Notes: Greene getting defensive

Notes: Greene getting defensive

SEATTLE -- It might be too early to trumpet Padres shortstop Khalil Greene as a Gold Glove candidate, though that did not stop first-year manager Bud Black from essentially doing just that Friday.

"He's playing that type of [defense] this year," Black said of Greene. "There can't be many shortstops in all of baseball who can make plays like Khalil."

Going into Friday's Interleague game against the Mariners at Safeco Field, Greene ranked third in the National League in fielding percentage (.983) among shortstops. He trailed only Jimmy Rollins (.994) and Jose Reyes (.988).

Greene, who has three errors in 39 games, has made a handful of impressive plays this season, including a double-play Wednesday against the Reds at PETCO Park that had third-base coach Glenn Hoffman still talking two days later.

"The one the other night, it was a double-play ball up the middle. [David Ross] got jammed, and Marcus [Giles] and [Greene] both went at it, so there was no one at second," said Hoffman, who works with the infielders. "[Greene] actually fielded the ball to the left side of second base and still got it, was able to get his body back, touch the bag and still got something on the throw. That's not easy to do."

Hoffman has seen plenty of Greene over the years, from his days with the Dodgers and now his second season with the Padres. He said Greene is a more cerebral player now than he was in his first season with San Diego in 2003.

"He's like the anchor out there," Hoffman said. "He makes the hard plays look easy. Just being around the league and knowing the hitters helps. He knows the tendencies of our pitchers. He always seems to be in the right spot, the right position. That helps him a lot."

When Black took the Padres job, he came with the understanding that Greene was a "very solid defender." But he's been impressed with what he's seen thus far -- impressed with the arm, the range and how he prepares himself.

"He's very steady, has a good arm, covers ground and has a great feel for hitters and how pitchers are throwing hitters, so he gets good jumps," Black said. "And he does it in a way that goes unnoticed. He doesn't do it with a lot of flair. He probably unfairly hasn't gotten the national recognition he deserves."

Choosing sides: Just because Black spent all but four years of his playing career in the American League and seven more as a pitching coach for the Angels doesn't mean he has a soft spot for the Junior Circuit.

If anything, Black has become a National League convert and isn't ashamed to admit it.

"I enjoyed the American League, but I really like the National League game," Black said. "Going back to my days in San Francisco, I like the fact the bench players, that second or third inning, they really start preparing to pinch-hit or a double-switch. The guys in the bullpen realize that at any time they have to be on-call."

Boy, have they.

The Padres have five relievers -- Cla Meredith, Doug Brocail, Trevor Hoffman, Heath Bell and Scott Linebrink -- who have appeared in 16 or more games thus far. As for the main bench players, Geoff Blum (47 at-bats), Rob Bowen (58) and Russell Branyan (41) have seen significant playing time.

"I just think that the use of the 25-man roster is a good thing -- especially for the players," Black said.

The Mariners, conversely, have given just 23 at-bats to backup catcher Jamie Burke and have used their other bench players -- utilityman Willie Bloomquist (22 at-bats) and outfielders Jason Ellison (four) and Ben Broussard (28) -- sparingly.

Minor honors: The Padres announced Friday that left-handed pitcher Nathan Culp and infielder Chase Headley have been named the club's Minor League pitcher and player of the month for April.

The 22-year-old Culp finished April with a 2-1 record and a 1.46 ERA in four starts for Class A Fort Wayne. He led the Wizards with 22 strikeouts while issuing only three walks.

The 23-year-old Headley hit .360 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 24 games for Double-A San Antonio.

Scuffling Gonzo: After hitting .309 in April with a franchise-record 25 RBIs over the first month of the season, Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been in a funk in May, hitting just .211 entering Friday's game.

Gonzalez had nearly as many strikeouts (16) as he had in the entire month of April (21).

"It looks to be as though, to me, that he's chasing that borderline high strike," Black said. "I think all hitters will tell you that ball [up] looks really good to hit. He doesn't look like he's expanding the zone down. If he's expanding it all, it's at the top of the zone."

Notable: San Diego reliever Scott Cassidy, who has been on the disabled list since Spring Training with a right knee strain that required surgery in April, made a start Friday for Triple-A Portland. Cassidy is on a 30-day rehabilitation assignment. ... Second baseman Giles turned 29 on Friday. ... After Friday, the Padres will play 14 more Interleague games -- five more game against Seattle, three against Tampa Bay, three against Baltimore and three against Boston. ... With Friday's game being played at Safeco Field, the Padres were allowed to use the designated hitter. Branyan was San Diego's DH against Seattle's Miguel Batista. ... Bench coach Craig Colbert was coaching first base Friday as Bobby Meacham was attending his daughter's graduation.

On deck: The Padres will play the second game of their three-game series against the Mariners at 7:05 p.m. PT on Saturday. Greg Maddux (3-2, 3.20 ERA), who allowed one run in a complete-game victory over the Cardinals on Monday, gets the start for the Padres. He'll be opposed by Horacio Ramirez (3-2, 6.40 ERA).

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