08/04/12 9:00 PM ET
Denorfia always looking for '9-3 groundouts'
By Chelsea Janes / MLB.com
Alonso settling in defensively
SAN DIEGO -- Padres rookie first baseman Yonder Alonso is having a strong debut campaign at the plate, settling into the heart of the San Diego order and leading all Major League rookies with 29 doubles. But his defense starred alongside his bat in Friday's 3-1 win over the Mets, as the 25-year-old dug out several tough throws in crucial situations.One of those situations came in the ninth inning, when another pretty good corner infielder, third baseman Chase Headley, barehanded a slow roller off the bat of Jason Bay and fired low to Alonso. Alonso picked it on a short hop to change the complexion of the inning entirely, something manager Bud Black definitely noticed. "Chase had to make a very good play on Bay's ball in the ninth, but Yonder, if he doesn't pick it, here comes the tying run to the plate," Black said. That play, and others like it in recent weeks, show just how much the youngster has grown in his first 100 games: The success he's had recently is a far cry from a shaky first couple months in which he accumulated the lion's share of his eight errors. "You wipe out the first six weeks, he's played really solid defense," Black said. "I think in April and early May there are some things he would definitely want to do over. ... He's been much more fundamentally sound around the bag. ... He is much improved." Alonso has worked with third-base coach Glenn Hoffman on picking those short hops, and has also shown significant improvement in his awareness around the bag, as evidenced by his quick retreat to first prior to a Chris Denorfia throw from right field Friday night. Improvements like those, Blacks says, are just as important as Alonso's continuing development as a big league hitter. "Defense at first base is, for me, underrated. It is a crucial position defensively," Black said. "If you have a defensive first baseman, it is a huge advantage. And if he can hit and play defense? Boy, is that a bonanza."
When Kip Wells was designated for assignment Friday, Black announced that left-handed pitcher Eric Stults would move back into the starting rotation. What wasn't clear was when Stults would get the ball, and whether he would assume Wells' spot as San Diego's fourth starter.Black clarified prior to Saturday's game, announcing that Stults would, indeed, take over that fourth spot, and therefore start Monday's series opener with the Cubs. Ross Ohlendorf will pitch Tuesday, and ace Clayton Richard will get the ball on Wednesday. Black said Saturday that injured pitcher Anthony Bass is scheduled to throw sometime in the middle of next week. Bass has been on the disabled list retroactive to June 21 with right shoulder inflammation. The 24-year-old was 2-7 with a 4.70 ERA in 16 games this season, 14 starts. With his clutch, eighth-inning strikeout of Mets star David Wright Friday night, Padres reliever Luke Gregerson extended his streak of scoreless innings to 12 1/3. Closer Huston Street followed with a four-out save, extending his scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings. He last allowed a run on June 17 against Oakland.
Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.