Some prospects may head to Padres; others will stay here for more seasoning
Manager Randy Ready brings the 2008 Portland Beavers home next week, and he promises that the Triple-A farm team will have plenty of organizational flavor.
Most of the players will be San Diego-groomed, and the hitters will reflect what the parent Padres have been stressing in recent years: patience at the plate.
'Offensively, we'll look for better pitches and slug a little bit,' says Ready, whose team opens an eight-game homestand at PGE Park on Thursday night. 'We have a couple of guys with sock, but the organization has leaned toward slugging percentage as the key - more doubles-type hitters. High on-base percentage plus slugging equals runs.'
Topping the list of players is Chase Headley, who will start in left field; if he plays well, he'll probably be called up by the Padres.
Another prospect is second baseman Matt Antonelli, who is likely to remain in Portland for seasoning.
Veteran infielders Brian Myrow, Craig Stansberry, Luis Rodriguez and Oscar Robles were sent to Triple-A this week as the Padres finalized their roster.
Veteran pitcher Shawn Estes also was assigned to Portland, and the Bevos expect to finalize their pitching staff this weekend.
Young Colt Morton and/or Nick Hundley could wind up here and get some starts at catcher, with veteran Luke Carlin serving as a backup.
Free agent Marshall McDougall, a good player for Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League last season, should get many of the early starts at third base.
Stansberry, Robles and Rodriguez are versatile infielders. Stansberry hit .273 with 33 doubles, 14 homers, 73 RBIs, 127 hits and 83 runs in 124 games in Portland before making his big league debut last season. Myrow, the PCL's leading hitter last season (.354), figures to start a lot at first base.
Antonelli, promoted from Class AA San Antonio, typifies what San Diego is looking for in hitters.
'He's a gap-to-gap hitter,' Ready says. 'He's not afraid to go deep into counts; he could turn into a leadoff hitter at some point.'
Potential outfielders are Drew Macias, Chip Ambres and Peter Ciofrone. And prospect Will Venable might be here, rather than San Antonio, now that Vince Sinisi is out for eight weeks with a wrist injury.
The main attraction in the first series, against Fresno, figures to be Headley, who lost out on a San Diego roster spot and got optioned to Portland.
'He came down (to the minors) with a fresh attitude,' Ready says. 'He wants to play. He understands the situation, that he's low on the totem pole. He's a prospect, and (the Padres) have got to find a way to get his bat in the lineup. He's one of the most patient aggressive hitters in the system. He has great knowledge at the plate.'
Headley hit .330 with 20 homers and 78 RBIs at San Antonio last season.
In the field, Headley is making the switch from third base to left field.
'It's just a question of him tracking balls off the bat and getting experience,' Ready says. 'His arm is solid enough. He gets good jumps and runs good routes (on the ball).'
The Beavers' five starting pitchers appear to be the lefty Estes, a former San Francisco Giant standout, as well as organizational products Josh Geer, Cesar Ramos, Wade LeBlanc and John Hudgins. Tim Stauffer (elbow) remains sidelined.
Ready managed Geer, San Diego's minor league pitcher of the year, at San Antonio last season. Geer went 16-6 with a 3.20 ERA.
The left-handed LeBlanc drew praise from San Diego execs, but, like Geer, he needs seasoning.
Bullpen pitchers still needed to be finalized, but Mauro Zarate and Kevin Cameron are top guys. The closer will be Jared Wells, a struggling starter during parts of two seasons in Portland; he started to close late last season.
'He's throwing strikes; there's no question about his ability,' Ready says. 'The whole starting thing was getting away from him - he wasn't throwing strikes. Now they're grooming him to be a closer. He has a forkball as his wipeout pitch, and his stuff is crisp.'
Next: Mike Stutes takes the mound for Oregon State (11-8) in today's 5 p.m. Pac-10 opener against Washington (16-6) at Goss Stadium. The senior right-hander (1-3, 6.12 ERA) is coming off his best performance of the season, four innings of perfect ball in last Thursday's game against Pepperdine.
A freshman -James Nygren (0-0, 0.96), Greg Peavey (1-1, 7.98) or Josh Osich (0-0, 7.71) -is likely get the start at 1 p.m. Saturday, while sophomore Jorge Reyes (1-1, 10.98) probably will be on the mound for Sunday's 2 p.m. series finale.
• Washington has won 11 in a row, including a three-game sweep at Hawaii-Hilo in a series that ended Wednesday. The Huskies flew directly to Oregon from the islands to arrive early for the OSU series.
The Huskies have six regulars hitting .300 or better, including junior second baseman Bradley Boyer (.400), but pitching is their strength.
• OSU coach Pat Casey has been pleased with the resilience of his players, who rallied from a 9-2 deficit to win 17-11 at Brigham Young on Tuesday. The Beavers beat Santa Clara 12-10 after trailing 10-2, downed Pepperdine 9-7 after falling behind 7-1 and tripped up Georgia 5-4 after trailing 4-1.
Oregon State has been outscored 27-7 in the first inning and has given up seven runs in an inning three times. On the other hand, the Beavers have outscored opponents 26-4 in the sixth inning and 27-6 in the eighth inning.
'We've dug ourselves some holes but have been able to get out of them,' Casey says. 'Over the last couple of years, we've not been that kind of club. You get way behind, it's not easy to come back unless you have a bunch of bombers. Without a lot of power, we've found ways to come back somehow.'
• In his 14 years at OSU, Casey never has had a team hit this well in the early season. The Beavers are batting .331, with seven regulars over .300. Drew George (.463) and Jason Ogata (.417) lead the way.
• The Beavers found another pitcher in the BYU series in freshman Taylor Starr, who won both games in relief. For the season, Starr has allowed three hits and no runs in 8 1/3 innings and has a .107 opponents' batting average.
'BYU is good offensively, and their ballpark is a miserable place to pitch, and Taylor was lights out,' Casey says of the Longview, Wash., native. 'No question, he has put himself in a position where we would be comfortable using him to start a game or in middle relief.'
• Freshman John Tommasini was inserted into the starting lineup at second base because Casey hasn't been pleased with his team's defense at the position. But the Roseburg native has been solid at the plate, too, hitting .343. 'John has been fabulous,' Casey says. 'Much better than we anticipated.'
- Kerry Eggers