Notes: 'Kouz' enjoying time in Chicago
Black goes with regular lineup; no cameo for reliever Cameron
CHICAGO -- The progeny of two Chicagoans, Kevin Kouzmanoff wanted to do one thing when he came to Chicago this week: eat at Portillo's, the famous Chicago hot dog chain. He accomplished that mission late Monday night after going 0-for-2 as a late-inning substitution in the Padres' blowout loss to the Cubs.
"I got my two Chicago-style hot dogs with everything on them," he said proudly. "And some Italian beef."
On Tuesday he started at third base at Wrigley Field, a slightly more famous landmark in the Windy City, and one he had never visited before Monday's game. Kouzmanoff had two aunts, his grandmother and his brother, all of whom live in a western suburb of Chicago, in attendance for both games.
Acquired in the offseason in the Josh Barfield deal, the former Indians prospect hasn't exactly set fire to the hot corner. He was hitting just .143 (5-for-34) with one homer and three RBIs going into the game. He hadn't committed an error in his nine starts at third, where he occasionally gives way to another ex-Indian, Russell Branyan.
He missed three games after suffering a left elbow contusion from a Matt Cain pitch on April 9. The day before, he knocked in the game-winning run in the 10th inning against the Rockies.
"Going into the season, we felt he was going to get the majority of the playing time in April, just to get him acclimated, get him feeling comfortable because he was starting the season in the big leagues, which he hadn't done before," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Also, at the same time, we wanted to give Russell Branyan some starts, some at-bats, because we feel as though between those two guys manning third base, we're going to be in good shape."
Kouzmanoff had his first multi-hit game of the season on April 14, homering in a win over the Dodgers. His 2007 start has been less successful than his Major League debut in Cleveland, when he hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw. Still, he's not exactly pressing just yet.
"I'm just going to go out and keep playing the game," he said. "I've been successful in the past, so I'm not going to change anything."
Kouzmanoff said he's enjoying the "loosey-goosey" clubhouse. His teammates, like those before them in the Minors, refer to him only as "Kouz." Monday afternoon, Brian Giles called him Chris, prompting someone to ask Giles if he knew Kouzmanoff's first name.
"No one does," Giles cracked.
"He's called me Chris, he's called me Jeff," Kouzmanoff said. "It's all fun and games. I don't hear people call me Kevin too much."
Back-to-backstops: Black went back to a traditional lineup Tuesday, starting Mike Cameron in center, hitting third, and Khalil Greene, playing short and hitting fifth. Rob Bowen started behind the plate.
Pete Laforest got his second start Monday since being called up on April 11, when Josh Bard went on the 15-day disabled list and went 2-for-3 with a double. With another night-day, two-game series coming up against Arizona, Black envisions Laforest to get another start Thursday. He'll definitely get a few more games before Bard likely comes off the DL at the end of the month.
"We're going to look a little bit at matchups," Black said. "I think it would be unrealistic to think Rob was going to catch 12 or 13 consecutive games, while Josh was on the DL. It's a way to get both guys at-bats without having to catch day games after night games and so forth. So that's kind of what's happening here. The schedule has been a little choppy and we like how both guys are working with the pitching staff."
No cameo for Cameron: The Padres have a slew of Chicago connections, from Greg Maddux's long history with the Cubs to Kouzmanoff's family to new radio broadcaster Andy Masur, a native of the north suburbs who did Cubs games for WGN radio for the previous eight years. Then there's Rule 5 Draft pick Kevin Cameron, who has been lights-out as a reliever thus far -- perfect through eight innings. Unlike the others, he probably won't get to contribute.
Cameron, 28, graduated from famous suburban sports powerhouse Joliet Catholic and resides in Aurora, Ill., in the offseason. Cameron was not likely to pitch Tuesday after being tabbed as off-limits Monday after throwing three scoreless innings in Sunday's 9-3 loss to Los Angeles.
"I've been in some pressure situations, but not huge pressure situations," he said. "They've been able to put me in some roles where if you do fail, it's not a huge deal. You're coming in when we're up a few runs, if I give up a couple runs, it's not a huge deal. But if something positive happens, I can build off it and the team can still be in the game."
Moment of silence: Like all MLB teams on Tuesday, the Cubs held a moment of silence before the national anthem to honor the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings that occurred Monday.
News and notes: Marcus Giles extended his team-best hitting streak to seven games Tuesday, with a single, and a run, in the Padres' two-run first and an RBI single and a stolen base in the second. ... Giles was given a stolen base in a scoring change from the first inning of Sunday's loss to the Dodgers. Originally it was scored as caught stealing-error on the second baseman. ... Clay Hensley's stolen base Monday was the first by a Padres pitcher since Woody Williams did it on April 20, 2005. ... The Padres' two-game homestand against Arizona is the team's first such abbreviated home series since July 14-15, 1997, against San Francisco. ... Asked if there were any positives to playing two games in Chicago in between a night game in Los Angeles and a return to San Diego, Black answered quickly, "No."
Coming up: Left-hander David Wells (0-1, 7.00 ERA) is hoping to fare better than he did in last start, Friday against the Dodgers. In that outing, he didn't make it out of the third inning and gave up five runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings in a 9-1 loss. The Padres will face Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb (1-1, 5.21 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. PT.
Jon Greenberg is a conributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.