Danny Payne: It gave me a chance to come out and get acclimated. When the season starts, you have to hit the ground running. Making sure you are in shape mentally – seeing the field – gives you a boost to really get the mind right and ready to play.
You were hampered by injury in each of the past two seasons. How frustrating is it that you can't get into any rhythm?
Danny Payne: It is definitely frustrating. You don't ever want to be labeled as that guy who is always in the training room. I have felt like that guy during the early part of my career because I have had some interesting injuries and ones that took some time to heal.
It took a shot at my confidence. It is something you have to work on – when you are not feeling 100 percent, how do you react mentally? I am happy to have gone through it and experience to know how to properly handle that type of situation. I am healthy and in shape and hoping that is all in the past.
In your first year, you kind of struggled finding out what kind of hitter you will be. Do you feel more comfortable in that area now and what conclusion did you come to?
Danny Payne: I think a lot of players don't find themselves until years down in their career. Dave Winfield was saying it took him five or six years to find his approach and what worked for him. Now that I am in my third year, I have an idea of what they want from me. It is one of those things where you have to check your ego at the door and know it is a team sport and you can't do everything by yourself. That is the mental approach I have had. I know what I can do and have to stay within that mind frame.
Was there added pressure to perform to prove yourself to the Padres after being drafted pretty high?
Danny Payne: Definitely, hitting the injury bug put pressure on me to perform because I haven't been able to perform at 100 percent.
Going to instructs healthy and getting the most at-bats that I could and performed pretty well kind of settled my mind a little bit and the coaches mind a little bit. They got to see me healthy for an extended period and know what I can do. I am glad that I took that into the offseason to build on.
Being on the sidelines can make you look at the game a little differently. Do you feel like you are seeing things you may not have seen before?
Danny Payne: You try and put a positive spin on anything that happens. Being injured gave me a different approach where I could sit on the bench and look at the game differently. I didn't necessarily enjoy it! You have to learn from every situation.
Being able to finish healthy and on a high note allowed me to step away from the game in a good mindset. I knew where I needed to pick up.
You earned the Most Improved Player award at instructs this offseason. What did that mean to you?
Danny Payne: That means a lot. It means that I am taking in what they are asking me to do and performing as they expect. That is a good thing. If you can prove you can make adjustments here, you will be able to do it throughout your career. If you can't make adjustments, (your career) is going to be a short one. I was happy to know I was able to do what they asked of me and they feel confident that I can handle those adjustments.
What were those adjustments?
Danny Payne: One, obviously, staying healthy. It was a lot of little things like staying relaxed and not trying to muscle up on everything. Finding out what kind of hitter you are and coming to terms with it. They want me to be gap-to-gap – like I was in college when I wasn't trying to do too much. The power will come naturally.
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