Are the Padres losing confidence in Will Venable's long-term chances of becoming an everyday player? It's still too early to know from here, but Venable was back on the bench tonight for the fourth time in five games against a lefty starter. When I asked Bud Black about the platoon in right field recently, he said Venable will start against some lefties but was vague about when that will be. Venable's poor start may be part of it. But I inferred from Black that Chris Denorfia would've started against most lefties this month regardless of how Venable fared. Black wants his reserves involved, especially early in the season. With the glut of early open dates, that's harder to do, so all the more reason for Black to start key reserves such as Denorfia when the matchups are favorable.
Short term, it makes sense to go with Denorfia, who batted .295 with a .382 on-base percentage against lefties last year, compared with Venable's soul-sapping .224 career batting average and .280 slug rate against them. And it was Denorfia who led the Padres past the Astros tonight by hitting a home run and a double off Astros starter J.A. Happ.
Long term, the plot thickens. Venable is already behind the development curve because he played college basketball. He is 28. If he's to learn how to hit lefties, he needs to play against them. He doesn't have 1,000 career at-bats yet overall. Most of this comes down to the bottom-line evaluation. Can Venable become a solid or better everyday player, with his athleticism helping him to beat the odds? Or, in line with his minor league career, is he more likely to become a platoon player or extra outfielder?