PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : Padres Haven't Exactly Been Burning Up the Basepaths

Whether it's the Padres' speed, or their failure to employ the hit-and-run more frequently, their running game has come to an almost complete halt.

The Padres have stolen only three bases in their past 184 innings entering Tuesday's game, and one of their stolen bases was by Jerald Clark when the Dodgers failed to call time out last week.

In fact, the only other player who has a steal since Aug. 23 is Darrin Jackson.

The Padres have a league-low 59 stolen bases, and are on pace to finish with their second-lowest total since 1970.

Perhaps the biggest indication of the Padres' infrequent use of the hit-and run is that of the top 10 players who have grounded into double plays, five are Padres:

Jackson leads the league with 17 grounded into double plays; third baseman Gary Sheffield is tied for second with 16; catcher Benito Santiago is tied for sixth with 14; and right fielder Tony Gwynn and first baseman Fred McGriff are tied for ninth with 13.

"We just don't have the personnel to use the hit-and-run that much," Padre Manager Greg Riddoch said. "You look at the lineup, and there's not a lot of speed. It's not an excuse, just a fact.

"We've been relying on the home run a lot, and have been pretty successful with it.

"I don't think you can argue with the results."

Although Padre shortstop Tony Fernandez sustained a hyperextended knee in Monday's game, he informed Riddoch that he wanted to play Tuesday against the Dodgers.

In his first at-bat Tuesday, Fernandez homered to right field for his fourth homer of the year.

"He's done a great job for us all year," Riddoch said. "Really, he could be hitting .300 (instead of .263). He's made more line-drive outs than anybody I can remember in a long time."

Gwynn, who missed his seventh consecutive game because of a sprained medial collateral ligament of his left knee, is hopeful of returning this weekend against the Reds in Cincinnati.

However, Gwynn said, he likely will not return until Monday, when the Padres return home. The playing surface at Riverfront Stadium is artificial turf.

"I'm feeling a whole lot better," said Gwynn, who took extensive batting practice Tuesday before the game. "Hopefully, I'll be ready."

Gwynn's replacements have batted only .080 entering Tuesday.

Hank and Ken Stickney, who each own a Class-A California League team, have taken control of the Pacific Coast League Las Vegas Stars from a group led by Larry Koentopp for a reported $7 million.

The Stars are the Padres' triple-A affiliate.

The sales figure was not released with Monday's announcement because a confidentiality clause was signed by those involved in the transaction.

But the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the sales price to be $7 million, making it the most expensive triple-A sale in history.

The Stickneys are heavily involved in minor league baseball, and now own three clubs. Hank Stickney owns the San Bernardino Spirit, which is moving to Rancho Cucamonga next season. His son, Ken, owns the Palm Springs Angels.

Hank Stickney is president of an Orange consulting firm, Reimbursement Dynamics, Inc. Ken Stickney is area vice president of Quantum Health Resources.

The Stars drew a franchise record 387,815 in 1992, an average of 5,171 per game.

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