Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Interview with OF Chris Epps

[A note on this interview: When Epps was assigned to Lancaster in early June, Domingo Santana and Grant Hogue had been on and off the DL. I don't think the assignment was intended to be permanent, but Epps played so well that he at least turned the assignment into a semi-permanent one. But with the additions to the Corpus outfield forcing Drew Muren to Lancaster, the assignment of Andrew Aplin to Lancaster and the activation of Grant Hogue from the DL, the numbers were finally against Chris and he was assigned to Lexington. But he did a terrific job with Lancaster in his two months with the team, hitting .285/.376/.589 with six doubles, six triples and ten home runs. Coincidentally, one of the things I talked with him about was whether or not he thought the assignment was going to be temporary.]

One of the reasons that I wanted to talk to Chris Epps is because I was trying to wrap my brain around his splits against lefties. A left-handed hitter, Epps is hitting .388/.446/.653 against lefties at Lancaster this season. I looked at his splits for last season and his good numbers against lefties are not a fluke.

As if to prove that his numbers against lefties were no fluke, Epps hit three home runs while I was at Lancaster - one off a lefty to dead center field that hit the batter's eye, one off a lefty to right field and one off a righty to left field. I must say I was impressed.

On hitting vs. lefties: "With me and my swing I try to stay a lot up the middle. I just focus a little more up the middle, keep my front side closed vs. lefties. That's when I get myself in trouble vs. righties when I try to fly open a little bit too much, but that's what I kind of like to do, just keep my front side closed against lefties and it's been working out in my favor."

What is he working on?: "Consistency is something that I'm really working on. Slumps happen, but trying to keep them to a minimum and getting hits when you're feeling bad is something I'm trying to strive for, trying not to have such a roller coaster and not be so streaky, just be more consistent throughout the season so that's what I'm trying to work on."

On the call up to Lancaster: "Until you get the call up you just try to do what you can do. Only thing you can control is yourself and the way you play so you can't control anything else that happens so I didn't look to see if it was going to be a temporary move or a permanent. Just go up there and play ball."

Which Astros pitcher would he least like to face?: "That's kind of hard to say, you know. A lot of good guys up there [in the organization]. A lot of flame throwers, some lefties like Sogard and you've got Cosart up there throwing gas and there's a couple guys down here. Tropeano's a great pitcher. Bobby Doran is a good one. But I'm always up for a challenge.  I'm never one to back down from a challenge. Anything can happen when you step in the box."

Who on the team makes him laugh?: "Grant Hogue is a character. He's my boy. He's funny. Springer's always a good one to be around. Domingo Santana - he might not look like he says much but he's funny to me. He cracks me up. Before he just left, Chowning is a character. The team actually is animated. You've got to keep your mind off baseball at some point in time."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball?: "I'd still do something around the sport- maybe be a coach or something, maybe be a teacher. I'd love to teach one day, elementary school kids. I love to put myself around kids. They're fun to be around, cool. I don't know. I never really looked that far into it. I got my college degree so maybe I could do something right there - sports management. Try to get in the business side of that, maybe I could work my way into owning a team or something."

Something that most people don't know about him: "I'm an animal lover. People probably don't know that. I love animals. My girlfriend is actually an animal science major. She has horses, lizards, dogs. You name it, she has it so I surround myself with animals all the time. People probably don't know I'm a jokester. I'm a bit of a silly guy sometimes. I look serious at times but I'm kind of goofy."

On the changes in the Astros organization: "This organization - there's so much competition right now. It's good competition. It makes the game fun."

I wish Chris the best of luck back in Lexington. If he keeps hitting home runs to all fields and keeps hitting lefties like there's no tomorrow, I have a feeling he'll work his way back sooner rather than later.

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