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09/09/08 9:28 PM ET

Consistency is key for Kouzmanoff

Third baseman finds groove after roller-coaster ride last year

SAN DIEGO -- Hitting .380 last September allowed third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to put a tidy bow on a nice rookie season, though getting to that point wasn't always so fun.

"Being that low," Kouzmanoff said on Tuesday, " ... I wouldn't wish that upon anybody, those first six weeks."

Kouzmanoff struggled mightily early in the season. His average was .108 on May 7 before finding a comfortable level and ensuing success offensively in a season in which he would hit .275 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs.

This season has been a remarkably even ride for Kouzmanoff, who on Monday eclipsed his RBI total of a year ago when he drove in two runs in the Padres' 4-0 victory over Los Angeles at PETCO Park.

Going into Tuesday's game, Kouzmanoff had reached career highs in home runs (21), RBIs (75) and extra-base hits (51) to go with a .271 average with 18 games still to play in the regular season.

"This year, I've been consistent. You see more and more pitchers, get more reps and start to feel more comfortable. You feel like you fit in," Kouzmanoff said. "When you start to see guys three, four, five times, it helps."

Not that Kouzmanoff, 27, considers himself a finished product by any means. His walks are down from last season and his strikeouts are up.

"I'm never really satisfied. I always feel like I can do better. I think a lot of people around baseball are like that. I think there's still room for improvement," Kouzmanoff said. "The at-bats that you throw away that hurt you or times when you're not mentally sound."

Kouzmanoff has, occasionally, done something few hitters have done at spacious PETCO Park -- make the park look small. Kouzmanoff has hit five more home runs (10) at home than he did a year ago. He still uses all fields but has shown more pull power during his second season.

"I think, overall, it's been a solid year for him. I think defensively he's played better than last year. Last year at the start of the season, there was the combination of a lot of things going on," Padres manager Bud Black said. "But he's more comfortable. I still think he has a lot of potential. He hasn't reached his ceiling."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.