Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Clark

San Diego Padres prospect Matt Clark was one of 15 players in the entire minor leagues to collect 100 or more RBI and the only one to accomplish the feat within the Padres farm system.

One-hundred RBI over two leagues. No matter how you slice it, that is a pretty impressive feat.

Matt Clark: I really took a look at it the other day and realized that. I was talking to my dad about it. It was a pretty good accomplishment. You really don't see a whole lot of guys doing that in the minor leagues.

It is a testament to your teammates as well. Someone has to be on base for you to see that kind of success.

Matt Clark: Exactly. They have to be on base.

Talk about hitting with runners in scoring position. I think you have had more at-bats with runners in scoring position than anyone in the system.

Matt Clark: That is something I have always prided myself on. I focus on trying to get a good pitch to hit. The pressure is really on the pitcher in those situations. They seem to miss with one or two more pitches than they normally would and me capitalizing on it by getting a good pitch to hit and putting it in play.

How have you been able to keep yourself short to the ball. This is something we have discussed in the past as a tall player with long arms.

Matt Clark: It is something you have to maintain all year. I worked a lot early in the season with Torni (hitting coach Tom Tornicasa) in Fort Wayne. We worked on it all the time – before the game, after the game, all the time. We talked about it and developed a plan. Being able to stick with that plan and staying back and staying on top of the ball to hit line drives rather than fly balls.

Torni has some interesting drills. Do those kinds of drills almost make things second nature to you and help you pinpoint what is going wrong with your swing?

Matt Clark: He is really good at breaking down swings like that. We worked forever on those drills and staying back. A couple of those drills really clicked. ‘Wow, that is what it is supposed to feel like when you hit the ball good, stay back, and are not under the ball.' Once you figure out how it feels and see it when he videotapes you, it all comes together. As soon as you get away from it, you can feel it.

Is that something you can accomplish on a pitch-by-pitch basis?

Matt Clark: It is mostly on a pitch-by-pitch basis. You try and keep it pitch-by=pitch but you can't do it all the time. The guys in the big leagues do it all the time. We are still working on it from at-bat to at-bat. Hopefully, you can make the adjustment and do something about it the next time up.

How has the pitch selection improved?

Matt Clark: It has been good. Even though I strikeout a bit, if I am going to swing, I am going to try and hit it hard. It is kind of cause and effect. I take a strong, quick swing. If you miss it, you miss it. If you don't miss it, you see what happens. Being able to lay off tough pitches has progressed as the year went on.

Are there times where you feel like you are overswinging and that you need to relax more?

Matt Clark: Yes, you get into that situation every now and again. With guys on base, you sometimes try and do too much with the ball. That is the whole thing with not trying to do too much – just let your natural swing take over.

How nice was it to play close to home in Lake Elsinore?

Matt Clark: It was so nice. I live 20 minutes from Lake Elsinore. I live in Rancho Cucamonga. We had three neighboring parks around that my family and friends could come out and see me. I hadn't been able to play in front of them in forever. It was fun to be home.

Is that ever any added pressure?

Matt Clark: They give you a hard time after the game but all support me in whatever I do. It is not added pressure.

When you look back at the 2009 season, how do you assess it?

Matt Clark: Take a step back and look at how you have progressed from the beginning of the season is how I look at it. I think I have progressed a tremendous amount from the beginning to the end. That is all you really want to do. And then take a look at the results at the end and I think I did all right.

Is there a general area you want to focus on moving forward?

Matt Clark: Just keeping driving guys in. I need to be the guy that gets big hits when the team needs it. I have done it my whole life, and, hopefully, I can keep it going.

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