10/06/06 5:00 PM ET
Quick healer Klesko a pleasant surprise
Slugger missed most of '06, but has shown his timing is back
By Amanda Branam / MLB.com
The Padres received an even better sign of Klesko's progress in his three other at-bats in the regular season. Klesko went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. For Rettenmund, Klesko's ability at the plate in such a short amount of time is almost mystifying."To be able to hit offspeed pitches and not play for three or four months, you can ask anyone in this room -- that's a tough challenge," Rettenmund said. "That's harder than hitting a fastball, because you might be able to gear it up and catch a fastball. But seeing and recognizing offspeed pitches, that usually takes time." Time was not a luxury Klesko had, but he made the most of the situation. As a result, the Padres didn't dare leave him off the 25-man playoff roster. Klesko didn't let them down in his first postseason at-bat of 2006, hitting a single down the left-field line in Thursday's 2-0 loss. The Southern California native had one of only two Friar hits off Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver. Even Klesko said he was surprised at how quickly he adjusted to facing big-league pitching again. "Especially breaking pitches, I've been staying on them, but like I said, I just got locked in early," Klesko said. "I was just like, 'Man, this is great,' because everyone had written me off, and in the back of my mind, I knew I was just going to need a few. The [playoff] race was so tight, it was almost like impossible to even get in there. It just worked out to where my timing came back quick." The Padres are just as thankful that Klesko's timing came back so soon, but San Diego finds itself in an 0-2 hole in the NLDS against St. Louis. Game 3 takes place Saturday, when Klesko's bat off the bench might be needed again. Unfortunately, Klesko's pinch-hit didn't end up leading to a Padres run in the Game 2 loss. After the game, most were discussing the possibility of it being pitcher David Wells' last start this season, and most likely of his career. For Klesko, a free agent at season's end, he thought of Wells while sitting in the dugout on Thursday, but his thoughts also wandered onto his own future with the Padres. "It's kind of sentimental for all of us," he said. "It's a tough one to swallow. Just sitting in the dugout, I was thinking it could be my last game played here, too."
Amanda Branam is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.