Padres Prospect Interview: Vince Belnome

Regardless of his placement in the MLB Draft, Vince Belnome played like a top pick in his debut season. His advanced approach earned him a trip to Lake Elsinore in his first full season – a spot where he can build upon the successes of 2009.

One of the things that the Padres really praised about your game last year was your ability to use the whole field. Talk a little about that nod. What's your approach going in there?

Vince Belnome: My approach is looking the other way. With that approach, you can't really get fooled that often. You have to keep your weight back. You have to wait until the last second to hit the ball. Even with an offspeed pitch, even if you're waiting back for it, you can wait back and still hit it right out in front and back up the middle.

Do you feel as a later round draft pick, you have to prove yourself here?

Vince Belnome: Even if you're a top draft pick, you have to prove yourself. It's doesn't really matter what you did the year before. It's what you come out and do this year. You have to just keep on doing your thing, and keep on helping your team win.

When I talked to Doug Dascenzo, he said you just have a great approach? What does it mean to have a great approach?

Vince Belnome: I think it's the way you go about the situation that you're hitting in. Say you have a guy on third, no outs or one out and the infield is back, it's hitting a ground ball to score a run. Or, say you have guys on first and second, and you're trying to move both of them, or you have nobody out, and you try to hit a ball to the right side of the infield. Just trying to pull something. That's part of the approach. It's how you handle the situations that you're put in when you're up at the plate.

Are you someone who is open to suggestions? You had everything working last year. Are there suggestions being made that you need to change a little bit?

Vince Belnome: Not so much offensively. Not really. They're not really messing with me there. I'm just working on my defense, and I feel like I've got a ton better. It's all I've really been doing with the coaches. I'm just working on my defense at second and third. I don't know what's going to happen this year, but either way, I'll be ready.

How do you build upon year one?

Vince Belnome: Try to go out and top it in year two.

Is that easier said than done?

Vince Belnome: Yeah, definitely. You're going to be in different situations. It's a different team. You have a different chemistry. You just have to play your part, and know what you've got to do. In your team, there's three or four hitters. They've got to drive the ball. They've got to knock in the runs and the RBIs, where as the lead off guy has to get on base. You just have to play your role on the team.

One thing that Greg Riddoch said is that you like high pitches, chasing them, but aren't very successful at hitting them.

Vince Belnome: No. Yeah. That's mostly the thing with everybody. That high fast ball is one of the hardest pitches to catch up to. That's what I've been doing. It just looks so fat coming in there. I'll get it back. These first couple games, I'll be alright.

You're a guy who has a pretty good knee bend in your stance. Is that a balance point? How do you generate the power that you do?

Vince Belnome: I've always liked hitting like that. You're down lower to the ground, more eye level with the pitch. Standing straight up, your pitch recognition and depth is not as good as when you're down low. I try to lower my weight before the pitch gets there. I just use my hips. I don't really take a step when I stride. I just roll my ankle and then drive my hips and knee into it.

How do you improve the lateral movement defensively? You talked about working a lot. How do you improve that lateral movement? Is it reactions? Is it first-step quickness?

Vince Belnome: It's just the routes that you take to the ball, like that first step. Basically, reacting to the ball. I had a trainer in the off season. I did a bunch of speed and agility drills, ladder drills and cone drills. That really helped me. I feel really good moving to my left and right on the field, whether it's at third or second.

One of the things the coaches said was that they wanted to see you improve turning, too, especially at second base. How did you improve in that area?

Vince Belnome: I would have somebody flip me balls at second base to just get my feet down, my feet set, and get my hands moving. I just try to get moving towards the ball, getting it in and out of my hands, nice and quick.

How do these situational drills when you do that in instructs and even here in each batting practice help you? And, how do you take that into the game?

Vince Belnome: You have to do everything full speed. I try to do everything game speed. If you practice game speed, then you'll be ready for it in the game. I just try to go out there and do what they tell me. Just keep on working and get better.

We all know you have a lot of great teammates and this does not take away from anyone you don't mention. If you could have one hitter hitting behind you in the lineup all season to offer protection, who would it be and why?

Vince Belnome: Behind me? It would probably have to be Nate Freiman. Big Nate. Big Dog. Sometimes I batted second, and Eddie (Rincon) battled third. Sometimes he batted third, I batted fourth, and Nate hit fifth. Eddie and I were on base a lot. Big Nate always came through. He had something like 70 RBI.

Pretty good in a short season. Give me one pitcher you're glad is a teammate of yours.

Vince Belnome: One pitcher? I love it with Brad Brach and Nick Schumacher on the mound. Those guys just go out there. When I was moved up to Fort Wayne, I was standing at third base or second base. They just came into the game and boom, boom, boom, one out. Boom, boom, boom, two outs. They just pound it there, strikes. It's fun to play defense with pitchers like that.

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