Padres Draft Interview: Eric Gonzalez

The last time the San Diego Padres picked a player out of South Alabama they struck gold with David Freese. They are hoping the same will be true from Eric Gonzalez.

Talk about being drafted by the San Diego Padres and what the feeling was.

Eric Gonzalez: I am really excited. I came into the draft not knowing whether I was going to get drafted and just wanted the opportunity. The scout actually played at South Alabama and he gave me an opportunity to play professional baseball with a really good organization in the San Diego Padres.

You mentioned not being sure you would get drafted. Were you disappointed at all in your season?

Eric Gonzalez: No, not at all. I am a fifth year senior. Not many people talked to me this year. I don't know if they paid attention to me but just didn't talk to me. I just wanted to have a chance and an opportunity. I was drafted before but this was my last year.

I had a decent year and the Padres gave me an opportunity to play professional baseball and hopefully I take advantage of it.

Talk about the pitches you throw and what has led to your success.

Eric Gonzalez: I throw a fastball, a changeup, a slider and my number tool is having decent command of my fastball. I can uee the changeup as well and this year I added the slider. Command is a plus because I don't throw the mid-90s. I am a high-80s, low-90s guy that has to have command.

Do you feel like you attack left-handed and right-handed batters the same or is the changeup a pitch you reserve for one of the two?

Eric Gonzalez: I try and mix them all in. At the beginning of the season, we were using the changeup to left-handed hitters but once we realized we could pitch inside, we began using the slider to left-handed hitters and it ended up being really successful for me.

Is there a slight fear or mental block of throwing inside to hitters?

Eric Gonzalez: Well, if you want to succeed, you can't be afraid of pitching inside. In college there are aluminum bats and now with wood – it is a must to throw inside. To be able to pitch on the outside part of the plate, the hitters also have to respect the inside part. It is important to pitch inside.

You are heading into professional baseball now – what is it you look forward to and what will help you the most?

Eric Gonzalez: Getting drafted is big but that is the first step. Once you have started in the low levels – that is when you start learning again. The coaches have been around players and will teach you what you need to know to become better.

What is it about the game of baseball you love so much?

Eric Gonzalez: Showing up to the field – I always say to the fans that if you love what you do, you will never have to work. That is what I do every time I go to the field. I like to get to the field early and stay late. I like being in the clubhouse and in that baseball atmosphere. So, it is going to work but also going to have fun.

Is there an area of your game that needs a little bit of improvement?

Eric Gonzalez: For sure. There are so many things I can improve. My command is my number one weapon but at the same time, once you get in professional baseball…the difference between the minor leaguers and the major leaguers is we can throw strikes and be wild in the strike zone but in the major leagues it is having true command of both sides of the plate. If I have plus command with the fastball and can pitch backwards – throwing a changeup in a 3-1 count – that is when I can see I am succeeding in professional baseball.

You throw a two-seamer or a four-seamer?

Eric Gonzalez: I like to throw a four-seamer and when I am ahead throw the two. With a left-handed hitter, I like to throw the two-seamer but most of the time it is a four-seamer.

In the Padres organization and every other one, movement is big to your ability to pitch. Do you feel like you gain an advantage with the two-seamer?

Eric Gonzalez: I believe so. The Padres have one of the best pitchers of all time in Greg Maddux. He doesn't throw very hard but he has a lot of movement on his fastball and changeup and every pitch he throws. For sure, having movement is a plus in the minor leagues and major leagues. Everyone can hit 95 or 98 MPH fastballs if they are flat.

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