Notes: Greene progressing nicely
Shortstop settling in as finger slowly heals from 2006 injury
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It wasn't too long after Khalil Greene tore a ligament in his left middle finger in August that the Padres' shortstop began plotting his return to the starting lineup.
"I figured that I would take the weekend off and I'd be fine," Greene said. "I had broken several limbs up to that point, and even while it hurt, I knew it wasn't broken. So I never would have anticipated it would take so long to get better."
Not only did the injury linger for the final two months of the season, limiting how much Greene played, but it drifted well into the offseason. It nearly got to the point where Greene wondered if his finger would ever be healthy.
"It didn't feel any worse ... it just never felt better," Greene said. "I really couldn't swing with two hands. If I was playing a different sport, it wouldn't have been such a big deal. I would have just taped it up and played. But in baseball, digits are as crucial as anything."
Greene wasn't about to proclaim his finger completely healthy Thursday, but it's as good as it has felt all spring. Sure, it takes him a little bit longer to get the finger loose, but it's certainly a lot better than it was even, say, a month ago.
"It's fine to do what I need to do," Greene said. "I can't say it feels like it's not there at all. I do feel it occasionally. It doesn't play a factor in my swing, which is the only thing that I care about. On the field, if it doesn't bother me, it's a non-factor."
That's certainly good news for Greene and the Padres, who are hoping for not only some big things from their 2002 first-round pick, but a full season devoid of injuries this season.
So far, that hasn't been easy to come by.
Greene has yet to appear in more than 140 games in any of his first three Major League seasons. He missed the last three weeks of the 2004 season with a fractured right index finger and 20 games in 2005 with a broken right finger.
If you ask Greene, he's quick to point out that he by no means feels that he's snake-bit.
"It's part of the game," he said. "I see it as that I have gotten to this point and there could have been a lot of things that could have happened to me to prevent it. I could have been injured to the point where I couldn't play baseball. I don't overanalyze the injuries. Who knows? Maybe I'll be healthy for the rest of my career. Maybe I won't be. But at least I'll know how to handle it."
Greene has progressed well defensively and offensively in the last week after a slow start. He robbed Seattle's speedy leadoff hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, with a nice play on a ball in the hole between second and third base. On Wednesday, Greene hit his first home run of the spring.
"I haven't heard one thing about his finger from him," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's taking his batting practice, he's getting his work in the cage, he's getting his at-bats. I don't think you could do the volume he's doing and have it be bothering him."
A better Maddux: Greg Maddux was noticeably sharper on Thursday against the Cubs in his second start of the spring, although you had to get beyond the box score to see as much.
The 40-year-old Maddux allowed two runs on five hits over three innings, but he displayed a lot more command in the strike zone than he did on Saturday, when he issued two walks in the first inning.
Maddux didn't walk a single batter Thursday.
"It felt better coming out of my hand than it did four days ago," Maddux said. "My brain was working a little slower than it was four days ago. I wasn't rushing myself. Hopefully I'll continue to get better as we get closer to the season."
Maddux talked after his outing with a group of reporters, including several Chicago-area media who wanted to know if the veteran considered going back to Chicago during the offseason.
Maddux pitched for the Cubs from 1986-92, and again from 2004 to last season, when he was traded to the Dodgers on July 31.
"I think it was best to get out West, close to home and do what I can to enjoy the game, and, at the same time, try to win again," said Maddux, who makes his offseason home in Las Vegas.
Brown struggles: There have been few poor outings by Padres pitchers thus far in Cactus League play, much to the delight of Black, who continues to heap praise on his staff for throwing strikes and being aggressive in the strike zone.
On Wednesday, though, 26-year-old Andrew Brown -- who came over from Cleveland in the Josh Barfield deal that also landed Kevin Kouzmanoff -- allowed four runs, three hits and three walks in one-third of an inning against the Angels.
Brown, who appeared in nine games with the Indians last season and is likely ticketed to Triple-A Portland to start the season, didn't look nearly as sharp as he did in his prior Cactus League outing when he tossed a scoreless inning.
"It looked like he couldn't get comfortable," Black said. "He could not locate his fastball, which he did last outing. I don't know if he was trying to overthrow. It looked like he was trying to be too quick to the plate. He looked a little hurried. But you can't deny his stuff."
Padres log: Non-roster infielder Brian Myrow, hitless in four at-bats this spring, didn't play Thursday because of a slight calf injury, though it's unclear whether he would have been in the lineup to begin with. ... The Padres staged their own version of March Madness early Thursday morning when they held a two-team free-throw shooting contest, with former Princeton basketball players Chris Young and Will Venable as captains. The winning team was Venable's team, which included Nick Hundley, Craig Stansberry and Minor League instructor Gary Jones. The losing team consisted of Young, David Wells, Mike Cameron and Black. ... The Padres play split-squad games Friday. Wells makes his first start of the spring in Tempe against the Angels at 12:05 p.m. PT. In Mesa, Jake Peavy will make his third Cactus League start against the Cubs at 12:05 p.m. ... Catcher Todd Greene, who is working his way back from a dislocated right shoulder, said that he'll be reevaluated on Monday. ... Terrmel Sledge hit his third home run of the spring Friday in the fourth inning against the Cubs, a grand slam to right field.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.