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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Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.