|Hoffman returns, looks good as old in Padres' spring debut|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 28 February 2008 13:39|
Baseball's career saves leader pitched a perfect inning in the San Diego Padres' 10-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday in their annual charity game that precedes the start of Cactus League exhibitions.
A three-run homer from Seattle's Jeremy Reed and a two-run homer by Rob Johnson, both off Joe Thatcher, highlighted the Mariners' seven-run sixth inning.
Hoffman, the 40-year-old with 524 saves, threw sharp breaking pitches and signature changeups in the fifth. It was his first appearance since arthroscopic surgery in October to clean out his right elbow and shave a bone spur. That procedure came days after he allowed three runs in the 13th inning of a thrilling playoff tiebreaker game at Colorado that ended San Diego's 2007 season.
Hoffman has repeatedly taken full responsibility for the meltdown.
``It was nice to get back out on the hump. I was able to work on my pitches so that was exciting,'' Hoffman said. ``Quick outs are a blessing.''
Last spring, Hoffman did not pitch a perfect inning until the Padres' 22nd exhibition game.
``Efficiency is the key, especially early in camp,'' he said. ``You don't want to go too long and labor, and mechanically you're probably not going to be where you want to be. But today everything felt great.''
Looked great, too.
``He's looked good in the 14 days since we've been here,'' San Diego manager Bud Black said. ``Today was a carry-over from his bullpens and batting practices.''
Hoffman's final pitch was a vintage changeup that fooled Jeff Clement into a strikeout. Seattle's third overall draft choice from 2005 flailed at the floater so prematurely, he was almost walking back to his dugout before the pitch reached the catcher.
``I saw the changeup. But, man, it comes in so slow. It's almost like it stops in midair,'' Clement said, marveling.
This was the third consecutive spring training in which Clement's first game at-bat was against Hoffman. He vividly recalled that he struck out - on a changeup - and grounded out before, and thought this was his time to get a hit off him.
Then came the drifter at school-zone speed.
``Looks the same as the last two springs to me,'' Clement said, shaking his head.
Jarrod Washburn allowed a hit and struck out two in two innings. Seattle's No. 4 starter said he did not throw a breaking ball and still lacks any sustainable arm strength this early in camp.
R.A. Dickey, who hasn't pitched in the major leagues in 23 months, relieved for the Mariners in the fifth with the bases loaded. He throws a knuckleball and Seattle's biggest fear was whether a catcher can corral Dickey's pitches with runners on base.
Jamie Burke, Seattle's No. 2 catcher and only one with experience catching a knuckler, did fine. His replacement in the sixth, Johnson, fumbled many.
Dickey pitched 1 2-3 innings and allowed one hit, with one strikeout.