Padres Pitching Project Players To Peak Of N.L. West

By
Bob Hurst
Hitting a ball is one of the hardest things to do in baseball, and a player who gets a hit three times out of ten is determined a success. But throwing a baseball is usually automatic, especially when a catcher throws a ball back to the pitcher.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has had a different experience however, and it’s why he’s still playing at Triple-A Oklahoma City instead of in the major leagues with the Texas Rangers.
Saltalamacchia, a catcher, has had problems throwing the ball back to the pitcher. In a game last week, he threw a dozen wild balls back to the mound, with some sailing into the outfield.
But Saltalamacchia tried a new routine in a game on Monday, and was able to throw each ball back to pitcher Michael Kirkman, without error.
“I’m patting myself on the back, but it’s a long road,” Saltalamacchia said after the Redhawks 3-2 loss at home to Fresno. “It’s not like I’m healed and fixed, not that there was anything major wrong. But it’s something I’ve got to work on and continue to work on, just like behind the plate and hitting. It’s just part of my routine.”
A sports psychologist has tried to help Saltalamacchia. Coaches are trying to get him to use a higher arm angle instead of a lower release point. Saltalamacchia tried a different grip on the ball in Monday’s game, along with tapping the ball twice against his glove before throwing it back to the pitcher.
“It was probably the best game he’s had going back to the pitcher since he’s been here,” Oklahoma City manager Bobby Jones said. Every throw was right on the money.”
Saltalamacchia had surgery on his right shoulder last season after losing feeling in his arm. He was the Opening Day catcher for the Rangers last month, but was sent to Oklahoma City on a rehabilitation assignment. Although he’s hitting .329 with the Redhawks, Saltalamacchia hasn’t returned to the majors, where he is a career .253 hitter in parts of three seasons with Atlanta and Texas.
“I want to see how it goes and just do it day-by-day,” Saltalamacchia said. “There’s no doubt in my mind I’m ready, but I have to prove it.”
Dodgers back on track: After a slow start, the Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be headed in the right direction.
The Dodgers weekend sweep over the San Diego Padres and win on Monday over Houston gave them an eight-game winning streak.
“This was a big series,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of the games against the Padres. “It’s a big win because we put a streak together ourselves where we’ve played good baseball and had good pitching. That’s where we were fumbling around early on trying to get that good feel. Over the last 10 days we’ve played a lot better.”
The pitching has been a key point in the Dodgers’ turnaround, recording a 1.71 ERA during a seven-game stretch. Chad Billingsley combined with two relievers in allowing four hits in a 1-0 at San Diego on Sunday.
In Saturday’s 4-1 win, Clayton Kershaw held the Padres to three hits with seven strikeouts and four walks. It was his second straight effective start after giving up just two hits in eight innings in a 2-0 win against Colorado on May 9.
It was a perfect road trip for Los Angeles, which went 3-0 at Arizona before playing the Padres. The Dodgers went 13-3 through Monday’s game after an 8-14 record left them six games behind in the NL West on April 29.
But success doesn’t come easy, as the Dodgers found out on Saturday. Andre Ethier broke his right little finger during batting practice on Saturday. Starting this week, the right-fielder led the NL in batting with a .392 average; was tied for the home run lead with 11 and topped the league with 38 RBIs.
“It stinks, honestly,” said Kershaw after Saturday’s game. “He’s the best player in the game right now. The best hitter in the game, for sure. He’s going to be sorely missed in our lineup.”
The Dodgers placed Ethier on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, retroactive to May 15.
Los Angeles, 21-17 and two games out of first in the NL West on Tuesday, continues its seven-game homestand this week against San Diego and Detroit.
Quotable: “It’s his team, he can do whatever. That’s OK. He doesn’t understand that. He never played in the big leagues.” — Florida Marlins outfielder Hanley Ramirez on manager Fredi Gonzalez, a day after he was benched for loafing after a ball that he kicked into the corner, allowing two runs to score in a loss to Arizona.

Copyright © 2010  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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