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Baseball Notes

Hold off on pitching change

Peavy and Padres like where they are now

By Nick Cafardo
April 19, 2009
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The simplest thing for Jake Peavy and Padres general manager Kevin Towers would be for this surprising little start to continue through the trade deadline and perhaps the season. If that should happen, the Padres would not turn into pumpkins and Peavy would not turn into a Red Sox, Cub, Dodger, or Met. He would be a full-time performer in the Padres' Proving People Wrong Tour.

"We've got a long way to go, but it's always a good thing to get off to a good start, especially with our team because we're inexperienced and we're young," said Peavy, who has two wins already for a team that started 7-3. "What was great was to know we have a team that can compete at this level.

"I think we needed to establish that early. I think we're a team that's going to be able to get our offense going. I think we know what we have to do as a club to make things happen."

Whoever winds up with Peavy will have one of the great competitors in the game. It's no secret why he and Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia hit it off so well at the World Baseball Classic. They appear to be cut from the same cloth. They're intense, they're fighters, they're winners, and they're great teammates.

Peavy again spoke nicely of Boston, but he didn't want to dwell on it for fear he would be painted as someone who wants out already.

"I told Kevin when a trade was about to happen that I love the National League game," said Peavy. "I love being a part of the game and getting a chance to move baserunners and the strategy part of the National League game.

"That being said, I never did not include Boston in anything. Certainly Boston is a beautiful place to play and I would have to consider it if and when anything like that came up.

"I do have some good friends over there with Boston. Mark Loretta is a friend and he had great friends there. Josh Bard had that short time over there. Mark Kotsay loves it. Getting to know Youk and Pedroia was a good experience.

"I respect all of those guys, from Larry Lucchino and Theo [Epstein] on down. They're also former Padre personnel, so obviously I think very highly of them."

Towers has already been tinkering with his pitching staff. Nine of the 13 pitchers who made the staff are new. Towers told his scouts to find him pitching because the group he had to chose from was horrible.

"Usually, you're at 30 trying to get to 25," he said of the roster size. "I was at about 15 trying to get to 25. I had 15 guys here and the other 10 were somewhere out there in the Grapefruit League.

"Even though we were at No. 3 on claiming on waivers, we got cherry-picked by the Mariners a couple of times so we decided about halfway through spring, 'Screw waiting for waivers; let's go out and make some trades.' "

Peavy said it hasn't been hard to focus on this team - as opposed to the one he may be playing for in late July.

"It's not hard at all," he said. "I have to stay focused on what I am a part of right now. That's all there is to it. Every time I go out there, I'm going to give it everything I've got for this team. Because that's my duty. That's my obligation.

"I don't want my teammates thinking that I'm preoccupied with what might happen. Until then, there's going to be speculation, but it is what it is. I hope this team plays well and I'm a part of this team."

There are no expectations. After a tumultuous offseason - owner John Moores's public divorce, selling off part of the team in a complicated deal with Jeff Moorad, the Peavy rumors - Towers had to gut the team of salary. He couldn't get the Braves to make a deal for Peavy, nor the Cubs, for that matter. It was all very public and there weren't many who didn't pick the Padres to be the worst team in baseball.

Towers acknowledged that the team was dead last year and lamented the losses of Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley, who brought spark to the Padres. To rectify that, he hired free agent second baseman David Eckstein, whom he called "the MVP of the first two weeks."

"Peavy, I think, likes the energy we have in the clubhouse," added Towers. "I think he feeds off that. He's that type of player - fiery. He wants to win. He hates to lose.

"Really, I'm hoping the trade thing doesn't have to come up. We're going to ride this as long as we can. I don't know if we're for real or not. I like to think so."

Sizemore sizes things up

A few questions for Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore:

So many believe you're entering your prime and perhaps a different place in your game where you could win an MVP. Are you feeling that as well?

GS: "All I'm trying to do is get better in every aspect of my game. I feel as if I'm progressing as a player, but I'm not where I want to be yet. I don't pick one thing to get better with. I just hope I can get better in everything I do through experience and understanding the league better and understanding what works for me and what doesn't."

You say you're not where you want to be. Where do you want to be?

GS: "Nothing specific, but you want to be at the top of your game, and I don't feel as if I'm at the top of my game yet. Nobody's ever going to master it. There's always something you can improve on."

You grew up in Seattle, so you grew up idolizing Ken Griffey Jr. Is your game approaching his?

GS: "I loved watching him and I still do, but I haven't set goals for myself that I'm going to match what Griffey did. Not many players have done what he's done."

But you must love hitting home runs. You hit the grand slam against the Yankees, the first grand slam ever hit in the new ballpark.

GS: "I think everyone likes to hit home runs, and I certainly do, but that's not what I'm up there trying to do. I like being in the leadoff spot. It's a chance to get things going for your offense. I have speed, so it's important for me to take advantage of that aspect of it and try to get things going."

I know Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the bat you hit the first grand slam with at the New Yankee Stadium. What was that like for you?

GS: "It was exciting to be here and open up the new stadium, so it's something I'll always keep with me and enjoy. I think it's a nice ballpark, and for me it played the same as the old Yankee Stadium."

Advancing a theory on World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic gets a spanking every time a participating player is injured. Especially a pitcher such as Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Jake Peavy, for one, doesn't buy it.

"In my two experiences in the WBC, it's been great for me," Peavy said. "I don't think that I've had any kind of effects from it, either in '06 or '09.

"In '06, I didn't have my best year, and it seems every time I struggled or if my shoulder acted up on me, people would say it's because of the WBC. I think people are always going to try to point stuff out or blame it on something.

"I think the WBC is great, and it's great for the game of baseball. I've had no health issues that are related to participating in the WBC. I think everybody understands where they are with their body, and you do as much as you feel you can do.

"I'm sure Daisuke did the same thing. Didn't he say that he's fine? I just think everybody knows you can't do on March 1 what you can do on May 1 and I think everyone who participates in the tournament understands that. I really do."

Former Mets and A's pitching coach Rick Peterson sees how a pitcher could get injured in the WBC, but only if he hasn't prepared well in advance.

"Most of the injuries appear to be tendinitis in pitchers, and that generally stems from overuse," said Peterson. "If you don't prepare yourself well in advance to pitch in a game on March 5, there's a chance you could come up with inflammation in the shoulder.

"These are also intense games. In a normal spring training outing on March 5, that intensity isn't there yet."

Peterson said the general progression for pitchers would be to have four mound sessions (two bullpens and two batting practices) to prepare for a first outing of two innings. That builds to three, four, five, and then seven innings.

"By the third week in March, they're in shape," Peterson said. "By the fourth outing, they should have in-season velocity. If they've established their fastball command, their secondary pitches should be coming along.

"It's not so much the WBC. It's what a pitcher has done prior to pitching in the WBC."

Etc.

Touching the bases
Apropos of nothing: 1. Never thought Bobby Ojeda would be in the media (SNY pregame and postgame). "I never thought I'd be a major league pitcher, either," he answered; 2. Roy Halladay is the best; 3. After 26 years, you tend to know a lot of people in baseball, but looking around the Padres clubhouse last week, I asked, 'Who are these guys?'; 4. TBS has a tell-it-like-it-is stable of outstanding color men in David Wells, Dennis Eckersley, Ron Darling, and Buck Martinez; 5. No offense to Wells, but how does the Opening Day crowd at Yankee Stadium applaud louder for him than for Don Larsen?

Updates on . . .
1. Larry Lucchino, CEO, Red Sox: The New Yankee Stadium is very impressive, and the one regret about not having a new ballpark in Boston is that Lucchino did such a great job building Camden Yards and Petco Park, he most likely would have hit a home run with a replica of Fenway Park in a 21st century footprint.

2. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney, Mariners: They have changed the chemistry in the Seattle clubhouse and are getting credit for the team's strong start. "Junior and Sweeney are the heart and soul of this team," said Mariners closer Dave Aardsma. "They're fulfilling everything we thought they would. They're doing a great job."

3. Lastings Milledge, OF, Nationals: The Nationals are trying to get Milledge to take his God-given talents more seriously, and toward that end they hope they delivered a wake-up call by sending him back to the minors after a 4-for-24 (10 strikeouts) start. Milledge has what one baseball official described as a "laissez-faire" attitude, getting to the ballpark later than most players and once missing the start of a team meeting because he strolled into the ballpark at his own pace.

4. Josh Beckett, RHP, Red Sox: Another reason for more day games: Beckett is third among active pitchers in daytime wins since 2007. Ted Lilly of the Cubs is 17-8, Jason Marquis of the Rockies 16-5, and Beckett 15-6.

5. Rick Peterson, former A's and Mets pitching coach: He will play himself in Steve Soderbergh's movie version of "Moneyball." Soderbergh, who has directed "sex, lies and videotape," "Erin Brockovich," "Traffic," and the "Ocean's Eleven" films, will cast Brad Pitt in the role of Billy Beane. "Originally I was asked to be a technical adviser," said Peterson, "and after speaking with Mr. Soderbergh, he asked me if I'd play myself in the movie. I said, 'Sure, I'd love to.' I've spent a lot of time talking to him about pitching and what we said in pitching meetings during that time, etc., and he was very interested in that aspect of it. We talked about the bio-mechanical things I'm into and how our pitchers had few injuries during our tenure there. It's very exciting for all of us."

6. Alan Trammell, Cubs bench coach: He remembered watching Mark Fidrych throw to Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Dwight Evans, and Jim Rice in Winter Haven in spring training of 1977. "They had a pretty good lineup," Trammell told the Chicago Tribune. "I remember Mark pitched and he broke five bats in three innings. Pretty impressive. He had a heavy sinker, a sharp slider and great control. He threw a heavy ball at 93, 94. He was pretty special."

7. Tom Hicks, Rangers owner: Nobody knows whether Hicks will survive defaulting on $525 million in loans, and Bud Selig isn't commenting on whether Hicks would have to sell controlling interest of the Rangers. But if you have a few million nickels to rub together, this is a team you should invest in. It is a young, rising franchise that plays in a business-friendly state with a nice ballpark. It's a recipe for success. Said one major league owner, "It's unfortunate what Tom is going through because he's a good man and good owner. These are tough times and banks just aren't as forgiving or lenient anymore. It's a great opportunity for someone if Tom has to sell."

8. Chris Carpenter, RHP, Cardinals: Another tough break for him. Having pitched so well early this season as he returned from shoulder and elbow issues the past two years, Carpenter has a tear in his oblique and will likely miss two months. In spring training, manager Tony La Russa said, "It's no secret why we haven't made the playoffs the last two years. It's coincided with Chris not being with us." The Cards had five decent starters, more than most, but with the ace missing again, it's going to be a tough task. They may have to explore a deal.

9. Mark Mulder, free agent LHP: The Nationals, A's, and Dodgers are extremely interested in the comebacking Mulder, and other teams (e.g. the Brewers) may get involved as pitchers begin to drop like flies. Mulder believes he could be ready two weeks after signing.

Short hops
From the Bill Chuck files: "Tim Wakefield now has 31 complete games in his 17 big league seasons, the same number of complete games 'Rapid Robert' Feller had in his 37 starts in 1940." Also, "Orlando Hudson's, Ian Kinsler's, and Jason Kubel's feats of hitting for the cycle are the 39th, 40th, and 41st since the start of the 2000 season. No other decade has had more than 29 (1970s)." . . . From the book shelf: Providence Journal sports columnist Bill Reynolds has hit another home run with "'78: The Boston Red Sox, a Historic Game, and a Divided City." Reynolds skillfully ties together the great Red Sox-Yankee rivalry with the volatile school busing issue that created a tumultuous year in Boston . . . Wish Don Gile (74), Rick Miller (61), Frank Viola (49), and Spike Owen (48) a happy birthday.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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