Q&A with Jeff Keppinger

Jeff Keppinger will be ready for Spring '06.

Mets infield prospect Jeff Keppinger has been mentioned in numerous reports concerning the team's second base situation at the major league level, as a possible alternative to Kaz Matsui in 2006. Keppinger joined Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch recently for a Q&A session to discuss that and other topics. (Free Preview of Premium Content)

The first question we need to get to is, how is your leg recovery going? Are you healed, and what have you been doing?

The leg's doing pretty good, actually. I think I've recovered 100 percent. I've been doing a lot of swimming, a little running, a little bit of weights. I'm doing good and not having any problems with it.

What was the timetable after the injury?

Six weeks, maybe. I was actually running in August, so I've been running for a while. It got to the point where I guess the Mets wanted me to be back by a certain [date], but I was down in Florida rehabbing for the month of August. It came down to the point where I was out there hitting, running around and fielding ground balls, and the next day it'd be a little sore or where I'd have to take a day off. They (the Mets) just told me it'd be in my best interests to let it rest.

You were hurt (on June 15) on a slide at second base. Can you tell me a little bit about the situation of the game?

It was pretty early in the game (against Charlotte), and there was a chopper up the middle. I went over and got it and I was probably four or five feet behind second base. I started running toward third base and stepped on [second] base with my left foot, and the guy (Felix Martinez) came pretty high in my leg. I never really saw the play on tape, but the cleat mark from the guy who came into me was a good two inches below my knee.He didn't come in sliding and then put his leg up. He kind of karate-chopped kicked my leg, so I don't know. I couldn't see him because he was on my blind side.

You played so well in 2004 when you came up with the Mets, and it seemed like you were on your way back up this season when you got hurt. How do you look at this past year? Can you not look at it as a lost year or a missed opportunity?

I don't look at it that way. I hope everything I did for my team at Norfolk and the numbers I put up there, I hope it's not lost. I hope they didn't forget about me. I know during the season, [Miguel] Cairo got hurt, and I didn't get called. They called one of our first basemen (Brian Daubach) up. Then, after I got hurt, [Kaz] Matsui went down. It's easy to say now that I would have been there, but you never know. It didn't happen, so I don't know.

How closely do you keep an eye on the second base job in New York? Do you think there will be room for you to be considered in spring training?

I keep an eye on it. I'm not too sure they want a young guy coming in there. That's all I can do, is go out there and play. If they want me to be their second baseman, that's what I want to be. Last year, going into spring training, I thought I was going to get a shot.

I was told at the end of 2004 that, 'Hey, you've done a good job.' Obviously, we have Matsui, and he was in front of me. I knew that, so I asked about the possibility of coming into spring training this year and being a utility guy. They said they weren't going to hand me the job, but I was going to get a shot. Well, I came into spring training and got 11 or 12 at-bats. It didn't really seem like they were giving me too much of a chance.

Do you see a chance here with the Mets?

I would hope so. I don't really know what else I would have to do. It seems my whole career, all people want to do is doubt me on defense or range or something like that.

But every year I play, my managers don't seem to have a problem with me, regardless when it was - in the minor leagues or in the big leagues playing for Art Howe. It seemed like he was pretty pleased with me when I was up there. I got the job done, and I just want a chance.

When you came to the Mets from the Pirates, we heard all sorts of reports; he's shaky with his defense, not much range, etc. But then when you got up to Shea Stadium, we saw nothing like that - like you said, you got the job done. Why do you think you've been stuck with these reports?

For one, because I was a shortstop in high school and college. When I first got drafted by the Pirates, I was drafted as a shortstop. I went to Instructional ball and played there after signing late in 2001, so I waited and played shortstop after being out of ball for quite a little while. They threw me right in and said, 'Here, go play.'

I was a little sluggish, a little slow. I came around to my next spring training [in 2002] and they put me right to second base. They labeled me right away. They never gave me a chance. Then, when I got traded to the Mets, the first question I got asked was, 'How come you haven't played any short?'

The Mets asked you that?

Yeah. And I said, 'Hey, man, there's nothing I can tell you about it. But I'm really comfortable at second base now, though.' Second base is pretty easy. I'm pretty sure if you go back and look at the minor league seasons I've had, I'm probably among the top second baseman in fielding percentage in my league.

I grant, I'm not one of those little speedy guys who can run all around the field and who can make stupid plays, but at the same time, those guys who do that will probably make 10 or 15 more errors a year than I will. It all depends on what you're looking for. If you want someone who's going to be your Steady Eddie when you get a ground ball, and who's going to turn that double play, make the play, not cost you a run - man on third, ninth inning, up by a run. It all depends what you're looking for.

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