HOUSTON -- It was in Spring Training when Grady Fuson, the Padres vice president of scouting and player development, had what amounted to a heart-to-heart talk with Will Inman, a promising pitcher in the farm system.
"I told him, 'This is going to be a paramount year for you. Are you going to be able to stick in the rotation or are you going be erratic with your stuff?'" Fuson said earlier this week as he recalled the conversation he had with Inman.
So far, the 22-year-old right-hander seems to be answering that question, as he is 3-1 and has a 3.86 ERA in his first six starts for Double-A San Antonio of the Texas League. His best start came Thursday, when he worked eight innings in a victory over Frisco.
"He started out the same way last year," Fuson said.
The difference, the Padres hope, is that Inman will show better command and efficiency with his pitches in 2009 than he did a year ago with San Antonio, where he was 9-8 and had a 3.52 ERA but often struggled to get through five innings.
Inman off to fast start at San Antonio | padres.com: News
"He has been a staff-killer in the past ... struggling to get through five innings and 100 pitches," Fuson said.
Fuson is hoping a recent tweak in Inman's mechanics will lead to bigger things in his second stint with the Missions.
"After his first two starts in San Antonio, we've got the pitching guys together and made some inroads with him ... shortening up his arm stroke in the back [of his delivery]," Fuson said. "He's still a young kid."
Inman was obtained along with pitchers Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison in July 2007 from Milwaukee in the deal that sent reliever Scott Linebrink to the Brewers.
Garrison, who was 7-7 with a 3.52 ERA with San Antonio last season before undergoing rotator cuff and labrum surgery last season, threw his first bullpen on Friday at the team's Spring Training facility in Peoria, Ariz.
Elsewhere in the Padres' system:
• Portland first baseman Kyle Blanks hit his seventh home run of the season Friday in a 6-5 victory over Salt Lake. Blanks is hitting .304 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in his first 102 at-bats at Triple-A.
Blanks has been taking fly balls in the outfield during pregame drills, and he started in left field for Portland on Sunday.
Fuson said Blanks, who had 27 strikeouts in his first 102 at-bats, has struggled at times with backdoor breaking balls. But Fuson thinks Blanks will figure things out quickly.
"Kyle finds a way when it's all said and done," Fuson said.
• Outfielder Jaff Decker, 19, a first-round Draft pick last year, is hitting .289 with two home runs and eight RBIs in his first 14 games with Class A Fort Wayne, the lower of the Padres' two Class A affiliates.
Decker, who is one of the youngest players in the Midwest League, suffered a concussion in Spring Training and reported to Fort Wayne after the season began.
"It's nice to get him out after that detour," Fuson said. "He's already got two [home runs] on the board."