Pitchers show promise in development

PEORIA-- The optimism runs deep with the pitching in the Padres' minors with several prospects targeting big years in 2006. Also, injury news on pitchers and position players.

The most talked about name on the roster was Manny Ayala, a pitcher signed out Independent League ball. Several pitchers mentioned him being someone to watch this year and came away impressed with his stuff.

Another pitcher that many are impressed with is Ben Krosschell, picked out of high school by the Padres in 2004. They say his maturity has risen to a new level of understanding the game and he is applying it on the field. He has been working hard on his changeup and sees the importance of adding the pitch to his arsenal.

The biggest praise came in regards to Krosschell. Rajsich called him "the next Jake Peavy." Strong words but the youngster has really worked hard this off-season.

Joel Santo threw a batting practice session and the hitting was overmatched by his stuff – when he was throwing strikes. There is a discernible pop when his ball hits the mitt but not all was glowing for the right-hander. Santo struggled when he pitched out of the stretch and bounced a few balls.

Pitching coach Dave "Razor" Rajsich has been impressed with Santo thus far through camp.

"He has thrown well," Rajsich said. "He has more than noticeable zip on his pitches.

Kyle Pawelczyk got in the game for Lake Elsinore and had some difficulties finding repeatable mechanics. One member of the scouting department saw the flaw and mentioned that he "just needs a little adjustment."

Jose Ceda impressed with his hard throwing, prompting Australian catcher Clint Naylor to say, "He can bring some heat at you."

The other pitcher quietly being thrown into the same category is Evan Meek. Meek came to the Padres after not being able to consistently throw strikes. Things have changed.

"He is the sleeper of the system," Rajsich revealed.

The light has turned on for Fabian Jimenez and Alfredo Fernandez, according to Rajsich. He has been pleased with their work and willingness to throw their secondary pitches.

Pascual Juan and Yesid Salazar are also being mentioned as potential studs from the pitching ranks. Juan has not thrown in a game due to a heart condition but the staff thinks he can make huge strides when he does get in because of his maturity level, which translates into taking what he has been taught and applying it on the mound.

Mario Ramos was hit hard on Sunday, falling behind in counts and leaving the ball up in the zone.

The all-injured team is shaping up:

The injuries continue for Daniel Moore. Back on the mound this spring, Moore suffered another setback early this spring and is back on the sidelines.

Vern Sterry, injured last year, is on the mend again. He will head to San Diego this week to see the doctors to check out the soreness in his elbow. David Mead, recovering from shoulder surgery, is doing long toss drills and could be back soon. Chris Steinborn is also shelved after injuring himself this past week.

Nic Crosta was wearing a boot and on crutches after practice. He collided with a chain-linked fence and the fear is he may have broken his foot. Rumor is his foot got caught in the fence as he tried to make a play on the ball. Ray Chang pulled up limp with a groin injury on Sunday and it should keep him out for several days. Both have been hitting the ball well in camp.

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