Friday, April 30, 2010

Suds up

You know the Padres are hot when they shut out the Brewers on Beerfest Night. Friday's 3-0 victory was San Diego's 12th win in 14 games.

The Brewers faced Clayton Richard three times in 2009 and hit only .203 against him in 59 at-bats. Anticipating a lot of fastballs from Richard on Friday, the Brewers instead got a healthy dose of changeups and looked lost for most of the game. Richard struck out eight in six innings, matching his career mark.

"He was able to throw more than one pitch," Corey Hart, Milwaukee's No. 6 hitter, told this illustrious blog. "We faced him in the past and it was a lot of fastballs. Today he threw a lot more changeups and kept us off balance. He's always kept us off balance. Today, he threw a lot more offspeed pitches."

Padres haven't allowed a run in the last 24 innings. In the last 14 games, their starters are 9-1 with a 2.28 ERA. Brewers have lost seven of eight games.

I'm told the Padres created Beerfest Night after hearing that Beerfest was popular in Oakland. Seemed like a hit here. A good-sized throng sampled locally brewed beer before the game. Just guessing, but there's some potential there. Look at how popular over-the-line is in San Diego. The Padres can't replicate the tail-gating experience at The Murph, but give them credit for trying something new.

Stanford man

Gerut on keeping Gonzo. http://tinyurl.com/29olygn

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Four thoughts

Four thoughts on Western teams, including the NL West leaders. http://tinyurl.com/33st4zb

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dollar ripple

Does Ryan Howard's deal from the Phillies raise Adrian Gonzalez's potential income after 2011? Sounds like Gonzalez's agent believes that it does.
http://tinyurl.com/24xc9u7

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Your neighborhood

Six thoughts on the National League West: http://tinyurl.com/35wn8yo

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Draft

Sorry, I'm a football guy, too. And a draft junkie. Talked to the Chargers about the upcoming draft. Would you pick Toby Gerhart? In the second round, I think I would. http://tinyurl.com/2aq4yab

First pitch

The Padres are encouraged by the response to their new starting times for Saturday nights and weekday matinees. Saturday's game against the Diamondbacks, which started 90 minutes earlier than Saturday home games had for many years, drew a walk-up crowd of more than 5,000, club prez Tom Garfinkel told me, and the feedback for the 5:35 start time has been mostly good. There wasn't an attendance spike for last Thursday's game against the Braves, but Garfinkel likes what fans are saying about the 3:35 start time, which is three hours later than last year's weekday matinees.

"It allows kids to come to the games," he said. "I've actually had some 10-year-old kids come up to me and say, 'Hey, my mom went out and bought tickets to all of the Thursday games. We're going to go to every Thursday game now, because I can go now because it's after school.' " Garfinkel added, "I've had folks come up to me and say, 'Hey, this is great. I can play hooky from work a couple of hours early. I couldn't go to games when they were at (12:35)."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Money saver

Padres are bringing back 2-for-1 ticket deals for certain sections. "We'll probably announce something on it next week," club president Tom Garfinkel tells me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

From the booth

One of the more memorable days I spent at a ballpark came when I worked as a statistician for two Colorado Rockies broadcasters who were calling a Padres-Rockies game. Although I've probably covered more Padres games as a writer that anyone alive, the perspective from the broadcast booth was eye-opening. Baseball, I discovered, moves a lot faster inside the broadcast booth than it does in the writers' pressbox. These folks are multi-tasking marvels, able to sift through a constant flow of visual and statistical information, some of it coming through their earpieces as they speak. The good ones, like the ballplayers, are able to slow it all down, and let me tell you, the Rockies' George Frazier is good at it.

If you want to make a broadcaster laugh, tell him or her that you could call a ballgame. Marty Brennaman, the great play-by-by man for the Reds, used to hear from ballplayers and coaches who told him that he was stealing money. "All you do is talk about baseball," they said. "How hard could it be?" Marty would laugh. Then he'd invite one of them into the booth. Then he'd laugh again when the player or coach froze behind the microphone, utterly incapable of describing the sport that he thought he knew so well.

Even the pros tell me it can take years for a broadcaster to get fully comfortable with a new ballclub or new partners. As for shifting sports, only the really good ones can pull that off with aplomb.

Which brings me to Dick Enberg, the legendary broadcaster who is calling Padres games this year. Writing about Enberg last week, I quoted him saying that his first month with the Padres has only reinforced the rightness of his decision to return to his beloved baseball, a sport he hadn't called on a full-time basis in 25 years. Also, Enberg said he has apologized to some Padres people because he hasn't been in the best of health for two weeks. He hadn't been able to shake a cold, and he said it's been a bit of a drag. He joked that he's been in a "haze of antihistamines" since the season started.

In recent days, a few Padres fans let me know that it hasn't been the best of starts for Enberg. They said he's not seeing the game with his typical sharpness, or nailing the facts. It's been painful, at times, for them to hear Enberg struggle, because they genuinely like and admire him. For some of the older fans, it's a bit like seeing a favorite ballplayer who isn't getting around on the fastballs as often as he did in his prime. Adding to their discomfort is Enberg's age. He's 75. No one enjoys seeing a grandfatherly figure stumble.

Ideally, Enberg would've spent all of spring training with the Padres and only the Padres, actually broadcasting their ballgames. Instead he worked for CBS, calling basketball games. Enberg fit the Padres into his schedule as best as he could, but it was far from the best course of preparation for a broadcaster tasked with acclimating to a new sport, a new ballclub and a new broadcast team. Enberg is working feverishly to pull it off. At San Diego's home opener he was at Petco Park five hours before the first pitch, preparing for the telecast with a researcher who ably assists him.

The baseball season has a rhythm to it, for ballplayers and broadcasters. This is only a guess, but even for a broadcaster who has won 14 Emmy awards and still works long hours, this career shift can't be as easy as walking into a new booth.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jackie

As a young man, Tom Garfinkel, future president of the Padres, worked as a bartender and paid $300 for a photograph of his favorite ballplayer. Hint: The player wore No. 42. I asked an American Idol contestant about the same player on Thursday. http://tinyurl.com/y3mydv8

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Memories

Jeff Fletcher of AOL reminds us that for Trevor Hoffman, April is often the cruelest month. Fletcher tweets that "Hoffman has blown 20 percent of his (career) save chances in his team's first 20 games, and just 10 percent overall."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh, my!

For the Padres and Dick Enberg, it was a day to remember. http://tinyurl.com/y24pv97

Friday, April 9, 2010

Brain teaser

Let's see: The Padres tell us they lost prospect Chad Huffman because there was no room in the inn, yet the Padres still have Matt Stairs. Does anyone else see this as a wee bit at odds? Can't say I'm in the know on this one. I'll just call it...odd for a team in rebuilding mode. Yes, I do realize that Stairs is left-handed and Huffman is right-handed. Maybe Stairs will hit a 450-foot home run today, but that's not really the point.

Must say, the transaction made me chuckle because it was the Yankees who claimed Huffman. Immediately I thought of the Gunslinger. When he was GM of the Padres, his staffers called him "Willie Waiver Wire."

For what it's worth, the Yankees were the only club to put in a waiver claim on Huffman. The DH option likely adds to Huffman's value. My sense is that the Padres rated him a subpar defender, not a "Petco" outfielder.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

No. 44

Jake Peavy still loves the Padres, but like an old newspaper, he's all black and white. He's grown up, says a mentor who sees "man muscles." The Padres are still paying him goodbye money. And tonight, he'll pitch for the White Sox. http://tinyurl.com/ylobcvj

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Opening Day.

When the Padres open the season in Phoenix, I'll be in Anaheim for Angels-Twins. That'll be a bit odd for me, because I worked the last 15 Padres openers. Travels to other major league camps have limited my Padres coverage -- but here's an Opening Day platter.

* Logan Forsythe will open the season at second base, with fellow prospect James Darnell at third. Both will be at Double-A. The way I see it, this is a pretty big move by the Padres. Second baseman David Eckstein is in the final year of his contract. It sure looks like Forsythe, a good hitting prospect who is fairly athletic, can position himself for the Padres' second-base job in 2011, unless someone else enters the picture. "Logan Forsythe was the best Padres prospect I saw this spring," says a National League scout. Forsythe is a good defender at third base. The Padres tried him at second base last month and liked what they saw, although the scout says his "thick body" may not be ideal for the position. Says Padres farm director Randy Smith: "We know what type of a third baseman he is. This gives us an opportunity to see if he can be an everyday second baseman, which gives us and him more options." Forsythe will play at third to keep his skills current there, but he'll be at second for about five games per week.

* Triple-A second baseman Matt Antonelli needs more medical tests on his hand. He's doubtful for Portland's season opener. "This spring, he hit the ball better than I've seen him hit it," says the scout.

* Single-A outfielder Everett Williams had a strong spring training.

* Donavan Tate returned to the family home in Georgia to be with his father, who had some health setbacks. The Padres expect Tate to return to workouts on Wednesday. Limited by a shoulder sprain, he had only six at-bats in spring training. Tate, drafted third overall last June, will remain in extended spring training, then report to Single-A Ft. Wayne during the season. For what it's worth, Tate looked a tad gaunt to me in early March. The Padres say that only recently had the center fielder regained most of the weight and strength that he lost after fracturing a jaw in an off-road accident last year.

* The Padres are thrilled with pitcher Simon Castro, who impressed Bud Black and coaches during major league camp and will open the season with Double-A San Antonio. "He's had a phenomenal spring," Smith says.

* Jaff Decker is still 2-3 weeks from playing. He pulled a hamstring muscle in the second day of conditioning drills. After getting up to speed in Arizona, he'll play as a corner outfielder for Single-A Lake Elsinore. Decker overcame an injury early last year and had a big season. The Padres expect him to do the same this year.

* Allan Dykstra is still searching for his swing. Wasn't a strong camp for the club's first-round draft pick in 2008.

* The non-Padres scout says he feels for Wade LeBlanc, who was returned to Triple-A partly so that the Padres could keep other pitchers who are out of minor league options. "The guy pitched good and has improved more than anybody thought possible," the scout says. "He used to have just a fastball and a changeup. Now he's got a cutter. He works both sides of the plate. I know everybody didn't think he was a prospect. Hey, the way he pitched in the spring and the way clubs need a fifth starter, he would've made some clubs. He still throws 85. But it's not a fluke -- he can get major league hitters out. For his arm, he was an overdraft. But he has come a long way, (to) where he can pitch in the big leagues now."

* The scout says Padres hitters murdered fastballs "out over the plate" throughout spring training. He says he has no clue whether it will continue into the season but that the Padres had the best spring training of the five teams he saw. "They were impressive," he adds. Also, he makes interesting comments about Bud Black, Kyle Blanks and Will Venable. "Black's coming along. He runs more. He manages with more confidence because he's been managing for awhile now. Blanks has great at-bats, then he has bad at-bats where he seems to be confused. This is a wait and see on this guy. Nobody is smart enough to figure this guy out yet, outside of he is terribly strong, and if you make some mistakes, there's going to be some home runs hit. He's a pretty good athlete, but he'll never become a great left fielder. Venable has got ability. He doesn't challenge left-handers that much. If he could bear down every at-bat, he could be a pretty good player."

* For what it's worth, Venable told me in March that it wasn't until last summer that he finally began to feel comfortable with his hand positioning. He lowered his hands to near his back shoulder, somewhat like veteran teammate Cliff Floyd. Venable tinkers pretty often with his swing, especially in spring training, when he searches for the comfort that he had the previous fall. He said the comfort followed him to spring training this year. "That's never happened," he said.

* A second non-Padres scout tells me that Everth Cabrera was a step slower in spring training than he was last season. "Maybe he's a little heavier," he says. The same scout questions whether Simon Castro's long legs will allow Castro to stay balanced enough as a starting pitcher. "Kind of reminds me of (reliever) Guillermo Mota," he adds.

Spam

As Opening Night draws near, I serve up a little West Coast Bias. http://tinyurl.com/yl5rp2m