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Hand's Down

April 6, 2018
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There is nothing more deflating to a Major League baseball team than when its star closer is struggling. You get beat, you can handle that. You feel like games are slipping away from you in the ninth inning, well, that can be a whole lot harder to swallow.

The Padres know all about it after Hand-ing away a couple of games on their first homestand. All-Star Brad Hand gave up five runs, coughed up a two-out, three-run homer to Ryan Braun and the ballgame against the Milwaukee Brewers last Friday night.

Then on Thursday afternoon, Hand came apart again in the ninth, issuing three walks – including one with the bases loaded – and a two-run single with two outs to D.J. LeMahieu as the Friars let one get away to the Colorado Rockies, 3-1.

Simply put: if Brad Hand was pitching the way he normally does – and has for the past two seasons in San Diego – the Padres likely would have finished their opening homestand at 3-4. Not great, but somewhat acceptable.

Instead, they are an unsightly 1-6 as they take off for Houston and Colorado and the season’s first road trip.

The two poor outings by Hand have people re-thinking General Manager A.J. Preller’s decision not to trade Hand while his value was highest during the off-season. That’s revisionist thinking. First, no team offered San Diego a fair package in return for Hand. Secondly, All-Star closers are hard to find, and the Padres – unless they were blown away by an offer – wanted to keep theirs.

Doesn’t necessarily look good at the moment, but keeping Hand was the right thing to do. Now it’s up to pitching coach Darren Balsley and Hand himself to get things straightened out. The guess here is that they will. His stuff is still excellent, but he has yet to start executing his pitches.

One thing Hand has done that’s impressive is standing in there to take the heat after his poor performances. He spoke to the media following both losses rather than hiding out in the training room or shower as many others would have done.

That’s what has me believing Hand will be OK. Stand-up guys usually wind up back on their feet.

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