Venable on Portland prospects

Max Venable sends his son, Will, to the San Diego Padres again. Is there hope for Matt Antonelli? How fun was Eliezer Alfonso? Did we see the real Chad Huffman in August? Can Sean Kazmar rise again? All these questions and more were answered by Venable.

Eliezer Alfonzo came in and had seen time with the big league club. He isn't a guy who will walk a lot but puts the ball in play.

Max Venable: Alfonzo I think brings a lot of energy. He's not going to walk. He likes to swing the bat. I think a lot of times during the course of the season we talked about this discipline, plate discipline and taking more pitches. Here's a guy that likes to swing again, especially with guys on bases. He's swinging at probably the first thing that comes up there.

He brings a lot of energy to the club. He was fun to have, catching wise he did real well too there. He handled the pitchers real well.

Matt Antonelli didn't get a full season with you last year. What did you see out of him that makes you think he can break out of this funk of his?

Max Venable: I hope that he does because Matt, that kid, works really hard, and it's just a mystery to myself, I'm sure to him, talking to him, something just hasn't quite clicked. And when it did it was like, ‘Oh yes, all right he's coming out of it,' and kind of reverted back to bad habits and not actually not being consistent.

For whatever reason it did not come out. I don't know if it was something mentally. Honestly, physically, with his stroke, it just didn't work. It just didn't happen. For what reason? I have no idea. It was just a total mystery.

But he worked hard, we tried a lot of different things; hands on with everybody and myself, Randy Ready, Tony Muser. I think not this year, but last year, I know that he was just way in over his head with people giving advice. His father has a history with him during his high school and college. So there's a lot of people putting their hands on Antonelli. I don't know what happened there.

I have all the faith in the world in Matt. A mentally tough kid. I'm sure he's going to come out of whatever the problem is. He definitely has the tools, ability, and the mental toughness to come out of it.

Mike Baxter is always a guy that has had talent but has taken time to put it together. Is this a case of where it is beginning to come together?

Max Venable: I think with Bax, great kid by the way, he works really hard, understands the game, plays it the right way, and very versatile too. He can play the outfield, he can play first base, and in emergency he also can catch a little bit.

He went through Instruction League a couple years ago and had a good Fall League this past season. I think with Bax, he's going to be kind of a guy who kind of creeps up, only because, well, not only because, he definitely has the ability to make it in the major leagues, but I think with his competitiveness and the way he goes about his business, and I think with a little strength and a little maturity, he'll find his way as a fourth outfielder guy, the type of guy that comes off the bench that can steal a bag and can give you a good pinch-hit. I'm not really sure as far as a starter, but I think eventually he could work his way in there as he gets a little bit stronger.

A guy who does not need more strength is Kyle Blanks. He is a guy who doesn't use his whole body in his swing but still produces.

Max Venable: I've had him a couple years now, and he's really open to some suggestions, but he pretty basically has his own way of hitting. He can get away with a lot of things because of his size and strength.

You just kind of let him go and do his thing, and if things do get out of hand, just approach him and make sure his thought process is right. As far as mechanics, mechanically he's pretty much set on his ways of hitting. He's got some bat speed, and again, he can get away with a lot of things that certain guys can't get away with because of his size and his strength.

He's a good athlete. He runs well for a big guy and he's shown his athletic ability playing the outfield usually from the first to the outfield so you know they can do that.

Chad Huffman struggles for the first three and a half months but then tears the cover off the ball. What changed?

Max Venable: Well, I'm not sure if anything changed. I think as the season went along, he actually kind of slowly figured out that he had to make adjustments mentally, his whole thought process. He has the ability to play.

He did give us some pretty good numbers for Triple-A, .268, 20 home runs. That was a pretty good year.

I think with Huff, we talked a lot about his thought process. We tried to tell him that ‘you are a fastball hitter. fastball, just off the fastball.' We had to pound that into his head.

A lot of times his thought process just wasn't quite right during the course of the season. But he got it, and he worked hard. He's another guy, along with Bax and those guys, they're in there every day in the cage working on things, mechanically, and always talking about it about hitting and trying to get better. I think it all paid off. He ended up having a pretty good year.

Sean Kazmar is a guy that many have been high on because of his versatility. At the same time, there are many who believe he isn't buying into the pitch selection program. Did you see progress in that area?

Max Venable: Some guys are a little, different, some guys are pretty good about that, and with Kaz, I think, there was some progress there.

I'm not going to go through the whole Padres philosophy with pitch selection. I thought Kaz did pretty well, considering.

He kind of rebounded a little bit, that pretty much set him back on the map a little bit. In previous years where, Double-A, he got sent back down to A ball and then pretty much got himself back on the map again. I think he made some progress there.

Sometimes when they get into that panic mode. They don't have the confidence that they need to have to hit with two strikes or they'll go swinging after first pitch or just not have the good confidence with it. I thought he got a little bit better and I think with Kaz – another guy needs to be a little bit stronger, be a little bit better. I think there were too many balls in the air for a little guy.

Two homers and five RBI. After the game you send your son Will Venable up. Is it anticlimactic in that this is the second time you get to tell your son he is going to the major leagues?

Max Venable: Well, I think anytime you tell a guy he's going to the Major Leagues it's so cool! Just to see their facial expression.

You call them in the office and first off all their thinking, ‘Oh no, what'd I do now? What happened?' Just to see that expression is kind of cool, but when it's your son, it's just special, and I'm glad things have worked out for him.

He's come a long ways. Doing the baseball thing was kind of cool, but just to watch him make that progress was kind of nice.

There was always the question if we could get him more power at the sacrifice of some walks by letting him be more aggressive.

Max Venable: I think that it's the individual that is so different. It's like if you have a philosophy on hitting. I would say I personally don't have one but there are some certain principles on hitting, plate discipline, and stuff like that. Everybody's a little different when it comes to that, and some guys are swinging early in the count, and some guys can take those pitches and have the confidence or the ability to put the ball in play. Some guys they, for whatever reason, their swing, their whole approach doesn't allow them to do that.

So each guy is very different. William is a guy, I think that if he's not getting it early, then all of a sudden their comes two strikes, he could be a little bit vulnerable because he does swing at some pitches that are out of the zone. Now how do you correct that? Well, I don't know. You got to let the guy mature into the game, and I'm sure as he gets a little bit older and matures, he may get a little bit better. So, everybody is a little bit different. William is one of those guys that's been striking out quite a bit, but he puts the ball in play. Sometimes he does really well.

Drew Macias rolled around where he was with the Padres back down to you, back up to San Diego, gets an at-bat or two and no time to regain his rhythm. Is that what the year in Portland was for him where he had to start from scratch a whole bunch of times?

Max Venable: He's kind of in a tough position there. Anytime you're going up and down, it's kind of hard to get any kind of rhythm. He would go up, just sit, maybe play a little bit, travel, go back down, and trying to get settled in, and next thing you know you're getting called back in. So that's kind of a tough role to be in to get settled and have any type of rhythm.

We're talking about trying to have some consistency. If you're going to have that, you've got to be in there every day playing somewhere and at least be settled down and having some consistent at-bats, if it's Triple-A or consistently coming off the bench during the course of the year. But if you find yourself coming Triple-A for three weeks, then going back up, sitting, and then coming back down, that's a hard task for anybody. If you had to, hanging in there, that's a tough role.

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