I caught up with Brent Lillibridge a week ago in the Braves clubhouse just after a ballgame. He's a great young man to interview -- very attentive and responds with what I think are pretty complete answers.
Martin Gandy: So how was your 2007 off-season?
Brent Lillibridge: It was good, it was relaxing, and I got healthy which was the number one purpose of the off-season. I didn't go rushing, trying to play some extra baseball or anything like that.
MG: You were supposed to go down and play winter ball weren't you?
BL: Yeah, I was supposed to go to Mexico, and that was just all dependant on how my body and my wrist felt. By the time I started to fell 100 percent it was about December it would have been starting all over again, and you don't want to be thrown into the middle of a bunch of guys who have been playing at least an extra 50 games. So it was the best situation; I get to work out and get strong and then hit a bunch at home. Then I came here and I'm feeling pretty good. Just getting the reps in, getting a bunch of innings in, getting a bunch of at-bats -- which is going to be huge for me, and I think I'm in a better situation this year with how I feel at the plate, than I usually do until the end of April.
MG: Did you work on anything in particular this off-season?
BL: Just being able to swing -- that was the big thing -- without any pain. Having comfort hitting the inside pitch without having pain when swinging. So, it was good, I just got a `bunch' of swings in, which is always important. I came down here early swinging.
Note: During that last answer, he was holding his wrist and showing it as the place where he was injured.
MG: Is the wrist thing a new thing or is that something that's been going of for a couple of years?
BL: It's been in and out, it all depends on a bad swing or a tweak. It was the left wrist, and basically I got a slight inflammation that just doesn't go away, and I have a sharp pain when I did swing. And it bugged me, but I played the whole season last year -- half the season with it, and obviously did fine. Now that I'm 100 percent I'm definitely excited about seeing where the opportunity takes me.
MG: You're a guy who steals a lot of bases, so are you one that slides in head first or feet first?
BL: I'm usually a head first guy.
MG: Is that going to change?
BL: I think there's some advantage to it. Some situations you're going to see me still go head first, but when I think I have the base stolen I'll probably go feet first. Everywhere else on the bases I'll go feet first, just for protection-wise and longevity. When you're playing this game you've got to stay healthy, and that's the number one reason.
MG: Do they have you playing any other positions this year in anticipation of you maybe being a utility guy and filling in for Infante?
BL: Yeah, I hope so. I've been playing a bunch of third base and shortstop -- basically half and half -- and been doing really well defensively. I haven't played third base in pretty much my whole career, and I looked pretty good. I made the regular plays and tired to make some big plays, but I feel comfortable over there. That's going to be huge thing being able to play utility, and I know I can play second base easily, and just work on maybe turning some double plays and stuff. I want to let them know I can play anywhere and I can do that job.
MG: How about centerfield?
BL: Nothing's been said or anything. I played centerfield my first two years of college. I played on the USA team as the starting centerfielder, so I've got plenty of time, but recently none, but catching fly balls in not as hard a transition as going from playing the outfield to the infield. I definitely think it'd be smooth if I had to go out there for one game -- it's obviously not a long term thing -- but wherever it takes to be on the roster come April first or second or whenever that is and we'll just go from there.
MG: Okay, good luck to you.
BL: Thank you.
Photo of Brent Lillibridge courtesy of Chip Jett.