Recently, Reid Brignac was gracious enough to take some time and answer some questions for us. Reid is one of the most likeable Rays and although he hasn't seen much playing time this season, he will likely be a large part of the 2011 Rays. He's recently gotten on Twitter and Facebook, so check him out and show him some love. Also, a big thanks to Tommy and RJ for The Process Report for some of the questions.
Reid: I thought it would be a good idea to interact with the fans. I'm still kind of new at it, but it's been an amazing year and it's great to read the fans' reactions. I'm hoping to do some fun stuff, giveaways, contests, stuff like that, so keep an eye on it.
DRB: We can't help but notice that your stance is very similar to Carl Crawford's. Is this something you have always done or did you pick something up from CC?
Reid: No, I've always had an open stance, with my hands high. I didn't realize it looks like CC.
DRB: We've heard it said that the Trop can be a challenging environment to play in at first. How long did it take you adjust to the dome on flyballs? How do you like playing on turf?
Reid: To be honest, I like natural grass better. But it's definitely a home field advantage at the Trop. Other teams come and it takes them time to get used to it. The roof can be challenging at times, with the top being white and the ball also being white. Plus, the lights are low.
DRB: You've been shuffled around the field a lot this season, making appearances at shortstop, second base, and even in rightfield. For a shortstop, second base seems a natural enough transition...but rightfield? How did that come about?
Reid: I actually played more outfield growing up. Back in sophomore and junior year in high school, I played centerfield, right field. I always had a natural feel for the outfield, so it was not too hard a transition.
DRB: Along those lines, you've seen limited playing time this season, especially since Jason Bartlett came back from an injury in mid-June. We all know Joe Maddon loves to tinker with the lineup and his rationale - there's always a reason! - can sometimes be tough to understand from this end. Has Maddon made clear to you what your role is with the team? Do you know what type of pitchers you'll be used against, or do you always need to look at the line-up on a day-to-day basis? And after spending your whole minor league career as a starter, what's it been like coming off the bench?
Reid: Coming out of spring training, I wasn't 100% I was making the team, and then when I did, I wasn't sure how long I'd be up. My job is simple, just to take advantage of my opportunities when I get in there. It's not to complain, but to do my job as best as I can. I do have to look at the lineup card on a day-by-day basis, but usually when a left-hander is starting, I know I'll be coming off the bench. It is challenging to come off the bench, but it's a lot easier to accept in the big leagues. When I get into a game, it doesn't matter if it's the 1st inning or the 7th inning. The adrenaline is rushing. If I'm pinch-hitting, I'd feel like I was already in the game because I'm already prepared by stretching and hitting in the cage to prepare myself.
DRB: At the major league level, how is the hitting coach's time with you divided up between pitching matchup scouting, mechanical tweaks, or working on plate discipline? How does this differ from your time in the farm system?
Reid: The biggest difference is there is more video to watch. We look at opposing pitchers and their tendencies. For example, being a left-handed hitter, I'll look at how left-handed pitchers attack lefties. Our hitting coach Derek Shelton will work with us every day and will help us not stray too far from what has made us successful.
DRB: In a game earlier this year, the starting lineup included five players with at least some minor league experience at shortstop (Brignac, Bartlett, Zobrist, Rodriguez) alongside fantastic defenders in Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria. Is there a friendly battle of one-upsmanship to raise each other's games in the field?
Reid: No, we don't really get into that. What's important is that we play well together, not individually.
DRB: John Jaso and yourself both had longer stays in the AAA level than you likely would have had on most ball clubs. How big a challenge was it to stay mentally sharp and focus on improving your game when you must have been chomping at the bit for a call-up last year? How aware is a player of the organization's long-term plan for them?
Reid: Tampa is a good organization. They have lots of good players. They draft athletes that can do multiple things. I needed those years at AAA to get me to where I am today. I don't know if I would been as successful if I got promoted too quickly. I learned a lot in AAA. Plus, Durham was a great town with a great fan base. But you have to earn the right to be promoted to the big leagues. Nobody is going to give it to you. I've been told, just work hard and keep knocking on the door. I got my foot in the door in 2008, came back again last year, and now hopefully here for good.
DRB: Coming up through the minors, you were touted as a prospect with a great bat, but who needed work on defense. With the Rays this season, your defense looks like it's one of your strong suits - you have great range and make plays on balls that many other shortstops don't. What did you do to improve your defense? Did you focus on any specific areas - footwork, positioning, throws, etc?
Reid: I worked on everything. I did a lot of work in instructs, in spring training, in fall league. I didn't play shortstop in high school until senior year. I played outfield before that. One year in the minors I had 32 errors, then I improved to only 22 errors in AA, and then my first year in AAA I had 12. I worked on catching the ball, my mechanics, throwing. There's been a huge improvement in my accuracy. But it's all hard work.
DRB: What has been the biggest challenge in adjusting to major league pitching?
Reid: I think it's the adjustments that the pitchers make. They constantly attack weaknesses and try to exploit them. I just have to stick to what I know and do best.
DRB: Your dance moves in the dugout are awesome - and we saw you do a great Dougie in the recent celebration - but Rafael Soriano has also busted out some moves on occasion in the dugout. Who's the best dancer on the team? And can you teach us any of your moves?
Reid: That's funny. Yeah, I saw the YouTube video. It's a little embarrassing, but we were just having fun. Soriano is good, but Willy Aybar is probably the best dancer.