EL PASO — Make no mistake about it, Matthew Batten is absolutely proud of the fact that he made his MLB debut last season with the San Diego Padres. However, the 27-year-old Batten is now out to prove that there's more to his MLB career than just those 19 at-bats in 2022.
Matthew Batten talks 2022 with San Diego Padres and how he's working to get back
Speaking to me inside the El Paso dugout before their Cinco de Mayo game against the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Batten was open and honest about his desire to get back to the San Diego roster.
"I'm not one to sit back and be like, 'Oh, that was cool.' I did in that moment and really understood what I did as a 32nd-round pick getting to the majors. I don't know the percentages (of that round of picks making an MLB squad), but I'm sure it's low. That is an accomplishment but, to me, it's understanding it's not a finish line. I didn't want to just make it to the majors. I want to be a productive player, so I think that's where my mindset is now. I know I can do it. I know I can get back up there and I know I can be productive. For me, it's just trusting the time and whenever it comes, it comes."
Part of that trust comes from the versatility that Batten has shown over the last two seasons. With El Paso, Batten has spent time at all four infield positions as well as left and center field. During his 15 games with the Padres last season, Batten saw time at second, third, and left field, while also even pitching a pair of innings. He also collected his first MLB hit and RBI.
"I grew up playing shortstop but once I got drafted, my college coach gave me the advice of, 'If they ask you to do something, say you will do it.' So that's something I knew would be my best way to try to move up," Batten said. "I consider myself a baseball player, not a shortstop."
In recent games, with the recent signing and arrival of veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias, Batten has moved from shortstop to second base in El Paso.
"I think it's easier than people think," Batten said of being able to move around the diamond. "If you commit to it, you can do it. I think, for me, I just don't overcomplicate things. I keep everything as simple as possible and then it usually works out."
Heading into Friday's game, Batten is trying to recapture his Triple-A numbers from last season when he slashed .289/.382/.458 with 12 homers, 46 RBI, and 18 stolen bases in 85 games. A calf injury suffered early in spring training sidelined him from February 25 until March 12 and he got 17 at-bats upon his return before being sent to Triple-A. In 107 at-bats with El Paso heading into Friday's game, Batten is slashing .206/.356/.355 with a pair of homers, 15 RBI, and six stolen bases.
The numbers may not be where Batten wants them at the moment, but he says he is feeling 100 percent again and is noticing an improvement in areas that may not show up in the box score.
"I think there was a double in Sacramento (in early April) I hit off the end and right over first, and I just took off and went to second," Batten said. "The strength coach, A.J. (Russell), he gave me a nod like, 'That looked good.' I wasn't even thinking about it (calf injury) for the first time.
"My mark on my career has been consistency so it's just getting that back," Batten continued. "I can tell each and every day that at-bats are being more productive. Last night was one of my favorite nights I had, even though I only had one hit. There was a situational at-bat I executed. There was a walk. There was an at-bat with hard contact, so I'm trying to stay positive in that sense. You want results, because, unfortunately, as much as people say to trust the process, results get you moved to where you want to get moved to. So it's walking that fine line and understanding every day. My confidence hasn't wavered. I fully expect to get three hits every day when I go out there. If it happens, it happens, but if not, it's not necessarily going back to the drawing board. This is a crazy sport."
Batten will continue taking it a day at a time, being the player El Paso needs while striving to show the Padres that he can make a difference at the MLB level.