SAN DIEGO -- Thanks in large part to the return of outfielder Carlos Quentin from the disabled list in late May, Padres outfielder Jesus Guzman has seen his at-bats decrease steadily each month this season. As of late, he's served mostly as a backup first baseman to spell Yonder Alonso, as well as a strong right-handed pinch-hit option off the bench. But regardless of where, when or how often his opportunities have come lately, Guzman has taken advantage of many of them.
Guzman leads San Diego with two homers in 34 pinch-hit at-bats and is hitting .302 (29-for-96) against left-handers, the majority of his at-bats of late. He's also 4-for-his-last-10. And while his recent opportunities at the plate have been limited to a handful of starts at first and those late-game appearances, Padres manager Bud Black says that Guzman's ability to perform regardless of playing time makes him a rare find.
"It's a talent to be able to sit and not get a lot of playing time and still give a quality at-bat -- a lot of guys can't do that," Black said. "He's a hitter; he's a natural hitter."
Guzman showed that natural aptitude immediately upon being called up from Triple-A Tucson in June 2011. The 28-year-old led the big league club in doubles and RBIs while ranking second in hits and batting average. After playing in 76 games after that callup and the majority of games in the first two months of 2012, the move to the bench meant Guzman had to fill a role he hadn't yet played in the Majors.
"When you look at Guzzy's role on the team, we see him as a very valuable bench player with the ability to be an impactful bat on the bench every night," Black said. "I think [he] knows his role, which is a big part of it. He's held his own with getting some limited at-bats. He still gives you a quality at-bat, regardless of the amount of time he's been out there."
Weekly weigh-ins keep Padres on track
SAN DIEGO -- There are two things that stick out about the Padres' clubhouse in the morning hours before Sunday day games: the quiet ... and the scale.
As the Padres' players amble sleepily into the clubhouse some three to four hours before game time, they see strength and conditioning coach Jim Malone sitting patiently by a scale with a clipboard near the players' dining room. Most opt to stop by before breakfast, a few adventurous souls drop by after, but whether or not they do so on a full stomach, every San Diego player steps on that scale to have their weight recorded in Malone's master chart.
Though often jokingly treated as such by players and coaches, the weekly weigh-ins are not a test with extra sprints or less dessert awaiting those who "fail." Instead, the weigh-ins are one method the Padres' training staff uses to monitor the fitness of their players through the long haul of a 162-game, six-month season.
"We just try to see across the board if they're trending in one direction or another, make sure there's no big swings," Malone said. "If they're going too far in one direction ... I've got to determine whether or not they're gaining bad weight ... or in the other direction if we need to increase their caloric intake."
If a player is gaining weight, Malone said, it's more than likely "bad weight," because the players' in-season lifting program is not necessarily aimed at adding muscle.
"I don't like the word 'maintain,' but that's probably more the case, just because they play so many games," Malone said of the goal of the in-season lifting program. "It's not realistic to expect that they can train invasively enough for them to make any kind of big changes."
That doesn't mean they aren't training hard during the season. But often, training can be limited by playing time: The amount of work a player puts in in the weight room is often dictated by the amount of work required of him on the field in a given week.
"Starting pitchers are the easiest guys to program for -- you know what they're doing because they're pitching every fifth day," Malone said. "The other guys, even if you have a plan, you can't set it in stone because it may be a day you're expecting a guy to come in and lift and what if you played 13, 14 innings last night. There's some fluidity to it.
"I tell them at the beginning of the year there's 26 weeks -- in a perfect world you'd lift twice a week, but it's not going to be a perfect world. Fifty-two is the goal, [but] probably not going to get there," Malone said. "But if they're lifting every third or fourth day, for the kind of loads and rep ranges I try to keep them within, it's going to be enough to keep them where they need to be."
Lefty specialist Joe Thatcher, who has been on the disabled list retroactive to July 26 with right knee tendinitis, will throw a bullpen session Wednesday as the next step in his return. Thatcher says the knee is "getting better" and that he hopes to be back in the next week and a half.
The 30-year-old has been with the team throughout his rehab, playing catch and working with the Padres' athletic training staff. He says getting the strength back in his right quad has been the focus, with an aim at stabilizing the knee to avoid future recurrences of the issue.
Infielder James Darnell will travel to the Padres' facility in Peoria, Ariz., this week to further his baseball activities as he tries to return from a subluxation of his left shoulder that has kept him on the DL since May 18. Darnell began swinging off a tee and with soft toss this week in San Diego and says he hopes to return before the end of the season.
Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.