When Jesus Merchan didn't have a spring training to go to, he made his own.
Unsigned and living in Aragua, Venezuela, the infielder woke up every morning in late February and early March and went to work - just like he would if he was with a professional organization.
He took batting practice, fielded ground balls and worked on his overall conditioning. His daily workouts lasted until the early afternoon when his wife, Vetzy, would call him and tell him to come home and be with her and their 3-year-old son, Jesus Jr.
"She didn't want me to work too hard, but I knew I had to be ready," Merchan said. "I knew I would be back in affiliated baseball. It just hadn't happened yet."
At the time, Merhcan had 237 career Pacific Coast League games to his credit and was hopeful he'd add more. After a short stint in the Atlantic League - an independent league - Merchan was signed by the Padres organization and assigned to Tucson.
He joined the club in early May, and the 31-year-old has been producing ever since.
Merchan is batting .404 through 89 at-bats with 14 runs scored and 12 RBIs. After hitting .340 in July, he has picked up the production even more this month.
Merchan, who can play second base, third and shortstop, is 12 for 25 in August with more doubles (three) than he had in July (two). He's been the only Tucson player to find rhythm lately.
The team began Tuesday's game homerless in its previous six games and with just three total extra-base hits. Merchan was responsible for two of them.
He credits his strong season and even stronger recent surge to his spring training work in Venezuela and some adjustments he's made recently with hitting coach Bob Skube.
"He had a bad habit of falling across the plate and jamming himself," Skube said. "We've been working on staying up and being able to extend his arms and get to the ball away. He's been awesome to work with. He's a veteran who wants to listen and wants to get better."
Merchan has been arriving at the park early to work with Skube and get as much extra batting practice in as possible.
He's on his fifth PCL team since 2008 (he played with the Tucson Sidewinders in '08) and knows this may be his final crack at trying to get to the major leagues for the first time.
"I wish I had learned some of the stuff I'm working on now with Skube earlier in my career, when I was younger," he said. "I know a lot more than I did back then."
Something else that has helped Merchan is regular playing. When he joined manager Terry Kennedy's squad, he did so as a part-time player who got most of his at-bats through pinch-hitting situations.
Recently, he's become a staple in Kennedy's starting lineup. He started Tuesday's game at third and went 2 for 5. It was his sixth straight start. His first six starts spanned more than three months.
"It definitely helps not having to wait two or three days in between at-bats," Merchan said. "I've been able to get in a groove and get some consistent looks. It's worked well."
• Kennedy said he expects infielder Jedd Gyorko to be activated from the disabled list when he's eligible Thursday. Gyorko has been out with a sore left ankle but has taken batting practice with the team the past two days.
• Pitcher Jorge Reyes has been moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen because of an innings limit. The right-hander has thrown 141 2/3 innings this season.
• What: Iowa at Tucson Padres
• When: 7:05 p.m.
• Radio: 1600-AM