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Venable's growth seen beyond hitting streak

Special to

SAN DIEGO -- While the results at the plate for Will Venable have been obvious during his career-best 15-game hitting streak, some of the more subtle signs of success are what manager Bud Black has particularly liked.

Black could have mentioned that Venable has the longest active hitting streak in the Majors, and also the longest for a Padres player since Rondell White hit in 16 straight games in 2003. Black also could have pointed out that during the streak, Venable is hitting .377 with 11 extra-base hits and four stolen bases (including his 100th career steal) and added his first career walk-off home run to the torrid stretch on Sunday.

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Instead, the manager said that he and hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell are especially encouraged by seeing Venable hitting the ball the opposite way of late. The line drives to left field are tell-tale signs of improvement, according to Black, and show that Venable is truly playing at a higher level by using the whole field to collect hits.

"What Phil and [Alonzo] are pleased with is we are starting to see hard contact to left field," Black said following Venable's four-hit game on Saturday. "The base hit to left, along with the pull power, the base hit to the opposite field on a ball away is really nice to see out there."

Venable has been especially solid since the All-Star break, batting .370 since then as compared to .224 prior. That ranks him fourth best in the Majors over that span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"This has been a good second half for Will, no doubt about it," Black said. "The average is climbing. Historically, his second halves have been good. I think overall this year, and even last year, have been bigger peaks and valleys."

Black also made sure to acknowledge Venable's all-around game and not focus solely on hitting.

"He's playing very well," Black said. "He's playing well on both sides of the ball. He's playing well on the basepaths, playing a complete game. He's playing his [behind] off. I love it."

Tim Powers is a contributor to

San Diego Padres, Will Venable