Terrmel Sledge has fans - inside the Padres

The Portland Beavers were a squad full of veterans but there were a couple of key contributors – one in particular that will be counted heavily upon with the San Diego Padres this year, Terrmel Sledge. Hitting coach Jose Castro gives us the latest on Sledge, his thoughts on Ben Johnson perhaps getting a chance with another club, and Luke Carlin.

Terrmel Sledge, who obviously has major league experience, went on a tear that not many people have ever seen in any career. He is now being counted on to with San Diego in the coming year.

Jose Castro: Terrmel was born to swing the bat. There is not much you can do with Terrmel. He is a gifted hitter, very disciplined, handles the ball away and in. His pitch recognition is very good. He has a lot going for him and he has good power to all fields.

Were there any changes you made or was that more of him getting back in the groove because he did have the injury early in the year?

Jose Castro: That set him back a little bit, just being off because he was hurt. Once he got rolling and got into his groove and his timing and feeling good about himself he did what he did. I had him in 2003 and it doesn't surprise me that he is swinging the bat as well as he did.

You have seen Ben Johnson play over the last few seasons and he has been up and down and all around before eventually being traded. You always hear that ‘we will give the young guys a chance' – is that and I don't think frustrating is the right word, but if you see a guy with talent do you say to yourself that ‘this guy should be getting more of a chance.' And obviously I understand that it is not your decision on the big league squad.

Jose Castro: When you have been around these guys for a couple of years and myself I had Ben in Double-A so I saw how much he has improved as well as Rob Deer who had him for a good five years and make adjustments to become the hitter he has become and not get a chance – obviously it is something that goes on in the big leagues that we have no control over but he has done well. He deserves a shot whether it is with the Padres or whatever team, which is how it went down. Let's see what he does with it.

Luke Carlin has been presented with an opportunity it would seem moving forward. He showed more patience this year at the plate. What is your take on him?

Jose Castro: He did a real good job for us. We worked on a few things. Here is a guy that used to shift his weight a lot and get buried inside with fastballs and I got him a little closer to the plate and that helped him out. It gave him a sense of not panicking on pitches in and what to do because of body positioning and he knew he was getting beat inside and he would panic and chase. That gave him a comfort level and I think that helped him out in pitch recognition as well as that patiently aggressive approach that he showed.

Kennard Jones had some struggles up there in Portland. He has hit well in Mobile but has never got it going in Triple-A. Maybe that is more indicative of the part-time play up in Portland.

Jose Castro: Like you said, Kennard struggled here and there and more in Triple-A because of the part-time playing situation that he has been in. He just needs to get more AB's to see if he has it. Sometimes we say this guy may or may not be able to handle the bat at this level but we have all been wrong. People want to see how much he can hit right now but you just never know. That is how it is.

On the Portland front, when you look at a team that is full of veterans do you look at it as a situation where if we can inject some youth into this team we will be special or do you say it doesn't matter – look at how many people we sent to the major leagues. It does not matter if they are young or old.

Jose Castro: The number one thing is to help the major league team out. That is what it comes down to. It doesn't matter if you lose, getting players to the majors to help out does.

Saying that, obviously you want to have a good minor league system with good talent. Would I like a young minor league team that is talented? Absolutely. You bring them up within your system. You get good talent, develop them and have talent throughout the whole system. That makes it fun. At times at Triple-A you have to sign some free agents to protect your young guys, which is fine. That is something that will help your prospects out. It is a mix. I really like our players that run through our system. The free agents we signed were great guys – it was great. Personally, I do like guys out of our system.

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