Padres Prospect Interview: Mitch Canham

San Diego Padres prospect Mitch Canham didn't have the season he wanted last year but has a new approach this season – mostly on the mental side. If there is a confidence in relaxation, Canham has it.

Talk to me about the AFL experience. What was that like for you?

Mitch Canham: Real fun. It was a tremendous learning experiencing, especially playing with a whole bunch of big-time talent with all five teams or whatever we had with us. There were a lot of great guys. I made a lot of friends, and I learned a lot.

It gave me a lot of confidence as well, as far as having a whole bunch of bit-time arms coming in and having to catch them for the first time and feeling comfortable. All around, it was a great experience.

I wish I had been able to finish up a little better, as far as my health. I'm not talking about the hitting. It's a fall league, and I'm there to work on things. I still felt comfortable and I felt I got a lot out of it, offensively, even though I wasn't hitting worth a dang. I worked with our hitting coach Torni (Tom Tornicasa), and I feel I got a lot out of it. Health-wise, I was breaking down a little at the end. It was great. I had a great time. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play for it.

Does that wear on you, obviously, squatting for all those games during a season? It takes its toll, there's no doubt.

Mitch Canham: Probably every catcher you ask would say, yeah. If they don't, they're lying to you. It definitely wears on you. It's about taking care of yourself, getting the proper sleep, and going about it as though you know your job's strenuous and you have to prepare for it like a professional. Get your rest. I'm still getting used to catching all year, but it looks like this year I'll be doing a whole bunch of other things.

What was the major league camp experience like for you?

Mitch Canham: Great. Great guys. Once again, it was another big-time learning experience. I've been talking a lot with other pitchers, and now that I'm jumping around to other positions, I get to learn from big leaguers. Nothing better than that.

Is there some advice that you could actually take down this year? What is it?

Mitch Canham: I talked to Mr. Heath Bell. He's a good dude, a good friend of mine. It's about confidence and knowing you can play. If you start doubting yourself, it's going to show when you play. A big thing for them is when those guys are here to work, when they're here, they're doing things right. They're able to come to the field the same way every day. You just really have to learn how to do that if you're going to play at that level.

You mentioned the other positions, first base, maybe some outfield. Talk a little bit about that and what those challenges are like.

Mitch Canham: I'm not going to think of it as a challenge. I'm going to think of it like, ‘Hey, wherever they point their finger and tell me to play, I'm going to do it.' I can't worry about it. You want me to play first today, I'll play first. You want me in the outfield, I can do that. Go catch, do that. Whatever they need me to do. I just want to play and help the Padres win. Those guys have been around, (Padres manager) Buddy (Black) knows what he's doing. If they think that's what's going to help the team, then that's what I'm going to do.

Talk a little bit about the defensive work at first base.

Mitch Canham: Keep it in front, flip it to first, catch the ball. That's about it. I don't know.

It sounds simple. It sounds easy.

Mitch Canham: It's about trying to keep it simple. That's what I learned from a lot of the guys higher up. Doing the drills right. I'm working with Jonesy (infield coordinator Gary Jones) a lot, third and first base. I like playing all the positions, because everyday I've got to come to work and it keeps me motivated. You're getting hit with something fresh every day. You're still in there. You don't get into that routine, that rhythm that lulls you to sleep.

Is that good or bad? A lot of players like that rhythm.

Mitch Canham: I think it's good. Some guys do. I've been in it for a long time. Catch, catch, catch every day. Every day, I come to the yard and I have a little excitement. What am I going to do today? I found out right before the game, I'm going to play first base. Tomorrow, I come to the yard and not know what the heck's going on and I might catch. So, we'll see.

What was San Antonio stadium like? Did that get to you a little bit, just that spacious park? Is it a tough place to get a wind fall in?

Mitch Canham: It's Texas. I'm from Seattle. I'm a West Coast guy. I like it nice and cool. It was different getting used to the heat. I'm going back most this year, and I'll be alright now that I know what I'm getting myself with you. Mostly, it's the guys around you that keep you going. You try to rub off on them and push them, and they turn around and push you back. It makes the temperatures and the wind less of a factor. It teaches you how to really hit the ball, rather than hit the ball in the air. That's something I'll be working on this year.

Were you too aggressive at times?

Mitch Canham: I wouldn't say too aggressive. But, sometimes, when you think, I need to lift the ball, it's not going to work there. Line drive, I guess.

As a catcher, do you look at a hitter's strength or weaknesses versus the pitchers strength or weaknesses?

Mitch Canham: I look at both. Mostly, you have to pitch to what the pitcher can do. You also have to keep in mind what the hitter can do. You can't make a pitcher do something he can't do. You have to stay with his strengths, first and foremost, in my opinion. We always go over it. Almost every guy that comes up to the plate, 99%, we know about them. In Texas, you play every team like 30 times, so you come to know everyone quite well.

Opposition obviously tested your arm a little bit last year. How have you improved in that area?

Mitch Canham: I'm just going to go to work and try to build my arm strength.

Do you feel like you achieved that, too, in the off season?

Mitch Canham: I've always been confident in my catch and throw. Whether or not, they're getting good jumps, sometimes it's on me, sometimes it's not. There's different factors that play into it. A lot of people like pointing fingers. They say, hey Mitch, your arm sucks. I've heard a lot of people say that. I've heard a lot of people also think I have a good arm. I know I have a good arm. People know what's going on. I'm not really worried about it. If I've only thrown out 20 percent, there's parts on me, and parts on other people. I'm just going to try my best. I'm going to do my best. I'm not going to try. There's no try anymore.

You are working on some load separation to maybe get a little better pitch recognition.

Mitch Canham: I'll tell you my philosophy. That's the only thing I can tell you, my philosophy, right now. It's mostly just relax and hit the ball. You can't try doing too much, 3-1 counts, and you can't try to rip home runs. You just have to take the same swing you would on a 1-0 count, not trying to get too big. Just putting the ball in play is a big part of it, and relaxing, being confident.

The other part was just staying back. At times, you would get out on your front foot. Is that just part of the maturation process, recognizing your own body within that?

Mitch Canham: I've always had people tell me what was wrong. You're doing this, you're doing this, you're doing this. I can get away with it, because I can find a way to put the ball in play. Eventually, it starts catching up with you. Everyone would tell me what was wrong, but finally somebody told me how to fix it. That helps. You can tell me what's wrong. Oh yeah, you suck at this, you suck at this. But, how do I fix it? Tell me how to fix it. Finally, someone did.

How did you fix it?

Mitch Canham: I've got my secrets. I can't be telling because then everyone would know. I've got good coaches and good friends that look out for me. It's not all about the swing. It's about the mental side, too.

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?

Mitch Canham: That's tough. There's a lot of good hitters. I'm been really impressed with Logan Forsythe. He's an outstanding player and a great guy, too. He's always putting the ball into play, and he comes to compete. So, Forsythe's one of them. Coop's (Craig Cooper) a tough sucker. Mike Baxter's a tough sucker. There's a lot of guys. It's hard to narrow them down. Between those three, I like my odds with those guys. Chad Huffman, as well. Guys that go up there and want to swing. They grab a bat, and in their eyes, they're holding one of those big orange whiffle ball bats and the guy's lobbing it in.

Who is the one pitcher you are glad you have as a teammate and why?

Mitch Canham: Me and Mike Demark are really close friends. We really connect well and are able to help each other out on the field and off the field. I love catching for Nathan Culp because he's a professional. There are good teammates like Evan Scribner and Brandon Gomes. I can't say enough about Gomes. He's one of the most impressive guys I've caught, because everything's at the knees. When I'm talking about professionals, like Nathan Culp, he's one.

How good is that splitter?

Mitch Canham: It's good, because he throws it at the knees. He doesn't leave it in the middle, and that's why he strikes a lot of guys out. I think some guys don't get as much credit as they deserve. Guys like Gomes, he's going to keep pitching (I didn't realize he was standing there.). He's going to pitch a long time, because he knows how to be a professional and not worry about being stuck somewhere. Eventually, people are going to see him and he's going to play.

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