"The first five, six weeks of the season, he sort of had to take a step back. But he handled it so professionally. ... That's not easy," said Padres manager Bud Black. "His starts were few and far between. We were running those guys [Kemp, Upton and Myers] out there a lot."
With Myers landing on the disabled list and Yonder Alonso already there, the team turned to Venable on Tuesday against the Cubs -- and he came up big against the pitcher who previously had his number.
Venable was 1-for-19 against Jason Hammel when he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning, with a runner on second base and the Padres trailing 2-1. After he had bounced into a double play in the fifth inning, Venable managed to get a slider up in the strike zone from Hammel, pushing it into center field to tie the game.
Forget that 1-for-19 -- 2-for-20 looks much better.
Venable's hit would set the stage for a big eighth inning as the Padres scored twice for a 4-3 victory over the Cubs at Petco Park.
So what makes Hammel so tough?
"His slider is pretty vertical. I can remember offering at that in the past … a lot. That was a trouble pitch for me. Tonight, he saved them for that last at-bat and threw me three of them," Venable said. "… With him, I'm trying to get the ball up and out over the plate."
That worked wonders for Venable, who has seen more playing time since Alonso landed on the DL with a right shoulder bruise on May 8 and with Myers out of the lineup since May 10 because of tendinitis in his left wrist.
Venable has responded by going 10-for-26 since May 8. He's already got more at-bats in May (32) than he had in all of April (24).
"That's my role … to step in and contribute for those guys. I wish more than anything Wil was out there and healthy. Yonder, too," Venable said. "We're a better team with them. I feel like I've done an all right job of taking advantage of the opportunity.
"Hopefully those guys come back soon. Until then, I'll hold it down out there."