Monday, May 24, 2010

Seamhead stuff

* Catcher Nick Hundley played a smart game on Sunday. Was in control. Good flow to pitch selection. Worked well with Mat Latos. It's obvious that Hundley was well-prepared. Example: The pitch sequence against Ichiro late in the game. Two backdoor sliders for strikes from Luke Gregerson, then a third slider inside and in the dirt. Ichiro, looking unIchirolike, hacked at it for strike three.

* Chris Denorfia reminds me of Eric Owens. Pretty good bat control. Loves to run down flyballs. Hyper. Sometimes it gets the best of him, but he's helped.

* Congratulations to Luis Durango. A year ago, the Padres refused to play him in center field even as Cedric Hunter struggled on the same minor league team. I quoted his agent and the Padres about it. From there, things opened up for Durango. He took advantage of more playing time in center field. The speedster reached the major leagues last year and is back again. Durango is a work in progress defensively, but his jumps and reads are improving. Give Hunter credit, too. He has bounced back from a bad season.

* The Padres broke open Sunday's game after Chase Headley landed a broken-bat single in medium center. Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is a good defender. Reputedly, he's a great defender. However, a strong reputation doesn't always equate to winning baseball. Gutierrez was playing too deep. The Mariners couldn't afford to give up any more runs, and I was surprised that Gutierrez was so far back with none out. Headley is a singles hitter for the most part. The ball doesn't carry well in Seattle. But Gutierrez played him deep, and the ball landed. When you watch a lot of games at the ballpark, you come to admire the center fielders willing to play shallow. A lot of them refuse to do it. Steve Finley was an exception, both for the Padres and the Diamondbacks. He hated to see balls land in front of him for a single. If the situation called for it, he moved in, sometimes well in. On top of being a talented defender, he was a very good situational defender. That's the distinction. Generally speaking, I'm not sure that sort of defense gets appreciated. It takes guts to play shallow or even semi-shallow. In fact, coaches aren't always able to get fielders to play where they want them to play because some outfielders just aren't comfortable with going back on a ball. On a related note, one of the things that second baseman David Eckstein does well is help shortstop Everth Cabrera with his positioning, and with reminding him about baserunner's speed and the scoreboard effect. Eckstein is a former shortstop. Without him, Cabrera would be lost at times.

* Not to pick on Franklin Gutierrez, but his lack of hustle on Friday was in contrast to the hustle the Padres have been showing. When Will Venable clanged Gutierrez's high flyball on Friday, Gutierrez had to stay at first base because he assumed the ball would be caught.

* FanHouse's John Hickey -- http://tinyurl.com/3yev9sz -- compared the Padres and the Mariners. The two have similar talent but disparate win-loss records. I think Padres manager Bud Black and his coaches deserve some of the credit.

* It's been a pleasure to watch Adrian Gonzalez in the last week. He's controlling the outside part of the plate much like his idol Tony Gwynn used to do, yet he's also able to react well to hard stuff inside. Like when the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw came inside with a 93 mph pitch on Thursday. Gonzalez lashed it to left field for a single, knocking Kershaw from the game. You could tell the 22-year-old pitcher was impressed, and a bit miffed.

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