SAN DIEGO -- Opening Day was special for Padres reliever Joe Thatcher, even though he didn't throw a single pitch in a 5-3 loss to the Dodgers at Petco Park.For Thatcher, just being in the ballpark, the dugout and in uniform was good enough after missing each of the last two Opening Days while stuck rehabilitating a sore left shoulder at the Padres' Spring Training facility in Peoria, Ariz. "I was in my apartment by myself watching the games," Thatcher said of the 2010 and '11 openers. "That's not something you want to go through. But the last two years, after everyone left and being there left behind ... it was pretty depressing. Everyone is gone." Thatcher, on the heels of a strong spring, wasn't left behind when the Padres broke camp Sunday and headed west to San Diego. He's the only left-hander in the bullpen and certainly figures to log important innings this season. It's a far cry from the last two seasons in which Thatcher only made a combined two appearances in Cactus League games because of a bum shoulder that eventually needed surgery a year ago. This spring, Thatcher had a 0.96 ERA in 11 games. More importantly, he had no pain in his shoulder -- even after pitching on consecutive days on March 23-24, the final test that proved to him that he was ready for Opening Day. "There was a little nervousness [at the start of Spring Training] because the last two years I couldn't get going," Thatcher said. "But my arm felt great all spring, especially when I pitch in back-to-back games."
Venable focused on effective baserunning
SAN DIEGO -- Padres outfielder Will Venable didn't start Thursday against the Dodgers, but he got into the game in the sixth inning when he walked and later stole second base.For as much that was made during Spring Training about Venable's new approach at the plate and the work he's put in with hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell, Venable's work on his baserunning has largely gone unnoticed. "There's a lot of technique involved," said Venable, who worked closely this spring with first-base coach Dave Roberts and bench coach Rick Renteria on his technique. "It starts with getting a good lead, your stances, your first step, staying low and driving toward second base. It's something we continue to work on. Like anything, it needs constant maintenance." Venable, who has stolen 63 bases in his first 376 Major League games, got a good jump Thursday with Dodgers reliever Mike MacDougal on the mound. It didn't hurt that MacDougal is slow to the plate, as Venable had just about completed his popup slide into second base by the time the ball arrived. A year ago, Venable stole 26 bases in 121 games. That came one season after he stole 29 in 2010 in 131 games. Venable said that he doesn't enter a season looking to steal a specific number of bases. "When I think about stealing bases, it's not a certain number but a percentage," he said. "My goal is to take advantage of every opportunity to steal. Last year I was 26 of 29, but I would take that any day over stealing 30 bases and getting caught 10 times." In 2010, he was successful on 80.6 percent of his steal attempts. Then last season that rate climbed to 89.7 percent.
Quentin, Kotsay making progress
SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Manager Bud Black said Friday that injured outfielders Carlos Quentin and Mark Kotsay are progressing well as they work to get back on the field.Quentin, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on March 19, is still on the same 4-6 week time frame that he was on after surgery. Where he's previously hit from a seated position in the cage, he's progressed to regular hitting. "The doctors are happy with his progress," Black said. "He's getting closer to true baseball activities." Black said Quentin will need some time with one of the Padres' Minor League affiliates -- likely Triple-A Tucson or Class A Lake Elsinore -- before he's ready to be activated from the disabled list. Kotsay, who suffered a strained right calf on March 31, has done some hitting but isn't yet to the point where he's truly tested his calf. "The ultimate test is sprinting, quick movements," Black said. "But he's feeling really good right now."
San Diego manager Bud Black said Friday that pitcher Tim Stauffer -- who went on the disabled list on Thursday with a strained right elbow -- had an MRI done that revealed inflammation around the joint, but no damage to the ligament.
Black said it will be a few days before Stauffer is allowed to pick up a ball.
Right-handed pitcher Joe Wieland, considered one of the Padres' top prospects, allowed three runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings with one walk and seven strikeouts on Thursday for Triple-A Tucson.
Wieland yielded two runs in the sixth inning, though with two outs and no runs in, a fly ball was misjudged by an outfielder. That led to two runs in the inning. Casey Kelly, another of the Padres' top prospects, gets the start Friday for Tucson.