Padres Interview: Lance Zawadzki

San Diego Padres shortstop Lance Zawadzki made his first impression in Spring Training. His work there got him noticed by the coaching staff when injuries hit and a player was needed. He has filled the role, getting a hit in his first big league at-bat.

Talk to me about the opportunity you had in big league camp and the experience you received leading into the season.

Lance Zawadzki: The best part about that is you get to show the coaches who haven't seen you play – you get to play in front of them.

But, the biggest experience for a player is just being able to talk with the guys who have been around like Jerry Hairston Jr. – guys who take others guys under their belt. You get to really talk to them and pick their brain constantly during the day. It wasn't so much playing up there. It was more learning from the guys – learning what to look for in certain situations. We talked about hitting, fielding, base running, you name it. Those guys are so giving – all the information from all the years they have played. It is awesome. It is nice to hear it from a different side – from a player, not a coach.

Was there one piece of advice that stuck more than anything else?

Lance Zawadzki: Glenn Hoffman talked to me about slowing the game down. That was probably the biggest thing that helped me. As each level you go up, the game just speeds up on you. That was something I really felt when I first went up there until I was able to make my adjustment. I took what he was talking to me about and applied it. That really helped me out.

How does one slow the game down?

Lance Zawadzki: I think it is really overthinking situations. You can overthink and get rattled with the guys you watch on TV. The game speeds up. People think big leaguers loaf down the line and that is not the case as I learned a couple of times. It is a matter of taking breaths, getting those nerves out, and letting your ability and talent take over rather than trying to over-impress and playing above your level. Play to your level, whatever that is. If it is not good enough, you are gone anyway so it does not matter.

What was the Arizona Fall League experience like for you?

Lance Zawadzki: That was awesome. That was one of the best baseball experiences I have had. To be able to play at that level of guys in one league – it was after the season and everyone was tired, but it was the perfect mix of everyone being laid back enough but still getting yoru fix of baseball with some of the best players from around the minor leagues. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

When I got to see you play and take batting practice during the AFL, you seemed to be working on getting a little bit more separation in your swing. Is it a continuing evolving thing?

Lance Zawadzki: It doesn't matter if you haven't played in the big leagues or have played 20 years, it is a game of adjustments. You are constantly working on things. If you fail 70 percent of the time, you are a Hall of Famer. If you fail 70 percent of the time, you are going to need to constantly work on things otherwise you will fail more than that.

Do you feel like you were too aggressive at times last year?

Lance Zawadzki: Yes and no. In San Antonio, I was aggressive because of the way I was swinging the bat. I got into a period where I was trying to do too much. I was swinging more body-oriented and it took my bat speed down a little bit. Instead of waiting and letting my pitch come to me, I felt I needed to rush to catch up to stuff because I wasn't feeling right. I was swinging with my body and trying to do too much. When I started slumping, I wanted to do more and more.

When I got to the fall league, I worked with Tom Tornicasa. Other than my dad, who I grew up with, he probably knows my swing better than anyone. He got me back to where I needed to be, using my hands, getting my foot down a little earlier, and not trying to do too much.

In the fall league, I really concentrated on staying up the middle. I wasn't worried about power and actually hit for more extra-base hits. Everything took care of itself. I concentrated on what I needed to do as a hitter.

In Lake Elsinore, you hit 10 home runs pretty quickly. Did that kind of get you homer-happy?

Lance Zawadzki: It did. When you stop hitting them or stop getting hits, you start pressing. That is what got me into it.

When I first got up to Double-A for the first week or two weeks, it was like I talked about in big league camp – the game speeds up on you a little bit. The pitching is a little bit different, you are seeing off-speed in different counts. It was an adjustment. When I went to San Antonio, it was the same kind of adjustment as I made in the fall league. I had to get back to that. I got away from it and didn't realize it.

How tough is it to be a switch-hitter with two different swings? Does it feel different each day in terms of what swing might feel better?

Lance Zawadzki: There is no doubt about it and it is usually the side you aren't hitting on that day that feels better.

The biggest part of that is making sure you get the same amount of reps in to both sides. When you get to these higher levels, you are going to see a lefty in the game at some point. You can get away with that in college because there are so few lefties it seems. You get so many reps as a left-handed hitter. Pro ball is different. Guys get paid and they go out and find guys they need for certain situations. The biggest thing, for me, is getting those reps on both sides of the plate.

The Padres have talked about being more aggressive as a unit. Aggressive on the base paths and aggressive early in the count. Does that play into your strengths?

Lance Zawadzki: It does. As a hitter, I like being aggressive. It has gotten me into trouble at times but it is something I have developed more and took into the fall league. My walks were down and I stayed aggressive. I wasn't looking to pull every pitch and stayed to the big part of the field. That is the type of hitter I am.

You hit 10 to 15 home runs but my strength as a hitter is going to be gap-to-gap, getting on base and stealing some bags. That was something I got away from too. I got caught up in not stealing and being content on the base paths. I am looking to get back to where I was in 2008.

What were the 2010 goals?

Lance Zawadzki: Going into big league camp, it was about getting the experience and getting noticed. The guys making me feel part of the team took the stress off. You still get to work on what you need to work on, even though you are still trying to impress people.

I didn't put any lofty goals out there. I think that is what gets you in trouble sometimes. I wanted to go out and let my game take over, relax, use my hands, and stay loose in the field.

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?

Lance Zawadzki: There are a lot of good hitters. You are putting me in a hole! You are going to get me in trouble. It doesn't really matter as long as they drive me in.

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

Lance Zawadzki: Wynn Pelzer – based on pure stuff, I am really glad I don't have to face him a couple of times a year. He is so blessed with talent. He has such immense natural ability.

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