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SoxProspects News

August 7, 2009 at 11:35 AM

Q&A with Chris Carter

Now in his second full season with the Red Sox, Chris Carter still finds himself in Triple-A, a level he first reached (and first hit well in) in 2006. The Sox acquired Carter late in the 2007 season in a three-way trade, giving up Wily Mo Peña, and have kept the left-handed hitter in Pawtucket as insurance for most of the time since. It has been no secret that the key for Carter to finally make the jump to the Majors is improving his defense, and Chris Hatfield of SoxProspects.com was recently able to catch up with Carter after one of his daily, pre-game defensive workouts at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket.

Chris Hatfield: At the beginning of this year, you got a chance to stay up with Boston for a little bit. You earned that spot out of Spring Training. (CC: Thank you.) What was it like to earn that spot, at least coming out of Spring Training?
Chris Carter: Absolutely incredible. It was one of those things where I had an outside chance, and I always believed but I wasn’t sure if I was going to make the team. Then when I made it, it was the greatest feeling – it was a huge feeling of accomplishment, like that’s what I always wanted. It felt good because it wasn’t just that I was trying to make that team for that year, I was trying to make that team for a long time, so it really felt amazing.

CH: While you were up there, you may not have gotten as much time as you might’ve hoped before you came back down. How has being up (in the Majors) changed your perspective on being back in Triple-A when it comes to what you need to work on, or knowing what it takes to get back?
CC: I think one thing was seeing these guys play every day – it gave me confidence. They’re not superhuman. They’re great, but they’re not superhuman. And there’s really not a huge difference from Triple-A to the Big Leagues. It’s a different game in that guys are just more well-rounded, I was really impressed with that. As for me, I’ve got to work on everything. There’s not one aspect that I feel like I can’t work on. But I do know it’s going to ultimately happen for me. It’s gonna happen – I have the ability, but that ability needs to meet opportunity, and that’s what I’m hoping for.

CH: We hear a lot about you coming in to do extra work on the defensive side of things. Can you talk a little bit about that? When you come in for that extra work, what’re you working on, both first base and the outfield? One more than the other?
CC: Well, today, it was just throwing. It’s tough – today I threw so much that, my arm isn’t sore, but my abs are sore from snapping down, using my whole body. Yesterday I was taking ground balls. Playing for the Red Sox, you’ve got to be great at everything, and that’s one thing I’m working on – not having a flaw, not being below-average at any spot.

CH: Do you have a preference between first and the outfield?
CC: I really like right field, I really like left field, but whatever gives me the opportunity to play the game, that’s fine with me, that’ll be my favorite spot.

CH: Now, you’ve been heating up in July, your batting average is currently up over .300. (Carter grins and nods) And you clearly know what I mean too. What’s clicking for you right now, have you made some adjustments?
CC: I’m getting pitched to a little different, in a lot of respects, and I’ve got to be on top of my game every time. I’ve got to be fine-tuned. I’m not going to get away with having a day when I’m a little off with my technique. I’ve got to be really precise. Just accepting that, accepting that maybe the best thing I can do here is get a base hit to left-center instead of trying to hit a home run every time, that’s really helped. Just staying through the ball, going to left field, brought up my average. (That approach) brought up my walks, helped me see more pitches, and it’s really helped me work the counts, where the month before, I had the mentality of being aggressive, of “get your ball and hit it out, hit it so far you’ll never see it again.” Like yesterday, I was in a fastball count, the guy had trouble throwing strikes, and I thought “for sure, he’s gonna throw a fastball.” Fastball count, and he’s just thrown seven balls in a row. He throws a changeup low and away. But you know what? It’s making me a better hitter. My technique right now is better than it was last year, even though my numbers aren’t as good. It’s going to pay off somehow, somewhere.

CH: You played in the Venezuelan Winter League a few years ago. What was that like as far as being different from playing here in the U.S., and how’d that even come about?
CC: I played with Enrique Gonzalez with the Diamondbacks, and he knew a guy, the GM from the Guaira Tiburones, and he told the GM, “Hey, you’ve got to look at this guy.” He scouted me and offered me a deal, and I said “Sure, I’ll go.” Then I found out I was going to the Arizona Fall League, and I called him up, and I said, “Hey you guys, I just got traded to the Red Sox and they want me to go to the Fall League. I’m sorry, I’m not going to be in Venezuela.” But they wouldn’t let me get out of my contract, they wanted me that bad. So I ended up going, but not too happy about it, because I wanted to be in the Fall League. But it ended up being a great thing for me. It’s very close to Big League baseball, and there’s such passion and intensity for the game, and I got good confidence from that. It was a great situation for me, and it worked out for the best.

CH: Now, you and Jed (Lowrie) are both Stanford guys. Obviously, that’s a great academic school. Which one of you guys is smarter out on the baseball field?
CC: You know what, I don’t know. I wouldn’t put it past Jed if he is. I’m always trying to be a student of the game. You know what, Jed’s amazing. He plays a difficult position, shortstop, and you’ve got to be not only a great talent out there with great ability, but you’ve got to be smart, and he is. I don’t know one way or the other, but I’d say Jed’s incredibly smart when it comes to baseball.

CH: Off the field, who’s smarter between you and Jed? Who’s more book-smart between the two of you?
CC: I don’t know. I know when it comes to cribbage, he’s got me. He’s beat me and taken some money off me. I don’t know if that really encompasses all the intellectual ability off the field, but he’s got me.

CH: There are a few other famous, if we’re going to call it that, Chris Carters. There’s another one in the minor leagues right now, you’ve got the former wideout for the Vikings, even the guy who created X-Files. (CC: Yeah, yeah!) I read an interview with Javier Lopez that he gets (baseball) cards to sign of the other Javy Lopez. Have you had anything like that happen?
CC: I’ve gotten some cards of the other Chris Carter … (CH: the Oakland guy?) The Oakland guy. Guys tell me I’m their favorite player, they’ve been following me my whole career, and then I open up the envelope and it’s a picture of Chris Carter, the 6’ 5” African-American, 20 years old.

CH: Do you sign them and send them back?
CC: No. No. Actually one of the players, Sean Danielson, wrote a letter back, and they said they made a mistake. (laughs)

(Chris H. had meant to ask this question during his interview, but somehow forgot. Luckily, friend of SoxProspects.com David Laurila was at that game and was planning to return the next day, so he picked up the slack. Thanks for the favor David!)

DL: You’ve recently started using Hulk Hogan’s old theme music, “Real American”, as your at-bat music. What’s the deal there?
CC: It makes me feel good. I loved the Hulk growing up, and I think it’s an amazing song. I mean, it’s not amazing as far as being up tempo or a feel-good song, but I thought it would be a great one to come up to the plate with. I hit a home run the first game I played with it, so I’m keeping it. It was the start of Carter-mania.