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Padres dismiss pitching coach
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05/17/2003  9:56 PM ET 
Padres dismiss pitching coach
Club opts to promote Balsley from Double-A
By Mike Scarr / MLB.com Vote now for the 2003 All-Star game
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres released pitching coach Greg Booker on Saturday, effective immediately.

He will be replaced by Darren Balsley, who is currently the pitching coach at Double-A Mobile. Balsley will join the Padres in Milwaukee on Monday and bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds will handle the pitchers through the weekend.

Booker was in his second full season as the pitching coach in San Diego after taking over for Dave Smith at midseason in 2001. He had previously served as the bullpen coach for four years.

"In making this move, by no means am I placing the entire team's performance on Greg Booker," Padres GM Kevin Towers said. "He put his heart and soul into his work. He was very well prepared and he cared a lot about these young players ... these things aren't easy. This is something I've agonized over the last week or so."

The move on Saturday was largely about the future, as the club continues to place tremendous stock in their young pitching staff. The Opening Day starting rotation averaged just 24 years old.

"This guy has had tremendous success at the minor-league level," Towers said of Balsley. "The young pitchers that have had him praise him very highly. He's intelligent, he's good with mechanics, he's great with preparation -- more than anything this is a guy who can deal with the young kids on confidence, which is pretty low right now."

Towers and Padres manager Bruce Bochy are particularly concerned with the development of their pair of 21-year-old starters, Jake Peavy and Oliver Perez. The left-handed Perez has since been sent down to Portland to regain the confidence that he showed in 2002 when he and Peavy leap-frogged from Double-A.

"He kind of jump-started their careers," Towers said of Balsley. "I'm hoping he can instill some confidence in these young pitchers and get them back on the right track."

The Padres entered Saturday night's game with the Braves with a 13-29 record with the starting staff holding a record of 9-14. The starters' ERA had also ballooned to 7.35 with starters like Brian Lawrence not recording a win since April 11, a span of six starts.

But the staff was not only young but also inexperienced. Their two veteran pitchers Lawrence and Adam Eaton had started just 46 and 45 big-league games respectively. Booker knew he had a tough job ahead of him and felt there were going to be growing pains.

"You can only do what you can do and what your personality allows you to do," Booker said. "I wasn't able to sit on the bench and warm up a guy and watch him pitch; I didn't have that luxury. We had to work, day-in and day-out, watch tendencies, watch film.

"We had pitchers who didn't know hitters around the league and catchers who didn't know hitters around the league. I'm not making excuses, but I'm just saying what the reality of the situation was."

With the Padres having slipped to last in the National League, losing 22 of their last 28 games, Padres management felt they needed to make a change to have an impact on this season. Also, with the team wanting some momentum as it moves into its ballpark next season, that time had come.

"For this club to win, it's going to be about pitching," Towers said. "The Brian Lawrence's, the Jake Peavy's, the Adam Eaton's, the Oliver Perez's are guys we need to have to go out and win ball games. What we don't need is for these guys to regress and start taking steps backward, going into this ballpark and still having question marks about our pitching."

Like their young pitchers, the Padres are dipping down into their farm system to bring someone up. In this case it is a coach, but Towers is not concerned that Balsley does not have Major League experience at this position.

"Darren is very well-rounded," Towers said. "He was an advance scout for the Toronto Blue Jays. Although he's been in the minor leagues mainly in player development as a pitching coach, he's managed before and he was an advance scout at the big-league level so he's familiar with big-league hitters and big-league pitchers. That was his job, looking at tendencies and how to pitch to certain hitters."

Booker, a right-hander, also pitched at the Major League level for parts of nine seasons, seven of those with the Padres. Booker was a teammate of manager Bruce Bochy and was just one of two links to both World Series teams, 1984 and 1998. Bochy is now the lone representative of those teams. Booker compiled a 5-7 big-league record with a 3.89 ERA.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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