PEORIA, AZ- A double session of live batting practice on the back fields of the San Diego Padres Spring Training complex provided entertainment throughout the day.
Nathan Culp was extremely sharp in his first taste of throwing to hitters. First, his warm-up showed terrific movement on his fastball and bottoming out with his changeup.
When he got in against the competition, Culp had very few balls hit hard. Seth Johnston was the only hitter to connect more than once, and Craig Cooper had one hard contact.
Kevin Howard, a former fifth-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds, was overmatched. A career .282 hitter, Howard swung over top of several balls and couldn't get a beat on Culp's pitches. Tom King only offered at one of Culp's pitches and popped up in the infield. Most of King's work was tracking balls and getting his timing back.
Allen Harrington was also effective in his first taste of live batting practice. Cole Figueroa was the lone player to get what would have amounted to a base hit off him. He blew Brian Snyder out of with several changeups and kept every other ball on the infield.
Beamer Weems had two weak ground outs and a pop out on his three swings. Figueroa grounded out twice before hitting a sharp liner. Danny Payne grounded out, swung through a pitch and fouled one off.
John Hudgins has felt infinitely better since receiving a cortisone shot. He threw without discomfort on Monday and looked solid.
Rolando Valdez' was a little erratic with his pitches and didn't have the comfort level that others possessed. His curveball, in particular, wasn't crisp. The curveball was a little loopy and had a long break where the Padres would like to see it tightened up.
Jeremy Hefner is working on a sinker and got few swings from the opposition, as his pitches were wild outside of the zone. The good news is he missed down and the few swings were over top of the ball.
"I am opening up too early and not staying on top of the ball," Hefner said. "Easily fixed."
The work Wynn Pelzer has done on his changeup was quite evident on Monday. The right-hander threw several that had his catcher, Luis Martinez, offering his praise. From the spotting of the pitch to its speed, Pelzer has come a long way in its efficiency.
To get there, Pelzer had to drop his split-fingered fastball – a plus pitch. The changeup is getting to the point where it is a plus pitch as well.
Catcher Adam Zornes was impressed with the outing of R.J. Rodriguez. The backstop praised his changeup after his outing, "Good speed, not too hard, great location and the same arm speed as the fastball."
Robert Woodard also received a dose of praise – this coming from pitching coach Dave Rajsich. "Pretty darn good there Woody."
"It felt good to be on the mound and to see a hitter in the box – it felt great," Woodard said.
Rob Musgrave flashed his trademark changeup and had solid fastball command in his first outing with hitters in the box.
"I was working on command and hitting my spots," Musgrave said. "I wanted to throw everything down – things that tend to leave in the offseason."
Anthony Bass also had a solid session. The right-hander, who will move into a starting role this season, has been working on keeping from leaning too far back in his delivery.
When he arches his back towards first, it tends to bring his pitches up in the zone and bring his line to the plate off. He is consciously working to fix that issue before the season.
Eric Gonzalez was pleased with his outing, especially since it was his first time with a hitter in the box.
"Working on fastball command – that is a plus for me," Gonzalez said. "Being able to execute my pitches is very important – that is what I was working on."
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