Padres Prospect Interview: Blake Tekotte

The San Diego Padres have been preaching the Petco Park mentality throughout the system. Prospect Blake Tekotte may be a perfect fit with his speed, gap power, and ability to play stout defense.

Blake, there's been a lot of talk about this Petco Park small ball. How does that play into your game?

Blake Tekotte: It plays perfectly actually. Last year, I had a few home runs, which isn't really what I'm used to with my game. I'm more of a gap to gap line-drive, bunt hits, stolen base kind of guy. Scoring runs, get on base for the meat of the lineup. I think it's good that they're starting to realize that. I want to get ready for Petco Park. I want to get ready for Double-A or Triple-aA. I want to play the way that I'm going to be playing in Petco Park.

How do you balance between being aggressive versus being reckless?

Blake Tekotte: It's a fine line. You have to be smart. It's a really big outfield out there to be roaming around. You have to know who's right and who's left and also on the base path. It's a fine line between being aggressive and being stupid on the bases, for lack of a better world. Maybe at the beginning you can get away with some of the stuff, being a little too aggressive, which is fine, but we want to find kind of a happy medium between being too wild on bases and not being aggressive enough.

April-May, you had a little bit of struggle last seson. June-July, you turned it on. What changed?

Blake Tekotte: Just my mental approach toward everything. I was trying to do way too much, trying to put too much pressure on myself, feeling like I had to get on every single time. It was just not a good situation for me. Then, when I finally realize, I dropped down in the order to nine, trying to take a little pressure off myself. Dougie (Dascenzo) was trying to help me out with that. I finally realized, ‘Hey, we have guys in the lineup that can hit. If I don't get on base, somebody else will.' We won a lot of games, so that made it a lot easier. It made it a lot more fun and everything. I calmed down a little bit. Now, I realize what to expect from myself and what not to expect with getting on base every single time.

You've had that wrap in your swing that you've been trying to get rid of. It seems like you're almost getting used to different things. Did that affect you, as well, the changes you were making? We all know we have to make changes as we adjust and go up levels.

Blake Tekotte: Yeah. It kind of threw my timing off at first. I'd rather have that early in my career and get that huge two month slump out of the way. Now that I'm more comfortable with my swing and I've talked to the hitting coaches about it. (Hitting coach Bob) Skube and (roving hitting coordinator Tony Muser) Muse and everything. We're on the same page on what I need to do. I'm just trying to hit hard ground balls the other way, line drives, and try to stay out of the air and just take my base hits as they come.

Teammates and coaches have called you a spark plug. You hear something like that – how does it make you feel?

Blake Tekotte: It feels good. It's something I take pride in, trying to bring energy to the field every day. Whether it be doing the job, getting a guy over, hitting a run in, stealing a base, whenever it's a big inning or in the late innings. Just doing something like that, just trying to fire the whole bench up. You need that. Baseball is a game of momentum and that's what you need.

Is staying under control a big focus for you in terms of emotion? Sometimes, you get emotional, you start becoming more aggressive, you start falling into that pattern.

Blake Tekotte: Yeah. A big part of that last year was that I was really frustrated that I didn't take my bunt hits here and there. I was swinging a lot of balls out of my zone that I can't hit, that really nobody can hit, other than like Vladimir Guerrero. It was just stupid. I'm just trying to stay within myself. It's something I've learned and have taken into account with the way I need to play the game now.

How do you know when you're being too aggressive, being too antsy up there?

Blake Tekotte: Pitch selection is huge. That's what got me into my slump, trying to do too much. Once I went 0-for-2 in a game, I'm like, ‘Okay, I know what I'm doing. Now, I'm going to swing at it.' Then, I get up there and swing at a 0-0 pitch. I just needed to step back and take a deep breath and go back to keeping it simple. Skube is big on keeping it simple. That's going to help out a lot with me, I think.

Do you feel like you should be stealing even more bases this year?

Blake Tekotte: Yeah, definitely. I stole a couple last year. I thought it was kind of a down year for me, just because I didn't get on base as much as I wanted to. We actually won by quite a bit of runs sometimes, too, so we had to shut it down in later innings when the guys are having huge leg kicks. I was like, "alright." The California League was a little bit different than the Midwest League, and I think it's more up tempo. Fields play fast. Balls jump off the bat a little bit more. It's going to be a little bit more of a fast-paced league. I'm going to try to put a lot more pressure on the defense.

You had 13 outfield assists last year. Is that a good number?

Blake Tekotte: Yeah. That's not too bad. I just kind of take those as they come. I really take pride in getting good jumps. Carlos (Lezcano) is big on hitting the cutoff man and everything. I'm just trying to do everything that I can to set up those things. The infielders are the guys who help me get my assists, as well, so I might as well use them, their strong arms and their athletic ability.

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? You're hitting leadoff.

Blake Tekotte: The one behind me? I don't know. I like when (Drew Cumberland) Cumby hits behind me. He's a speedy guy. He's kind of on the same page as me. We kind of play the same game, line drive, gap to gap. He knows early in the count, I'm looking to steal, so if he doesn't get that cookie right down the middle, he'll take a pitch for me rather than try to slap one through or something like that. He's a good guy to have behind me, I think.

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

Blake Tekotte: I really like the way that Brad Brach threw last year for us and this year. The tempo he had was just awesome. I felt like I almost didn't have to be out there in center field. I mean, 33 out of 34 saves is very, very good. He's just a bulldog out there. He goes right after everybody. He has no fear. If he gets hit around, he'll come back the next day and do the same exact thing. That's what he has confidence in.

You mentioned Brach. Is it worse as a hitter to get a guy who's really, really slow or really, really fast?

Blake Tekotte: I'd say really slow, just because you have too much time to think up there. This game you have to not think and everything. If you get up in there and the guy's quick pitching a little bit, that's just less time you have to think about everything and the more everything comes natural.

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