After enduring a slow start, rookie Kevin Kouzmanoff has been an important part of the Padres' offense during San Diego's battle for a playoff spot in the highly competitive NL West and Wild Card races. The 25-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif., has batted above .300 since the All-Star break and provided some power in the middle of the order. Kouzmanoff, who is batting .269 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs, recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.  

MLBPLAYERS.com: In college, you studied Sub Atomic Physics. How did you get interested in that?

Kouzmanoff: I have a brain for that type of stuff. Most people find it boring, but I jut like it.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Prior to attending college, you were a standout in several sports in high school. What sports were you really into then?

Kouzmanoff: I played football, baseball and was on the diving team. I played on the golf team for a year. I wrestled for a year.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Any sports in high school you didn't play?

Kouzmanoff: I never really got into soccer.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Speaking of football, how did you become such a big Chicago Bears fan?

Kouzmanoff: A lot of my family is from Chicago, so we are all big Bears fans.

MLBPLAYERS.com: After coming up in the Cleveland organization, you were traded last winter to San Diego. What was the first thing that went through your head when you heard about the trade?

Kouzmanoff: Surprise at first. I never saw it coming. I'm happy to be here there, though. I'm having fun.

MLBPLAYERS.com: In that trade Josh Barfield, another good young player, went from the Padres to the Indians. Were you surprised when you heard who else was involved in the deal?

Kouzmanoff: He's a great ball player. I played with him a few years ago. There are some shoes to be filled here, but I know the Padres wanted me here so that's all that matters.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Before the trade, you made your debut with the Tribe in 2006. How valuable was the callup from Cleveland then?

Kouzmanoff: I think it was good for me to get a taste of the big leagues so I would know a bit of what to expect this season. Now, I kind of know how things run up here.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Are there any teammates in particular who helped you out while you were with the Indians?

Kouzmanoff: In Triple-A Lou Merloni helped me out a lot last year. I learned a lot from him.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You also saw some time at designated hitter last season. As a young player, what was the experience like?

Kouzmanoff: I stepped into the DH role when Travis Hafner got hit in the hand. It was definitely a new for me. I'd never really played that role before. It's something that you have to do a lot to get into the routine of it.

MLBPLAYERS.com: This season, you were hit by a pretty hard thrower in Matt Cain. What did it feel like to get hit by his fastball?

Kouzmanoff: That hurt a little bit. I took it right off the bone. Luckily I had two days off.

MLBPLAYERS.com: With the Padres, you wear jersey No. 5. Why?

Kouzmanoff: It's just a low number. I also think that it's a good infield number.

Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.