NCAA

Padres to move in portion of Petco's fences

Padres to move in portion of Petco's fences

SAN DIEGO (AP) The vast outfield at Petco Park will no longer be a place where long fly balls go to die.

The San Diego Padres said Monday that work will begin this week to bring in the fences in right field and left-center, and to move the visitor's bullpen from right-field foul territory to behind the home bullpen beyond the fence in left-center.

After years of angst by their sluggers, the Padres said it was time to change the extreme nature of the downtown ballpark - which some people derisively called Petco National Park - to one that plays more fairly.

``We want the park to play the right away for players and for the fans,'' Padres president and CEO Tom Garfinkel said. ``That was driven first by baseball operations in terms of the right way to construct the dimensions to make it more fair for players. Players know what's fair and what's not. When they crush a ball that would be out in 29 other parks, and it's not out here, they know that it's not fair. We wanted to make it more fair from that standpoint.''

For the fans, the changes might result in fewer boring games.

From the right-field porch to the right-center gap, the fence will be moved in from 402 feet to 391 feet and lowered to match the rest of the outfield wall. The out-of-town scoreboard on the right-field wall will be relocated to a new spot above right field as part of seating modifications.

In left-center, the fence will be moved in from 402 feet to 390 feet to allow for the visiting team's bullpen to be relocated, mostly for safety issues.

The dimensions will remain the same down the left-field line (336 feet), right-field line (322) and straightaway center (396).

The changes are good news to sluggers like Chase Headley, and even pitcher Tim Stauffer said he's OK with them.

``Any way that they can make a ballpark play a bit more fair is a good thing,'' said Headley, who won the NL RBI title with 115 and set career bests with 31 homers, 173 hits and 95 runs scored. ``I definitely like a variation among the stadiums, but when you have a stadium that plays so drastic to one side, anything that you can improve the consistency of for both sides is a positive.''

``I'm not going to say I'm going to hit more home runs than I did this year, because I don't know what's going to happen,'' Headley said. ``I think more than anything, when you hit a ball that you know probably should be a home run, it will reward you. Having something at least less drastic, I think, is going to improve everybody's approach and confidence. You're not going to be walking back to the dugout after hitting one that's a home run in 29 other ballparks saying, `This is dumb.' It's not going to turn it into a hitters' park, but most of the balls you've really hit well, you'll be rewarded for.''

Headley hit 13 homers at Petco and 18 on the road.

When Petco Park opened in 2004, then-general manager Kevin Towers joked that the Padres had made it Barry Bonds-proof, since the San Francisco Giants slugger always tormented San Diego. Bonds later quipped that the Padres had made Petco Park ``baseball-proof.'' Bonds hit his 755th homer at Petco Park on Aug. 4, 2007, tying Hank Aaron with an opposite-field shot to left-center.

During the 2004 season, sluggers Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko groused about how they'd crush a ball that would be a homer in other parks, only to watch it go for a long out. Nevin once hit a double that he thought should have been a homer. After reaching second, he gestured angrily toward Towers' box. The two later had words in the clubhouse.

The Padres did modify the right-field gap one year, but avoided making major changes.

``Our goal is to move Petco Park away from being the most extreme run suppressing ballpark in major league baseball,'' said executive chairman Ron Fowler, part of the group that bought the Padres from John Moores in August. ``After an extensive study, it became clear to all of us that some change was needed. Petco will still be a pitchers' park; however, it will no longer be the outlier.''

Stauffer wasn't surprised to hear about the changes.

``It's more for the fans and scores, and it will be fair to both sides,'' he said. ``If it's going to get more fans to the game, I'm all for it. Obviously as a pitcher you don't want to give up cheapies, but I don't think that will be the case.''

``It's pretty well understood that a couple areas that played beyond deep were very unfair for hitters,'' Stauffer said. ``Overall, it's not a bad idea. The faces hitters made when they rounded first and saw a ball get caught after crushing it were pretty entertaining. Or when they'd flip their bat and then see that it doesn't even get to the warning track, especially early in the season at night. Obviously we like having it big, but we want guys playing there every day to have confidence that if they hit it good, it goes.''

The damp night air early in the season also affects fly balls.

General manager Josh Byrnes said moving in the fences is just one factor for a team that was fourth in the NL West at 76-86, 18 games behind San Francisco.

``Hopefully, like a lot of parks it's a little more fair, and we're just going to have to have a good team on the field to win,'' Byrnes said.

Bracketology Round-up: Who’s hot and ignoring the bubble

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USA TODAY Sports

Bracketology Round-up: Who’s hot and ignoring the bubble

Now is the time that teams need to make their late season push. Whether a team is in the tournament or otherwise, the games now matter more than ever.

Yet, it is the teams solidly in the field that have been slipping as of late. Rarely have we seen losses from teams on the bubble.

The last 10 days saw the four teams that many assumed were locks for a No. 1 seed all fall to an unranked opponent. None of the falls being quite as bad as Purdue’s who suffered through a three-game losing streak. Nearly across the whole board the Boilermakers only dropped to a No. 2 seed, but their margin for error is a lot smaller than many of the teams around them.

READ ALSO: VIRGINIA REMAINS No. 1 AS TOP 25 IS RE-SHUFFLED

Other Big Ten schools continue to rise with strong showings in conference play. Ohio State is now getting some love as a No. 4/ No. 5 seed and Michigan is not too far off either. The Spartans of Michigan State have begun to leapfrog teams that passed them in January as they are on the No. 2/ No. 3 seed line. 

Texas Tech rode a seven-game winning streak to now a emerge as a contender for the top-8 seeds in the tournament. Auburn has also snuck into that conversation as well.

The Virginia Cavaliers remained as the near-unanimous No. 1 overall seed from the following bracketologists. They rebounded with a solid road win at Miami this past week.

For these reasons, no one is worried about who is in and who is out of the tournament, unless of course your team is involved. The drama around the bubble, for now, is subdued.

For the mid-major fans, Wichita State (now in the AAC) is in the mix as well for a favorable seed. They grabbed their best win of the season at Cincinnati on Feb. 18 in a ‘prove-it’ contest for both teams.

But with all of the lesser Power 5 teams winning against top tier opponents, it is not helping many mid-majors that are floating around the bubble. St. Bonaventure, Temple, and even St. Mary’s basically all face win-out situations.

These projections are based on their latest bracket as of Feb. 19.

Joe Lunardi (ESPN):

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 Ohio State

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Purdue
No. 3 Clemson
No. 4 Tennessee

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Auburn
No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 4 Wichita State

West Region:
No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 Michigan State
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 4 Arizona

Last Four in: Baylor, Texas, St. Bonaventure, and Syracuse
First Four out: UCLA, USC, Washington, and Nebraska

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ) vs. No. 16 Nicholls St./ Savannah State
No. 10: Virginia Tech (West, at-large) vs. No. 7 Alabama

Dave Ommen (NBC Sports/ Yahoo/ Bracketville):

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova
No. 2 North Carolina
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 Gonzaga

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Purdue
No. 4 Wichita State

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Michigan State
No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 4 Tennessee

West Region:
No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 Auburn
No. 3 Clemson
No. 4 Arizona

Last Four in: Washington, Baylor, St. Bonaventure, and Syracuse
First Four out: UCLA, LSU, Louisville, and Marquette

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ) vs. No. 16 Southern/ Savannah State
No. 9: Virginia Tech (Midwest, at-large) vs. No. 8 Oklahoma

Shelby Mast (USA-Today):

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 Ohio State

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Purdue
No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 4 Clemson

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia
No. 2 Auburn
No. 3 Michigan State
No. 4 Wichita State

West Region:
No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 North Carolina
No. 3 Arizona
No. 4 Tennessee

Last Four in: St. Mary’s (CA), St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, and Washington
First Four out: LSU, Marquette, UCLA, and Utah

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ) vs. No. 16 Wagner
No. 9: Virginia Tech (Midwest, at-large) vs. No. 8 Michigan
Maryland (“On Life Support”)

Chris Dobbertean (SB Nation) – Updated on 2/16:

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Michigan State
No. 4 Tennessee

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Kansas
No. 3 Clemson
No. 4 Gonzaga

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Purdue
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 West Virginia

West Region:
No. 1 Auburn
No. 2 Texas Tech
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 4 Arizona

Last Four in: Louisville, UCLA, Texas, and Baylor
First Four out: St. Bonaventure, USC, Temple, and Syracuse

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ)
No. 10: Virginia Tech (at-large)
Maryland (also considered)

Jerry Palm (CBS Sports):

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 Gonzaga

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Auburn
No. 3 Clemson
No. 4 Wichita State

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Michigan State
No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 4 Tennessee

West Region:
No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 Purdue
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 4 Arizona

Last Four in: Texas, Butler, Florida, and Syracuse
First Four out: Baylor, Utah, Washington, and Louisville

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ) vs. No. 16 Nicholls St./ Prairie View A&M
No. 9: Virginia Tech (West, at-large) vs. No. 8 Arkansas

Delphi Bracketology (Most accurate bracket projection of past two years – Updated 2/17):

No. 1 seeds: Virginia, Xavier, Villanova, and Purdue
No. 2 seeds: Kansas, Purdue, Duke, and Texas Tech
No. 3 seeds: Michigan State, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Clemson
No. 4 seeds: Tennessee, Arizona, West Virginia, Gonzaga

Last Four in: Texas, Baylor, Louisville, UCLA
First Four out: St. Bonaventure, LSU Temple, and Syracuse

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1 overall: Virginia (ACC Champ)
No. 9: Virginia Tech (at-large)

Local Rundown:

It is clear that Virginia’s loss to Virginia Tech will chalk up as just a blemish on an otherwise outstanding tournament resume. The Cavalier’s made that clear with their second half in Coral Gables on Saturday.

The top defensive team in the country does have some wiggle room as they close out the 2017-18 season with the madness from the teams behind them. A loss or two will not move them off the No. 1 line, and depending on which team, they might even maintain the top seed.

Virginia Tech, the team that beat the Cavaliers, is taking advantage of the upsets across the NCAA. Paired with their upset win, they went from a borderline bubble team to a No.9/ No. 10 seed. What does make things difficult for them is that their final four games are against three NCAA tournament teams and a bubble team in Louisville.

They honestly are going to need some other teams to fall or themselves to pull out some monster upsets to stay on the good side of the bubble.

With losses to Penn State and Nebraska, the Maryland Terrapins odds to get into the dance are all but vanquished. Only two bracketologists even mentioned the Terps in their analysis. However, they are not entirely out of it with their schedule and a small run in the Big Ten tournament. There remains a small chance, ever so slight. 

The rest of the Mid-Atlantic Region (Delaware, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) is going to have to rely on upsets in conference tournaments to get more teams in. Keep an eye on these teams as they try and ride momentum into March: Old Dominion (21-5, 12-2 C-USA), VCU (15-2, 7-7 A-10), William & Mary (16-11, 9-7 CAA), Towson (18-11, 8-8 CAA), Radford (17-12, 10-6 Big South), and Mount St. Mary’s (16-13, 10-6 NEC), Navy (19-10, 10-6 Patriot).

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

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USA Today Sports Images

Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

On Monday, with the NHL trade deadline approaching, the Washington Capitals addressed a need for blue line depth by acquiring Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

But before you begin to analyze how the move impacts the Capitals' outlook heading forward, lets take some time to get to know the newest member of the Caps.

Who is Michal Kempny?

Michal Kempny is a 27-year-old defenseman from the Czech Republic. He was born on Sept. 8, 1990 in Hodonin, a small town in southwestern Czech Republic near the border of Austria and Slovakia. Kempny began his hockey career playing for SHK Hodonin. Kempny knew very little english upon arriving to the NHL, but credited his girlfriend Showtime shows to helping him become more comfortable speaking the language. 

RELATED: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKINGS

What International Experience Does Michal Kempny Have?

Michal Kempny played professionally for HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga and Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Kempny was a standout player on the international stage, playing for the Czech Republic U18, U20 and Men's National teams.

MORE ON THE TRADE: WHERE DOES KEMPNY FIT IN THE CAPS ROSTER

When Did Michal Kempny Make His NHL Debut?

Michal Kempny was signed to a one-year contract as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks in May, 2016 and made his NHL debut in October, 2016. Kempny scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 30, 2016 against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. Kempny appeared in 50 games for the Blackhawks during the 2016-17 season, recording two goals and six assists. The Blackhawks re-signed Kempny to a one-year extension during the offseason. Kempny played in 31 games this season before being traded to the Capitals.

What Type of Hockey Player is Michal Kempny?

Kempny is a 6-0, 194-pound defenseman with a strong left-handed shot. Known for his play on the offensive end, Kempny was never able to gain the trust of Joel Quenneville on the defensive end. But Kempny has a good bit of offensive upside, thanks to his passing skills and strong shot, which is why the Blackhawks took a flier on him in the first place and why he was an ideal trade candidate for the Capitals. But again, Kempny's size is less than ideal for a top-tier blue-liner and while he doesn't shy away from contact, he is rarely much of a physical presence. 

What Does Michal Kempny's Contract Look Like?

Michael Kempny is set to become an unrestricted free agent the the end of the 2017-18 season and has a cap hit of just $900,000.

RELATED: TROTZ REACTS TO RACIAL COMMENTS MADE BY CHICAGO FANS