Padres Prospect Interview: Cole Figueroa

FORT WAYNE, IN: Cole Figueroa was San Diego's sixth-round pick out of the University of Florida in the 2008 draft. The left-handed hitting middle infielder led the Gators in his final year in total bases, RBI, home runs and multiple hit games in route to posting a .350/.424/.534 mark.

Last year, in limited action with the short-season Eugene Emeralds, he showed the type of plate discipline that the Padres want, hitting .289/.410/.474 in 32 games.

The Padres pushed him and promoted him to Lake Elsinore to begin the year, but a combination of a bad start and injuries led him to struggle with a .187/.256/.227 mark in 21 games before being demoted to the Midwest League.

Since arriving in Fort Wayne, Figueroa, 22, has showed why the big team was so high on him, hitting above .300 with an on-base percentage above .400 while playing an athletic and solid second base and shortstop, with only 5 errors in 68 games [statistics through September 5].

When you were up at Lake Elsinore at the start of the year you were struggling and since you have been sent down, you have really hit. What h,as been the big difference for you?

Cole Figueroa: The big difference was that I started off slow there and then got hurt. I had to rehab and then went back after not playing for a month, so it was tough.

When I got back here I was healthy and playing everyday, so I think it was just a mix of everything coming together.

You hurt your knee, is that correct?

Cole Figueroa: It was a torn meniscus. It's not that bad, I had it last year and had surgery on it last year. It's more of a pain tolerance kind of thing. The more it's torn, the higher pain tolerance you will have to have. The one I had last year was pretty bad, which is why I had surgery. The one now isn't too bad.

You played quite a bit of shortstop at the University of Florida and more second here. How has that been?

Cole Figueroa: I think they want me to be sharp at both positions, but I have played a little more second here which is fine.

When looking at the numbers, you have a decent slugging percentage for not being the biggest guy in the world. Where does the power come from?

Cole Figueroa: I think I'm more of a gap-to-gap guy, especially in this league that has some big ballparks. I'm not looking to hit the ball out of the park, but I do think I can make good contact and get the ball into the gaps.

This is you're first full year in pro ball. Has it been that big of an adjustment for you?

Cole Figueroa: I played in quite a few wood bat summer leagues and in the fall in college we would use wood bats, so that part of it has not been that big of an adjustment.

The contact points with wood force you to be a little more aware of what you are doing at the plate.

What has been the biggest adjustment for you coming from college to the pros?

Cole Figueroa: I think the biggest adjustment is just getting used to playing everyday and being on the road. In college, you play four to five days a week, but you have two or three days off in the middle, so it gives you a break. Here it is everyday and you really have to work at staying focused.

If you go through some of the slumps that are 1-for-20 or something like that, and they can come up on you very quickly, and you have to find a way to get out of it pretty quick too. In college, you have a little more time to go back and make adjustments.

How do you work on it without it snowballing?

Cole Figueroa: You just try to take everyday as it is and not worry about the results. You have to worry more about the process, your swing, are you hitting the ball hard and things like that. It's much better to hit a ball hard and make an out, than to have a bad swing and get a hit. It will mess you up down the road.

When I struggled in the beginning this year, battling through that was tough. The biggest difference here is that I know I was going to be in the lineup everyday and that really helps your approach on staying on an even keel.

What is the one biggest thing you need to work on to move up to the next level?

Cole Figueroa: I really think I just need more at-bats. Even though I got used to swinging with wooden bats from summer leagues and the off-season, I'm not accustomed to seeing this level of pitching.

Just learning about how guys are trying to throw to me and what they are attempting to do helps you learn more about the game and improve.

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