4/28/2014 11:02 P.M. ET
Denorfia's two-strike approach paying off
By Alex Espinoza / Special to MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Entering play Monday, the Padres ranked dead last in the Majors in runs scored this season, averaging just 2.65 runs per contest.
But San Diego's lineup also features one of the game's hottest hitters in Chris Denorfia, who entered Monday batting an MLB-best .415 (17-for-41) since April 16.
One of the big keys to his success has been his impressive ability to hit with a two-strike count. Through 26 games, Denorfia leads the league batting .439 (18-for-41) with two strikes, remarkably higher than the MLB-wide average of .174.
"I think this year I'm toning it down a little bit with two strikes," Denorfia said. "Just not trying to do too much and put the barrel on the ball. Really, just making sure that I give myself a good chance to put the ball in play and hopefully good things will happen."
The 33-year-old outfielder said he's been choking up a bit when he gets behind in the count, putting an emphasis on staying inside the ball to make contact. His .338 batting average was good for eighth in the National League entering Monday's contest, and manager Bud Black was quick to praise his No. 3 hitter.
"He's played well since Day 1," Black said. "He's a good player. I don't know how else to say it. He does a nice job wherever you put him in the field ... no matter where you put him in the lineup."
Medica returns as Gyorko goes on paternity leave
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Padres placed Jedd Gyorko on the paternity leave list Monday, as his wife, Karley, gave birth to twin boys. The team recalled Tommy Medica from Triple-A El Paso in a corresponding move, with Gyorko eligible to miss up to three games.
It's just the latest in what's been a whirlwind for Medica the past few days, as he was just optioned to El Paso on Friday. Monday alone, it took Medica two flights to get from Sacramento to San Francisco, a drive that would have taken less than two hours.
"We got ahold of him on the plane, Sacramento to [Los Angeles], and they wouldn't let him off," manager Bud Black said.
So Medica flew to LAX before getting a new ticket and flying into San Francisco. Only he couldn't get his gear bag off the bottom of the plane and it was headed to El Paso with the rest of the Triple-A Chihuahuas.
Not to mention Medica missed a cross-country fight this weekend after the team demoted him while in Washington, D.C. Still, in his two games with El Paso, Medica was able to collect three RBIs and hit a home run. Medica, 26, batted .143/.172/.286 with 15 strikeouts and one walk in 14 games with San Diego to start the year.
"A lot of times when you come up as a young player and you're not playing regularly," Black said, "every at-bat is magnified from a player's point. We tried to tell him that's not the case."
In his first season since signing a six-year, $35.5 million contract extension, Gyorko is batting .144/.218/.211 with a homer, nine RBIs, nine walks and 30 strikeouts. Alexi Amarista started at second base in Gyorko's place Monday, batting sixth.
"I feel good," Amarista said in Spanish. "Second base is my natural position, so I want to take advantage of this opportunity."
Smith could return soon; Headley doing well
SAN FRANCISCO -- San Diego's slumping offense could be receiving some help from Seth Smith this series.
The Padres outfielder exited Thursday's contest against the Nationals with a right groin strain but took batting practice with his teammates and did some jogging before the series opener in San Francisco on Monday. Manager Bud Black said he would evaluate Smith's status closer to Monday's first pitch, while noting it's possible Smith will return in San Francisco.
In his first 21 games with San Diego, Smith is batting .277/.385/.431 with two home runs and seven RBIs. He's just one of a few key offensive contributors rehabbing, as Chase Headley (right calf strain) was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday. Black said Headley took swings in soft-toss and off a tee before Monday's contest against the Giants.
"He's doing well, which is very encouraging," Black said.
Jedd Gyorko (paternity list) and recovering outfielder Carlos Quentin (left knee bone bruise) were also unavailable for Black to start the three-game series.
• Eduardo Ortega and Carlos Hernandez teamed up to deliver San Diego's first-ever road TV broadcast in Spanish on Monday night. The duo will work for the entire series, accounting for three of the team's 100 TV games in Spanish this year.
Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.