MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown native Jedd Gyorko, fresh off a 23-homer rookie season with the San Diego Padres, expects he’ll be less anxious during his second year in the major leagues.
“Obviously there is going to be a comfortable level going in,” Gyorko said. “I’m not going to have to go out there and worry about impressing the coaches every single day.”
Gyorko caught up with the crew from “Sportsline” this week and reflected on his first season with the Padres, his shift to second base and the second-half slump that dropped his final average to .249 average.
Playing Major League Baseball “was a dream come true, but it’s a still grind,” he said.
The 25 year-old WVU graduate played 125 games, knocked out midseason by a June groin injury that occurred when he was hitting over .280. But because of the injury, Gyorko said his flexibility has improved and his conditioning regimen has changed. He said he has dropped 15 pounds since the start of the offseason.
While Gyorko’s offense got him noticed during three minor-league seasons as a third baseman, his defense at second base was surprisingly solid. He gave the Padres a promising tandem with shortstop Everth Cabrera, totaling 54 double plays. Both middle infielders had an immediate impact on one another and chemistry grew in spring training.
“A lot of people don’t realize how long (2013) spring training was because of the World Baseball Classic last year,” Gyorko said. “I think it was eight or nine weeks that we had before the season, which was kind of a blessing. It was perfect timing for me being a rookie. We were probably taking 150 to 200 ground balls a day. After eight weeks, that adds up pretty quickly.”
While Gyorko adapted well defensively—his .992 fielding percentage tied for fourth-best among MLB second basemen—he saw room for improvement. “I still made four errors at second and that’s too many in my opinion. That’s a position that’s got to be an out whenever the ball is hit to you.”
The most difficult part in transitioning to the big leagues was finding durability and mental toughness demanded by a 162-game season. “Game 1 and Game 162 count exactly the same, so you’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared to be able to go all out.”
Gyorko said he learned from watching the daily work habits of veterans like Padres outfielder Mark Kotsay. “There’s a reason why he spent 16 years in the big leagues,” Gyorko said. “Just the way he goes about his business. He’s not capable of taking 100 swings in the cage at one time. He’s got an idea of what he wants to works on and gets straight to it and he gets it done.”
Looking into 2014, Gyorko anticipates a solid sophomore season.
“I’m going to go about my business the way I need to,” he said. “Just kind of do what I need to do to be able to just relax and have fun and slowly approach my way into the game.”