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PADRE NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : Lampkin Latest Lump in Team’s Incredible Run of Bad Breaks

Tom Romenesko, Padre director of player development, says he can laugh about it. But then, what choice does he have? Laughter is the only remedy he has found that can stifle the tears.

Catcher Tom Lampkin became the latest to be victimized by the Padre minor league jinx, suffering torn ligaments in his right thumb that required surgery Friday at Scripps Memorial Hospital.

Lampkin, who was optioned after Wednesday’s game to the Padres’ triple-A Las Vegas club to make room for pitcher Atlee Hammaker, sustained the injury in his first game with the Stars Thursday night when he was hit in the seventh inning by a foul tip off the bat of Frank Kellner of Tucson.

“The Gods are against us,” said Gary Lance, Las Vegas pitching coach.

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Well, if you want to be more specific, they’re not just picking on the Stars, but the Padres’ entire minor league organization.

Incredibly, 44 players in the Padres’ minor league operation have suffered injuries this season that have required either operations or time on the disabled list or kept them sidelined for a minimum of two weeks.

“There’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that the Padres have shut down their instructional league,” Romenesko said, “to open a medical school . . . But this is unbelievable, isn’t it? I mean, if you have 10 injuries, it’s considered a bad year. A terrible year.

“I don’t know what to do? Maybe it’s my mustache. I grew a mustache in spring training, and look what happened. It’s been a jinx.”

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Although none of the Padres’ five minor league teams are immune to the rash of injuries, no one has suffered like Las Vegas.

Take a look and wince:

Outfielder Warren Newsome (torn thumb ligament, surgery Friday); catcher Mike Basso (broken hand); second baseman Paul Faries (hamstring); infielder Tom LeVasseur (rib cage); infielder Jose Mota (rib cage); infielder Jeff Yurtin (neurological disorder); outfielder Charles Hillemann (pending back surgery); outfielder Thomas Howard (knee surgery); reliever Rafael Valdez (elbow tendinitis); pitcher Roger Smithberg (shoulder tendinitis); pitcher Dan Murphy (sore shoulder), and third baseman Eddie Williams (bruised hand).

That’s 13 Stars who have suffered major injuries, while nine players have already sustained major injuries on their two rookie clubs.

Yes, it has been that kind of year.

“That’s why I’m stick and tired of being demeaned and ridiculed for the way our guys are playing,” Romenesko. “Come on, this is the same place that was the organization of the year two years ago (by Baseball America). I don’t think we got dumb overnight.”

Padre center fielder Joe Carter left four tickets Friday for singer Janet Jackson, and said that he will continue to leave four tickets for her at every Padre game the rest of the season.

“I want to meet her, and I figure this is the best way,” Carter said. “I know she lives in LA, so I figure she can read this in The Los Angeles Times and come meet me.

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“You know, I’ve been in California for almost a whole season now, and I want to meet a real star.”

OK, so why four tickets?

“Well, I figure I’ll leave one for her and three extras in case she wants to bring some of her brothers.”

Atlee Hammaker suited up with his new Padre teammates for the first time since signing with them Tuesday after being released by the San Francisco Giants.

“I needed a change, obviously,” Hammaker said, “and I think this is the best place for me. I was with the Giants for 10 years, and it was getting stale.”

Hammaker said that he also had offers from the Dodgers and Mets but chose the Padres because of the success Pat Dobson, the pitching coach, has had.

“I couldn’t go to the Dodgers, anyway,” Hammaker said, “not with the rivalry the Giants had with them. It would have felt too funny.”

The Padres, on orders of the commissioner’s office, have terminated their working agreement with Waterloo and Charleston, their two full-season Class A clubs.

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The move is part of Major League Baseball’s negotiations for a new player development contract between the majors and minors.


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