Padres Prospect Interview: Drew Cumberland

San Diego Padres prospect Drew Cumberland is healthy and raking, showing what he is capable across a full season. Yet, he still has a number of areas where he wants to improve.

Drew, talk to me about today. You had a double walk, two runs scored. How are you feeling about that?

Drew Cumberland: I feel okay. There are still little adjustments I have to do with the play. I have to get my time down on off-speed. I'm having a little trouble with that right now. Other than that, I feel like I'm using the fastball pretty well. Defense-wise, first round ball, quick infield, I've got to get back to that again. Other than that, I felt the whole team played well. We played together well. We were aggressive. That's what we're trying to do this year, be more aggressive on the bases, jump on the fastball when it gets there. All around, I think it was great team effort. We had a good game.

Last year, obviously, it was another year where you were banged up at times. Is that almost your aggressive style play being a detriment?

Drew Cumberland: Yeah. They even had a meeting with me this year saying they think I still have that football mentality a little bit. Just like that last at-bat, if I hit one right to the pitcher, don't bust it a hundred percent down the line. Maybe I can go 80 and save my legs. Stuff like that. Knock on some wood for me. This year is going to be injury-free. I'm excited.

Do you feel like you haven't even shown your true potential? Obviously, when you get injured, you have to start getting into that rhythm again. You get at-bats, you get thrown into the fire, then all of a sudden, you're like, "Now, I feel good."

Drew Cumberland: Yeah. There's no question when you're playing every day and you don't have that setback, you get in a groove and you get used to playing nine innings every day. You go fifteen days playing in a row, and your body gets used to it. With my steals and everything, I believe I could get close to 50, if I stay in there for a whole year. That's really it.

Is the key to your success keeping the ball out of the air? I think that's another mantra being told by all these people here.

Drew Cumberland: My goal is to not hit the ball in the air. I know I'm not a power guy. We've talked about this before. If I put a ball in the 5-6 hole, I have a chance to get a base hit, just beating it out. They've talked to me about if I get a single, I can easily turn it into a double, possibly a triple. They just want to utilize my speed any way they can, so I just want to work on that this year, just keeping the ball on the ground. I'm going to try to put the ball on the ground somewhere.

How's the bunting been for you? Is that an area you feel like you need to prove even more?

Drew Cumberland: What I need to do is just get a lot more repetition at it. I need to do it more. Last year, I think I had maybe four bunt hits. That's something I definitely need to use. I don't have to place it perfect, just get it around that area and I can get on that way. Actually, this mini camp we had, I worked on that every day, at least some part of the day.

One of the couches talked – maybe it was Tom Tornicasa – he said you had a penchant for pulling off the inside pitch. Is that still true, or do you try to get those hands in there now?

Drew Cumberland: Well, I'm trying to get my hands in there. They call me a fast twitch guy. My eyes just light up when a pitch comes inside like that. One thing they've done is just back me up off the plate a little bit. Maybe that ball that's too far, that's a ball not to hit, I can actually see that and let it go. I've had a little trouble with the outside pitch, because I look so far away from the plate now, I've been taking that outside pitch a little too much. Overall, when I'm off the plate, I keep my hands in more, I recognize the pitch a little bit better. I think it's helped out a lot.

What does it mean to slow the game down? You hear all these people: Slow the game down. What does it mean?

Drew Cumberland: Everything. My first year out of high school, I was just 100 percent going into a ground ball. You slow the game down, you get a better view of it, you get a better read on a hop on a ground ball, just anything at the plate, on the rush. Get set. It's more of a quote of being smooth is quicker. If you're more smooth, you're going to feel more fluent and more together with your body, really. If you go 100 percent all the time, you're going to feel out of whack.

How has the arm strength improved?

Drew Cumberland: I feel like it's improved a lot. I got on a throwing program this off season. I've just really worked on keeping my arm loose and let the ball come off the fingertips.

What are the base running improvements you need to do? We know you have the speed. In fact, you were successful when you were on there, but you talk about being more aggressive. What needs to happen to get better? How do you get better?

Drew Cumberland: If it's not once a day, it's every other day, we're working on base running and how we're going from first to third or getting more aggressive secondaries. They want us running first to home as much as we can. Anything that happens on the field, balls in the dirt, they just want us to be as aggressive as we can be. The game has changed a lot, since steroids are out of baseball. We're going to be the speed team, and hopefully put pressure on the defense. If you hit a single, run the bag as hard as you can and maybe they'll fumble it or something. Just put a lot of pressure on the defense. That's what our goal is.

Do you feel that Petco Park mentality actually plays into your game?

Drew Cumberland: Yeah, they've actually talked to me about that. Petco is really a speed guy's ballpark. There's not too many home runs hit out of there, so it'll play perfect for me.

What do you need to do for 2010? What are your goals, your expectations?

Drew Cumberland: Goals are to hit over 300. I would like to get 50 plus bags, and have a winning percentage for our whole team. That, and hopefully win a championship.

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?

Drew Cumberland: I'd say Jaff Decker. His eye at the plate is unbelievable. The more pitches he sees, it just gives me more of an opportunity to see the pitcher and what he's got, to see what he does in certain counts. Decker has one of the best eyes I've seen in baseball, that I've played with, especially knowing when to lay off pitches and knowing when to swing.

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

Drew Cumberland: I'd say Brad Brach. He has the quickest hands I've ever seen. He works fast, and I know as a hitter when a pitcher gets up there and is moving so fast, it bugs me so bad. When he's up there, he works quick, he's got great stuff, hits the spot, and more importantly he throws strikes. I'm glad I have that guy on my team.

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