Mike Baxter: That and patience. I have been working counts better than I have in the past. It was a good May after a bad April. I would take that after the previous two seasons.
I think pitch selection has really gotten better throughout the years that I have been playing with the Padres. I am trying to hit strikes and take balls. That is coming to fruition.
How hard has that progression been? When you first arrived, your strike zone was ‘this' and now it has shrunk as you realize you can't hit a particular pitch.
Mike Baxter: It is difficult at first. There is a lack of trust in your discipline within the strike zone. Ultimately, the more pitches you see, the more familiar you become, and the more you recognize what is a good pitch to hit, what looks like a good pitch but isn't and the repetition is what helps you become better at pitch selection.
You began the year in Lake Elsinore. Was perhaps part of the slower start due to a slight disappointment at being in High-A?
Mike Baxter: I was excited to play there because I knew I would play every day. I spoke with Grady (Fuson) before the season, and he explained everything to me. I was really happy to get a chance to play every night and it was something I looked forward to. I think the slowness was I tried to do a little too much. I was trying to drive the ball a little too much and forcing it rather than letting it come. I got out of my zone a bit and that resulted in a lower average.
You got to spend some time in big league camp. What was that experience like and what could you take into the season with you?
Mike Baxter: It was great. It shows you who is playing there and what it takes to play there. I think for the first time in my career, I understand what you have to do to play there.
I think it is a consistent game on defense and offense. Being able to know that the team knows what you are capable of so they can rely on you. That is what I need to improve in my game: my consistency and being able to put out a solid performance every night.
How difficult is it not to look at the stats in San Antonio at home and think, ‘That should have been a homer but it is an out.' Someone else will look at it and say he went 0-for-3.
Mike Baxter: You have to put faith in your swing and know that our staff understands how it is. Everyone knows what it is like with the wind. It is definitely frustrating statistically but the people that matter know and the people that are in there every night know you are swinging the bat well and you will get robbed of extra base hits here.
Do you keep a journal on the opposing pitchers?
Mike Baxter: Yes, I have been doing it for three years. It is more of a release after the game than a scouting thing. The more levels you go to, the cooler it gets. I was able to look up two old books on (Robert) Mosebach. It is starting to pay off. It is more of a release at the end of the day to leave some things at the park and reflect on the day and walk away knowing what I have to do tomorrow.
Are you putting down what you think you will see as his best pitch – ‘With two strikes I will always see this slider.'
Mike Baxter: I put down what I think he likes to throw and what he feels confident with that way you know what he will throw when he needs to make a pitch. If he has a tendency with two strikes or what he likes to go to as a strikeout pitch – I like to make it a lefty bias book because I look at what he throws Drew (Macias) and Josh (Alley) because that is where the tendency falls in. Usually it is more changeups and stuff but I have an idea of what he likes.
Calling back to the Mosebach example where you have two books to look at, now you go into the box against him and there might be a situation where you have too much information.
Mike Baxter: I don't really put too much stock in it, especially year-to-year. It is one thing if you are looking at him several times in the same year, but if I am looking back to him when he was with Cedar Rapids it is too much. Everyone has changed. I have changed.
If we faced him two weeks ago, I take the at-bats he got me out on – three changeups – well, I might just have to change my approach. You look at what kind of velocity he has, if he depends on movement, or off-speed pitches to get you out. A lot of times they will have a base foundation they use but things change through the years. You have a general idea of what to expect.
Has anyone ever changed so much that you question the original notes and say, ‘I don't know what just happened there.'
Mike Baxter: McCormick – who we faced – was throwing me changeups and usually he is fastball/curveball. He is throwing in sliders and changeups now. You see guys develop and throw the book away. You notice.
Have you ever done the same on catchers? They get into the same rhythm as well with calling a game.
Mike Baxter: I don't focus on catchers too much but I never really thought about that. That is something I could look to.
What is going to be a successful rest of the way for you?
Mike Baxter: Contributing. Driving guys in when I have the opportunity and getting on base. Ideally, I would love to see more slugging. I am not sure when it is going to come, but I think it will. I won't try and do too much but it will come. Ideally, I want to finish the season with more extra base hits and more RBIs. I want to drive guys in when I have the opportunity.
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