March 2011

Latos to DL, Deduno on Padres 25-man roster

PEORIA, Ariz. –- The Padres added Minor League right-hander Samuel Deduno to the 25-roster and officially placed Mat Latos on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday as the club played its final Cactus League game of the spring against the Brewers at Peoria Stadium.

Latos has a strain of his right shoulder, but the good news is that he is significantly improving, manager Bud Black said, and will travel with the team to St. Louis for the season opener. If everything goes as planned, Latos will throw off the mound on Thursday prior to the game against the Cardinals at Bush Stadium.

“Latos is doing well,” Black said. “He’ll play catch today and probably tomorrow and if things go well hopefully a side session on Thursday in St. Louis. But he’s doing much better. We think he’s turned the corner in regard to the inflammation.”

Latos last threw against the White Sox here on March 21 and reported soreness in his shoulder two days later. The White Sox scored three runs in the first inning that night without recording an out before Latos settled down to pitch into the fifth inning.

Latos struggled this spring, allowing 10 earned runs, 16 hits and nine walks over 10 innings in his four starts.

In other news, the Padres made a Minor League trade on Tuesday sending Single-A first baseman Allan Dykstra to the Mets for Double-A reliever Eddie Kunz. Dykstra, a San Diego product out of Rancho Bernardo High School, was a first-round selection (23rd overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player draft and was a questionable choice from the very beginning because of degenerative hip condition. The right-handed Kunz was 7-8 with a 5.34 ERA in 42 appearances (12 starts) last season for Double-A Binghamton.

Wilson makes progress, Giants waiting to see

SURPRISE, Ariz. –- Injured Giants closer Brian Wilson threw soft toss without incident again on Sunday in nearby Scottsdale, while his teammates closed the Cactus League portion of their spring schedule with a 7-4 loss to the Royals at Surprise Stadium.

Wilson will remain behind in Arizona. The Giants broke camp and headed back to the Bay Area where they play their annual three-game Bay Bridge Series against the A’s beginning at AT&T Park on Monday night. The season opener is in Los Angeles against the rival Dodgers on Thursday at 5 pm PT.

Wilson injured his left oblique on March 17 against the Angels and hasn’t thrown in a game since. Barring any setbacks, he’s slated to toss a bullpen session on Tuesday after which the Giants will make a decision about his status. The Giants don’t have to set their 25-man roster until Thursday morning.

“He played catch today and he felt fine,” Bochy said. “He’ll probably play a little more catch tomorrow and it’ll be Tuesday as far as getting up on the mound. We’ll evaluate it after that.”

Wilson was the Major League leader with 48 saves as the Giants won the National League West and ultimately the World Series this past season. This spring, he appeared in five games, allowing a run on three hits for a 1.80 ERA. Whether a total of five live innings will be enough work to put him on the roster for Opening Day is the pending question.

“That hasn’t been determined yet,” Bochy said. “We’ll talk about it after he takes his bullpen and we see where he’s at. The good news is he felt great throwing today. If he makes the type of progress he needs to make, once he take his bullpen we’ll have a better idea of what we’re going to do.”

Belt wins Giants spring rookie award

SURPRISE, Ariz. –- Giants rookie first baseman Brandon Belt received some good news on Sunday and it had nothing to do with him making the team.

Belt received the Harry S. Jordan Award as the top first-year player in camp this spring, it was announced before the Giants closed the Cactus League portion of their schedule against the Royals at Surprise Stadium. The vote of his teammates, coaches and trainers was unanimous.

Belt said he was still awaiting word from Giants management on his status: big league or Triple-A.

“They’ve told me absolutely nothing,” said Belt, who was in the cleanup spot and playing first base on Sunday. “I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m just trying to do my best every day and whatever happens, happens.”

Belt is traveling with the team back to the Bay Area where the Giants are playing their annual three-game Bay Bridge Series against the A’s beginning at AT&T Park on Monday night. The season opener is in Los Angeles against the rival Dodgers on Thursday at 5 pm PT.

Manager Bruce Bochy said before the game that there certainly will be an answer by then and that the last couple of spots on the big club are still up for grabs. The Giants don’t have to set their 25-man roster until Thursday morning.

Belt’s chances of making the team certainly increased with the calf injury to Cody Ross, who’ll start the season on the 15-day disabled list and is expected to miss the first three weeks.

“It makes us get more creative, that’s for sure” Bochy said. “Does it make it any easier? Maybe a little bit. We lost a pretty good bat in Cody Ross. That will certainly play into it when we make that decision. [Belt] would give us another left-handed bat on the bench or we could do what we did in the past. We came off a great year last year. We could go similar to what we had last year when we started the season.”



D-backs breaking big news

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Our new WordPress system makes it possible for me to blog via my BlackBerry so I’m taking a first stab at it.

The D-backs have made two moves the past few days that could’ve been announced three weeks ago — Russell Branyan to the 40-man roster and Joe Saunders in the starting rotation. Branyan will undoubtedly get a long look at first base and Saunders, who missed a start because of the flu, is third in the rotation behind Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson.

Saunders is owed $5.5 million this year and despite manger Kirk Gibson saying he was fighting for a starting slot, Saunders was always going to be in the roto if healthy. Branyan, a veteran who is all bat and little glove, has been the best hitting corner infielder in camp all spring. A few weeks ago, GM Kevin Towers was asked about Branyan’s situation. He told this writer to make his own assessment. That assessment back then? On the team. Branyan is this spring’s Aubry Huff, who looked like a stiff in the field during March 2010. We all know how well that worked out for the World Series-winning Giants.

With six days to go until Friday’s opener at Colorado, Gibson and Towers are still toying with the final two spots in the rotation. Barry Enright has one of them. But when Gibson was asked which one he said he didn’t know. Never too late to guess.

Armando Galarraga and Aaron Heilman are fighting for the other slot with Zach Duke recovering from a broken hand. When asked how Duke is progressing Gibson said the damaged appendage was starting again “to look like a hand.” As opposed to a fig?

My guess is that these guys have neither heard of the Lindbergh baby or Gray’s Anatomy, the medical textbook, not the TV series! In these cases, confirmation of old news is better than no news.

Dark cloud hovers over 1984 Padres

PHOENIX — When Braves Minor League manager Luis Salazar was recently struck in the face by a line drive and lost his left eye, it was another strange hit to the 1984 Padres, the first team in club history to win the National League pennant and ascend to the World Series. They lost in five games to the Tigers.

Salazar was a back up infielder, displaced at third base by an aging Craig Nettles, who was obtained in a trade with the Yankees just prior to the start of that regular season. This year, Salazar was standing in the dugout during a Spring Training game in Florida and didn’t know what hit him.

There is a dark cloud hovering over the ’84 Padres team and this was just the latest incident.

Starting pitcher Eric Show and second baseman Alan Wiggins died young, Show, at 37 of a drug overdose, Wiggins at 32, from AIDs linked to the injection of drugs.

Then there is the cancer cluster. Dave Dravecky lost his left (throwing) arm to cancer. Coach Jack Krol died of cancer related to his constant use of chewing tobacco. And Tony Gwynn, the NL batting champion that season and an eight-time winner in his 20-year career, is battling cancer for the same reason.

Phil Collier, the beat writer for the San Diego Union who covered that team, was diagnosed that year with prostate cancer and eventually died from it. Wayne Lockwood and Barry Lorge, both columnists for the Union back then, are also gone. Wayne had Parkinson’s and Barry died of cancer. Bob Chandler, a now retired Padres play-by-play announcer, is a prostate cancer survivor. I was the beat writer for the San Diego Tribune that season and I’ve survived colon cancer — not once, but twice. In another ironic twist, I’ve been blind in my left eye since a childhood accident.

Ray Kroc, the McDonald’s founder and club owner who saved the team for San Diego, had a major stroke and died before the start of that season. The Padres wore an “RAK” patch on their shoulders all that year to honor him. His wife and successor, Joan, died in 2003 because of a brain tumor.

With apologies to the 1998 Padres team that also went to World Series where they were swept by the Yankees, the postseason in ’84 is still the most exciting week of Major League Baseball ever played in San Diego. It was staged at the old ballpark in Mission Valley before it was expanded and enclosed for football in front of raucous crowds of almost 60,000 for every game.

It included the Padres’ come-from-behind victory over the Cubs in what was the final best-of-five NL Championship Series.

Steve Garvey won Game 4 in Mission Valley with a two-run walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth. In Game 5 there was Tim Flannery’s grounder that skidded through the legs of Leon Durham, the first baseman whose glove had been accidentally doused in Gatorade by Ryne Sandberg, the NL’s MVP that season. The Padres even split the first two World Series games, winning Game 2 at home over a Tigers team that won 111 games — including the postseason — and was clearly one for the ages. Unfortunately they lost the next three at old Tiger Stadium.

To those among the survivors — Dick Williams and Jack McKeon, Tim Lollar and Andy Hawkins, Steve Garvey and Puff Nettles, Goose Gossage and Garry Templeton, Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martinez, Craig Lefferts and the first Greg Harris, Ballard Smith and Dick Freeman, and of course, Bruce Bochy, Terry Kennedy and Tim Flannery — stay well and healthy.

And to Louie a speedy recovery. May the wind always be at your backs.