Padres hitters are looking to strike early, often

PEORIA, Ariz. -- On more than one occasions Sunday, White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy made mention of the Padres being aggressive early in the count against him.

Will Venable singled on the second pitch he saw. Chase Headley had an RBI double on the first pitch he saw. Yonder Alonso flew out to left field, also on the first pitch. Finally, Chris Denorfia fueled a two-run second inning with a first-pitch single.

This wasn't all happenstance, Padres manager Bud Black said.

"Against Peavy, he's coming at you," Black said. "You've got to take some good rips. You don't want to see that slider."

From a philosophical standpoint, though, what occurred Sunday -- when the Padres got to Peavy early in the count for three runs over the first two innings -- is what the team's hitters are mentally carrying into the box with them each at-bat.

"We have some guys who have come of age and are realizing you've got to be ready to hit against Major League pitching. You can't get behind Major League pitchers. I think we saw a little more of that in the second half of last year," Black said.

"[Carlos] Quentin brought in a dimension of getting ready to hit the fastball early in the count. I think [hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell] have preached that."

For Headley, who was raised on the patient approach of the Sandy Alderson era in San Diego, he said he's still trying to be better about being aggressive from the moment he steps into the box instead of working the count.

"My goal is to be ready to hit when I get a good pitch to hit, whether that be the first pitch or the 10th pitch," he said. "I think early in the season last year, I gave away some at-bats early in the count when I let it go by. Who knows what would have happened had I swung at it.

"But as a whole, we want to be aggressive as a team."