Petco warming up to Padres
News and notes from around the majors including an update on the Padres' adjustment to their new park.
Phil Nevin could have used a bit more of his shortstop's calm demeanor
when he went off about the dimensions of Petco Park recently to general
manager Kevin Towers. But anyone concerned about the lingering effects
of that exchange, or Towers' previous attempts to trade Nevin, needs
to see the two laughing and kidding with each other in the San Diego
Even more emblematic of Nevin's attitude, and maybe a bit of the "Greene Factor," was his willingness to go behind the plate and catch four innings Aug. 15. Nevin hadn't caught in five years, but an injury to Miguel Ojeda necessitated an emergency need and Nevin (who had knee surgery just a month earlier) volunteered.
Nevin loved it, especially setting up the hitters and calling pitches for Adam Eaton, Scott Linebrink and Akinori Otsuka. Not a single passed ball in four scoreless innings, but Nevin did have one difficultly. Otsuka called him out to the mound to tell Nevin to "get lower" with his target as best he could in fractured English. As best as he could Nevin told him that's as low as a 33-year old coming off knee surgery was going to get.
He knew Freddy Garcia well from their battery days on the Mariners, but no one can seem to figure out why Garcia is 7-0 in the daylight and 3-10 at night, including another rough outing Sunday night. Not even pitching coach Don Cooper has a theory, except to say it has more to do with who those games were played against and whether it was home or road, than what time of day it was. Chicago is working with Garcia on command and location of his fastball. In Cooper's analysis, "He's great on the arm-side to right-handed batters, but has trouble locating down and away to right-handed batters, or down and in to lefties." With that in mind, Cooper took the man they call "Chief" out for his bullpen session and had him throw 10 straight fastballs down and away from the right side. Seven of the 10 were right where they wanted them, and if Garcia can get that kind of consistency in the game, his highly developed curve, slider and changeup will be that much better.
While not even Garcia can explain his day/night dilemma, Cooper has a theory about why both Garcia and Mark Buerhle tossed their worst games of the season last week. It might be a temporary case of dead-arm syndrome. Both have been in the top five in innings pitched most of the season. Now Chicago has been forced to shut down Garcia for at least one start and hopes the rest will heal his "slight forearm strain" and rejuvenate Freddy for the White Sox's desperation September push. The Sox continue to suffer through a series of now SEVEN different starters in the fifth spot, and now Jason Grilli comes back to take Garcia's turn. Guillen would love to go to a four-man rotation, especially with the acquisition of Jose Contreras. But Chicago has only one scheduled off day until mid-September, and that combined with the ace's recent struggles make thoughts of a four-man rotation folly.
Compounding the issue is Lowe's high-strung emotional makeup, which heightens his reaction to everything and can sometimes create problems merely by thinking about them. That emotional roller coaster has been heightened by the fact Lowe's in the final year of his contract, with the pressure of not only the Sox's postseason chances, but also where he'll be playing next season, and for how much, weighing on his mind. Aside from all the spells and potions suggested by fans, and the genuine solutions attempted by the training staff, the best remedy for Derek's afflictions is something he's carried his whole career -- a generous helping of run support. He came into the season enjoying the greatest run support of any pitcher since World War II at half a dozen runs per game, and it's gone up! Lowe leads the majors with more than 6.5 runs per game while Jarrod Washburn and his 7.2 are on the disabled list for the Angels.
Gary Miller is a reporter and play-by-play announcer for ESPN's major league baseball coverage.