Padres host Dominican Minicamp

A year after the Padres' lower minor leagues received an injection of talent from their efforts in Latin America, the team will invite seven more players from their 2005 Dominican Summer League entry and three more from their Venezuelan League program to minor league spring training in March.

Last year, Javis Diaz and Ernesto Frieri emerged as team-leaders for the Arizona League Padres and earned promotions to Eugene in their first trips stateside. Juan Ciriaco, Fabian Jimenez, Yordany Ramirez, Joel Santo, Jose Lobaton and Luany Sanchez also showed promise as they continued their work in the lower levels of the system.

Now, players including Jose Ceda, Pascual Juan, Jackson Quezada, Rayner Contreras and Luis Durango will try to follow their colleagues into American box scores this year.

The first step in that journey for them and others occurs this week, when they report to a Padres mini-camp at Jose Rijo's Loma del Sueño academy in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. The camp, with 29 players who will then travel to Peoria for spring training, gives Padre front-office staff a chance to meet with the players, get to know their games better, and help those who are making their first trip to the United States transition smoothly.

Among those preparing for their first year in the States are right-handed pitchers Ceda, Vantroit Medina, Quezada and Yesid Salazar; lefties Juan and Aneidy Toribio; infielder Contreras; and outfielders Yefri Carvajal, Darrell Castaneda, Durango and Yasmil Urbina.

Ceda, 19, dominated in the Dominican last year, posting a 1.50 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 60 innings and speedster Durango, also 19, posted a .473 OBP in 192 at-bats in Venezuela. Along with 17-year old Yefri Carvajal, who signed late last summer, they figure to garner the most attention from the squad.

"[Yefri] can be a difference-maker," said minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk after watching him in the instructional league last fall. "He's the most exciting young hitting prospect we've gotten from the Dominican."

The camp also features 19 players who already have experience in the minor leagues. That group includes pitchers Alfredo Fernandez, Frieri, Alfredo Javier, Jimenez, William Ponce, Cesar Rojas, Julio Sanchez, Santo and minor league Rule 5 pick Andy Santana; catchers Lobaton and Sanchez; infielders Abraham Aguilar, Ciriaco and Jarol Gonzalez; and outfielders Willy Crafort, Diaz, Santiago Guerrero and Ramirez.

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