Notes: Sledge optioned to Triple-A

Padres notes: Sledge optioned

DENVER -- Terrmel Sledge stuffed his equipment bag on Tuesday afternoon at Coors Field and prepared for a trip back in time -- a temporary one, he hopes -- to the Minor Leagues.

"I know I'm a big-league hitter," Sledge said, on his way to Triple-A Portland with reliever Jon Adkins, summoned to give manager Bruce Bochy another arm.

"The numbers I have prove it. I'll be back."

That's exactly what Bochy expects. Because of an assortment of spring ailments, Sledge had limited spring preparation, and it was reflected in his struggles in nine April games: .160 average, one extra-base hit (a double) and one run batted in with 25 at-bats.

"We thought it would be good for him to get some playing time," Bochy said. "He hit some balls hard, that were right at guys, but he's a little rusty. He's a Major League player. I like his swing. His legs, his health, he's doing much better there. He just needs some at-bats."

Acquired in January in the six-player blockbuster with Texas, Sledge, 29, had similar problems getting started with Montreal in his 2004 rookie season, starting 1-for-34. But manager Frank Robinson kept him in the lineup and Sledge came out of it to finish with a .269 average, 15 homers and 62 RBIs in 133 games.

With the Nationals last season, Sledge tore a hamstring in May chasing a fly ball at Dodger Stadium, and surgery wiped out his season. He said he's 100 percent with the hamstring, but injuries to a calf and ankle in Arizona made it difficult for him to get at-bats and generate any power.

"The biggest part was my calf, my ankle -- that's where my power comes from," Sledge said. "I'm a back-leg hitter, left field to right field. I felt without my foundation, all my power was gone.

"I really couldn't do anything [during spring] for about two good weeks. I'm a rhythm guy, and I didn't feel I was in my rhythm my whole 20-some [25] at-bats. When I have my legs right, I'm not reaching for balls; I'm letting them come to me."

Ben Johnson got the start in center on Tuesday night and is expected to stay there, with Dave Roberts in left, until Mike Cameron comes off the disabled list -- perhaps as early as this weekend. Cameron took batting practice on Tuesday for the second straight day and has reported no setbacks with his left oblique, strained on March 31.

Piazza awaits old mates: With most powers hitters, there are feasts and there are famines, often with no explanation.

Mike Piazza has been around long enough to pound 398 homers through Monday -- and to not question the natural order of things. But you know he'd love to find that old groove, and find it now.

Piazza's old friends, the Mets, are coming to PETCO Park for four games starting on Thursday. Any player who says he doesn't get pumped for a former club is not being forthcoming.

"No excuses -- I'm frustrated now," Piazza said following his 0-for-4 Monday effort against the Rockies that reduced his average to .200 with one (Opening Day) homer and three RBIs. "I've been swinging at bad pitches, taking some bad swings. That's the game. It's a long year."

Bochy has praised Piazza's defense and feels his power stroke will come.

"It's natural, I don't care how long you're in the game, to press a little," Bochy said. "He's not being as selective as he normally is; he's not seeing the ball too well right now. He's too good a hitter -- he'll come out of it. He's doing a nice job behind the plate."

Still ailing: Backup catcher Doug Mirabelli was unavailable again on Tuesday with back stiffness, but Bochy said he is improving. Third-string Rob Bowen, who had a big role in Sunday's win at Atlanta, proved to be a prescient acquisition off waivers from Detroit. A switch-hitter, Bowen is 2-for-6 with a double and two RBIs and has impressed with his defensive ability.

Power arm: New reliever Adkins, a hard-throwing right-hander who pitched capably during the spring, joining the club on Tuesday, said he was ready to go. With the Chicago White Sox from 2003-05, he was 2-4 with a 5.08 ERA in 59 games.

The former Oklahoma State star said he was enthused about a, "fresh start and opportunity to help the club."

At Portland he was 1-0, giving up three hits and striking out three in five scoreless innings.

Coming up: Chan Ho Park (0-0, 5.59) makes his second start on Wednesday afternoon at 12:05 p.m. PT in the finale of the Padres' nine-game road trip. He'll be opposed by right-hander Zach Day (1-1, 7.45).

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.