Mike Maddux Makes Most of His Chance : Baseball: Pitcher vying to get into Padres’ rotation.
One day after rain dampened his hopes, pitcher Mike Maddux took the mound and became the talk of Padre camp.
Maddux, who was supposed to start Wednesday’s game that eventually was rained out, got his chance in relief during the Padres’ 7-3 exhibition victory against the Cubs Thursday at Desert Sun Stadium.
And suddenly, the club may have another candidate for the fifth starter role.
Maddux, who pitched parts of five seasons for Philadelphia and Los Angeles, threw four innings of relief, got the victory, and limited the Cubs to five hits and one run. Most impressively, he struck out six and walked none.
“We’ll have to take a look at him a little longer,” Padre Manager Greg Riddoch said. “If that’s him--a consistent-type performer--he could fit in in a lot of ways.”
Said Maddux: “It was a fantasy, yeah, to come in and open some eyes. Hopefully, that’s what’s happened.”
He is working without a contract, and the only reason he is here is because he crashed a Las Vegas Stars luncheon in February and asked Padre General Manager Joe McIlvaine if he could have a chance.
Maddux has had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right--pitching--elbow in each of the past two off-seasons. He has been dressing in the minor league clubhouse.
After Thursday’s performance, he may get a chance to move over to the major league clubhouse.
The Padres definitely have a curiosity on their hands.
The fifth-starter position is still wide open. Derek Lilliquist and Calvin Schiraldi, the two leading candidates, have been inconsistent. Dennis Rasmussen and Atlee Hammaker, who were in the picture, have been injured. Rasmussen, who has had tendinitis in his shoulder, threw Thursday and said he felt fine, but Riddoch said he doesn’t think he will be ready for the opening of the season. Hammaker, who fractured a finger, will likely be on the disabled list when the season opens.
Then, there’s Maddux.
“I was really pleased with my command today,” Maddux said. “I haven’t even played catch in two days. I was happy with that.”
So were the Padres.
“I would say he’s tied for second,” said Riddoch, repeating his favorite phrase to describe the candidates for the fifth-starter slot. “He was very impressive. He threw the breaking ball ahead in the count, behind in the count, and he located it well. . . .
“I want to watch him again. I liked what I saw. If he goes out and pitches like that the next two or three times, he’s certainly got to be considered.”
Maddux--the brother of Cub pitcher Greg--is attempting to remain low-key, but he said he knows there is a gap in the Padre rotation.
“I’m aware of it, sure,” Maddux said. “I’d like to be considered, but I have no control over any of those decisions. Given the opportunity, I’d like to take advantage of it. It’s a good feeling to be mentioned.”
For those thinking that the Padres could either a) sign a sleeper or, b) pique community interest by signing a name player, forget it. Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager, said Thursday that the club is not interested in signing pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, who was put on waivers Thursday by the Dodgers.
“No,” McIlvaine said. “We haven’t been (interested in him) all along.”
Riddoch made it official Thursday: Ed Whitson will be the opening-day pitcher against the Giants April 9.
“To tell you the truth,” Whitson said, “my feet won’t touch the ground for three days before the opener. I’ll be going over every hitter, every pitch. (San Francisco) has a great offensive club. If you don’t make the right pitch selection, you’re in trouble.”
The opening-day assignment had been between Whitson and Bruce Hurst, but Hurst has been weakened with the flu and had to miss a start this week. Whitson, meanwhile, is 1-0 this spring with a 5.73 earned-run average and is coming off of a season in which he was 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA.
“(Whitson) earned it last year,” Riddoch said. “He had a great year. Like I said before, it wouldn’t be a shame to throw Hurst or Whitson out there.”
Whitson, 35, has started only one opening day in his 12-year major league career--a loss to Houston in 1988.
“Shoot, it was great,” Whitson said of that start. “I got back to San Diego right after the All-Star break in 1986 and everybody thought I was washed up.”
In 1987, he was second in the rotation and in 1988, he started opening day.
“Then, here I am again today, starting (opening day) again,” he said. “A lot of people wrote me off a long time ago, but right now I feel better than when I was 24 or 25.
“It’s a great honor for me or anybody else. It’s something you work hard to try to get. It’s a special honor to any pitcher.”
Outfielder Shawn Abner, who is trying to win the center-field job, made his first appearance in nine days and went one for three.
Abner missed time earlier this spring with a hamstring pull, then came down with the flu. He singled up the middle Thursday.
“I felt a little sluggish, but I made it nine (innings),” he said. “I didn’t feel comfortable up there, but I smacked one through.”
OK, so most of the Padres agree that the switch to navy blue and orange uniforms is a good one. Who is most happy about it? Probably equipment manager Brian Prilaman.
“Good,” Prilaman said. “I don’t know what I’ll do now.”
You see, when the Padres wore brown and orange, they needed brown spikes. And their shoe company didn’t make brown spikes, so Prilaman and his staff had to take black spikes and paint each pair brown. He said he painted spikes brown every day for the first half of last season.
“Probably 600 to 800 pair,” he said.
So, he’s free this year, right? Almost.
Prilaman has painted about a dozen leftover brown spikes black.
Pitcher Mike Maddux isn’t the only former major leaguer playing in the obscurity of the Padres’ minor league camp here. Former Boston infielder Ed Romero has been signed to a triple-A contract and will likely open the season as the Las Vegas shortstop. . . . Bip Roberts is the latest Padre to come down with the flu. He left Thursday’s game after his first at bat. . . . Chicago outfielder George Bell was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing after he was called out at first. . . . Greg Harris and Calvin Schiraldi are scheduled to pitch against Oakland at 7:05 tonight.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.