Ex-first-rounder Tate returns from 'personal issue'
Padres outfielder set to resume career, will start off in extended spring training
SAN FRANCISCO -- Former Padres first-round Draft pick Donavan Tate, who in 2009 agreed to the largest signing bonus in franchise history, is ready to resume his professional career.
Tate, who missed Spring Training attending to what was termed a "personal issue," arrived at the team's temporary workout facility in Arizona on Monday for extended spring training, set to close one chapter of his life while resuming another.
"It's been the same kind of things that I've been dealing with in my life for a long time," said Tate, who didn't reveal details about his issues. "They were issues that I finally felt I needed to address -- not just for me to play baseball, but to live life and enjoy it.
"But I feel like those issues are behind me. I'm relieved that I can now focus on the baseball side of it."
Tate, 22, took a physical on Tuesday and will now get in baseball shape in preparation for a return to one of the Padres' Minor League affiliates.
Tate was the third overall pick in 2009 out of Cartersville High in Georgia. His signing bonus was $6.25 million.
"I've been very blessed to be part of the Padres' organization," Tate said. "They've been very supportive of everything I've gone through and haven't given up on me."
Tate, now 22, met on Monday with Padres vice president of player development and international scouting Randy Smith.
"I liked the fact he looked me in the eye when I asked him if he wanted to play baseball," Smith said. "But he assured me it's something he wants to do. He was quite emphatic about it."
Smith said that while Tate showed up in Arizona looking the strongest he's seen him and in good shape, the outfielder's still not in baseball shape.
"He's got a ways to go," Smith said. "But he's probably three weeks to a month away from any action. That can change. But we haven't seen him do anything baseball-wise in a while."
Tate has a .241/.358/.320 line over parts of three Minor League seasons, with three home runs and 60 RBIs. Last season, Tate hit a combined .226/.342/.278 in 107 games between two Class A affiliates.
In June 2011, Tate was suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's drug prevention and treatment program after testing positive for a "drug of abuse" for the second time. He served 25 games of that suspension after getting credit for 25 after he underwent substance-abuse counseling.
Tate had sports hernia surgery in October 2009. In November of that year, he suffered a broken jaw and facial lacerations in an ATV accident near his Georgia home. In 2010, Tate missed the start of the regular season after suffering a sprained left shoulder in Spring Training.
To be sure, his career has had plenty of stops and starts since the day he was drafted.
"It actually doesn't seem like it was that long ago," Tate said. "It feels like time has flown by. But it helps me to have a better perspective after what I have been through. I know that you can't take anything for granted. I took some things for granted and didn't work hard enough to achieve the success I wanted to have."
The road to doing so starts in Arizona, where Tate will remain for the foreseeable future.
"I've been through a lot of stuff, on and off the field. Things that have allowed me to learn and made me grow up," Tate said. "But I think going through this has made me more confident.
"I feel like I can put everything behind me and just focus on having fun again and playing baseball and being able to enjoy baseball and life as well. All of this has allowed me to get to a spot where I'm ready to mature and get ready to move on."
Venable atones for missed chances with amazing grab
SAN FRANCISCO -- There was really only one way to describe Will Venable's disposition Monday as the Padres and the Giants headed to the 12th inning.
"Will was mad," said Padres manager Bud Black.
Venable, the Padres' center fielder, was 1-for-7 with two strikeouts and had personally stranded eight runners on base. He even failed to get two bunts down as well.
So when he took the field in the bottom of the 12th inning, Venable was determined to do something -- anything, really -- to help his team.
"I'm telling myself ... I let some opportunities pass earlier in the game, where we had a chance to score some runs," Venable said.
With two outs and the potential game-winning run at second base, Venable came up big, running down a long drive to center field by Juan Perez and making a leaping catch to end the inning.
The Padres went on to win, 5-3, in 13 innings.
How impressive was Venable's catch? Try asking the pitcher who was on the mound at the time, Nick Vincent, who had the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach quickly replaced by a sense of euphoria.
"I knew it was behind him, but then once it got up in the wind, it kept going," Vincent said. "It looked to me like he was 6 feet off the ground. He was in the air for days."
Venable, who is from nearby Marin County, dressed quickly after the game so he could see family. He got his first chance to discuss the catch with reporters before Tuesday's game.
"He [Perez] hit the ball well. I was playing in because I wanted to be sure we didn't get beat on a ground ball," Venable said."It was one where you reach for it and your body takes you off your feet."
Venable was greeted by his elated teammates when he reached the top of the dugout steps. But there were more cheers in the seats, even from Giants fans who, apparently, appreciated his catch even if it was against their team.
"Tough crowd," Venable said. "But I will take it."
Vincent glad to stick around after two-inning outing
SAN FRANCISCO -- As a reward to helping a tired bullpen with three scoreless innings against Toronto on May 31, Nick Vincent was promptly sent back to Triple-A Tucson.
The Padres needed a fresh arm to replenish the bullpen and, nothing against Vincent, but someone -- with Minor League options -- had to go.
Vincent again helped save the Padres on Monday night when he tossed two scoreless innings while getting the win in a 5-3 victory over the Giants in 13 innings.
But the call that he was heading back to Tucson never came Tuesday, which was a relief for Vincent, as he, for obvious reasons, would much rather stay put with the big league team.
"If I would have thrown 35 pitches, it might have been different," Vincent said.
Vincent was actually very efficient on Monday as he got three outs in the 11th and 12th innings on just 16 pitches. One of the outs occurred when the Giants' Juan Perez drove a ball high and deep to center field with two outs and a runner on second base in the 12th inning.
Center fielder Will Venable preserved the tie with a leaping catch to end the inning.
Veteran Francisco signed to bolster Triple-A outfield
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Padres have signed veteran outfielder Ben Francisco to a Minor League contract and have sent him to Triple-A Tucson.
Francisco was designated for assignment by the Yankees on May 26 and was released on June 3. He hit .114 in 44 at-bats with the Yankees and had one home run.
Francisco, 31, has played with six Major League teams over parts of seven seasons. He signed with the Yankees in March.
Francisco is expected to be in uniform for Tucson on Wednesday. Tucson is running short of healthy outfielders with Travis Buck on the disabled list, hence the signing of Francisco.
Francisco hit 15 home runs with the Indians in 2008 and hit a combined 15 home runs with the Indians and Phillies the following season.
• When Bud Black earned his 500th victory as a manager on Monday, he became just the third manager to win 500 games after winning at least 100 games as a Major League pitcher. He joined Hall of Famers Clark Griffith (1,491 victories as a manager, 236 as a pitcher) and Walter Johnson (529 and 417). Black won 121 games in the Major Leagues.