Notes: Sledge's defense improved

Notes: Sledge's defense improved

SAN DIEGO -- In the eighth inning of Saturday's game against the Dodgers, San Diego left fielder Terrmel Sledge stopped, turned, and threw a bullet from the foul line to Marcus Giles at second base, throwing out the speedy Juan Pierre trying to stretch a single into a double.

"That was a great play; he got to it pretty quick," said Padres center fielder Mike Cameron. "Juan Pierre's aggressive, so I knew he was going, it's just a matter of [Sledge] getting over there and trying to get rid of it. That's a tough play over in that corner."

It was a big play in a big moment, and for Sledge, it was not by accident.

After the game, a 3-2 win for the Padres, manager Bud Black praised how hard Sledge had worked in Spring Training on that very play.

"On the defensive side, I worked hard, in Spring Training and the offseason," the 30-year-old Sledge said. "And I'm still doing it now."

The outfielder said he makes 5-10 of those throws in warmups every day, and with the help of first-base coach Bobby Meacham, he is seeing the results. Sledge put in 38 games with the Padres over three different stints in 2006. Part of the reason he wasn't sticking around was simply a matter of room. Last season's outfield of Dave Roberts in left, Cameron in center, and Brian Giles in right was pretty well set. With Roberts' departure to San Francisco, left field was open for the taking this season.

While Sledge felt he had proved he could hit at the Major League level last season, his fielding was a different story.

"Everyone knew I could swing the bat, or I wouldn't be up here," said Sledge. "I'd be the first to say my defense was up and down last year. I wanted to change people's minds. That's what athletes like to do. Prove people wrong."

"It's a good feeling that practicing does pay off," he said.

Padres honor Hancock's memory: Before Sunday's series finale against the Dodgers, there was a moment of silence for Cardinals reliever Josh Hancock, who was killed in a car accident early Sunday morning in St. Louis. He was 29 years old.

"It's just devastating," Black said. "It's devastating, obviously, to the Cardinals family, but I think all of us in the baseball family are saddened that one of us, especially somebody so young, died so tragically. It's very sad."

MLB and fans able to give back: At every gate into PETCO Park on Sunday, there were barrels for fans to donate their used baseball equipment to the "Kids Gear for Baseball", which will distribute received items to local leagues in need.

"We always have a shortage of balls and gloves, just because that's what the kids lose the most," said Cathy Carroll, director of Kids Gear for Baseball.

"We set up at every gate, and we're filling up all the barrels, so it looks like we're getting a lot," she said.

In addition to the donations, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a joint initiative with MLB and the MLB Players Association, donated $5,000 to Kids Gear for Baseball, which will use it to purchase more equipment.

Cassidy on track: Padres reliever Scott Cassidy has been out since the start of the regular season after getting his right knee scoped. His return was estimated at about six weeks after the procedure

Black said the right-hander hasn't had any setbacks thus far and is in Arizona rehabbing. "He's on a progressive throwing program," Black said. "I know he's been playing catch and he's been throwing off the mound. He's on pace to return per his schedule."

If Cassidy continues to improve and stay on schedule, his return to action would be sometime in mid-May.

Coming up: The Padres finish up April and start off May with a three-game set against the Nationals that begins Monday. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. PT, with Jake Peavy (3-0, 1.67) facing right-hander John Patterson (0-4, 7.71).

Amanda Branam is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.