Padres Prospect Interview: Cedric Hunter

SAN ANTONIO, TX: They say the measure of a player is to not evaluate them when they are going well, but to see how they get up after they have been knocked down.

In April, Cedric Hunter, 21, got knocked down. He hit .185/.241/.235, easily the worst month in the career for the #1 prospect for 2009.

Hunter, who led all of the minor leagues last year in hits with 186, has got his average back to around .250 and has begun to get back up.

We caught up with him in the depths of his slump, and he showed why he was able to come back in May; an unwavering belief that it was going to come around.

Last year, you were leading all of baseball in hits with 186 when the minor league season ended. What was the biggest difference for you between playing in Lake Elsinore and Fort Wayne?

Cedric Hunter: Being mentally prepared and just having a lot of fun. It was a nice field and a good crowd, just really felt comfortable. Fort Wayne was different it was cold, it was 20 degrees a few times.

Being from Georgia you couldn't enjoy the cold weather that much.

Cedric Hunter: Yeah, and mentally I kind of lost it at times in the Midwest League. Now, I'm ready to play everyday.

How do you get ready to play 140 games everyday? Some of our readers have played in high school or college, but at best they don't even play half that amount.

Cedric Hunter: [laughs] Love of the game, man. Love of the game. You got to love it to do it and that is what you prepare for the whole off-season. You want to put yourself in a position to play and to have success.

What type of training do you do in the off-season?

Cedric Hunter: I work out about four times a week, mainly just trying to get stronger. Eat the right stuff for your body, just try to come prepared.

Last year your splits you showed more power in the second half than in the first. Was that due to the fact that you improved your pitch recognition or was your body that much stronger?

Cedric Hunter: I think it was more that I was working out during the season helped to make me stronger, my body began to get used to it. The last few months of the season are when you really start getting locked in. You are more familiar with the pitchers, guys are trying to pound you in and you have to punish them when they make a mistake.

Whenever I've spoken to you before you have always tried to strike a balance between power and getting your hits. How have you been trying to keep that balance?

Cedric Hunter: You don't try to hit for power. If you do the little things and keep it simple, the power will come. Like right now I am struggling and I'm just trying to stay positive because when it comes I'll then be locked in.

What has been the biggest improvement that you have seen in yourself defensively since you have come into professional baseball?

Cedric Hunter: I think I have two big improvements. My arm has gotten much better from rookie ball when I was still recovering from injuries. Also my jumps have improved in the outfield in being able to turn my back on the ball and run to the spot where I think its going to be.

Also I'm trying to react to every pitch to get the extra jump. If they set up in, cheat a little bit that way.

That is kind of an interesting observation because watching you play in center it seems like you can glide to balls based on that. Kind of makes it look easier than it is.

Cedric Hunter: [laughs] Yeah, there is some good and bad that comes with that.

What have you been doing to strengthen your arm?

Cedric Hunter: Rehabbing it during the season and just doing certain exercise routines with my shoulder and trying to get that ligament stronger.

All of our readers want to know with your speed why don't you run more on the bases?

Cedric Hunter: They tell me to not really worry about it but its something I want to do. I want to develop into a guy that could steal 30 bases a year. Last year we had good hitters in front of me, so there weren't as many opportunities.

There has been some concern about the number of walks that you draw, conversely everyone always remarks about good your hand-eye coordination is and that you can get the barrel of your bat on a lot of balls other players can't. Are you trying to become more selective so you can drive more balls into the gap?

Cedric Hunter: I'm just trying to have the same routine, get a good pitch to hit. In this league, there is a lot better control with off-speed and fastball command, but you are going to get a good pitch to hit every at-bat, you just have to take advantage of it.

What is the biggest thing you have to improve upon to get to the majors.

Cedric Hunter: Right now, when I'm struggling my head likes to spin a lot. I need to calm down and realize its baseball, it's a tough game. I've had so much success that when things go bad I start taking the whole world on my shoulders. I just need to improve on this right here, the mental part and be ready to play everyday.

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