Imports impress at Padres' Instructs

Several players from Latin America and the Caribbean impressed in their first experience on U.S. soil, participating in the Padres' Instructional League - including the much anticipated debut of Yefri Carvajal.

While the overall performance is obviously nice, the instructs are about, well, instruction. In some ways that makes the Most Improved Player award as important as any in camp. This year, Luis Durango – who has clocked a 6.2 second 60-yard dash – and catcher Jose Lobaton shared the award.

Switch-hitting Durango, who hit .342 in Venezuela this year, completely reworked his swing from the left side, honing a skill to better take advantage of his speed. Lobaton, after spending time in Peoria, Eugene and Ft. Wayne this year, continued his work as a switch-hitter as well and honed his mechanics behind the plate.

Smooth-handed Mexican shortstop Jesus Lopez earned the camp award for defense.

"He's really impressed people since he got here," said roving infield instructor Tony Franklin about the 18-year old native of Mexico.

While the awards are based on in-game performance, several prospects spent most of their time in Peoria working on skills outside of game situations. Matt Bush, the much-maligned number one overall draft pick in 2004, saw limited game action, but impressed with the work he put in, and with much tighter defense than he showed at Ft. Wayne this year.

"He came on strong with the bat in the last week or so," said Bryk. "We worked with him to shorten his swing, and he really was more focused out here."

Among the Caribbean players making their first trip to the United States was 16-year old outfielder Yefri Carvajal, who got a $350,000 bonus to sign in July. Carvajal showed good command of the game, hitting the ball with authority to all fields and attacking pitches at the plate. If the lower minor leagues remain unchanged next year, it is likely that Carvajal will make a return trip to Peoria next May for the regular season.

Several players were in Peoria rebounding from injuries. First baseman Tagg Bozied, who had a tough go in Triple-A Portland coming off of last year's season-ending knee injury, is not yet back to the form he showed before the infamous homerun celebration, but did show some ability in left field. Bozied will try to get some additional work in this winter in Venezuela, but has yet to find a team to work with.

Adam Bourassa, whose season literally came to a crashing end in the left field corner at Lake Elsinore in July, rehabbed with the instructors throughout October, but didn't get on the field for any game action. Australian 17-year old Murray Hopley, on his way back from Tommy John surgery, worked on his swing and continued a throwing program throughout camp. Although he had hoped to get a few games in at DH and then head back to Australia for game action this winter, it now appears he will stay stateside and continue his treatment with the goal of having no restriction when he reports to spring training.

"Overall, I was really pleased with the progress out here," said Bryk, who enjoyed getting a first-hand look at the Latin American prospects.

Now, it's a matter of putting all those lessons to work when the players arrive back in Peoria next spring.

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