Rays Digest: I wanted to ask you how your overall experience has been so far in spring training.
Jeff Malm: It's been good. I got down here about a week early. I went to some of the optional workouts just to get acclimated to the weather and get used to the schedule every day. So that helps a lot. I've done that the last couple of years now. It's been good. It's a good group of guys. Everybody is getting along and working hard every day trying to get better.
Rays Digest: Speaking of a good group of guys - you're from Las Vegas and I heard you work out with Jake Hager who is from there as well.
Jeff Malm: Yeah. We work out over at Tim Soder Physical Therapy. We work out every morning just getting after it. Jake's a great guy. I played against him in high school, so I know him pretty well. We get along really well, so I'm looking forward to hopefully playing for the Rays with him.
Rays Digest: You had a pretty good season last year and you had a really good and hot July. Is consistency something that you want to focus on this season and try to put up a whole season of good hitting?
Jeff Malm: Yeah definitely. Obviously as the year goes on, pitchers make adjustments to you. As the year goes on, you face pitchers more throughout the year. So, the biggest thing for me this off-season was to focus more on conditioning and staying strong through August this year. I think that was one of the reasons I dipped off late in the year. I got a little bit tired - not to make excuses. But I wasn't in as good of shape late in the season as I could have been. Which probably would have helped a lot, instead of making my bat get a little slower. Some of the pitches that I was hitting for home runs earlier in the year, I was popping them up or fouling them off. Because my approach at the plate didn't really change. It was just that I wasn't connecting with those mistakes that I was earlier in the year. So that was definitely a big key-point this year - focusing on staying strong. That way in August I can keep everything up.
Rays Digest: That's actually something that I've heard quite a lot from first and second year players. Drew Vettleson mentioned it when I talked to him - about not being in the proper shape. Of course it's not a matter of being lazy or anything like that. Is it just a matter of trying to figure out what conditioning program you need to be on in the off-season?
Jeff Malm: Yeah I think so. Obviously this is my third spring training and I think each year you feel more prepared. You know what to expect just from going through the prior years. That's a huge thing - just going through it every day and getting used to the daily grind and finding out how it wears on your body over the course of the year. You just have to figure out how to be prepared in August when you're tired and it's hot and how to fight through that.
Rays Digest: Obviously your calling card is your bat, but you cut down on your errors quite a bit last season at Hudson Valley. Is defense an area of your game that you've been focusing on and trying to get better at?
Jeff Malm: Definitely. Obviously I'm always trying to improve every part of my game. The Rays take a lot of pride in their defense and we're out here doing fundamentals every day. I want to be an all-around player to the best of my ability, not just a guy that they can stick out there cause he can hit. So that's been really important for me.
|Defense has been an area of focus for Malm and last season he improved his fielding percentage to .993 while reducing his errors.|
Rays Digest: If you could just pinpoint one or two goals for yourself for the season what would they be?
Jeff Malm: From the sound of it, I'm going to be playing a little outfield this year. Just to get a few more at bats and open up a few more spots. I'm looking forward to that. I'd like to make as few errors as possible on the defensive side. Offensively, I don't necessarily have any number goals, but I want to try and stay as consistent as possible throughout the year and not go through so many ups and downs as I have the first couple of years. I want to maintain that and finish strong.
Rays Digest: So the switch to the outfield isn't a permanent thing? You're going to being playing both positions?
Jeff Malm: What I've taken from our discussions is that I'll be playing primarily first, with a little bit of corner outfield as well. Just to get a few more at bats and open up a few more spots defensively for other guys. So that will be good.
Rays Digest: Yeah. if you look at the Rays defensively, they really value positional -flexibilty.
Jeff Malm: Yeah down the road that's going to be key. It's going to be a big help for me down the road and help me when I get further in my career.
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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