Calls chat with Dodgers pitcher 'productive' during eight-game suspension
SAN DIEGO -- Carlos Quentin returned to the Padres' lineup on Tuesday after serving an eight-game suspension for his role in a benches-clearing incident against the Dodgers on April 11.
Quentin was in the starting lineup in left field and batted fourth as the Padres faced the Brewers at Petco Park in the second game of a three-game series. He singled home a run in his first at-bat in the first inning.
"I'm ready to put it behind me," Quentin said. "It feels really good to be back with my team and play baseball again. I want to get back on a winning path."
In that game on April 11, Quentin charged the mound after being hit by a pitch from Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who suffered a fractured left collarbone in the fracas.
Quentin, who initially filed an appeal, but dropped it, started his suspension on April 14. San Diego was 3-5 in his absence. In addition to staying in shape while he was away from the team, Quentin said he contacted Greinke.
"I did speak to Zack," Quentin said. "First, I thank him for taking the time to speak to me. We were able to talk and have a good productive conversation. The details of that conversation are personal."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after the incident that Quentin's suspension should match the time Greinke would spend on the disabled list, which figures to be about eight weeks. Greinke had surgery on his shoulder on April 13. It was the third time Greinke hit Quentin with a pitch since 2007.
The Padres can certainly use Quentin. They went into Tuesday's game with a 5-14 record, which is tied for the second-worst start in club history after 19 games. They also started 5-14 in 1971 and '94. The '87 team began the season with a 4-15 record.
"It was very difficult," Quentin said of being away from his teammates "Any baseball player wants to be with his team, this is our livelihood. I wasn't able to do that because of our suspension."
Quentin, who was hitting .174 entering Tuesday's game, worked out with the Padres' Class A affiliate one hour north in Lake Elsinore. He also took batting practice at Petco Park while the team was on the road. Quentin worked out with the team before Monday's game against the Brewers.
San Diego manager Bud Black said before Monday's game that the time off allowed Quentin to rest his surgically repaired right knee, which slowed him in Spring Training. Black, for obvious reasons, said he was looking forward to having his cleanup hitter back.
Tuesday's game marked the first time the Padres have had both Quentin and third baseman Chase Headley in the starting lineup together. Headley missed the first 14 games of the year after fracturing the tip of his left thumb. He returned to the lineup last Wednesday.
"Any team will tell you your best lineup is when your best players are in it," Black said. "Let's hope these guys can do what we need them to do -- stay productive offensively."
Headley, who led the National League in RBIs last season with 115 and was fifth in the National League Most Valuable Player balloting, is hitting .222 in 18 at-bats with one home run and three RBIs entering Tuesday. Headley said he was looking forward to Quentin's return.
"It's great," Headley said. "He's a proven middle-of-the-order bat. When you put that in the middle of anybody's lineup, it's going to help a lot. The way we've been struggling to score some runs, adding another major piece in there is going to do great things for us."