Gyorko coming up tall at short
Notes on Solarte, Kemp, J. Upton, Benoit
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
The sample size is small, but it appears Jedd Gyorko can play shortstop -- at least better than most expected.
And Padres manager Pat Murphy is not surprised.
"Jedd's an athlete," Murphy said recently. "He was a point guard in basketball. He has quickness. He has instincts."
Murphy said he got the idea of auditioning Gyorko at shortstop after recently seeing Jhonny Peralta play shortstop for the Cardinals.
There are parallels between Gyorko and Peralta. Both are stocky. Neither has the classic shortstop build. Both are quick rather than fast. Peralta is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. Gyorko is 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds.
Thus far, Gyorko has flawlessly handled all the routine plays in his eight starts at short and turned several difficult plays into outs. He has shown the ability to go to his left. He has charged balls and made accurate flips to first.
Defensively, about the only thing we haven't seen from Gyorko at short is going to his right into the 5.5 hole and throwing across his body to first. That is one of the most difficult plays, even for proven Major League shortstops. Gyorko hasn't had the opportunity to do that yet.
Gyorko is hitting .394 as a shortstop, going 10-for-29 with three homers and eight RBIs -- including Thursday night's decisive two-run eighth-inning homer in the Padres' 10-7 win over the Dodgers at Petco Park.
Of course, Gyorko's offense has picked up since he returned from his 20-game detour to Triple-A El Paso in June.
Before going to El Paso, Gyorko was hitting .210 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in the season's first 59 games and 151 at-bats.
Gyorko is hitting .267 since his return with six doubles, nine homers and 32 RBIs in 198 at-bats. The surge has boosted his overall batting average to a season-high .246.
Gyorko had a run-scoring single in addition to the two-run homer Thursday night to extend his hitting streak to six games. He is 9-for-26 during the streak with six RBIs. He is hitting .301 (37-for-123) over his last 32 games with six home runs and 25 RBIs.
"I think you are seeing Gyorko come into his own," said Murphy. "He's gained some confidence. And we like what we've seen from him since he started playing short."
Gyorko is not surprised about his efforts at shortstop. "That was always my position when I was growing up," said Gyorko. "I've always thought I could play short if given the chance."
From the scorecard
• Yangervis Solarte pulled up at second with a double in the eighth inning when a triple would have given him the second cycle in the 47-season history of the franchise -- and the second in 17 games. Solarte was 4-for-5 with two doubles and his 12th homer for three runs scored and two RBIs. His homer was only the 14th in Petco Park history to land on the third balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field. The switch-hitting Solarte hit an opposite-field line drive down the line in left that first looked like it might reach the seats for the third baseman's second homer of the game, which might explain why Solarte was slow out of the batter's box.
• Matt Kemp had a two-run single in four at-bats to extend his on-base streak to a career-high 23 games. He is 30-for-93 (.323) during the streak, with six home runs and 28 RBIs. His on-base streak equals the longest by a Padres player since Brian Giles reached base in 27 straight games in 2008. Chase Headley also reached base in 23 straight games in 2012.
• Justin Upton reached base in all four plate appearances (3-for-3 with a walk) and scored three runs. His first-inning RBI double gave Upton 18 RBIs this season against the Dodgers, the highest total by one player against another National League team this season and the most by a Padres player against the Dodgers since Headley had a Padres-record 20 RBIs against the Dodgers in 2012.
• In Wednesday night's 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Rangers, Joaquin Benoit threw 31 pitches in his inning, while Craig Kimbrel threw 37 while working a second straight night. So when the Padres needed a closer Thursday night with a three-run lead, Murphy elected to call Benoit and give Kimbrel the night off. Benoit retired the Dodgers in order on 13 pitches to get his second save of the season.