Things were going so well that Payne challenged Decker to a duel with the bat. Six pitches – all to be hit up the middle between the second baseman and shortstop. Payne went first and nailed them all for a perfect round. Decker, with the pressure on, matched the feat.
A second round was initiated – this one was hitting the ball to left field – between the shortstop and the foul line. The left-handed hitters had four shots to prove their prowess.
Payne punched two of his four down the line and fair. Decker nearly matched him but sent one just outside the foul line in a 1-for-4 outing – leaving him to buy dinner that night.
Yefri Carvajal showcased his skills with a lot more confidence. When he leaked forward, he did not reach out and try and hit a pitch he had no chance to handle – taking the offering instead. It was a step forward in his development.
He also used his strength to fight off tough pitches during a 0-2 count situation, hitting them with solidly.
During one particular round with less than two outs and a man on third base while sitting at a 3-1 count, Carvajal went perfect. He launched two straight balls out of the park, hit a ground ball down the third base line that would have been tough to handle, had two fly outs deep in the outfield and took a sure ball four.
Matt Clark had some trouble with the curveballs he saw. He wasn't staying back on the ball and tried to use his muscle to pound the ball into the outfield. Most of those shots, however, would have been outs.
Craig Cooper continued to show his mastery of the line drive. While he did ground a few to the shortstop, the outfielder proved he has a consistent stroke with liners to both sides of the field. It felt like he was trying to pull a few more balls but did not have as much success when he tried that tactic.
Chase Williams is an athletic specimen that doesn't even appear he is trying but can hit the ball a long way. While his swing is loopy, it is effortless. It is easy to see why the Padres hope they can mold him into a player worthy of more prospect talk.
"You just have to stay positive," Inman said.
Part of the rejuvenation was getting away from the game for the off-season. He also credits Eric Cressey for helping him strengthen his body and mind for the coming season.
"I have progressed because I have had so far to go," Venable said.
Venable hit well with extended playing time in San Diego last year, proving he has the ability to hit at the major league level. He is continuing to do well this spring, batting .297 while sitting among the team leaders in at-bats.
While he enjoyed the award and was glad the Padres acknowledged his accomplishments, Hefner was only looking to continue his development process.
"It is not something starting last year in Spring Training that I said I wanted to win the Padres Pitcher of the Year award," Hefner said. "I had a good season and got rewarded. There were other guys who were just as deserving.
Traditionally, during warm-ups, the pitchers try and maintain the same motion as when they are throwing off the mound. Stauffer threw to a pair of his brethren in the same fashion without difficulty. He is on course to pitch during the regular season.
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