RC Interview with Justin Huber

RC sat down with Omaha LF/1B Justin Huber on Thursday afternoon to discuss the extent of his current injury, his move to the outfield, and his feelings about his time in Kansas City earlier this season. Some of his answers might surprise you.

Royals Corner: Justin, you've been out of the lineup for the last two days, and we understand that you've got a strained right hamstring. Could you tell us how you injured it, and how long you expect to be out?

Justin Huber: I actually did it a couple of nights ago in the bottom of the ninth on a routine ground ball to third base. I was about two-thirds of the way down the line and I felt a little bit of a tightness. As for the ETA back in the lineup, I'm not too sure at the moment. I'm just taking it one step at a time, and I'll really have to see how each step goes before moving on to the next one. Today I had a little bit of a pedal on the bike, and a bit of a light massage, and also some heat treatment earlier before the pedal. Everything has responded well so far, so I'm just doing what I'm told right now, and hopefully if each step goes along without a setback, we'll be further along to getting it healed up and ready to get back in there.

RC: So it's not too serious?

JH: I don't think it's as serious as it could be. There's no gaping holes or bruising, or anything really dramatic like that. It doesn't have any symptoms of a big hamstring tear, so I think it's well on its way to getting back to where I can start doing some things on it, hopefully in the next couple of days.

RC: Let's switch gears a little and talk about your defense. Ever since you got back from Kansas City, you've been playing left field nearly every day. Is that switch something that looks permanent, or are you still taking ground balls at first and preparing to play first base as well?

JH: For now, I'm not really to sure. I'm continuing to take ground balls at first base and develop there, but for now it seems like I'm playing in the outfield. It's a move I'm pretty comfortable with, because I think the more versatility you've got, the more you can help the team, and that's really at the bottom of it. Whatever's going to help the team the most, and being the jack of all trades sometimes can be to your benefit. So hopefully I'll continue to develop in the outfield and not forget about first base, and continue getting better there as well. Hopefully somewhere along the way, something will settle into an everyday situation at the big league level.

RC: Are you more comfortable at one of the positions or the other?

JH: Yeah, I think I'm a little more natural in the outfield. I had a bit of a background in it when I was in a kid, so it came as a little less of a shock to the system, so to speak, than first base was, with having to field ground balls and whatnot. I think it's definitely been a positive this year, insofar as having that other position, and we'll see how it goes.


Huber isn't ditching his first baseman's mitt just yet, but he's more comfortable in the outfield

RC: What do you think you have to work on the most right now, at both first base and left field? Is there anything in particular that's giving you problems right now that the Royals want you to improve?

JH: Obviously, just refining skills. At first base, it's really hops and making the plays, making throws, getting in front of the ball, and knowing when to come forward on a ball and when to go back -- basically standard first base plays, and plays around the base as well. In left field, I'm working on getting good reads off the bat, and getting good jumps, taking good angles and good routes to the ball, attacking the ball on the ground to limit base runners from taking that extra base, and making accurate throws to the cut-off men. All those things are things that I'm conscious of daily. I can't really pinpoint any one thing that I'm mostly working on at the moment, because I'm conscious of all those things, and all those things I've got to do well in order to become a good first baseman or outfielder.

RC: You were promoted to Kansas City a couple of months ago, and you spent a couple of weeks with the big club. You spent most of that time sitting on the bench, and you only got 10 at bats. When the Royals called you up, did you expect to play so little, and what did you get from your experience up there?

JH: I got a lot more mature, I think. It's a role that I really hadn't had to do before, so I really had to learn how to come off the bench. I had a little bit of experience with it last year in a similar sort of situation, but this year it was sort of a little bit more intense, insofar as when you're coming off the bench, it was a situation where I really wasn't playing much, and I was really trying to do the best I could when I could get in there. I definitely think I've matured in that department. It's a facet of the game that is a definite part of the game, so in order to do it well, you've got to have a strategy and a plan, and without having done it before, it's tough to have that right out of the gate. But I've definitely learned how to come off of the bench and do it better than I have in the past. I'm proud of the way I handled that situation, because yes, I didn't play as much as what maybe what you would hope for or what you would expect, but there was a role to fill on the team, and they wanted me to fill it. I did the best job that I could, and I'm proud that I did that and that I went at it in the right frame of mind.

RC: When you came back to Omaha, you seemed to struggle with the bat quite a bit. Do you think the time out of the batter's box and the reduced at bats contributed to that?

JH: I don't really know. I mean, how long's a piece of string, really? Whether the time out of the lineup affects you that badly, I don't know. I'm not an excuse maker. I don't like to make excuses for myself, so I'm just going to put it down to the fact that I wasn't playing that good, and that's just how it was. Obviously, the more you get to play the more adjustments you can make, and when I got back I wasn't making them as quickly as I needed to make them, and that's really how that resulted.

RC: Your numbers are starting to pick up again after a rough June. What adjustments have you made at the plate?

JH: Yeah, lately I've been doing better in the box, and I put it down to the consistency of my approaches. I've been working with Terry Bradshaw, our hitting coach, in the cage, and I've been working on my swing and swing path, and all the little things I normally do. I think it's just taking that good pre-game work into the games and being trustworthy and confident in it. I think that's probably helped me the most, and definitely just the every day routine of it and getting to do it on a regular basis has definitely helped.

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