Talk about signing with the Padres and how it all came about:
Justin Leone: I am definitely excited. I would not have signed if I was not excited about it. I had a few options but I am familiar with a lot of San Diego Padres players in Triple-A – I don’t know if I will be there or not – but I know the manager – quite a few reasons and more good than bad as far as wanting to go back to Seattle because they were also interested but something told me that this would be the best opportunity. I was definitely excited once I heard they were interested.
Was it an added bonus knowing some of the guys in the system?
Justin Leone: I know Craig, the Triple-A manager. That is a partial reason on why I thought it would be a good idea. I like Portland. This is an assumption that I am going back to Triple-A but I am looking to have a great spring training and bust it out to get down to San Diego.
Knowing those guys and being on the west coast with spring training in Phoenix. Overall, it was an opportunity with San Diego.
Was the third base situation in San Diego a factor in signing?
Justin Leone: It is more of I know who Seattle is keeping. I know they have Beltre and I know they have Bloomquist who is their utility guy. I talked to my agent and he mentioned that these guys (the Padres) are really interested – showed the most interest of any team. I got the word that they might have a utility role open and that is probably a better shot with the Padres than it is with the Mariners. Seattle has a lot of players that can do what I can do and probably would be ahead of me.
As far as the Padres went they mentioned that there is an outside shot, if I play well in spring training, I might have a utility role. I didn’t expect to play third because they told me they would be picking up Vinny Castilla. If anything happens I will be able to play there.
You have also played some outfield – did that just start this year?
Justin Leone: I played quite a few games in the outfield this year but primarily third base. I can play shortstop – I was drafted as a shortstop. I like the outfield actually. I played a lot of right field, which I had never played before, and I liked it out there too.
Talk about the hand injury and how it limited you this year:
Justin Leone: It definitely affected me. I didn’t think it would but obviously if you sit out for 45 games you are going to feel the effects.
I am big on getting into the weight room and keeping myself strong, and I am a better player when I do that, and that was tough to do considering my hand injury. It was just kind of a nagging injury. I didn’t realize how bad bone bruises were and now I know.
It definitely affected me but I turned it around. The best thing about last year is we got to the playoffs and came close to getting ourselves a ring. That was the one thing I could really look at because I didn’t really have a positive year. That is what happens when you have injuries.
Are you healthy today?
Justin Leone: I am fine now. That is the best part. They always said, ‘you need to get the rest.’ And that was the tough part throughout the season to get the rest. Now, I have been working out and there are no affects of it, as far as the problem I had last season. I am excited about it.
I came off a hand injury the year before; I broke my hand and wasn’t able to do proper workouts. My hands have been a problem; I have actually broken my other hand twice. I am familiar with those injuries.