Portillo Turns A Corner For Padres





Best Player: The prospect-rich Padres have serveral candidates for this category, but Adys Portillo gets the nod because of his improved control of a fastball that reaches 98 mph. The Venezuelan righthander, signed for $2 million four years ago, entered 2012 with a career 5.83 ERA. He was too erratic, walking 124 in 199 innings.

Low Class A Fort Wayne pitching coach Wille Blair simplified Portillo's delivery and quickened his tempo. The 20-year-old has responded by going 5-5 with a Midwest League-best 1.76 ERA while slicing his walk rate from 6.01 per nine to 3.99.

Biggest Leap Forward: In his only outing as a first-year pro, Matthew Wisler never got an out. He hit one batter, walked two and gave up hits to two others, and the righty was "just fair" in the instructional league that followed, farm director Randy Smith said. This year, Wisler has shown why he gave up a scholarship to Ohio State after the Padres drafted him in the seventh round in 2011. The 21-year-old won a job with Fort Wayne and, in a span of 12 starts and one relief outing, recorded a 2.34 ERA, with a 3.1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Farm director Randy Smith said Wisler "has a lightning-quick arm" and a major league future as "a good starter."

Biggest Disappointment: Casey Kelly hasn't pitched since an elbow strain shut him down after just two starts with Triple-A Tucson. Kelly, who went 11-6, 3.98 last season and entered this season as the team's third-rated prospect, was a trend-setter. Elbow injuries derailed three of the franchise's other advanced pitching prospects—Joe Wieland, Robbie Erlin and Juan Oramas. And a shoulder strain sidelined Joe Ross, a first-round pick in 2011 who signed for $2.75 million.

Lost for the season, Oramas had Tommy John surgery. Kelly, Wieland and Erlin were still rehabilitating, and none were expected to pitch before early July. The Padres acquired Kelly, 22, from the Red Sox as part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal in December 2010.

Father Figures

• Kelly hit a bump in the road while coming back from the elbow strain. "I thought by July 1st he'd be back," Smith said. "He had a little setback. It wasn't to the ligament. He had a little inflammation to the nerve."

• Plantar fasciitis has marred the season of Double-A San Antonio outfielder Jaff Decker, who was hitting just .184/.365/.293 in 147 at-bats and remains slowed by the foot inflammation. "It's painful," Smith said. "It bothered him in the fall and popped up pretty quick early this year."