Pitching intrigues at Padres' Instructs

By the time more than 30 pitchers finished their work in the Padres' instructional program last week, they had two ideas front and center in their minds: use the change-up, and get quick outs. It's safe to say the dual message, championed by new player development director Grady Fuson, was heard loud and clear.

Among those recognized at the annual awards dinner, Ben Krosschell, Fabian Jimenez, John Madden and Neil Jamison all impressed, not just with the results they got in Peoria, but how they got them.

Krosschell, who was drafted out of high school in 2004, was named most improved pitcher after he posted a 3.05 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. While keeping his lively fastball in the low- to mid-90s, he consistently worked ahead in the count and improved with his change-up.

Right-handers Manny Ayala and John Madden and lefty Fabian Jimenez were recognized for success getting batters out with three pitches or less. Each member of the trio is an intriguing prospect to watch in 2006.

Ayala arrived in Peoria a day after he was signed from the independent Golden Baseball League's Mesa Miners. He posted a 12-4 record and 3.05 on the circuit which includes the San Diego Surf Dawgs in his first year of professional baseball. The big hurler from East Los Angeles had 18 strikeouts with the Padres minor leaguers and impressed with his command.

Madden, taken out of Auburn in the eighth round this year, took over the closer job in Eugene when Neil Jamison moved up to the Midwest League and recorded five saves. In his instructional league work, he continued his impressive strikeout totals, recording 12 in 11 innings.

Fabian Jimenez remains one of the most promising – if enigmatic - prospects in the Padres' system. The lefty who turned 19 in August struggled in his debut in full-season ball at Ft. Wayne, posting the fourth-highest ERA (7.03) in the minor leagues. His struggles there stemmed from an inability to throw his breaking ball for strikes, essentially turning himself into a one-pitch pitcher. While his fastball frequently reaches the mid-90s, one pitch isn't enough even at that level.

"Fabian left here with a usable slider and change-up," said Padres' minor league instruction coordinator Bill Bryk.

While his 1.50 ERA in Peoria undoubtedly pleased the Padres, the two walks in 18 innings was even better news for a power pitcher who walked 21 more than he struck out in Ft. Wayne.

Jamison earned accolades as "Mr. Reliable" for his work in camp. He allowed only four hits and no walks in 10 innings. Having given up zero runs in his senior year at Long Beach State, only seven in his first 37 1/3 professional innings, and none in the instructional league, "reliable" seems exactly the right description.

The instructs also afforded Padres staff their first opportunity to see several Dominican prospects in person and Jose Ceda wowed them, hitting 99 on radar guns over the month in the desert.

Former Twins property Evan Meek pleasantly surprised the staff as well, throwing consistently in the upper-90s. "He really made a lot of progress," said Bryk. Throwing with much better control than he did in his three seasons with the Minnesota organization, Meek opened many eyes.

"This was a great camp for us," said Bryk. "It's our one opportunity to really work with players without game pressure and focus on improving their skills."

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