Notes: Team not counting on Greene
Shortstop doubtful to return to lineup after injuring finger
LOS ANGELES -- Anything the Padres get from Khalil Greene from this point forward will be considered a bonus. That's the realistic way the team is approaching the stretch run, according to general manager Kevin Towers."I'd say the way it's been going, it's probably doubtful [Greene will resume his place at shortstop]," Towers said, as the Padres prepared for Friday night's opener of a big four-game series against the Dodgers with the National League West lead at stake. "Seems like every time he does something, the finger is irritated. If he can't swing the bat, it'd be hard to start him." Given the subpar condition of his injured left hand, with the ligament tear in his middle finger still healing, Greene is likely to be limited to cameo roles, as a pinch-runner and perhaps as a late-inning defensive replacement. Greene took some swings on Friday at Dodger Stadium and said, "It doesn't feel much better."
Greene was coming off one of the best months of his career, having hit .361 in July with a .619 slugging percentage, when he injured the hand checking his swing on Aug. 3. Trying to play through it, he had only three hits in 33 at-bats, dropping his average from .260 to .247, before shutting it down.Shortstop is now in the hands of veterans Geoff Blum and Manny Alexander, who have handled the multiple responsibilities capably with Greene sidelined since Aug. 17. Blum came into the series hitting .249. Alexander, a Sept. 1 callup, is batting .200. "Those guys have done a tremendous job," Towers said. "Khalil's arguably one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and he's got some power. But if he's not 100 percent, not feeling right, it makes no sense [to try to play]." Padres manager Bruce Bochy said he's still hopeful he'll have Greene back in the lineup before the season ends -- or in the postseason. Final fling for Klesko? Ryan Klesko took batting practice on Thursday in Cincinnati for the first time since injuring his back playing first base for Class A Lake Elsinore almost a month ago. He was "a little sore" on Friday, but remained determined to keep swinging his way back onto the roster. Klesko, whose season has been wiped out by shoulder surgery, said he'd like to give Padres fans a chance to see him hit during the final homestand against Arizona and Pittsburgh, starting on Tuesday. "I'd love to get in a game or two," said Klesko, who is on the disabled list and can be activated at any time. "It could be my last game as a Padre. As long as I keep progressing every day, I think there's a chance. I was really starting to sting the ball when I hurt my back at Lake Elsinore." Klesko said he planned to set up in the batter's box in the bullpen when Padres pitchers do their throwing as a means of refamiliarizing himself with the speed and break of balls. "There's a chance he'll be activated -- I just don't know when," Towers said. "Ryan wants to be healthy. He doesn't want to put himself in a position where he's not right and embarrasses himself." Klesko, 35, has 272 career homers and 941 RBIs. A free agent this winter, he's interested in playing in 2007. "I'd like to play one more season healthy," he said. "The first half last year, I felt I was swinging as well as ever, hitting anybody's fastball. With both my shoulders finally healthy, I feel I could come back and have a good year." Piazza encouraged about '07: Mike Piazza's resurgence with the Padres has him thinking optimistically about returning for another season. "It's made me feel like I've got something left in the tank and can contribute in a positive way," said Piazza, who launched his Hall of Fame-caliber career in 1992 with the Dodgers, establishing himself as a star in '93. "Being a positive influence on a ballclub, I've enjoyed that." Piazza, who turned 38 on Sept. 4, has a mutual option for '07 with the Padres. They have been delighted with his performance and attitude and would like to bring him back to once again share the job with Josh Bard and Rob Bowen. Starting 88 games behind the plate and eight more at designated hitter, Piazza has been a force in the cleanup spot. He came into the series with L.A. batting .282 with a club-high 22 homers and 64 RBIs. His .508 slugging percentage also leads the club. Piazza hinted that if it comes to a choice between the Dodgers and Mets for the cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, New York is the likely choice given his broader accomplishments as a Met. Record run: Towers said he'd like to see Trevor Hoffman eclipse Lee Smith as the game's all-time save king on the last homestand. Hoffman came into Friday night's game trailing Smith by four with 474 saves. "My hope is it happens in San Diego," Towers said. "That means he'd have some [saves] here [in L.A.]." Hoffman has more career saves against the Dodgers -- 54 -- than any other club. In 81 career appearances against L.A., he has a 2.28 ERA and is 4-6. Hoffman has been superior on the road this season with a 0.74 ERA and 21 saves, compared to a 2.73 ERA and 17 saves at PETCO Park. Coming up: Woody Williams (8-5, 3.79 ERA) faces Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley (5-3, 3.02 ERA) on Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.