Indians’ Brent Lillibridge: “I take pride in just being able to get in the lineup somehow”
Since joining the Tribe last month, Brent Lillibridge has already played in five different positions. Lillibridge spoke to TribeVibe recently about his ability to shuffle positions, and what it’s like to play in nearly every area of the field.
TribeVibe: How many positions can you play on the field?
Brent Lillibridge: I’ve played in every position other than Pitcher and Catcher, so that’s seven.
TV: What’s your favorite position and why?
BL: My favorite is probably Shortstop just because you have to be in the game the whole time, it’s the toughest position to play, there’s a lot of thinking going on, and it’s just a big challenge – and I enjoy a challenge.
TV: Was there a shortstop you admired growing up?
BL: Yeah, I was a fan of Omar Vizquel. I grew up watching him with the Mariners, and here in Cleveland, and I ended up playing with him the last two years with the White Sox. That was kind of a dream come true to watch him play forever and then [after] he decided to keep on playing, I got to play with him. I learned a lot from him, and we keep in contact which is pretty cool.
TV: You were recently traded to Cleveland, and Asdrubal is playing shortstop here – have you learned anything from his game at all?
BL: The basic thing is, he’s just smooth – don’t panic, just play the game, and know the rhythm of most of the runners. He’s just talented, and talent just takes over sometimes. I learned the same thing from Omar: to not panic, and be smooth, and know how fast guys are, and that way you always have timing, and that’s the biggest part of baseball.
TV: What does it take to turn double plays as far as your relationship with other infielders?
BL: The biggest thing I would imagine is just the knowing where the infielders like [the ball] – the back of the bag, or moving across – but especially a second basemen if they like it in a certain spot. When I’m playing second base, I like to get the ball in a certain spot, where they always like to go to throw it, so that’s the biggest thing. Other than that, it’s just reaction – we always talk about positioning, where we want to be throwing. We can’t always throw it exactly where we want it, but that’s the idea: give the best throw possible so they can turn it.
TV: From playing in Little League through the University of Washington, what positions did you move around to?
BL: I was a shortstop/Pitcher all the way through high school. In college I was a shortstop and played Center Field, and I played shortstop throughout the minor leagues, and then came to the big leagues as a shortstop and played kind of everywhere for the White Sox the last four years. Now I’m more an infielder again here, so it’s kind of come full circle. I’m playing Third Base too, but as long as I’m in the lineup that’s my favorite part of it.
TV: In Batting Practice, you seem to go around and practice every position – what’s your routine?
BL: You kind of go with one position per day, and get your work in. And if you have an idea of where you’re going to play the next couple days, you get your work in there. And I’m always going out there to catch fly balls, to keep my legs strong, but other than that you try to get as much work as you can at one position and trust that you’re confident that wherever they throw you out there, you’re going to do well.
TV: Do you think people take it for granted that you can play so many positions?
BL: I don’t know – it’s not an easy job – especially in the American League, being out there and playing. You don’t get at bats every single game since you don’t have a pitcher to replace. In the field, I just put my work in, and try to make the plays I’m supposed to. If I make a great play – great – but I’m just trying to make all the routine ones. That’s my job, and I don’t know if people notice what it takes to be comfortable in lots of positions, but I take pride in just being able to get in the lineup somehow, whether that’s third base or not. I’m not stuck at the shortstop position. I’m not stuck at an outfield position.
TV: What’s your approach when you start the game on the bench?
BL: You’re always up there to try to figure out the possibility of a bullpen guy coming in, or a defensive replacement, so you’re always on. You kind of get going by the 7th inning and just really make sure you’re ready. That’s usually when all the action happens, when a game’s close and stuff like that, so you kind of get in a routine of that, and go about it, and react to how the game is played.
TV: What do you think is the value of a guy who can play so many positions?
BL: It’s good for a coach to have a guy who can play multiple positions, whether that’s just infield positions, it allows better match-ups, it allows better versatility for what he wants to do with the lineup.