8/11/2013 1:15 P.M. ET
Quality at-bats lead to Venable's offensive burst
By Jeremy Warnemuende / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- A little less than a month ago, Padres outfielder Will Venable's batting average was hovering around .220 and his on-base percentage was just below .270 -- both of which were well below his career norms.
Much has changed since then, as Venable entered Sunday's series finale batting .385 with five homers and seven RBIs in his last 20 games dating back to July 14. His batting average was up to .254, while he pushed his on-base percentage to .302.
On Saturday, he extended his hit streak to seven games with a 2-for-4 performance, including his second home run in as many days.
"Will's done a nice job the last month," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's swinging the bat well; he's playing very well."
After not hitting more than 13 home runs during any of his previous five seasons in the Majors, Venable had hit 15 blasts in his first 108 games of this year heading into Sunday. That mark led the team and also helped Venable to his 37 RBIs, which was 14 shy of the career-high 51 runs he drove in during 2010.
"That's not something that I think about," Venable said of his increased power numbers -- his .476 slugging percentage before Sunday was also a career high. "It's nice. It kind of is what it is. If it helps us win games, that's great."
Despite his improved numbers in the last few weeks, Venable said nothing about how his approach has changed. He said he enters each plate appearance simply looking to produce a quality at-bat, and that plan has paid dividends recently, especially during his hitting streak.
"I'm really not doing anything other than just trying to keep my rhythm and just be on time and get a good pitch to hit," Venable said. "It's worked out so far this past week."
Ross adds changeup to complement go-to pitches
CINCINNATI -- Padres right-hander Tyson Ross, who earned the win on Saturday against the Reds, has been working on a project throughout the season. Looking to expand his arsenal, Ross has added a changeup to go with his fastball and slider.
Saturday marked Ross' fourth start since moving back to the rotation out of the bullpen. Although he used the changeup sparingly in the win -- his third in in those four starts -- he said he's becoming more comfortable with the pitch.
"I was able to mix that in, keep the lefties off balance a little bit," Ross said. "It's going to be a pitch I'm going to continue developing, and I'm starting to trust it a little bit."
San Diego manager Bud Black expressed the importance of adding a third pitch, especially as Ross works to become a full-time starter.
"He pitches aggressively with the fastball, and the slider has been outstanding since he's come back and joined our rotation," Black said of Ross. "But for him, I think the changeup will be critical as a pitch to really complement his other two pitches."
Ross has recognized he won't be able to get by as a starter with just two pitches, and Black said he appreciates the 26-year-old right-hander's willingness to work and make himself a better pitcher. Black said he also likes the action Ross has on his changeup, which moves down and away from left-handed batters, though he would like for him to slow it down by a couple miles per hour to better contrast the speed of his fastball.
Black admitted it's not easy to develop a pitch in the middle of the season, but he said Ross has been effective at throwing it only when he feels comfortable doing so.
"When you're a pitcher and you're working on a technique or something, and there's 40,000 people in the stands and the count is 2-2 in the seventh inning and you're facing Joey Votto, you can't just say, 'Well, I'm going to work on my changeup here,'" Black said. "It's a process, but he understands he has to do it. You pick your spots, you do it in certain counts, you do it in certain game situations and hopefully there's enough types of games where you can continue to use it and get better at it."
• As manager Bud Black hinted might happen on Saturday, Padres outfielder Jaff Decker made his first career start on Sunday against the Reds. Called up to replace Carlos Quentin, who is on the disabled list with a right knee strain, Decker previously went 0-for-1 with a walk in two pinch-hit appearances in June.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.