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 Donaldson is still seeking a long-term deal with the Blue Jays

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If it were up to him, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson would finish the remainder of his career in Toronto. In fact, he’d be “ticked pink” if the club decided to sign him to a long-term deal. Whether the Blue Jays share that sentiment is still unclear, as Donaldson said Saturday that the team has yet to engage his agent in extension talks.

“I’ve said that I wanted to be here,” he told MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm. “That’s pretty much all I can say. I’m not the one who makes the decisions, nor would I try to put them in the position to do that. Like I said, I believe the situation will become more fluid when the time is right.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean an extension is out of the question. The Blue Jays reached an unprecedented one-year, $23 million agreement with the three-time All-Star in arbitration, and have been reticent to field trade offers despite continued interest from the Cardinals this winter.

Donaldson, 32, is poised to enter his eighth season in the majors and fourth with the Blue Jays. In 2017, he batted .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and a .944 OPS in 496 plate appearances, ranking sixth among all major league third baseman with 5.0 fWAR. He’s scheduled to enter free agency following the 2018 season.