Padres Prospect Interview: Kellen Kulbacki

Pressing is defined as ‘urgently important' and it is the bane of baseball players around the world. They start pressing when the slump hits, and it often leads to prolong hitting droughts. San Diego Padres prospect Kellen Kulbacki has refocused his energy on keeping away from pressing, living with the waves of a long season, and staying mentally sharp.

In Instructs, you changed a few things with your swing, which I know you didn't want to do during last season. After the off-season, are you keeping with the changes and are you seeing the benefits that you want?

Kellen Kulbacki: I have. My swing is a lot more comfortable than it was towards the end of the season and the changes we made during Instructs are really paying off.

At first, it is tough doing something you are not used to, but the more repetitions and more practice you do with it, the more comfortable you get.

I am seeing those results. My swing feels comfortable. I am relaxed and loose at the plate. It feels good. It is coming to the point where I can focus less on mechanics and focus more on the situations and hitting the ball and not worrying so much about what I am doing up at the plate when I swing.

One of the things I had heard last year was Kulbacki wasn't catching up to good fastballs. Is that an unfair assessment?

Kellen Kulbacki: There are always going to be people out there that say what they believe, but I know the things I need to work on. You can't really focus too much on what people thing about how you play the game and your strengths and weaknesses.

I know my strengths and weaknesses as a player and those are things I need to work on. That is why I am here (in the minors). There are things I need to work on that the coaches are working with me on. That goes for all parts of the game – defense, base running, hitting. All of that comes together and I have to do what I can to get better in all areas of the game.

Your defense really improved at the end of last year and into Instructs. How do you continue that roll and what is it you want to see yourself improve upon?

Kellen Kulbacki: In the off-season, in my training, I focused primarily on my quickness – my first step quickness on the base paths and in the outfield. That was something I knew I needed to work on.

Keep working on getting reads off the bat. Batting practice is key – it is the one time you can read balls off the bat live. It helped out in games when you take batting practice seriously in the field. I do that as much as I can. The drills we do in the outfield pay off as well. If you take them seriously, you will be able to improve, and I will be able to maintain that first-step quickness. I need to keep working on it.

You said you didn't meet your expectations last year. What will make for a successful 2008 season by your standards?

Kellen Kulbacki: Trying mentally to stay even keel. This is my first full season as a professional baseball player and it is going to be a long season. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs. The key to my success this year is to not get too high and not get too low. Realize you are going to have your slumps and your streaks where you are going to hit the ball. You are going to see the ball and other times not.

Mentally, being able to adjust and keep my confidence and not get too down on myself is going to lead to a successful season. Control what I can control and not do too much. Do what I can and stay within myself.

Do you feel that you need to be a little more patient at the plate this year and perhaps you were too aggressive early in your professional debut?

Kellen Kulbacki: I think last year I was pressing a little bit. I started out pretty good and then got down and had a rough stretch. I think I was becoming too impatient and was going up there thinking, ‘This is the at-bat I am going to break out of this.' I never really gave myself time to what I needed to do, and that was to stay patient and allow things to happen naturally. Keeping that in mind will help my patience at the plate become a lot better this year, to be able to see pitches better, and to not press when things go wrong, or I am not having good games because that will help me stay focused, and the rest will come.

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