Padres Prospect Interview: James Darnell

James Darnell has been a tad slow out of the gate in 2010 but believes in his ability so much that little is changing. The approach that got him here will carry him further and his mental approach was heightened by an all-time great. Darnell also asks everyone to keep an eye on one player that will have a "huge" 2010.

Talk a little bit about the off season, what your thought process was in preparing for this year.

James Darnell: I just wanted to keep improving on every aspect of my game and try to get myself mentally prepared. And, work hard. That's what I'm about, just working hard and really being able to get to my first big league camp and have a lot of fun.

You mentioned the big league camp. What was it like going over there? What was the experience like? What did you take away?

James Darnell: It was a lot of fun. I got to really experience some good moments, get in a few games, have some starts, and I made some good friends. I learned a lot from the veteran players, and that was really crucial, you know? Going into another full year, you want to have all that experience and all the knowledge you can get to put yourself in a good position to do some damage.

You mentioned learning a couple things. Give me an example or two.

James Darnell: I spent a good time with Tony Gwynn Jr. over at San Diego State this off season. Just talking to him about the swing and talking to his dad about the swing. That's probably one of the biggest things that's been able to help me. It's guys like that, that really make a difference.

You got to actually talk to Tony Gwynn and get some pointers from one of the all-time greats as well then?

James Darnell: Yeah. Anytime he speaks, you listen, because you know he's done it and there's nobody better.

So, if you could take one piece of advice to bring down to your game in the minors, what would it be?

James Darnell: I think it has to do with trusting what you know how to do, trusting your mechanics, trusting what you've been taught. Know that even if times get tough, you still trust it, you still go with it. Your ability will eventually show, what God gave you will show.

You guys obviously used a patient aggressive approach last year. They're preaching a little more aggression this year. Do you feel like you were too passive at times last year?

James Darnell: I felt like my approach last year was solid where I was at. I feel like I did some damage where I could. This year, I go in with the new things I've learned and I just try to take it one day at a time. It's kind of patiently aggressive, that's what they used to say. But, really, when you get a good pitch to hit, just drive it. It's as simple as that.

Then, at times, did you feel almost too aggressive? There's a balance. How do you do that balance?

James Darnell: You have a game plan every time you go up there. You watch the pitcher. You have a game plan, and you know what your strengths are. You know what you do well, and you try to maximize those. Getting a pitch, seeing what he's throwing, and then driving that pitch, putting a good swing on it.

One of the things the coaches mentioned is that you have the arm, you have the ability, yet it's kind of about slowing that game down. Sometimes you get a little too fast on your throws defensively. Is that a fair assessment?

James Darnell: Yeah. I actually really enjoy working with Glenn Hoffman in the big league camp. He just came off working with Kevin Kouzmanoff for almost three years. Just being able to work with him every single day, I feel super confidant now. I can play third base with my eyes closed now. He hits balls hard to you every single day, just like in the game. I really feel good about it. I feel like a new guy. It's good.

What are the goals for the 2010 season?

James Darnell: My goal is just to produce wherever I go and keep working hard. And, to be ready for any opportunities I could get at the big league level and keep working hard.

Minor league field coordinator Randy Johnson had said the 0-0 count is probably the most important to be ready to hit. Was that the case last year, or were you trying to see more pitches?

James Darnell: No. Last year, I wasn't trying to see more pitches. I would focus in on a spot, and if you didn't throw it there, I'd take it. It makes things pretty easy for you, especially when you're going well. You recognize that pitch right away, you see it right away. You say to yourself, ‘No, I'm going to lay off that.' That produces a lot of takes when you have guys throwing the ball who've got good movement. They might not have the most control. I only have to protect the strike zone, so that's what I try to do.

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?

James Darnell: That's tough. I like all the guys that we have. I don't even know where I'm going to hit in the order. That's a good question. I don't even know how to answer that.

If I'm hitting three, I want somebody that's going to drive me in. You can count the numbers out there. You've got plenty of guys that drive you in. I just want whoever is going to go up there and do the job. That's the bottom line.

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

James Darnell: Anthony Bass. I threw with him this off season. He is a different guy. He led the organization in ERA last year, but if you go watch him pitch now… He's been on Alan Jaegar's arm program all season, and I've just noticed a huge difference. It's one of those things where you see him last year. I stood in against him. Then, I see him this year, and I'm like, ‘Whoa! You're ball is just jumping.' Look for that guy to have a huge year.

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