Notes: Patience pays for Greene, Bard
Shortstop stuck with routine to break early spring funk
TUCSON, Ariz. -- When Khalil Greene opened Cactus League play with one hit in his first seven at-bats, he didn't look to repair his swing by spending extra time in the cages or study video of his swing.If there was anything the Padres shortstop looked to, it might well have been a calendar. "It takes a while no matter who you are," Greene said. "Even the guys who hit in the offseason, it doesn't matter if you take two weeks off, three weeks off or a month. If you're cued in for a week and miss a week, it takes time to get back into it." While players like Terrmel Sledge, Marcus Giles and Adrian Gonzalez have more or less been dialed in at the plate ever since the Cactus League schedule began, Greene and San Diego catcher Josh Bard have only recently started to heat up at the plate. Part of this has to do with manager Bud Black's plan of playing his regular-season starters every other game early in spring. The other part of the equation, though, is shaking loose the considerable rust left over from the offseason. Heading into Sunday's game against the D-backs in Tucson, Greene had three hits in his last nine at-bats, including two home runs and six RBIs, after his sluggish start that saw him strike out three times in those first seven at-bats. Bard went hitless in his first three games (four at-bats) but has four hits in his last six at-bats with a double, home run and two RBIs. In the past, even the smallest struggles might have led Bard to tinker with his swing, even in Spring Training. But after last season, when he hit .338 in 93 games after being traded from Boston, Bard is much more at home with himself and his swing. "I have tried things in the past to stay above water, but it was like putting band aids on it," Bard said. "I never really fixed the problems. Finally, two offseasons ago, I stopped and basically relearned my swing. I feel like I'm finally learning what a swing is again. I feel excited about that." Even if it's mundane, Bard said the thing that works best for him -- in Spring Training or during the regular season -- is sticking to the same routine. That equates to conversations with hitting coach Merv Rettenmund and watching his at-bats on video. "Right now, my biggest goal every day is to stick to my routine," Bard said. "The bat is really the separator at this level. The good hitters will have their 0-for-12s and 2-for-20s, but they stick with their routine." And, of course, a funk at the plate is much easier to endure in March than it is in April or May, Greene said. A hot bat now doesn't always equate to regular-season success at the plate. "I know where I need it," Greene said. "I'm not trying to be locked in the middle of March. I want to be there for April. It just comes with time. It's getting to the point where you can repeat your mechanics each time."
In a pinch: The Padres turned to pitcher Jared Wells to start Sunday's game after scheduled starter Clay Hensley came up ill on Saturday.Wells, a 25-year-old right-hander, allowed two runs on four hits over three innings with one walk and one strikeout. He was scheduled to throw one inning in relief, so he had to get himself mentally prepared to start a game. "Mentally, you've got to prepare yourself to go deeper in the game, execute your pitches a little better than coming in for one inning," Wells said. Wells had to deal with a steady breeze that was carrying the ball out to right field. It also made catching fly balls an adventure. In fact, Wells benefited from several nice running catches by Mike Cameron in center field. "I wanted to give him a kiss," Wells said, smiling. Swinging for a spot: Left fielder Paul McAnulty said last week that he wanted to force the Padres into making a hard decision regarding their left-field vacancy as well as possible bench job openings. So far, McAnulty has done just that. On Sunday, he had three hits in four at-bats to raise his average this spring to .450 (9-for-20). "It's just all about not trying to do too much and focusing on what you can do," McAnulty said. "I'm starting to feel good up there. Sometimes it will take you about 30 at-bats to get into the feel of things. Right now, I'm just concentrating on making good contact." McAnulty nearly had a fourth hit on Sunday, but Arizona shortstop Augie Ojeda made a nice play on a ball up the middle and threw McAnulty out by a step. "He's swinging the bat. He's playing a good left field," Black said. "I think we all know that he can swing the bat. He's playing with a lot of energy." Pads and ends: Marcus Giles remained back in Peoria on Sunday, still sidelined by a tender right thigh. He's scheduled to be in the lineup on Monday, though Black sounded like the team will err on the side of caution and possibly push that back a day or so. Giles is hitting .400 this spring with a home run and two RBIs. ... The Padres had 12 hits in a 10-7 loss on Sunday. Rob Bowen hit his first home run of the spring and drove in three runs. Jose Cruz Jr. had three hits and might well have had a home run had the wind not been blowing in so strongly. Geoff Blum nearly added a long ball as well. ... There weren't many pitching highlights on Sunday, though Frank Brooks did throw 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Aaron Rakers also threw a scoreless inning. Up next: The Padres continue their Tucson swing on Monday when they face the White Sox at 1:05 p.m. PT at Tucson Electric Park. Greg Maddux will make the start for the Padres. The White Sox will go with Jose Contreras.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.