3/9/2013 7:21 P.M. ET
Prospect Stites impressing Padres at big league camp
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Pay no attention to the numbers. Reliever Matt Stites has already allowed as many earned runs (four) in Spring Training as he did all of last season, a statistic that reflects more on his dominance in the Class A Midwest League than it does his performance with the Padres.
Stites, just 22 years old, logged an incredible 0.74 ERA last season for Fort Wayne, and he boasts a 1.19 career ERA in 83 1/3 Minor League innings. That track record earned him an invitation to the big league camp, and he's impressed the coaching staff with his stuff.
"Matt's done a nice job," said manager Bud Black. "I think what stands out is a couple things: His talent. His stuff. He's got a good fastball, a good breaking ball, a good change. I like his composure on the mound. He's handled big league camp well. He's shown sort of a calmness to him, yet also an intensity and a competitiveness that we've heard about from our Minor League staff. All the things that our Minor League people have said about him have been validated here, most notably his arm."
Stites, a 17th-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, has been untouchable at the lower levels, logging more than twice as many strikeouts (99) as hits allowed. Things have been different in Spring Training, though, and he's allowed eight of the 19 batters he's faced to reach base.
But he's far from concerned. Stites said that pitching is the same no matter what level you're working at, and he said he needs to get ahead in the count in order to be successful.
"The key to success is getting ahead and staying ahead," Stites said, "Putting guys in 0-2 and 1-2 counts and letting them hit my pitch instead of going 2-0 and letting them hit their pitch. That's what's been hard for me. I've struggled here. I've walked two guys here, and I'm not particularly happy about it."
Stites, one of the few players to have a uniform number (85) higher than his season ERA (0.74), said Saturday that his big league teammates have been gracious and accepting in his first Major League Spring Training. The right-hander has made a point of seeking out veterans like Huston Street to talk about his craft, and he said that San Diego's catchers have also helped him.
Perhaps the biggest comfort factor for Stites is the presence of bullpen coach Willie Blair, who served as the pitching coach last year at Fort Wayne. Stites knows what he needs to do to progress through the farm system, and he could move quickly if he takes his spring experience to heart.
"I have decent fastball command, so I'm not worried about that," Stites said. "I need to work on my off-speed more -- changeups and sliders for strikes and for out pitches -- especially at the higher levels."
Gyorko tackling the challenge of position transition
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Footwork and fundamentals. That's the primary area of focus for Jedd Gyorko this spring as the former third baseman attempts a permanent transition to second base. Gyorko, ranked as the Padres' top prospect by MLB.com, has been putting in the time to make himself a solid defender.
"I've just got to stay consistent and keep doing what I've done throughout the process," said Gyorko. "I'm getting more comfortable at second base as each day goes by. We've got some of the best coaches in baseball to teach me and guide me as I make the transition. It's going well."
Gyorko, a former second-round Draft pick, has the type of bat that will play anywhere. The 24-year-old is a career .319 hitter with a .385 on-base percentage in the Minor Leagues, and he proved that he could perform at the highest levels last season by batting .328 with a .380 OBP for Triple-A Tucson.
The second-base project began in earnest for Gyorko last season, when he played 17 games at the keystone for Double-A San Antonio and 30 more for Tucson. Things have gotten more intense this spring, and Gyorko is trying to figure out all the little aspects of playing a new position.
"You've just got to get used to the ball coming off the bat from a different angle and being around the base more," he said. "It's a slight adjustment. I've played middle infield before, so I'm comfortable over there. It's just really getting back into the groove and getting up to speed with the game. The game's a little faster up here, and you've just got to make the adjustments as the time goes on."
Gyorko, in his second go-round at the big league camp for Spring Training, plenty of time to make those adjustments. The youngster said that his first spring with the Padres was a blur of names and introductions, and he's been able to settle in and get comfortable this time around.
The Padres have All-Star Chase Headley at Gyorko's former position, and incumbent Logan Forsythe lines up at second base for San Diego. Gyorko might be able to make the leap quickly if he can get his defense under control, and manager Bud Black said he's making progress.
"He's handled second base very nicely. He's making all the plays [and] turning a real good double play. Hands are good. Feet are good," said Black. "He's done some nice things. You can tell this guy is a baseball player. He's calm on the field. He's got good instincts. He's comfortable on the diamond and he's comfortable in a big league environment. He's a self-assured, self-confident young guy."
Gyorko, who doubled on Saturday, doesn't want to improve on defense only to slide on offense. He's taking the time to master the intricacies of the game on both sides of the ball, and he knows his Minor League production won't translate to the Majors unless he works hard at it.
"It's the same things. Adjustments," he said. "You've got to get used to the pitchers. The scouting reports are going to get better, and they're going to try to find a weakness on you. And once they do, they're going to exploit it. You have to keep working and make adjustments to stay ahead."
Padres pitchers get in work in 'B' game Saturday
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres staged a "B" game at Peoria Stadium on Saturday morning in order to get some players some extra work. Seattle, the team that shares the complex with San Diego, took a 6-3 win in that game and chased starter Robbie Erlin before he even recorded an out.
Erlin was charged with six hits and four earned runs, and the Padres used five relievers in the loss. Carlos Quentin served as the designated hitter for San Diego and went 1-for-3. But the game got in, allowing the Padres to make up for a rain-shortened game on Friday afternoon.
"We lost six innings yesterday, and we've got 30-something pitchers. They've got to throw," said San Diego manager Bud Black on the reason for staging a "B" game. "With the starters getting multiple innings, it takes some innings away. Guys need to pitch and get ready for the season."
Black said Saturday that San Diego's Minor League camp is up and running and that players will begin to be gradually farmed out over the next few weeks. The purpose for those moves is two-fold: To give prospects a steadier dose of playing time and to whittle the roster down to essentials.
San Diego began Spring Training with a franchise-record 67 players, a camp that included a full 40-man roster -- plus two players on the restricted list -- and 25 non-roster invitees. Slowly but surely, said Black, the Padres will narrow their focus to the players that have a chance to break with the team.
"We can still make moves and bring a lot of these guys back," he said. "We have so many non-roster guys. A lot of times, we want to get guys over on the other side, because you do have to start thinning out the room as you prepare the guys that you think are going to be on the roster come April 1."
• The Padres are keeping tabs on Edinson Volquez, who pitched one inning for the Dominican Republic on Thursday but was pulled early due to a rain delay. "They weren't going to put him back out after an hour rain delay," said manager Bud Black. "I don't know what their schedule is or what his schedule is moving forward for the Dominican team."
• Infielder Logan Forsythe is sidelined by a case of plantar fasciitis in his right foot and will likely be out of action for the next three or four days. "We'll re-evaluate that in the middle of the week," said Black.
• The Padres announced Saturday that two of their prospects -- catcher Austin Hedges and southpaw Jose De Paula -- will be reassigned to the club's Minor League camp on Sunday.
• San Diego announced Saturday that it has reached contract terms with 24 players for the upcoming season. Forsythe, Andrew Cashner and Yonder Alonso were all among that group. With Saturday's signings, the Padres have reached terms will all players on their 40-man roster.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.