With the injury to Khalil Greene, the Padres found themselves in need of a middle infielder and Kazmar found his path to the major leagues. Although he's made significant progress in the past year, he should open 2009 as the starting shortstop for the Portland Beavers to improve his consistency at the plate.
Last year, when we talked to you in San Antonio when you were struggling at the plate; you went down to Lake Elsinore and really bounced back. This year, you again started off with a couple of rough months in San Antonio again before really turning it on and getting called up to San Diego. What was the big difference that enabled you to become so much better offensively? I mean you hit .197 in May then .357 in June. That is some turnaround.
Sean Kazmar: Yeah, you know it was [laughs]. I was in the cage everyday with TK [Terry Kennedy, the hitting coach for San Antonio]. I was trying to figure out what was getting me out so much and what it came down to was just staying comfortable at the plate and staying consistent. It was able to click for me afterwards and I was fortunate to stay consistent.
We spoke with Grady Fuson before the season and he picked you as the player most likely to go from being a "suspect" to a "prospect". He said for you the key was to become more selective and have a shorter swing to the ball.
Sean Kazmar: It really dated back to last year and getting sent down. I didn't take it as a demotion, but as a chance to go down there and work on things, mainly get my swing right. Also to go back over to shortstop and began to feel real comfortable again. This year, when I went back up and started out slow and got a little down on myself, like I can't believe this is happening again. But I stuck with it, and everyone else stuck with me and was able to turn it around.
You sound like you were pretty happy to go back to playing shortstop. Everyone that I speak with that was a shortstop for a long period of time always sees themselves as shortstop no matter where they end up.
Sean Kazmar: Absolutely. Growing up my whole life I was always at short and never really played second until pro ball. It took a little while to get used to second when I first started, with the angles and turning double plays but eventually that became fairly natural. Coming back to short, it took me a good week of games to get used to the speed of the game, the throws and just seeing the game differently. Once I got used to that, it was just having a bunch of fun.
In a way, isn't it a little easier playing short? I know you have more ground to cover and have to be a better athlete, but if you can handle that you have everything in front of you compared to second where it seems you are always turning away from the ball.
Sean Kazmar: That is one of the things you are always turning your back to the ball, but you also have a bit more time. At short, you have to really get to the ball and get rid of it because there are some guys that can fly. When you are at short, it's just fielding it and letting it fly, instead of patting your glove, setting your feet and all that good stuff.
In the Fall League there has been some talk about you going there and playing a variety of positions, kind of turning you into a super utility guy. What do you think about that?
Sean Kazmar: Yeah, I'm just honored to have an opportunity to play in the Fall League, it's a great league and I've heard nothing but good things about it. When Grady and Buddy [Bell] called me into the office and not only were they excited but I was too for the chance to play some outfield and a little third base. The more positions that I can play the better off I will be versatility wise. If I can prove that I can play a variety of positions at an average or above average level, it's only going to help me stay in the big leagues.
It sounds like you are even willing to pitch?
Sean Kazmar: Hey, I do have a knuckle ball [laughs].
Obviously, the players are better, but what is the biggest difference between being in Double-A and the majors?
Sean Kazmar: It's hard to say. I came up here and really tried to not to change too much. As far as what is different, obviously the pitching is better, they are more around the plate. The key is getting to the plate and having a plan – looking for your pitch and when you get it, don't miss it. That is one of the things I've really been working on and is going to work at any level.
I remember when I spoke to you in Double-A last year, you said it was cool being here because my whole life I've wanted to be a major league baseball player and I'm pretty close. How tough was it when you first got called up to not go, ‘Wow that is Greg Maddux on the mound?' Because I know you not only play the game but you're a big fan too? Is it difficult to really focus and not get caught up in the moment?
Sean Kazmar: It's definitely difficult. My first start was against C.C. Sabathia. This guy was dominating the NL and Buddy told me I was starting the next night. When I told my family and some friends that I was starting their reaction was, ‘its too bad it has to be against this guy' and I was thinking, ‘hey, why not see what happens against the best as compared to an average guy.' So I was very excited to go out there and face him.
It goes through your mind when you have a guy like Randy Johnson, but it makes you concentrate a little more because you know they are going to be around the plate.
I saw that game, you got a hit the first time out. It has to give you some confidence knowing that if I can compete against this guy, maybe I can play up here.
Sean Kazmar: Absolutely. Every day you are going to face someone good, from the starting pitcher to the bullpen and you just have to be prepared for every at-bat. Preparation before the game is huge, both mentally and physically.
Have you gotten used to watching video of the pitchers?
Sean Kazmar: It's a little different.
You didn't have that in Fort Wayne?
Sean Kazmar: No, [laughs] we definitely didn't have that in Fort Wayne. It just gives you another tool that you can use to prepare. It really helps you a lot more. In the Texas League, there are only eight teams so you have an idea what everyone will try to do since you see them so much. Up here, all these guys are new so I really try to find out what they can do.
It has to be a little easier for you up here not only because there are so many guys that you have played with but also Randy Ready who has managed you at a couple of levels.
Sean Kazmar: It was great to see him up here because I played two years with him. We both played a very similar game in the middle infield and aren't the biggest guys in the world. If I can hit like he did back in the day, I should have a chance to stay in the big leagues for a while. Right now, I'm just trying to take everything in and learn as much as I can from him and everyone up here.
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