Padres MLN: Injuries mixed with new blood

Peoria, AZ-- The group in Peoria was donned in short sleeve shirts and shorts on Thursday morning to combat the oppressive heat of the Arizona sun. Still, many left an impression, including a new catcher.

The Padres dearth of catching received an injection with the addition of Nick Corbeil, signed out of the American Association Independent League in a contract they bought from the Shreveport Sports.

Corbeil had just 15 at bats last year for Shreveport, notching a homer and three RBIs.

With Brett Bonvechio back on the shelf due to another knee surgery and the catching thin throughout, Corbeil, 24, has shown well, according to the coaching staff.

Speaking of Bonvechio, he was a day or two away from joining Double-A San Antonio when he felt a pop in his knee. He is taking batting practice and could return to full-time action soon.

Sticking with the catchers, Colt Morton put on a show in batting practice, launching several balls out to different parts of the field. After one homer, the coaches all mocked that it was "the Rob Deer special." Deer was known as an all or nothing hitter but has been instrumental in helping hitters as the roving hitting instructor.

One player up from the Dominican Republic impressed with his ability to hit line drives and stay with the ball. Outfielder Yoeli Florentino showed some sock with an opposite field homer and stays back in his stance to drive the ball to all parts of the field.

Florentino hit .279 with 14 doubles, four homers and 31 RBIs for the Dominican Summer League Padres last year and will stick in the states this year. He has gained a bit of weight since measuring in at 170-pounds last year and displayed solid quickness.

On the mound, Alexis Lara pitched two innings of a simulated game and flashed some nasty stuff – when he was in the zone. He worked from behind a tad too much, running into several three-ball counts.

During one at bat, catcher Clint Naylor was scolded for having Lara throw a 2-2 curveball off the plate. The situation came to a head when Lara glided a fastball over the meat of the plate and saw it ripped for a double. The point of emphasis was that everyone in the stadium knew dead-red was coming given his already dicey control.

On the positive side, Lara whiffed three and showed an advanced knowledge of how to use his two-seam fastball. He took some velocity off the pitch several times and the bottom dropped out of it, acting like a changeup.

"You learn a lot standing behind him," pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "He throttled the pitch on his own. We didn't tell him to do that."

And that pitch was behind several swings and misses.

One guy to keep an eye on this year is Ray Stokes. He struggled last year over two leagues but has the type of game speed that could be deadly – one of only a select few in the organization who can run.

Stokes ran a 6.70 sixty-yard dash this spring but plays and reacts much faster on the field. He has excellent first-step quickness and could prove to be a formidable threat to the opposition once he reaches base.

One player who was the cause of some ire for his glove work around first base was Justin Pickett. He had a sharp grounder hit to his left that he tried to spear with the mitt but caught nothing but air.

It caused AZL Padres manager Tony Muser to respond, "You have a $300 glove, Pick, use it."

Players are taught to keep the ball in front of them and Pickett made no attempt to do so.

Most of the drills on Thursday were focused on fundamentals. Running the bases, working on situational fielding, and the safety squeeze were on the agenda. The day ended early without a game played.

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