Soccer at Petco? Padres far from thrilled

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The San Diego Padres are probably the most surprising team in baseball. They’re leading the NL West by six games and have the third best record in baseball, behind only the Yankees and Rays.

Yet they aren’t getting a lot of respect for their accomplishments, not even from their own management.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Petco Park will host a soccer friendly between Mexican club Chivas and MLS club Chivas USA on Sept. 14 while the Padres are on a road trip.

The mound will have to be removed, and the grass will likely get chewed up, which sounds like a horrible idea when your team relies heavily on pitching and defense. Padres president Tom Garfinkel isn’t concerned, saying “We have a great grounds crew. We have (10) days before our next home game and they’re confident they can put the mound back exactly as it was, so our pitching staff won’t even notice the difference.”

But the players, including closer Heath Bell, aren’t very happy:

“Let’s see, they held a concert during Comic-Con and killed the grass in left (field),” Bell said. “OK, so let’s go to a soccer match. We’re in a pennant race. Much of the nation will probably be seeing us for the first time. Shouldn’t we be trying to put our best foot forward?

“They’re not worried about the field looking good. They’re just trying to make a profit. Very interesting … I’m sure Luke (Yoder) and his (grounds) crew will make it right, but we have the best pitching staff in the major leagues and that mound is our office. It should not be messed with at this time of the season.”

I understand Bell’s concerns. The Padres have a good thing going and it seems like folly to mess with it in any way. But I doubt this will be much of an issue. It’s not like the old days when the Padres shared a stadium with the Chargers. Back then, the Padres had to deal with a worn outfield, and the Chargers had to deal with tackling – and be tackled — on the infield dirt.

With the long break between home games and the fact the Padres are building a nice cushion in the NL West, I’m guessing Bell and the others will find this to be a non-issue.

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Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.