Eugene Emeralds Notebook: Trading places

EUGENE, OR-- Whether it is on the field or on the mound, players are finding themselves in unfamiliar roles. Angel Mercado is taking all of his practice repetitions at third base. Pablo Menchaca and Rey Garramone are in the bullpen. Even situational hitting. All are trying to find the magic word – consistency.

  • Angel Mercado has gone through three positions since the start of the season and only one has been a position he has played before.

    He worked at first base in spring training and has played seven games at that spot since the beginning of the year – across two leagues.

    Now, Mercado is seeing regular playing time at third base, starting at the position the past two nights.

    He committed an error on Thursday on a high throw, rushing his feet and making an off-balance throw. And that is just one of the challenges for the Florida native.

    "The toughest playing is on the short balls that you have to barehand," Mercado noted. "The throw always sails."

    Early in practice, that exact situation happened. But, he is making strides and several times earned the praise of manager Greg Riddoch.

    On Friday, he moved more surely around the hot corner and made several nice stabs, looking more fluid with each passing day.

    The Emeralds are interested in keeping his bat in the lineup and with a talented outfield, third base might just be the position he finds himself at most often from here on out.

  • Bobby Verbick got instruction from minor league field coordinator Tom Gamboa on Friday. Lacking rhythm in his swing, the idea was to get a load in his backswing so the motion could create momentum going forward and improve his timing.

    Gamboa was also on Clint Naylor to maintain his swing from when he was in Arizona.

    "You have a beautiful swing," Gamboa said. "We just want you to utilize it."

  • Pablo Menchaca insisted he wasn't upset with the move to the bullpen. After posting a 4.71 ERA in relief, the right-hander came back and allowed one run over 4.1 innings in his first relief appearance.

    "No, I am not mad," Menchaca said. "I need to work harder on throwing more strikes."

    His velocity was also down when he was starting but seems to have returned since. The Padres remain very high on the talented prospect.

  • Rey Garramone is fighting the confidence bug. Having never faced adversity until he came into professional baseball, the right-hander has had a tough time trusting himself and his stuff.

    "I have never experienced a lack of confidence before," Garramone said.

    And it has come and gone through the year. Right before coming to Eugene, Garramone breezed through an outing against the Mariners in extended spring, throwing just 29 pitches over three innings. He came out on fire against Boise but has allowed 15 runs over his last 14 innings.

    It is an area of his game that he has to fight through. The Padres believe he has the stuff to succeed and play at the highest level. They also believe that once the confidence returns, consistency will follow.

  • Execution is big in every affiliate along the long trek to the majors and no player is immune to its idiosyncrasies. Robbie Blauer, batting fifth, was asked to bunt with nobody out and the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth.

    After taking ball one, Blauer laid a perfect bunt down the third base line to advance a pair of runners.

    A partial failure to execute followed – Ryan Hill popped out with a pair of runners in scoring position and less than two outs. After Dean Anna walked, Jeudy Valdez came through with a triple to clear the bases.

    "That was my pitch to hit," Valdez said through an interpreter.

    Seven players on the roster have a sub-.212 average with runners in scoring position on the season – all with at least 19 at-bats in such situations. Valdez had been 5-for-25 coming into the game with runners in scoring position.

    "I have threatened to put mannequins down there," Riddoch said. "I have threatened to stand in front of the runner so they can only see me and say, ‘Oh, there must not be anybody on third. I can go ahead and just hit.'

    "I am being facetious but I preach all the time about the key to being successful is doing the things you want to do and nothing that you think you have to do. If you think you have to do it, you have no chance. You locked yourself into a corner. When it is do or die, I don't know that many people alive who can perform when it is do or die."

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