John Conniff is a senior writer for MadFriars.com, a webzine that covers the San Diego Padres minor league system, and a free-lance contributor to Baseball America and 619 Sports.net. As in the past, we caught up with him to get his impressions on his second trip of the year to the short-season Eugene Emeralds.
1. Just got threw listening to the Emeralds opening day game and WOW, Sampson was a man among boys. 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (6 GO, 2 FO). Why was Sampson not in Fort Wayne to begin the year?
John Conniff: He had a bit of a sore shoulder at the beginning of spring and they were pretty cautious with him, but I think the bigger reason is that you don’t really want to put a high school pitcher in a full season league where you expect them to throw over 130 innings.
When I spoke with Sampson in Eugene he emphasized how slow the organization was in building up his innings and also really working on his mechanics in extended. Remember everyone always talks about the difference in transitioning from aluminum to wooden for batters but for pitchers its a pretty big change too; mainly learning how to pitch inside.
2. The Padres selected a college second baseman with two of their first four picks, and yet it was 22nd round pick Tyler Stubblefield getting the nod at second with Gyorko at third and Bisson not playing. Do the Padres plan to use either Gyorko or Bisson as a second baseman, or do they plan to move them around the diamond?
John Conniff: Right now I don’t think the organization sees Gyorko as a second baseman, despite the fact that he played shortstop in college and they initially announced that he was drafted at that position and I think that is a good move. He has a thick lower body and unless he changes his body significantly I can’t see him having the range to play second. Bisson, a Canadian citizen, will get the majority of the playing time once his visa issues are settled.
3. Last year Luis Domoromo was playing in the Dominican Summer League, now he is the starting right fielder for the Ems at the tender age of 18. Castro, Portillo, Rincon, and Galvez all spent their first summer in the AZL. What did the Padres see out of Domoromo to push him to Eugene?
John Conniff: Denis is usually the guru on all things Dominican, the man would rank twelve-year olds in Santo Domingo if he could, but I’ll take a shot. It really matters on two things, the personnel that they have to work with and how far someone has progressed in the extended leagues. For example, RHP Matt Lollis, who is the #2 pitcher on the Ems right now, really impressed the organization in spring and in extended and essentially pitched his way out of the Arizona League.
Also, as the Padres sign more of their college picks and possibly bring up Donovan Tate, Domormo could be back in the AZL this season.
4. Did you have a chance to see Portillo? What is the biggest difference between the 2010 version and the one from when he first game to the US?
John Conniff: I did and although his stuff was impressive he also struggled with secondary pitches and was a little wild. Still, he’s the equivalent of a high school senior and you have to be impressed. I didn’t see him pitch last year but from what his coaches tell me is that he is throwing much better strikes, essentially hitting the corners as opposed to catching more of the plate.
5. How is the new facility? Does the front office have any objections to the use of a turf field rather than natural grass?
John Conniff: Its a really nice facility, but the old one also had quite a bit of charm too. Its funny when all of us think of artificial turf we think of those horrible multi-purpose stadiums like Riverfront in Cincinnati and Three Rivers in Pittsburgh but the turf is about as close as you can get to grass. Also, to not have turf and attempt to play baseball in Oregon would be nothing more than games in the mud.