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Padres' rookies a mixed bag in loss

Padres' rookies a mixed bag in loss

SAN DIEGO -- It's not yet September, although it's clear that the open auditions for the 2009 season are well underway for the Padres, which is certainly a far cry from the push this team was gearing up for a season ago at this time.

But the misgivings, miscalculations and personnel misses have left the Padres to forge ahead looking to the future, which is partly why Friday's lineup against Colorado was filled with players low on service time.

But certainly not low on talent.

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Rookie catcher Nick Hundley hit his fourth home run, his second in as many games, and rookie outfielder Will Venable hit a triple in his first Major League at-bats, though it was not enough to prevent a 9-4 loss to the Rockies before a crowd of 25,274.

"It's good to see," Padres' manager Bud Black said of the youthful production. "Nick is playing hard and we're seeing signs of him developing. It's good to see Will get his first big league knock off a good pitcher. He looked comfortable, looked in place."

Colorado pitcher Aaron Cook, as he's apt to do, took care of the Padres' modest three-game winning streak, all coming at the expense of division-leading Arizona earlier this week. But the good karma wore off Friday.

Of course, Cook (16-8) had something to do with that, as he improved to 11-4 in his career against the Padres (51-83), though he got spanked the last time that he faced the Padres, allowing six runs in 5 2/3 innings on Aug. 9.

But Cook had his sinker working Friday, giving the Rockies (64-72) a lift as they try to keep the D-backs and Dodgers from getting too far out of reach with one month remaining in the regular season.

Cook allowed two runs on five hits over six innings, including the triple in the second inning to Venable, who was promoted Friday from Triple-A Portland when Scott Hairston was lost for the season with a torn ligament in his thumb.

The 25-year-old Venable, who played college basketball and baseball at Princeton, lit Cook up with one out in the second, lining a ball off the wall in right-center field. He would later score the Padres' first run on a wild pitch.

Venable finished 1-for-4 and figures to get more chances to impress the Padres in the coming weeks now that Hairston has been lost to the disabled list. He can play center, right and left fields and will likely do so.

"To be able to get a hit off a guy [Cook] like that was special," Venable said. "I hope I get more opportunities like that."

Cook handed the ball to reliever Manuel Corpas after six innings and Corpas promptly gave up a long home run to left field to Hundley, two days removed from lighting up Arizona's Randy Johnson, a player he grew up watching in the Seattle area.

Hundley, recalled from Portland on July 4 when San Diego lost Michael Barrett to the disabled list for the second time this season, has been a boon defensively, throwing out eight baserunners. He's hitting .230, but has shown some pop, hitting four home runs in his first 117 at-bats with 15 RBIs.

Hundley, like Venable, hadn't played above Double-A entering the season. But they will get what amounts to a trial by fire over the past four weeks of the regular season.

"As we move into September, you'll see more players getting an opportunity to play and see what they're able to do," Black said. "That's all any player can ask for. And they're getting it."

Another rookie, pitcher Dirk Hayhurst (0-1), is getting a look as well. On Friday, the 27-year-old right-hander allowed four runs in four innings, including a three-run home run off the bat of Garrett Atkins, who later added a two-run home run.

Hayhurst, who prides himself on being a strike-thrower and who has the Minor League resumes to prove it, walked four and said he was guilty at times of trying to be too fine against one of the top offenses in the NL.

"In San Francisco, [his last start] I was blatantly out of the zone. Today, I felt like I had better control but I didn't want to give into guys. I started to nibble. I put myself on the defensive."

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

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