Padres Minor League Spring Notebook I

PEORIA, AZ – Back to basics for the San Diego Padres minor leaguers. With games still a week distant, the prospects were working out the kinks from their armor.

  • Several fields were occupied but no intrasquad game was held on Friday. Instead, much of the time was devoted to fielding practice and bullpen sessions for the pitching staff and batting practice for the hitters.

    Minor league field coordinator Tom Gamboa praised the players before the start of drills. "The intensity and enthusiasm has been great thus far. Let's keep it up."

    It was a lighter crew than usual, as hitters peppered through their hitting practice routine and did not have extra side work – running the bags or fielding drills.

    Some of the highlights have to include the pitchers returning from injury. Euclides Viloria, John Hussey, Allen Harrington, Nick Schmidt, Neil Jamison, Tyler Mead and John Hudgins all went through their drills without problem. Will Startup was also on the field catching balls but did not seem ready to throw the ball.

    Hudgins is extremely happy to be back tossing the ball. He noted that his stuff is comparable to what it was three years ago when he was on the doorstep of joining the big league club.

    Harrington also feels healthy after not pitching since June 5 of last year.

    "They released me," Harrington said. "They closed the book on the elbow, which was a big relief. It was a long off-season with rehab. I threw 50 pitches today and everything felt good."

  • Cory Luebke is eager to put last season to rest.

    "I am looking forward to it and hope I can go back and get a better start to the season," Luebke said.

    After struggling in Lake Elsinore, he made changes to his delivery in an effort to make him stand up taller. Those efforts paid off when he was moved down to Fort Wayne.

    "I started making changes around the All-Star break and found I was able to be more consistent with my pitches. Standing up taller was an effort to calm down all of my moving parts."

    The left-hander rebounded nicely, and the Padres still have high aspirations for him.

  • Michael Watt, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the Greg Maddux trade, feels like his curveball is back to where he expects it to be.

    "I was tired last year and my arm would drag behind my body," Watt explained. "I felt like I couldn't snap it off and get it to have a consistent break with good arm speed."

    Watt also had good things to say about Eduardo Perez, acquired in the same deal.

    "He is very good – he did real well in the GCL."

  • Brandon Gomes changed his arm slot last year and credits that to his success from a year ago.

    "It seems like its natural arm slot," Gomes said. "I was able to add velocity."

    Now that he has the added velocity, Gomes is looking to refine his fastball command.

  • Jackson Quezada was shutdown in his first year on the 40-man roster due to shoulder soreness but it should not hinder him when the season begins.

    The positives that Quezada has taken away from the last two years in the system is mechanical refinement. He feels he doesn't need to work on mechanics like he had in the past, as his delivery feels smoother and repeatable.

    As a result, Quezada can focus his energy on perfecting his secondary pitches – knowing that if his mechanics fall off-line, he has the ability to correct it quickly.

  • Kellen Kulbacki is feeling healthy after undergoing surgery in the off-season. He admitted that he wasn't able to do as much lifting to get stronger but believe a strong hitting foundation will allow him to continue to hit for power.

    "We went to Lancaster – I dove for the ball in the outfield and dislocated my shoulder," Kulbacki said. "I went down to San Diego to have an MRI and had surgery two days later.

    "It was a tough end to the season, especially with our team doing so well. I wanted to be there with our team."

    Kulbacki started swinging the bat in January when he returned to Peoria. His shoulder is still in the process of getting stronger. Taking care of it through the month of March with treatment and strengthening drills is part of his daily program. He is not pushing the shoulder to its limits so he can start the season with a clean bill of health.

  • Mat Latos reported some stiffness in his throwing shoulder after his last outing versus Colorado. He is still working in drills and has been prescribed a few days extra rest.
  • Padres pitcher Chris Young will talk to the entire minor league pitching staff on Saturday. Face time with a big leaguer has become an important part of the Padres development process.
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