Padres Prospect Interview: Vince Belnome

Eugene, OR: San Diego Padres prospect Vince Belnome began his professional career by reaching in 24 straight games. Few doubt his offensive game, as he earned a trip to a prime role in Fort Wayne's drive to a championship. His defensive game, however, does need polish.

Let's talk about some of the changes you have undergone in the Northwest League. You get the wood bat and perhaps are undergoing some changes mechanically.

Vince Belnome: It is a totally different approach with the wood bat. You have to make more solid contact and there is less room for error.

With the metal bat, you can hit the ball almost anywhere and still hit it out of the park. Other than that, you have to get used to the pitching. You are seeing good arms out of the bullpen everyday.

The other thing is location. The pitchers can spot their fastball and every other pitch.

The last thing is playing every single day. In college, you have three or four days off during the week. Here, we are playing every single day.

How difficult is it to differentiate what you are trying to accomplish in the batting cage with what you are doing in the batter's box?

Vince Belnome: It is two totally different things. What you do in the cage, you can't take into the field. We are trying to win the game. If you struggle at the plate during the day than you have to play good defense. You always have to do something to help the team win.

What kind of changes are they trying to incorporate into your swing?

Vince Belnome: Coach EP (Eric Peyton) is not trying to change anything really. We all have good swings and got here for a reason. It is about loading, separating and getting to the pitch with a nice, short, quick swing.

What kind of player are you – what are your strengths?

Vince Belnome: I am mostly an offensive player. I love to hit. You can stick me anywhere in the lineup, as long as I am hitting.

I have been working on my defense recently and would say I am an all-around team player.

You mentioned working on defense. What specifically has to happen to make you better at that part of the game?

Vince Belnome: I have been getting used to second base. I have played third with Eddie (Rincon) and have switched in and out at second as well. I am trying to get my reps and fielding mechanics down. Guys are faster at this level so you have to make the play cleaner and get rid of the ball faster.

It all starts with your feet and everything follows after that. Once you get your feet set, it allows you to make the play easier.

Do you have to train your arm differently, especially when you go from second base to third and start getting used to the shorter throws.

Vince Belnome: Second base is a lot shorter and easier on your arm so you should have it saved up for the move to third base. It takes more of a toll when you play third base for a couple of days – it takes a toll on your arm. You get used to it. We have a great throwing program.

As an offensive player, how can you continually help this team win?

Vince Belnome: I try to hit the ball in the gaps for doubles. The homers will come. You don't try and hit homers. I am just trying to knock guys in. That is my role in the four-hole. If I am hitting earlier in the inning, I have to try and get on base and get things rolling.

Is there pressure for you when you do see guys in scoring position. Does it feel like you have to do something, especially when the team sees some struggles in that arena?

Vince Belnome: You can't feel like that otherwise you won't succeed. I try and go up there and pretend no one is on base – a mental image in my mind. I try not to do more than I can do. If you try, it usually doesn't happen. Take a good swing, look for a good pitch to hit, and, hopefully, it knocks some runs in.

What is it like working under Greg Riddoch. He is a big proponent of sports physchology and the mental side of the game?

Vince Belnome: It is great. He is a great teacher. That is perfect at this level. He is teaching us the game and the mental aspect as well. That is a huge part. Baseball is 10 percent ability and 90 percent mental. With him bringing all of the mental side of things into his teaching, it really helps all of us.

When you look at players in the major leagues is there a guy that you emulate and try to be like?

Vince Belnome: I love the way Chase Utley plays the game. I love the way Albert Pujols hits. He has to be one of the best, if not the best, hitters in the game. Chase is a great all-around player who can hit it to all fields and plays the right way. He is probably my role model.

When you are watching major league games, are you always trying to pick up some little technique to bring to your game and does that take away some of the fun of the game?

Vince Belnome: I always watch ‘Baseball Tonight' and look at different things and compare it to myself. You are always trying to get better.

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