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Renfroe makes most of unplanned detour

Look no farther than Asuaje and Spangenberg to see what can be accomplished
San Diego Padres

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

I've viewed most player's first trip to the Major Leagues as a reconnaissance trip.

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

I've viewed most player's first trip to the Major Leagues as a reconnaissance trip.

Most baseball players arrive in the Major Leagues with little idea of what a giant step they've just taken. Some prosper as soon as they arrive. But many good players don't.

And many wind up returning to the minor leagues at some point in time. Some get demoted because the Major Leagues have exposed flaws in their games. Others go down to get their confidence rebuilt.

Usually, players return much stronger and better prepared when they arrive in the Major Leagues for a second time.

Cases in point for these Padres - Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje.

Both were returned to El Paso last spring to work on their games. Both did. And look at them now.

I'm hoping Hunter Renfroe accepts and reacts to his demotion the same way.

I'm hoping he's ticked about going back down, as Spangenberg certainly was. I don't want players who aren't ticked about getting sent out. Then I'm hoping he channels that into improving himself as a player.

I think this could be a huge positive for Renfroe, who is still only 25. He has skills and athleticism. He drives the ball with power. He can run. And he has a great arm. But that does not make him a complete ballplayer. 

Renfroe was hitting .230 on the season with a .285 on-base percentage. Although he had 20 home runs, Renfroe also had 125 strikeouts in 404 at-bats. Since he last hit a homer on July 25, Renfroe was 8-for-64 (.125) with four doubles, three RBIs and four walks. And since Aug. 7, Renfroe was 5-for-33 with 15 strikeouts.

He has work to do offensively and defensively. He needs to reach base more on offense and run better routes and tune the accuracy of his arm on defense.

"Nothing's changed in our long-term belief of what Hunter can be on a Major League baseball field and what our expectations are with him," Padres manager Andy Green said of Renfroe after sending him down Saturday. "We still think he has every opportunity to lock down the right field job for the future.

"We also think there's things to work on. And we want to see the needle move. Being honest with the way this last 1 ½ months or two months have gone, we haven't seen the needle move in the areas we've asked for it to move. At some point in time, you ask yourself 'What's the best way to help someone improve?' This is a viable option to do that . . . to let people know how serious you are about little things being done and improvements being made.

"With Hunter, getting on base consistently, that's been something that has been brought to his attention for a considerable period of time. If you want to be an impact player at the Major League level, you have to do, in my mind, at least two of the following three things. You have to get on base, you have to drive the ball out of the ballpark, you have to defend the field."

Here's hoping Renfroe checked in with Asuaje and Spangenberg before he departed for the Pacific Coast League.

"Give credit to Asuaje," said Green. "He stepped back. I sat down with him at the end of last year. I looked him in the face and said, 'you're not a Major League second baseman . . . that is the truth of where you are right now.' Now I can look him in the face and say 'you've turned yourself into a Major League second baseman.' I didn't do it for him. He took the initiative. He did the work. It became very important to him. And he did it."

Turning to Spangenberg's improvement, Green said:

"Cory Spangenberg was as upset as anyone I've seen when we sent him down. He handled it the right way after that. It matters how they respond after that moment when they get sent down . . . what they do when they get on the field down in Triple-A. That's usually what happens when you couple talent and hard work. We saw that with Asuaje, We saw if with (Jose) Pirela. We saw it with Spangenberg. Three of the guys in the middle of the order today started the season in the minor leagues after being in the big leagues before. Sometimes that is absolutely the best thing you can do."

Here's hoping Renfroe does it. As Green said: "The ball is in Hunter's court."

NOTE WORTHY:

• When the Padres didn't get an extra-base hit Friday night, it snapped a streak of 51 straight games with at least one extra-base hit. That streak tied the third-longest streak of extra-base hits in franchise history. The longest is 103 straight games with extra-base hits from May 9 to Aug. 31, 2000. Yangervis Solarte's decisive home run off Stephen Strasburg was the Padres' only extra-base hit Saturday night - then the Padres didn't get an extra-base hit Sunday for the second time in three games.

• After getting at least one hit in 10 straight starts, Solarte is 2-for-19 in his last five starts, including Saturday night's home run. Solarte had gone 16-for-40 (.400) during the 10-game streak with two doubles and two homers. Solarte's homer Saturday was his first since Aug. 8.

• LF Jose Pirela was 1-for-4 Sunday (and 5-for-15 in the four games against the Nationals). He is hitting .354 (17-for-48) while hitting safely in 10 of his last 13 games with four doubles, three homers and eight RBIs. He had a six-game hitting streak during the run.

• RHP Craig Stammen struck out three in a perfect 1 1/3 innings Sunday. Stammen has allowed just three runs in 19 1/3 innings over his last 18 appearances - a ERA of 0.47. He has allowed 12 hits and nine walks with 14 strikeouts during the run.

San Diego Padres