Brad Eldred was the Pittsburgh Pirates 6th round draft pick in the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft. He has had an up and down career, traveling through the majors and playing for a variety of teams along the way. However so far this season Eldred is batting .315 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI’s. If there was a favorite for the 2012 International League MVP, the front runner would have to be Brad Eldred. Before last nights game in Rochester against the Scranton- Wilkes Barre/Empire State Yankees he took a few minutes to talk to me about his season so far, his role in the clubhouse and even had the chance to tell him something about his career that he had never heard before.
Chris Fee: Can you tell me a little bit about your season so far? You’re killing the ball, your OBP is up and you’re hitting for average, what is the difference between this year and in years past?
Brad Eldred: Not too much more, I mean I’ve been a home run guy so I mean I’m still doing that. More or less the biggest difference is trying to be a little bit quieter, trying to be a little bit shorter with my load and really give myself a chance to see the ball a little bit longer overall.
CF: When the Pirates drafted you, did you know they were interested in you? Were you surprised? Was there another team that was pursuing you before the draft?
BE: I mean obviously you have no idea who is going to draft you out of all the teams, but I wasn’t really sure. I knew that they were one of the teams that had shown interest while I was in my senior league in college. I mean obviously it was an exciting moment, you don’t really care who drafts you at that point, so I mean just getting the call to tell you that you were drafted is what you’re looking for, so I was excited about that.
CF: What was your reaction when you got the call to go to Detroit earlier in the season? Jim Leyland was quoted saying, “We have the hottest hitter in all of minor league baseball.” What was it like to get the call and to know that the manager knows what you’re doing down in Toledo.
BE: It’s always great, I mean that’s what we play for. Obviously you want to be in the big leagues, you don’t necessarily want to sit in the minor leagues, I mean obviously I’ve spent some time here in the minor leagues, but I’ve had some success. You obviously want to have the same success in the big leagues and obviously it’s hard to come by the opportunities to do that. So hopefully the more chances you get to do that the more you’re grateful for. So obviously I was pretty excited to get the chance to maybe get up there and maybe do some of the same things. Obviously I was only there for a short time but unfortunately that’s just kind of the way that things go.
CF: Did you know when you got the call up that it was going to be that brief?
BE: No, not really. I didn’t really have any idea at all as to what exactly their plans were. You just go in there and go about your business in the same way, and don’t really change anything and hopefully you get to stick there for the whole year, but obviously mine was for a short time, I hope to be back there this year.
CF: Going back to 2004, the Pirates passed on trading for Ryan Howard partly because of how well you were hitting in AA, did you know about that at the time, and was there any added pressure to live up to the expectations people had set for you? (If you haven’t read it either here is a link to a source http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16924)
BE: No, this is the first time I have ever heard about that (laughs), I never heard anything about that, so I can’t really talk anything about that. But I mean obviously being in Double A or just kind of coming up I don’t think that you would have put much thought into it anyways considering you have never even been to that point of being in the big leagues. You don’t even know where you stand in the organization at that point anyway.
CF: What’s the difference between being a “Quote unquote” prospect versus being a guy who’s been a player in the minor leagues for a few seasons.
BE: I think it’s just kind of what you make of it. I think that those are just labels that people kind of use, I mean when you’re a prospect you’re obviously a guy who was drafted in a decent spot. The team has a lot of interest in you, obviously some more reasons to move you along and get you to the big leagues being one of “their guys”. Once you’ve been around a little bit and you’re going to a new team it’s a little bit more difficult to make a good enough impression on the team to get on the roster and to get to the big leagues. That’s really the difference, it doesn’t really make a difference on the type of player that you are, it’s just something that the people looking at you might put on you. You just go out there and play the game, it doesn’t matter if you’re a prospect, or if you’ve been around for a little bit, if you put up the numbers you’re going to get the chance I think.
CF: When you don’t have a contract going into an offseason, what is that like waiting for a call from a team either inviting you to spring training or offering you a minor league deal?
BE: I mean obviously it’s tough. You don’t really know what’s going to happen, obviously I have a family now so it’s a little bit tougher not knowing. The uncertainty of it all is kinda tough, so you have to go in every year and take it real serious and put up good numbers so you can continue to play the game and have the chance to play for somebody.
CF: Do you find that with this team in particular that you’re kind of a clubhouse leader, or do you just go about your own thing each day?
BE: I’m pretty quiet, I don’t talk as much. I just let what I do on the field really speak for itself. (One of his teammates is yelling out answers from just inside the clubhouse while he’s answering.) I just try to follow that or whatever it is that they see, it will be a good example for them to see. I mean I’m not a “Rah Rah” kind of guy which some guys are, it doesn’t really matter if you’re older or younger it’s just some guys personalities I think when it comes to that.
CF: Going forward for the rest of the season, what are you goals not only here but hopefully in the majors?
BE: I mean obviously just continue to hit home runs and drive guys in, and hopefully be on the leaderboards for those, and see what happens from there. I mean you don’t really know, it’s all out of your hands, it’s something that you don’t even think about. You can be doing really well and not get a chance, or you might be average and you might get the chance you just never know. I just keep doing my part of it, keep producing runs for these guys and hopefully something good happens.
CF: Last question, do you ever look ahead to the major leagues being so close and having already been there? Looking at Detroit’s lineup and seeing if there’s an injury or a guy is rumored to be traded or released and that might open a door for you?
BE: You know what? It’s kind of a waste of time I think, obviously just thinking about when I did get called up. The guys that typically play in the spots I play, Prince playing first and these guys, I was in the lineup playing with them. I really don’t put too much thought into that, I mean one minute you could be in the mix with the guys and you think that’s where you play. At the same time it doesn’t really help because you never really know if the situation is going to present itself or if you’re going to get the opportunity. So I don’t really put a ton of thought into that kind of stuff.