Emeralds get help with the bat from Gamboa

EUGENE- During a week of action that saw several members of the Padres' roving staff come through the Northwest, the Eugene Emeralds were able to hone their skills. Tom Gamboa, Bob Cluck, and Bill Bryk were just a few names that dropped in to see the new recruits – they were also there to lend their expertise.

A group of hitters that included Willy Crafort, Chad Huffman and Luke Cannon worked exclusively with hitting coach Matt Howe early on Saturday. The 29-year old son of Art had them working with weighted balls, having them drive through the ball. Howe would then put regular balls on a tee for them to hit.

Howe worked more closely with Crafort who was flat-footed while he hit and not turning his torso to drive the ball with authority. Roving instructor Tom Gamboa also worked with Crafort to eliminate a hitch in his swing.

Crafort's normal approach at the plate includes a backswing that points his bat to the pitcher, making it more difficult to make to get it through the zone.

"What will happen is he will see a fastball inside on the first pitch and feel like he has to compensate on the next pitch," Gamboa began. "He will then commit too early and begin chasing breaking pitches in the dirt."

Gamboa worked with several hitters during the week, aiding Howe in his instruction – part of his staff development role. One player he was particularly pleased with after some one-on-one time was Garner Wetzel.

"Your bat is staying in the zone," Gamboa applauded. "The best round of BP I have seen." He is 3-for-13 since that talk in games.

"Coach Gamboa came in and worked on my swing and staying back," catcher Kody Valverde said.

While Matt Antonelli didn't bat in a game during the Eugene tour this past week, he did spend ample time with manager Doug Dascenzo, the former baserunning and outfield rover. They worked on recognizing keys in a pitcher's delivery to get better leads on the base paths and to identify the tells that have a pitcher committing to home plate.

"He knows a lot with the baserunning stuff," Antonelli said. "A lot of the mental stuff I have never thought of before."

As for the hand injury that slowed him down, he joked about how it happened when asked whether he was taught not to put his whole hand around the bat when he bunts. "They told me, but I guess I didn't listen very well," he said laughing.

On Tuesday, Padres' scout Josh Boyd held a tryout camp that more closely resembled an American Idol audition. There was a catcher who couldn't catch, fielders who couldn't field, batters who couldn't bat and pitcher's who couldn't pitch. Apparently, someone told them they were good at one point in time and they believed they could become prospects in the minor leagues.

There were more than a few left-handed pitchers but most couldn't top 80 on the radar gun.

Of the 50 to come, two had promise.

A right-handed pitcher hit 92 on the radar gun and will likely be asked back to another workout for the Padres in their Instructional League camp. He did have trouble throwing off-speed pitches over the plate.

A catcher also flashed a cannon arm and had some hitting ability in the cages. He was asked to come back for batting practice and infield work with the Emeralds. He came back and worked in the catching rotation behind the plate and took batting practice against Doug Dascenzo. He held his own, but working against him was his age, 24.


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