Headley working the count in his favor

PORTLAND, OR: Since being drafted by the Padres in the second-round of the 2005 draft, Chase Headley has consistently been one of San Diego's top prospects. The one big knock on his game going into 2007 was that many were unsure if he could hit with enough power to be an everyday third baseman in the major leagues.

Last year in San Antonio, in the toughest hitting park in the Texas League, he had a breakout season, hitting .330/.437/.580 en route to winning the Texas League Player of the Year and leading his team to the championship. Headley ‘s slugging percentage was over 100 points better than his two previous professional seasons, and he earned a mid-season call up to the major leagues.

The one problem in his ascent to the major leagues this year has been the superb play of Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base, which has led San Diego to put Headley into the outfield so the Padres could work both into the lineup.

So far, the transition to left field has been rather seamless, but he underwent a brutal slump at the beginning of the year, which saw his average sink to .185. Since then, his average has risen over 100 points.

You had quite a bit of attention coming into this year as the Texas League Player of the Year and being ranked the number one prospect by most media pundits. Was there any added pressure on you coming in?

Chase Headley: It's kind of neat to win the Texas League Player of the Year and the organization Player of the Year, especially since I believe we have improved so much from where it used to be. That was great but as far as the way that I approach the game it doesn't change anything. You have to come out and prove you can play every single year and that is how I go about my off-season and season. It really doesn't matter if you get positive or negative attention, you still have to come out and do what you do.

I try not to pay too much attention to what is being written on whether I'm playing well or if I'm not. I know what I'm capable of doing and I just have to try to meet my expectations.

You know Matt Antonelli said the same thing and it impresses me because if something was being written about me and I thought it was wrong, it would bother me especially if I didn't think it was accurate. That must take a real level of discipline to think like that.

Chase Headley: It's easy to look at that stuff when it's going well but not so easy when it's not. My approach is to just try to leave it alone, all of it. You know when you are going well; you don't need someone to pump you up. You don't need someone to tell you how bad you are either.

I've struggled this first month but do I think I'm any less of a player than I have ever been? No. People can say what they want to say, but I know that I can play and feel confident that I am going to be a good player in the big leagues, and I will be ready for that in the near future.

How has the position change been going for you in left field?

Chase Headley: Left field is going pretty well, but there is still some work to be done. I feel like I'm making the plays that I'm supposed to make, which is I think what most people expect me to do. The good plays, excellent plays those will come in time. I think after I get out there after awhile I'll do better.

One of our readers emailed us and wanted to know what has most surprised you about playing left field?

Chase Headley: It might only be because I haven't done as well at the plate as in the past, but there is a lot of time to think out there. In the infield, you have to be so locked in, a bunt, runners moving, you're watching the catcher for a pickoff sign – in the outfield you have a lot more time to think and relax. For me, I have a tendency to over analyze things on my swing. I start thinking that something doesn't feel right, maybe I got a little too mechanical, so it's for me it's been a big difference. I start thinking about things that I normally wouldn't during a game. Along that same line, when you are playing third base there are so many opportunities to contribute with your glove so it seems it's easier to keep a positive mental framework even if you didn't have a good day at the plate?

Chase Headley: Yeah, definitely, you feel like you are a little bit more in the game. Sometimes you may not get a ball all game; you punched out a couple of times and didn't drive somebody in and start to think maybe the team would have been better off without me in the lineup. But it's all part of it, and I'm starting to learn to control it a little better. I've been talking to Gamby and some of the other guys, it's not a bad idea to be thinking out there of your last at-bats, but it has to be the right kind of thoughts.

Last year in San Antonio when everything was going great, you were the one who brought up the fact that you were concerned about your number of strikeouts. This year they are up. Is it something that is in the back of your mind with the position shift that now you has to hit for more power?

Chase Headley: I'm not trying to hit for more power because I haven't changed my approach. I think the strikeouts have come because I've been in a lot of bad counts because pitchers, to their credit up here, have been consistently getting ahead of me. I'm 0-1 and I foul a pitch back that I normally hit and now I'm 0-2. I can't tell you how many times I've been in two strike counts. I feel like I've been in two strike counts this whole month. You're going to strike out some, especially when you are in two strike counts. I've swung at some bad pitches, but early in the count is my biggest problem right now. Either I took a pitch that I should have hit or I fouled off a pitch that I should have hit. Sometimes pitchers make good pitches in two strike counts, but I'm more concerned with my 0-0, 0-1 and 1-0 counts than I am with my strikeouts.

Is that the reason why April may have been a little tougher on you because of your reputation as a patient hitter? It seems like most of the pitchers are assuming that you are not going to swing early in the count and try to take advantage of that? I've always assumed that if you swung at the first pitch in the last at-bat it has to be really tough to swing at the first pitch in the next at-bat no matter where it is because you want to see more pitches but that could be you pitch to hit in the at-bat.

Chase Headley: It is, but, in my opinion, over the course of the season, it's going to work out in your favor. That is why you play 140 games, it's going to average it out. Pitchers are going to start missing with that 0-0 changeup or the 0-1 breaking pitch and sooner or later they are going to start missing, and then I'm in my counts and I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm trying not to get to fed up and get out of what I want to do.

But if you had four at-bats and you see the pitches you want to see, for example, middle in and you hit the ball hard four straight times but right at everyone – I mean you wish they were hits, but you did what you wanted to do, correct?

Chase Headley: No question because I did what I'm supposed to do, hit the ball hard. This month looks a lot worse than it really is but if you were here every day you can see that I hit a lot of balls hard but they just were caught. Those are things that happen and that is the thing you have to remember as a player because the people that are just looking at stats can't see that. I'm the one that knows that and I have to keep that in my mind.

Have I swung it like I wanted too? No. But has it been as bad as it looks? No, it is what it is. Sooner or later you're going to get hot.

Jody [Gerut] was going through it a week ago then he laid down a bunt and he was off. I think he was 18 for 20 the last month.

That is just baseball and you have to take at least 100 at-bats before you start to worry.

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