Max Venable on Padres contributors

Portland hitting coach Max Venable saw many players graduate to the San Diego Padres, including Jody Gerut, Chase Headley, Nick Hundley, Luis Rodriguez, and his son, Will Venable, along with Matt Antonelli and Brett Dowdy.

Could you see the signs that Jody Gerut was on his way to having a great comeback season?

Max Venable: When Jody came over, I didn't know too much about him. I knew he had some knee injuries. I kind of went back and looked up some numbers. When he was with the Indians in his rookie year he had 22 home runs. I was like, ‘Whoa! Geez, man, 22 home runs.

Out of spring training, I didn't see a whole lot of him, but when he came down to Portland, this guy just hit the ball so hard it was scary. Of course, with his approach and the intensity he has, of course he found his way back up to San Diego. The guy can hit. I'm sure they missed his bat in the lineup down the stretch, especially playing some of those contenders, Milwaukee and L.A. He can play. He's a gamer. He's going to lay them out there hard.

Chase Headley started off slow but really turned it on before getting called up. What did you see from him?

Max Venable: I think Chase is just Chase. He's just a good hitter. Both sides, I think it's like when I talked about (Brian) Myrow. He makes adjustments. He's what we call a student of the game. He's always looking to get the edge; finding out what this pitcher is throwing this particular day, what he gets over. He just stays very focused. He's a strong kid too. I don't know if you realize that, but he's pretty strong. The ball jumps off his bat, gets some pretty good backspin on the balls. He's just a good hitter.

Nick Hundley has made the most of his opportunities. What impressed you about the young man?

Max Venable: Nick is a young kid that is full of energy. He works very hard. This kid has a big advantage talking about work ethic, he's on top. I think in Portland, at times, he got a little excited. The kid wants to hit the ball and hit it hard, but I think he has learned the strike zone. I think he has really improved there and learned some patience and realized that he is a low-ball hitter.

At times, he had to chase balls up, but again, here's a kid that has worked hard in batting practice, staying very disciplined. We always talked about, in batting practice, the trajectory of the ball in batting, if you're hitting line drives, don't worry about hitting balls out of the park, you're going to be able to do that anyways. You just have to stay consistent and focus on what you do in practice carrying over to the game.

Nick's going to be a good one. He's improved in his catching. His hitting, I think he's going to be able to handle it there in the big leagues for sure.

Luis Rodriguez was with you early in the year before his injury – it seems him pitch selection has been key to his success.

Max Venable: He's another switch-hitter. A guy that knows the strike zone; good patience; plate awareness, just kind of a short, compact swing that doesn't try to do too much. If it's inside, he'll get the barrel to the ball, outside, he'll get the barrel and take it the other way. Another guy that's a veteran guy who knows how to play the game.

Your son Will had a great year and word was that the Padres hoped to increase his power numbers. Did you see that and did it take anything away from his game?

Max Venable: I don't think it took anything away. I don't really consider William as a power hitter. I figure with William, he's got good size. Of course, he's capable of hitting some balls. Here's another guy where, once these kids really learn the strike zone and know what they can hit the best, I think it's just going to take a little time for them to mature to the game a little bit. Once they realize to learn to be patient, they're going to increase their power. I think William has gotten a little bit better at that and is improving.

Once he just stays on that track there, I think that his power numbers should go up. I think he's going to hit for average because he can run and he puts the ball in play, so I think he should be able to hit for average.

How proud are you regarding his call up to San Diego and subsequent triple in his first at-bat?

Max Venable: I'm just thrilled. The meetings where Randy gets some information about guys getting called up and they mentioned William's name, I just light up. Anytime we make a move or something where it's to release a guy, or send a guy up or what have you, I have to go get that position player. So, I had to go get William and bring him in the office, I just tried to hold back my emotions.

It's cool to have your own kid going up, well, all those guys were happy for him. But, you know when it's your own kid, it's pretty special. I was pretty happy.

Oh man, and then get to watch him on TV, it's awesome. I told my wife, ‘Geez, I'm excited, but sometimes I don't really show it. You've got to understand, I'm with this guy every day all this year, I was with him every day. I've seen him play; you guys don't get to see him play.'

Of course, now, he's in a big league uniform though, but still, I saw him every day. I'm so happy for him. I just hoped he would finish strong. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. I always say, you've got options. You've got an opportunity, you've got a chance.

Matt Antonelli struggled more against lefties this year than righties – any reason why?

Max Venable: If I could pinpoint that I would have fixed that. I don't know. I think whatever his numbers were they weren't very good against lefties. I'm not sure if it had to do with just the ball coming from the other side of the mound or what have you, just some lefties being a little softer and really hard for him to stay back, I have no idea, he just didn't perform well against left-handers.

For Antonelli, I'm sure it's a season, or year, that he'd rather forget about. He really came on strong, the last month or so he did really well, just kind of came back to the old Antonelli if you'll recall from last year to Lake Elsinore and then going to San Antonio. I have no explanation why he struggled against left-handers at all. I wish I could give you an answer. But, it's why lefties, some left-handers struggle against left-handed pitchers I guess. You don't see them that much. I guess they're more apt to have better swings against right-handers. I have no idea. I wish I had the answer for you.

Brett Dowdy struggled early on but really turned it on down the stretch. What were you working with him on?

Max Venable: I think Dowdy's another guy, just getting ABs every day, found himself in the starting lineup. There were things we worked on off the tee just trying to maybe keep him from coming around the ball. We worked on the tee staying inside the ball a lot. There's a little drill that we did was to have the tee up high a little bit and close to him just starting really slow with mechanics, creating the hands going through. Basically, just went from there, just try to stay more inside the ball instead of coming around pulling everything. Using the whole field has been very successful this year, so that's been his key is just using the whole field and hitting line drives and staying out of the air.

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