got there I was playing every day, but three or four weeks in guys started trickling down from the big leagues – so I was playing once every third day. I would have liked to have played more, but that was fine. I was still getting my work in. I played first, third, some outfield which was good. You never know how you're going to get a chance to break into the big leagues and the more positions that I can play, the more it's going to help me.
That is kind of the way I was looking at it. If they call on me to pinch hit or really play anywhere I have to be ready to go.
Since you've come back to San Antonio, you've been playing all over the place, first, second, third, right and left. How much extra work are you doing in the field to get ready to play?
Peter Ciofrone: I've been playing outfield the most this year and played infield my whole life. Even if I'm the DH, I always go out and get my work in. The infield comes somewhat easy, but it's great to be able to move around and fill in where they need me.
Was it a little tougher when you first went to the outfield to keep your focus defensively? To me it must seem a little slow, especially when you're used to playing some third where if you're not concentrating you can get hurt.
Peter Ciofrone: A little bit. It took a couple of weeks before I felt really locked in out there, was getting good reads and my routes. I'm still working on that now. I'm still fairly new to the outfield and there is always something to learn – but when they want me to play I'll be ready.
You've always kind of had some backward stats; on the road you're hitting .318/.393/.408 and at home it's .205/.286/.324 and are hitting .303 against lefties and .250 against right-handers. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
Peter Ciofrone: I don't know what it is. I always ask other guys about that. I don't know if I stay in there longer against lefties or what.
On the road your OPS is around .800.
Peter Ciofrone: I like San Antonio, but this is not a fun park to hit in. The wind is always blowing in and it's a big park. To hit a ball into the gap or over an outfielder's head, you really have to hit the ball. So when we go on the road it's kind of like a treat, because the ball travels better and the parks seem a little smaller.
Is this a tougher park to hit in than Mobile?
Peter Ciofrone: Yeah, I would have to say it is.
There was a famous quote by a former Padres farmhand Greg Sain that hitting in Mobile was like hitting in a bowl of soup.
Peter Ciofrone: No this is tougher; the wind is blowing in non-stop here. It's very much a pitcher's park.
You have one of the better batting eyes in the organization. Is it sometimes a disadvantage to you at this level because when you sit behind the plate it appears that you have a better idea of the strike zone than the umpires at this level?
Peter Ciofrone: Obviously you have to expand to the umpire's strike zone. I'm not going to get punched out looking. You have to bear down with two strikes, but there is always a plan, no strikes, one strike, two strikes you have to have an idea of what you are trying to do and what you are looking to hit – or you're going to be lost.
One of the knocks on you has always been that you have a batting average and OBP, but the power numbers could be a better. How have you tried to improve upon this?
Peter Ciofrone: Early in the year I was trying to hit for a little more power and I think I messed myself up a little. Right now I'm just trying to stay within my approach and have quality at-bats. I don't think I'm going to be someone who is going to hit 20 to 30 home runs, but I do think I can hit between 10 and 15. My approach is just try to hit the ball hard and that is the best you can do.
You guys will always say when you try to hit home runs is when you start to really screw up your swing.
Peter Ciofrone: That is true and I don't think I ever been around someone who lets me know beforehand that he is going to hit a home run.