-- Robert M., Victorville, Calif.
I do think Blum will be back next year. The Padres intend to buy Giles out of his $4 million option for next season (the buyout is $500,000), essentially paving the way for Antonelli or another second baseman next season. Regardless of the Giles' situation, though, Blum likely would have returned anyway as his value to the team -- switch-hitter, he can play everywhere in the infield and even the outfield in a pinch -- gives the Padres versatility off the bench.
Plus, Blum -- who makes his offseason home in San Clemente -- is a great clubhouse guy. You can argue that Blum essentially saved the Padres in 2006 and last season when he gave the team a viable option at shortstop in 2006 when Khalil Greene got hurt and again last season after Giles' productivity dropped after April.
I don't see any reason why San Diego pitching coach Darren Balsley can't teach the pitchers how to hold runners on, can you?
-- John H., La Jolla, Calif.
You're right, there's no reason he can't, though it's not that simple. Obviously, you're referring to the Padres' problems last season holding down the opposition when it comes to stealing bases. Here's the thing: It would be foolish for Balsley or anyone else to try to tinker with the deliveries of pitchers like Greg Maddux and Chris Young at midseason in hopes of speeding up their delivery to the plate. A delivery is a process and tinkering with one aspect can throw off the whole delivery.
That said, I wouldn't be surprised if during Spring Training the Padres worked on having their pitchers speed up their deliveries to some degree. That's the time you tinker with things of that nature. But I wouldn't expect a future Hall of Famer like Maddux to ditch what's worked well for him for so many years just to incorporate, say, a slide step.
When do you think that the Padres are going to give a chance to outfielder Will Venable? Based on his Minor League statistics, he looks like a very good hitter.
-- Julio C., San Ysidro, Calif.
I think that the 25-year-old Venable is at least a year away from arriving at the big league level. I saw Venable play last week in the Arizona Fall League and he looks like a guy who has nice gap power (though he hit two long home runs in a game) and someone who can run and play a good center field. Venable has been nursing a sore right shoulder, which has kept him from playing in the field thus far.
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I think Venable can stand a full season with Triple-A Portland. He told me last week that he never really got comfortable last season with Double-A San Antonio, though he still had nice numbers (.278, eight home runs, 68 RBIs, 21 stolen bases). Like Young, Venable played basketball at Princeton before choosing baseball. He's a mature player who the Padres are very high on.
Who are the three pitchers that the Padres picked up from Milwaukee in the Scott Linebrink trade? I know Joe Thatcher is one but who are the other two, and if any of them are in the plans to get the fifth spot on the starting rotation?
-- Manuel H., Mexicali
Thatcher was certainly a guy who the Padres targeted as they were preparing to trade Linebrink to the Brewers, though it was 20-year-old right-handed pitcher Will Inman who is considered the gem of the deal.
Inman, who turns 21 in February, was a combined 8-11 with a 3.28 ERA a year ago at three Minor League stops. He was one of the youngest pitchers in the Southern League and later the Texas League, where he was 3-3 with a 4.17 ERA after the trade with San Antonio. This is a guy who might be able to crack the Padres starting rotation a year from now.
San Diego is also excited about the third player in that deal, left-hander Steve Garrison, who went 10-7 with a 3.25 ERA in two stops last season. He'll likely begin the season at Double-A San Antonio. As for Thatcher, his work in September has been well-documented. He'll likely be a left-hander out of the bullpen for the Padres in 2008.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.