09/23/07 5:32 PM ET
Notes: Youngsters soaking it all in
Padres callups getting early taste of playoff atmosphere
By Elizabeth M. Botello and Corey Brock / MLB.com
But while playing time is lean or essentially non-existent, these new faces are given a sizable bonus in San Diego: The opportunity to learn, listen, watch and play for a team which is in the middle of a playoff run.
And, if nothing else, how many can say they had future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux as a teammate or the Major League career saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, just a few feet away from them on a daily basis?
When the rosters expanded from 25 to 40 on Sept, 1, several Minor Leaguers got a chance to join the Padres, including Brady Clark, Colt Morton, Oscar Robles, Brian Myrow and Craig Stansberry.
"I just try and watch everything," said Stansberry, an infielder. "You just see game situations, just trying to pick up on certain things that happen late in games, mistakes we've made, mistakes we haven't made. That's really what I'm watching for."
Stansberry was recalled from Triple-A Portland on Aug. 25. He made his Major League debut the same day as a pinch-hitter for the Padres in a road game against Philadelphia. On his first at-bat, Stansberry hit a single to right.
Stansberry feels fortunate to have landed with the Padres after spending his first four professional seasons in the Pirates' organization.
"I'm lucky to have fallen into a situation like this," Stansberry said." Every game, every out means so much. It's just very exciting ... can't describe. Playing against the Pirates, they're kind of playing out their season and [trying to] be a spoiler. I was with them before and I just sat back and felt so lucky, not necessarily putting down the Pirates or anything, but gotten into a situation like this and be contending for the pennant, the playoffs and all this.
"Seeing where I could have been, it's a big difference."
Fellow rookie Morton is writing everything down so as not to forget.
"It's something special," said Morton. "I was drafted in '03. It's more of a personal gain. You're in the big leagues, you're in the pennant race, and it's about the team. Everybody that goes in is trying to help the team win, trying to do a good job. It's something special to be a part of and watch these veterans go about their business and want to get to the playoffs and want to win a World Series and bring a pennant championship, win a division for San Diego.
"It's really cool to be around some of the older guys, too, and just learn and feed off them ... what their emotions are, how they go about their business, how they prepare for every game. Plus, we've had some exciting games."
Morton, a catcher, had his contract purchased from Double-A San Antonio on Sept. 5. He made his debut in Friday's marathon 14-inning effort against the Colorado Rockies. He came on in the bottom of the 14th with two outs as a pinch-hitter and ended up popping up to shortstop to end the game, a 2-1 Rockies win.
"I've been trying to write stuff down so I don't forget," Morton said. "I'm trying to pick [the veterans'] brains a little bit. You just kind of watch, especially as a rookie, you just sit and watch."
Home sweet home: No matter what happens on Sunday against the Rockies, the Padres will finish the season with their best record at PETCO Park since the stadium opened in 2004.
The Padres went into their home finale against Colorado with a 47-33 record, surpassing their 46-35 home record in 2005. The Padres were 42-39 in 2004 at home and 43-38 at PETCO Park last season.
So why were they so successful at home this season? In a word: pitching.
Entering Sunday's game, the Padres posted the lowest home ERA in the Major Leagues (2.97), which ranked more than a half-run ahead of the next-closest team in baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays (2.63).
Consider this: Among National League teams, the Padres' ERA at home was nearly a full run better than the team behind him, the San Francisco Giants (3.90).
"To one side of the hitters' park or pitchers' park I would say it leans toward the pitchers' park because of the dimensions," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I think the San Diego coastal air is a little heavier then other parts of the country where the ball might travel a bit farther. Just like Los Angeles, or San Francisco or Seattle or Anaheim."
Black said there's also a level of comfort with playing at PETCO Park -- for hitters and pitchers.
"I don't know, it's labeled a pitchers park but maybe we pitch a little better at home. Honestly, I don't know what it is. I'm sure a lot of people would say that it's a pitchers' park, but who's to say?
"I love playing here. It's nice to be home, and I think it's a comfortable environment for us."
Good to go: The Padres posted their starting lineup later than usual on Sunday, as they wanted to make sure the left shin of shortstop Khalil Greene wasn't still sore after he took a foul ball off his leg in the ninth inning of Saturday's loss to the Rockies.
"It's just sore," Black said.
Greene, after a discussion with Black, ended up in the starting lineup. For Greene, it was his career-high 145th game of the season.
Greene has been saddled by injuries during the last two seasons that have limited him to 121 games in 2005 and 2006.
Friar notes: The Padres honored umpire Bruce Froemming -- who is retiring after 37 years of service -- before the game. CEO Sandy Alderson presented Froemming with a plaque. ... Rookie Kevin Kouzmanoff has reached base safely in his last 16 games, collecting at least one hit in 13 of those games. ... Mike Cameron, hitting .143 this month with 28 strikeouts in 70 at-bats, was hitting sixth in the lineup on Sunday. He has appeared in just 10 previous games hitting sixth this season.
On deck: The Padres begin their final week of the regular season by playing the first of three games at 7:15 p.m. PT Monday at AT&T Park against the Giants. Chris Young (9-7, 2.83) gets the start for San Diego. The Giants counter with Barry Zito (9-13, 4.56).
Elizabeth M. Botello is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.