Last year, Sain led the organization with 28 home runs, but a major logjam at first base with Tagg Bozied and Jon Knott led the Padres to send Greg back to Mobile to start the year. An off-season shoulder injury, which really wasn’t bad enough to sideline him, but provided major problems with his power, got the slugger off to a slow start.
Promoted in late June to Portland because of injuries to Tagg Bozied and the promotion of Ben Johnson, Sain started out on fire, but soon hit a plateau in the .250 range for June and July. Sain did finish strong in August hitting .315/.575/.378 with 20 RBIs in 22 games.
When we caught up with Greg he was coming off one of his best days in the minors, where he hit three doubles, all to different fields and all with his father visiting from California in the stands.
To say he was in a good mood is a bit of an understatement.
John Conniff: Last time we talked to you it was in Mobile, you seem a lot happier than you were then.
Greg Sain: No question. The playing time has been a little scarce, but it’s the environment, the city, the guys, the weather, the facilities, its just a more enjoyable. Triple-A should be better than Double-A.
John Conniff: Being from the west coast, it must feel a little more like home.
Greg Sain: Definitely, I’ve been through Oregon many times in my day, and it’s a beautiful state in the summer, second to none. I have some friends who live up here, so its been a lot of fun. Its been a great experience since I’ve been up here.
John Conniff: With Tagg out you must have been getting a decent amount of playing time?
Greg Sain: Its been kind of tough on Colbert. He’s got me, Delucchi and Scales who aren’t on the forty-man roster, and we are all playing well. It’s an asset to him, because he feels like he can pop somebody in there and they can get the job done. It’s just the completive nature of baseball at this level, guys can play and there is a little bit of a logjam at my position, but when I get in there I just try to put my best effort in there and see what happens.
John Conniff: Well maybe they will let you play some other positions?
Greg Sain: That is the plan, we’ll have to see what happens in the off-season.
John Conniff: How is your shoulder doing?
Greg Sain: Its ok. It’s kind of day-to-day. Some days I notice it, and I don’t know why or for what reason it is inflamed more than others. Some days it feels good, some days it feels weak. It’s just been a constant battle to maintain my swing path.
As soon as the season is done I’m scheduled to have surgery to get the cyst removed. I’m looking forward to getting back to the way I was last year.
John Conniff: All of you guys always seem to hit better when you move from Mobile to Portland. Why is that? Are you so grateful to get out of the heat?
Greg Sain: The thing is in Double-A there is such a separation from that and High-A ball. There are just much better arms and better command there than in A-ball. From my experience in Double-A guys try to strike you out on all three pitches, they are trying to make you miss the ball.
Guys in Triple-A are trying to make you get yourself out. They do what they need to do, they try to pitch more. Guys in Double-A aren’t around the zone as much, aren’t as polished. Also the eagerness to do well also motivates a lot of hitters a little more. You don’t want to embarrass yourself, and you want to show that you can produce.
John Conniff: It also seems like there are many more guys who have big league experience, so they know more of what they are doing and are better pitchers.
Greg Sain: That is the thing, they are not trying to strike you out on every at bat. The strike zone is better, so again they are around the plate more, so you are going to get more opportunities to hit.
John Conniff: The facilities are also a little better?
Greg Sain: Oh yeah, this is a great hitting facility. Hitting in Mobile was like hitting underwater.