Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Melting Points and Scary Things

If changes come, they'll be big ones, angry GM says


May 20, 2008

Brian Giles is one of a handful of Padres not off to a disappointing start, so leave it to Giles to find a positive yesterday before the last-place club returned to the field.

Giles, speaking before another defeat and a postgame shot across the bow from Kevin Towers, found comfort in the schedule, which, for a change, placed the Padres in San Diego. Last night the Padres were to open the first of two 10-game homestands in a span of 23 games. San Diego's baseball team had played 16 of the previous 19 games on the road, where it wilted.

“It's a very important month for us,” Giles said. “We need to start winning some games at home, get some confidence, see how good we can be. We need to get five or six guys swinging the bat well at the same time. We haven't done that all season.”

Unfortunately for the Padres, a change of venue didn't change their level of talent. Superstar Albert Pujols and the Cardinals, paying their first visit here of 2008, frolicked as happily as all of those Arizona refugees who swarm San Diego's beaches.

Pujols swatted two home runs, one of them reaching the top balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. building. In all, St. Louis hit four homers and amassed 16 hits en route to an 8-2 victory.

General Manager Kevin Towers was seeing red afterward – and not just all that Cardinals red romping inside Petco Park. Towers strongly hinted that losing is becoming too comfortable for this team and that a major housecleaning could be in order if the team continues apace.

“It's the way you play the game,” said Towers, visibly angry. “It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the intensity and how you carry yourself.

“We've got some hungry players down below looking for an opportunity. There's not one player in the system who is going to turn it around. If we make changes, it will be wholesale.”

He also said, “We've been bad, no question about it. There's been no signs to tell us or our fans we're going to turn this around. I'm not going to watch this for another four months.

“Morale shouldn't be good. If it's good, we have other issues. If morale is good, they have no expectations of being better. Morale should be horrible.”

“It's a reflection of all of us. It's got to be tough for all of our fans. This isn't pointing fingers at all of the players. It's all of us. I hope we all have the same feeling it hurts.”

The ballpark vibe recalled Mission Valley, 2003, when San Diego crowds oohed and aahed over the exploits of visiting players and the home team gave little cause to cheer.

In 2003, the Padres would lose 98 games, more than any team in the majors. These Padres (16-30) are on pace to lose 106 games. That would be the franchise's second-highest total, eclipsed only by the first-year Padres, who lost 110 games in 1969.

One difference between this club and Padres teams in 2003 and 1969 is that the front office projected nearly 90 victories and a first-place finish from this squad.

Until it recently lost ace Jake Peavy to an elbow injury – which will put Peavy on the disabled list today – this Padres club was the healthiest member of the National League West over the season's first quarter.

But the offense has been sickly for the better part of six weeks. Last night marked the 21st time the Padres scored two runs or fewer. That's 46 percent of the team's outings.

The Cardinals built a 4-1 lead against Peavy's replacement, Wil Ledezma. The left-hander experienced a shoulder twinge that brought manager Bud Black to the mound in the first inning but remained in the game. Two pitches later, Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run home run, the ball deflecting off left fielder Scott Hairston's glove. Hairston said he might have caught the ball, but a fan reached down with his glove and banged Hairston's glove.

Peavy Headed to the DL

Peavy to go on DL with ailing elbow; no timetable for return


11:11 p.m. May 19, 2008

His ulnar collateral ligament is undamaged, according to the Padres, but ace Jake Peavy will go on the disabled list Tuesday because of an elbow ailment that Peavy said has stubbornly resisted powerful anti-inflammatory medicine.

Manager Bud Black said the club has no timetable for Peavy's return.

"Hopefully," Peavy said Monday night, "this will be a short stint. Best-case scenario, maybe I miss a few starts."

A hiatus of at least six weeks could be more like it, based on Peavy's other stay on the DL, a six-week term in 2004 because of a tendon strain near his elbow. Peavy said this ailment is closer to the ligament than the 2004 ailment was. "That is a concern," he said.

Peavy, who has said his elbow has been ailing him since late April, Monday underwent an MRI exam that Black said revealed a "structurally sound" ligament.

"The ligament looks fine, so that's good," Black said.

The unanimous winner of the National League's Cy Young Award in 2007, Peavy got off to a fast start this season, winning his first three decisions. But he began to labor after the elbow started to pain him, the first significant elbow pain he has experienced, he said Monday night, since 2004.

The pitcher, who is 4-3 with a 2.91 ERA, said trainers worked on him between innings to alleviate discomfort in the elbow.

Pitching coach Darren Balsley said Peavy's delivery is "sound" and "good" but that the wear and tear from pitching is virtually unavoidable. "It's tough to throw 200 innings year after year and not come up sore," Balsley said.

Balsley said Peavy "has the quickest arm I've seen in awhile" but is able to coordinate his efforts. "When his left foot hits, he's in a good position to throw the baseball," he said.

Reliever Joe Thatcher will replace Peavy on the 25-man roster, Black said.

Trade considerations

Pitcher Greg Maddux's consent would be needed if the Padres tried to trade him, per the $10 million, one-year contract the club and Maddux agreed to last offseason.

If the Padres traded right fielder Brian Giles, he would get an assignment bonus of $2 million separate from his $9 million salary. Giles also is guaranteed an additional $4 million in November if his $9 million option for 2009 isn't picked up.

When considering a player's trade value, the Padres also take into account the player's ability to bring them a draft pick or two by retaining him through the season and then losing him to free agency. Compensatory picks are attractive to CEO Sandy Alderson, who, in attempting to strengthen a farm system that ranked among the majors' worst when he arrived in 2005, acquired 11 compensatory draft picks from 2006 through '08.

Current players eligible for free agency in November include Giles, Maddux, pitchers Randy Wolf and Shawn Estes, catcher Michael Barrett and pinch-hitter Tony Clark. Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi also can be a free agent, but according to the Padres, they wouldn't get a compensatory pick for him.


Black said Barrett will not come off the DL before next week.

Cardinals Triple-A third baseman David Freese, the minor leaguer who the Padres traded for Jim Edmonds, is batting .261 with four home runs and 38 strikeouts in 134 at-bats.

More later .......Keep the faith
Play Ball !!

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