Almost Back

Antonelli in the process of rebounding





PEORIA, Ariz.—Matt Antonelli went from prospect to bust nearly overnight.
A first-round draft pick out of Wake Forest in 2006, he hit his way to Triple-A in 2008. Then, despite a poor season at Portland, was called to the big leagues by the Padres in 2008.

After putting up great numbers in his first two professional seasons, he hit .215/.335/.322 at Portland in 2008 and .193/.292/.281 in 21 big league games that season.

He was striking out nearly once every five at-bats. He hit rock bottom in 2009, hitting .196/.300/.339 at Portland before the Padres finally shut him down in the season's final month.

He was shipped to Arizona for some intense instruction with hitting guru Tony Muser. Antonelli's entire offensive approach was examined. He was torn apart and rebuilt. What followed was a 2010 spring training when the 25-year-old Antonelli hit .378/.410/.568, re-establishing himself as a prospect, a player who is now in line to take over at second base when veteran David Eckstein calls it quits. He was optioned to Portland on March 29, but he left a positive impression.

"What I saw was a Matt Antonelli that had his confidence back," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He was using the entire field, spraying balls from line-to-line. But he was also aggressive, hitting balls hard to his pull side. I don't know what happened to him. I don't know why his numbers fell off so drastically. But Tony Muser and the staff did a great job getting him back on track. I liked what I saw of Matt."

FATHER FIGURES

• Two of the organization's brighter prospects—outfielders Donavan Tate (last year's first-round pick) and Jaff Decker (a 2008 supplemental first-round pick) missed significant time in the spring with injuries. Tate, who has struggled with a hernia, then was involved in an off-season ATV accident, sprained his shoulder diving for a ball in a workout. There was no structural damage, but the Padres will proceed with caution. Decker, who is ticketed for high Class A Lake Elsinore, suffered a hamstring injury in late March and was expected miss as much as three weeks.

• Lefthander Cesar Ramos, a first-round pick in 2005, left a favorable spring impression. He appeared in four spring games, but his last might have been his best. Working the fifth inning against the Angels in Angel Stadium, he got Bobby Abreu on a deep fly to center field, then struck out Torii Hunter and Hideki Matsui.