Giants look to right ship against Padres in S.D.


Giants look to right ship against Padres in S.D.

April 4, 2011
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SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Starting on opening day is nothing new for Aaron Harang, who drew the assignment the last five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.

Starting the home opener for his hometown team? That's a little different.

Padres manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley told the big right-hander during spring training that he'd be starting Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants.

"I kind of got that little tingle in my gut like, 'Wow, this is pretty cool,' " Harang said Monday. "I get to open up in front of my hometown, my family and friends. It's definitely an honor to get this opportunity."
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Harang attended Patrick Henry High, just up the hill a bit from the Padres' one-time home, Qualcomm Stadium, and then pitched at San Diego State.

He joined the Padres in the offseason as a free agent.

"I'll tell you what. If any guy tells you that he never wanted to have the opportunity to pitch at home, they'd be lying to you," Harang said. "It just means a lot to do it that day and know that I'm going to have people there watching me that are supporting me no matter what."

Forget any kind of a routine before his first start with the Padres, though.

"I've got kids. I don't really have a routine anymore," he said.

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Harang is looking to bounce back after struggling the last three years, including going 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA in 2010, when he was bothered by back spasms.

Black recalls Harang smiling when told of Tuesday's assignment. "But then the smile sort of went away real quick because still, ultimately, you know what your job is, and that's to perform and pitch well. But I'm happy for him."

Black said it made sense for Harang to pitch Tuesday.

"I know that opening days are filled with a lot of emotion," Black said. "A lot of players can handle it differently. I know that Aaron has pitched opening days before when he was with Cincinnati, so it's new to him to pitch in a game that's filled with pageantry and fanfare and high emotion."

Seeing the Giants again surely will remind the Padres of how close they came to a playoff spot last year.

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Although they overachieved by winning 90 games, the Padres faltered down the stretch and were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss at San Francisco on the season's last day.

"It was a great pennant race," Black said. "It was a great, exciting season. There's a part of me that thinks that them getting through us at the end set them up for that run in October. We don't know if it could have been us. But we can play with them. We proved it. We played with them all through the year. They beat us at the end and continued on that momentum into the playoffs and into the World Series. It just goes to show what can happen in a playoff situation."

The Padres went 12-6 against the Giants last year.

San Diego cruised to an NL-best 76-49 record on Aug. 25, good for a 6 12-game lead in the NL West. But the Padres lost their next 10 games to see their lead shrink to just one game, and then won only 14 more games the rest of the way.

"They're a very good team. They're world champions," Black said. "And like us, we're not going to sneak up on anybody this year either, from what we did last year. But the Giants aren't going to sneak up on anybody, either. They've got a good team."

The Padres won two of three in their opening series at St. Louis. The Giants, who counter Tuesday with lefty Madison Bumgarner, lost three of four against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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"It's not the way we want to start," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after a 7-5 loss on Sunday night. "The first couple of games we hurt ourselves and easily could have come away with a couple more wins if we played better ball. I knew this wasn't going to be an easy part of the schedule. Hopefully we'll get back on track."

RELATED: Giants drop series finale 7-5 to L.A.

NOTES: Black said ace Mat Latos, on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder, threw 70 pitches in five simulated innings in minor league camp in Peoria, Ariz., on Monday. Latos is due to rejoin the Padres on Tuesday and be re-evaluated. Although he's eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, he's not expected to rejoin the rotation until the weekend. ... This is just a two-game series. The probable starters Wednesday are Tim Lincecum against Tim Stauffer.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’


How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'


Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.