Padres Minor League Spring Notebook VI

Ernesto Frieri

PEORIA, AZ-- Two-a-days give the San Diego Padres coaching staff more time with each player. Live batting practice was on the agenda again – as was catching fly balls for all the infielders? Also, an injury update on a top prospect.

  • Brandon Gomes was more pleased with his outing this day than he was a few days back when he didn't feel as crisp.

    "No complaints today," Gomes said. "I was working on finding consistency with my slider and it paid off."

    Gomes has added ticks to his fastball over the last year and is excited about his maturation process on the mound.

  • Evan Scribner – acquired in a trade last season with Arizona – had a mixed bag on Tuesday. He had trouble locating his changeup.

    "The curveball was good today," Scribner said. "The changeup was just ok."

    Scribner's curveball is a true plus pitch that he uses as a wipeout pitch with effectiveness. The changeup will be a pitch he leans on more in the coming year, especially as the competition level increases.

  • Dylan Axelrod was challenged last season and came away with a lot of exposure. While his confidence was shaky at times, the experience has given him an appreciation for what it will take to succeed.

    "I have been working on my changeup," Axelrod said. "It was better than it had been."

    The right-hander was very inconsistent with the pitch and had no confidence in throwing it. Now, he has another weapon at his disposal.

  • Michael Watt has been happy with the early returns on a tight spinning curveball – a pitch he uses at any time in the count. The former Dodgers prospect hasn't had the same feel for his changeup.

    "I tried to work a little more on my changeup today," Watt acknowledged.

    The pitch continues to be a work in progress for the young left-hander but has shown signs of coming to life. He still throws it too hard and has experimented with different grips to get it down.

  • Omar Gutierrez, the first player promoted to Fort Wayne from his draft class, had trouble establishing command early last season. The emphasis this year is on location of his pitches and less max-effort.

    Tuesday, he spotted his fastball well but another pitch that he can usually rely on wasn't as crisp.

    "My slider was a little shaky today but fixable," Gutierrez said. "The changeup, however, was much better."

  • Tim Stauffer's return from injury has been put to the test this spring. Without any setbacks, he is on a heavy throwing program that is challenging to even healthy players.

    He tossed his 30 pitches in live batting practice and continues to be on track.

    "I am working on throwing strikes down in the zone," Stauffer said. "Just getting comfortable throwing off the mound again."

    Stauffer missed all of 2008 after surgery but reports feeling fine now. He is eager to get back and prove he can be better than ever.

  • Ernesto Frieri got a taste of big league spring but is back on the back fields working on gaining consistency.

    "I was working on my fastball command," Frieri said. "I felt great. I am trying to make sure I am clean in my mechanics and finish all my pitches. I feel I did a pretty good job today."

    Frieri felt going into the rotation was the best thing for his career. He felt like he was a thrower those first few years but is more of a pitcher now that he has learned more about pitch sequencing and situational pitching.

  • The infielders were put through the workout of outfielders on Tuesday. The idea behind such work was for those hard to reach balls where the infielder may be the only one with a play on the ball.

    The techniques being taught were simple and transcend a pair of sports. It is the same theory taught to wide receivers on the football field.

    "Stay inside the ball," Padres minor league field coordinator Tom Gamboa said. "When you do that, you can gravitate towards the ball."

    What it means is reading the line of the ball off the bat and keeping your body turned towards where it will eventually land. If you turn the other way it causes one to backpedal or reach behind you with the mitt to secure the ball. By keeping it on the inside shoulder, even if the ball tails away, you can still run under it.

    The other concept being taught is to eliminate any backpedaling. When a fielder backpedals, it is easier to loose your balance. The Padres ask their fielders to gain the ground so they can come in to catch the ball rather.

    Gamboa touted Drew Macias as the best defensive outfielder because of his ability to take solid routes, get behind the ball and come in to make the catch. He did note one play from several years ago that Macias didn't make – one that Macias knew what was at fault, gliding to the ball rather than hustling. It was a lesson learned, Gamboa noted, and one Macias didn't repeat.

    The same holds true on high pop ups on the infield. Camping under a ball is much easier than having to react to a change in flight while still moving.

    "Who you coast early, you panic late," Gamboa said after Brian Joynt misdiagnosed a ball hit near the pitcher's mound. He didn't charge the ball and ended up paying the price when it changed direction and dropped.

  • Drew Miller has struggled with an elbow injury during the off-season. A MRI confirmed he had a strained UCL. He is scheduled to begin throwing in two weeks to see how he feels.
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