We've got another interview for today's Minor League Monday, this time with Mets minor league outfielder Jason Pridie. For those who forgot, Pridie was acquired by the Mets last February off of waivers from the Twins, was assigned to Buffalo out of camp and after a strong April (.280 with 3 homers and 9 sb's) that had him on the verge of a call-up (in the wake of the GMJ disaster), he unfortunately suffered a right hamstring tear that ultimately cost him over 100 games. However, he's rehabbed and ready for camp this Spring and with little true center field depth in the Mets organization, Pridie has a very good chance to start the season as the Mets fourth outfielder.
Click the 'Play' button below or follow this link to hear the interview.
Read on below the break for a transcribed version:
Rob: For anyone that doesn't know, you had a right hamstring injury this season that caused you to miss actually over 100 games. First, it happened in May unfortunately right around the time it sounded like you might be getting a call from Buffalo. Caused you to miss a couple months, you rehabbed, you got back in early July and then of course, you end up reinjuring it right on your very first ground ball. Now I can't even imagine how disappointing that must have been for you, do you think maybe you were pushing it too hard to get back on the field or was it just a freak thing?
Jason: I think it was just one of those things that just happened. I had been rehabbing, I had been doing everything that I was supposed to do. We took it slow to start and I had played in 3, 4, 5 extended Spring Training games prior to playing in Buffalo. So I went in there feeling real good, everything felt good but I think what happened was that first ball I hit up in Buffalo was a bouncing ball up the middle, but the second baseman actually made a diving play to stop it. And I think subconsciously I stretched myself a little too hard, at the time maybe trying to beat the ball to first and I think that might have factored into me retearing it. Overall I think it was kind of a freak thing that unfortunately in the situation I was in, the ball I hit wasn't the best ball for me to hit on my first [one] back.
Rob: Yeah talk about bad luck, starting off with a ground ball like that...
Jason: Yeah it was pretty disappointing and disheartening at the time, especially like you said after my first injury I had kind of been waiting for that call-up with what was happening with the roster. I was kind of waiting and that happened and Feliciano ended up getting called up which, is great for him because I love him and he definitely deserved it. It was a little disappointing for me...but you know, it's part of baseball.
Rob: The impressive part is that you still led the Bisons in stolen bases in 2010. And now as a player whose games is so much about speed and speed in your defense, is that something you're worried about going forward to really let it loose? Have you done that yet? Is your injury something that's going to be going through your head the first time you have to dig for a ball in the gap or the first time you steal a base or something...?
Jason: I've been rehabbing, I've been getting back; we've been taking it a little slower since I've had the whole offseason to recover. I haven't gotten into the real strenuous sprinting and running yet. But I'm feeling strong, I'm feeling good with everything. I think about that too, that first time I'm gonna have to stretch it out and I think it'll definitely be in the back of my mind. Just like anytime you get an injury you think 'What if?' and especially with the history of what happened last year which was kind of an unfortunate year for me. I think it'll definitely be in my head - in the back part - but I feel like I'm a good enough competitor, I've been playing long enough and you know what? I put trust in the people who I'm rehabbing with. I put trust in the Mets and everything they've been doing for me and that they're gonna get me back and that I'm gonna be back and help the Mets out in 2011.
Rob: Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it - the Mets have had a lot of experience with this particular injury, most famously with Jose Reyes the last season, season and a half. So hopefully they'll have the right technique to get you back on the field and healthy.
Jason: Yeah absolutely and like I said I talked to Dr. Pearle three times when this happened and he wanted to reiterate that a hamstring is - for lack of a better word - a funky muscle where you just never know. Sometimes they're OK and sometimes people just tear them like that. It just happens. But he reassured me that it obviously isn't a career-ending type thing. And I know some friends I've played with who have had hamstring injuries and it's just one of those things where you've got to be patient, take a little time and get healthy which was unfortunate because last year I didn't have much patience. I feel like I've been patiently waiting to get to the big leagues for five years now so when it happened last year it was even more of a blow. But to tell you the truth, I think overall it actually helped me to grow and mature into the player I really wanted to be and should have been. Because of the adversity I've gone through mentally, to stay positive and stay up and stay with it and everything and trying to get healthy, it was pretty tough especially at the start. But overall I think the experience is gonna end up helping me in my future.
Rob: You kind of mentioned that you've been patiently waiting to get up. You've had kind of a tstep-by-step climb through the minors. Originally you were drafted in '02 out of high school where you were actually a second round pick in what turned out to be a pretty talented class. I think the Braves ended up drafting Brian McCann the pick just before you, the Reds got MVP Joey Votto just a couple of picks after you. Now does that make you feel any additional pressure to get to the big leagues. Like you said, soemtimes you can be kind of impatient to show your ability. Does that kind of thing give you additional pressure or do you just kind of ignore that?
Jason: I try to ignore it. I wouldn't say pressure but it's one of those things where it's kind of been disappointing for me becuasue I know how good of a playuer I am. And I know I can play with any one of those people in that draft. I played against all those guys coming up, Votto, McCann, Francoeur, Kazmir, I played with [BJ] Upton. I was actually the other talking to my dad and we looked at the list, the All-American list from my high school senior year. And every single one of them pretty much has significant big league time but me. I kind of thought to myself 'That kind of sucks' but that's been the thing. It's not the pressure trying to live up to that class, it's frustrating for me to konw the kind of player I can be. Unfortunately in baseball sometimes you need that opportunity, you need that injury or you need that person behind you. And I didn't really ever have it, coming up through Tampa and then with the Twins, I was always kind of cut back and that's another long story that we can have for another time. And then last year, being with the Mets we have Gary Matthews Jr. I just always felt like I've been sitting in the minors but like I said I don't think the pressure of the class...I think it actually makes me feel good I was part of a class with so many excellent, excellent big league players and I'm just still hoping to be a name in there that they said 'Oh Pridie. Pridie and Votto and Kazmir and McCann' instead of just all the other guys.
Rob: Like you said, you've kind of grown that patience. If anything, last year kind of helped you develop that ability and the good thing for you is that going forward, the Mets are kind of light on the speedy center field-type player that you are. So hopefully that'll give you that leg up going into 2011. But specifically, what are your expectations for next season, as far as maybe with Buffalo or with the Mets? Are there any personal goals that you want to reach? In general, what are your expectations for 2011?
Jason: Well my first goal - I'm 27 now and it's getting to that time - my goal is to make the team next spring. That's it. Whether I'm a starter, whether I'm on the bench, helping the team out, coming in defensively late, running a base from the bench, anything. My main goal is to make the team out of Spring and help the Mets get back to where we should be, at the top of the NL East and the top of baseball, like I know from my time last year that I know we have. Especially coming up through the minors we've got a lot of great players. I played in Buffalo and last year, you saw, it was kind of a tough year with the record, and people getting called up. But the vast majority of people from Buffalo - the young players that got called up - they really held their own weight with Ike and Thole and those guys. So my main goal and my only goal is to make the team and to help us win. Hopefully I'm past the minor leagues. I felt like I put my time in, but you know what? If I don't make the team and I do get sent back to Buffalo or I get sent back wherever, my goal is to get back there and help whatever team I'm with win. Because to me that's the most important thing. I've been playing - this'll be my tenth year - and it's fun, you always want to hit .300 and everything but I'm to the point where I want to win. That's the biggest thing for me. I like winning. I like being on a winning team, it's a lot more fun to play the game when you're winning. Like I said, that's my goal to just get to the big leagues and help the team win.
Rob: You mentioned that you spent some time in Buffalo last year where your manager was Ken Oberkfell. What are your thought sbaout Obie being recently named the Mets new Bench Coach? Can you give us some insight about his style as far as managing the clubhouse?
Jason: Yeah when I heard that I was ecstatic because I love Obie. He was definitely one of my favorite managers to play with. We would talk here and there during the season when I was there, just about our team. And last year with that team we had in Buffalo - I don't know if you knew the team - but we had a pretty dang good team and if that team would have stayed together there was no doubt that we would have won the International League. I don't think anybody had a doubt. We had Hessman, we had guys like Cervenak out there, we had Green; our whole lineup was a mixture of young and old guys who were just great players. Obie was a very good manager because he fit right in, he let us play. He knew that we're professionals, we're in Triple-A, a lot of those guys were big leaguers at times. So his style, it was very laid back. He let us play, he let us do our thing, but I liked it because when there were times to get after us, he would. And to me that's the sign of a good coach, to be able to get on your guys, yell, tell them to get in shape and when things are going bad get them together. But when things are going good, you have fun and you let the guys play. Because when it comes down to it we are professionals and at a high level - especially at the big leagues - if you don't how to play the game by then you shouldn't be playing there. So I think he's gonna fit in very well. Obviously, he has big league time, he has big league experience. He knows what it's all about and so I was definitely extremely excited when I heard he was up there.
Rob: So we discussed the bench coach now I've got to ask you about the big guy, the Mets hiring of their new Manager Terry Collins. I don't know if you had a chance to work with Terry at all last season in his role as the Minor League Field Coordinator but whether you did or not, what were your impressions of him at least as a teacher during Spring Training?
Jason: Yeah, I have nothing but great things to say about him and nothing but great experiences. He was actually with me quite a bit this year due to my rehab down in Port St. Lucie trying to get healthy. You know he was around looking at the extended [Spring Training] guys coming in and out. He saw me play in Buffalo, we had some good talk and I think he's a great fit. To me, he seems kind of like that more old school - you work hard, you do the small things right, you get in there and you just play hard-nosed baseball. And I think that's kind of what's missing a little bit lately, not with the Mets but in all of baseball, the little parts of the games. The hustling and the bunting, the hitting and runs, the stealing, and I'm thinking just from him talking that's the kind of ball we're gonna get back to. But I'm not quite sure as far as that but as far as him as a person, he's a great person, a great teacher, very patient but like I said, he will get after you if you need it. I know he was with the Dodgers, he was the Minor League guy with the Dodgers and I played them coming up all through the minors with Kemp and Loney and Billingsley. And he spearheaded that whole draft class and you see those guys in the big leagues. So I think he's a pretty good fit, he's a great guy, he's going to be a great guy to lead this team.
Rob: Absolutely and I've had a chance to speak with him a little bit and I think you're right, I don't think he's going to hesitate to get after you guys when he needs to (laughs).
Jason: No and like I said, it's a fine line as a manager, I believe, to toe that line especially because when it comes down to it, a lot of pressure is on the manager even though they're not playing. So knowing that, you can't screw around and you can't just be collecting your paycheck. You want to win and I think he's a winner. I think that's a big key. I think you've got to start with a winner and I think he's a winner.
Rob: You mentioned that 2010 was your first year with the Mets organization, originally back in '02 you were drafted by Tampa Bay, you played with them for a few years and the Twins ended up drafting in the Rule 5 Draft, you were returned to Tampa Bay, then back to the Twins in '08 as part of that big Matt Garza deal. So have you treated swapping hands so often early in your career as a negative, are you kind of down about it? Or do you kind of look at it as a positive, where it's like 'Hey look somebody wants me. Somebody is willing to go all the way to acquiring me.' How do you see it?
Jason: You always got to think of the positive. There's always that ability or that chance to think negatively, to think 'This team doesn't even want me, they drafted me, I've been playing with them, I've been moving up, blah blah blah. And now they just want to get rid of me.' But I think in baseball especially, if you think negatively, it's gonna kill you because you fail so much and it's in that same sense when you get traded. I thought 'At least the Twins want me.' It's like you said, at least there's a team that wants me. There's a lot of guys out there who no team ants and they're just trying to get a job. So you got to think positively, there's plenty of teams out there and not everybody is going to like everybody and not everybody is going to be a good fit. So as long as a team wants me and believes in me, that I can help them win, then I'm happy and I'm playing baseball. And just like when I found out I got claimed on waivers by the Mets, it was a shock, it was about a week before Spring Training but I was excited because you know I got a team that obviously wants me more than the team I was with. It was going that way, it was going good and then I got hurt, unfortunately. But like I said, not just in trading but in this game, if you don't stay positive it'll bury you. So I definitely took it as a positive. As long as somebody wants me, I'm happy to play.
Rob: Ok now for the lightning round of personal questions where we get to know you guys a bit better off the field. So I'll give you quick questions, you give me quick answers. Ok so what is your favorite TV show?
Jason: The Office.
Rob: The last movie you saw and how was it?
Jason: The last movie I can remember was Inception and it was one of the better movies I've seen in a long time.
Rob: If I turned on your iPod right now what would be playing?
Jason: Either Avenged Sevenfold or The Beatles. Kind of a weird combo but I love them both.
Rob: Who was your favorite ballplayer growing up.
Jason: Got to be Ken Griffey Junior. I grew up right when he was big and hot. I was never an outfielder when I was young but just defensively and everything he's still one of my favorite players.
Rob: Ok so I've got one more serious question I've got to ask you, how would you feel about a return of [your unofficial fan club] 'Pridie's Pack' out in center field at Citi Field in 2011? (laughs)
Jason: (laughs) Nothing, nothing would make me happier than to see those shirts. In fact, I was actually going through my closet yesterday hanging some stuff up and I happened to come across the old 'Pridie Pack' shirts they gave me back in Durham. Even now I've got a huge smile on my face because that was one of the greatest experiences. I know it's the minor leagues and everything but to get called up to Triple-A, do well, and I can still remember the day running out to center field, seeing six people up with 'Pridie Pack' shirts. It was just like...even right now I've got the biggest grin on my face because it was just a real cool moment, it made me feel kind of big league to have a little fan club. So if I could see them out there, that would make it that much more sweeter.
Rob: Well we're going to have to shoot for that in 2011! (laughs) All right well Jason, I think that about wraps it, thank you so much for chatting with me today, I really appreciate the ime. Enjoy the rest of your offseason, good luck with the rest of the rehab and going into camp and hopefully we'll get a chance to maybe catch up in Spring Training.