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06/05/07 10:36 PM ET

Notes: Bard keeping it simple

Padres catcher not relying as much on videotape study

SAN DIEGO -- Josh Bard recently made a vow that he wouldn't park himself in front of the television as much.

Well, at least at the ballpark.

Bard said it's no coincidence that his recent hot spell at the plate has coincided with less time watching videotape of his swing, an exercise that has benefits to it unless you try to get too nit-picky with details.

That, said Bard, is what happened to him.

"My mind is a lot clearer than it's been," Bard said. "I feel like I've been watching so much video and working so hard with [hitting coach] Merv [Rettenmund] on so many different things ... we're trying to simplify things better. I have a tendency of putting too much stuff in my brain."

In his past five games, Bard is hitting .455 with four doubles, a home run and six RBIs -- and that doesn't include two near-misses on hits last week in Pittsburgh when shortstop Jack Wilson turned two potential hits into double-play balls.

Overall, Bard has raised his average from .224 to .264 and has looked more like the hitter who batted .338 last season after the Padres acquired him from the Boston Red Sox.

"I think the biggest thing is trying to focus on a smaller number of things," Bard said. "You don't just put your head in the sand and stop preparing. You maybe pick out one thing for that night to concentrate on. I think last year I felt like I had very general thoughts in the box, and this year I feel like I'm thinking about a lot of details."

This is not to say Bard has completely ditched watching videotape of his swing, he's just not trying to get too detailed about it. Just call it keeping things simple.

"I'm just trying to generalize things and let my ability take over," Bard said. "I think sometimes if you're thinking about details too much, the game moves too fast, you can't feel your hands and feet. It takes some trust and some courage to go out there and let it all hang out. I think the really good hitters don't have a lot of swing thoughts. They just see the ball and hit it."

Medical update: It appears that outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. is about to put an end to what likely has been the strangest injury of his career: back spasms that were brought on by one powerful sneeze.

After missing four consecutive games and having a full day off on Monday, Cruz's back was doing much better Tuesday. He was running around in the clubhouse and was able to take batting practice before the game.

"He'll be ready to play tonight in some role," Black said of Cruz's status Monday. "He feels much better. He has got a much better look on his face. The last couple of days, he's made great strides with the bat. If not close to 100 percent by tomorrow, he's gaining on it."

Cruz injured his back packing his suitcase on Thursday in Pittsburgh. Cruz said he knew right away something was amiss. He received treatment on his back during San Diego's three-game weekend series in Washington.

If his back is pain-free, you can bet that Cruz will be back in the lineup Wednesday, if for no other reason than he's a career .462 hitter with two doubles and a home run against Dodgers starter Randy Wolf.

Clay bounces back: Pitcher Clay Hensley, who was reinstated from the disabled list on Friday and optioned to Triple-A Portland, had his best outing in four appearances with the Beavers on Wednesday.

Hensley allowed two runs on eight hits over seven innings, striking out two and walking two batters. He threw 92 pitches, 57 for strikes, and got 12 ground-ball outs.

"Clay pitched well last night," Black said. "He bounced back and had a nice outing. What I like is he went seven innings, 90 pitches. So the efficiency was there. ... He got a lot of ground balls. He had two walks, so that shows he was able to get the ball over the plate."

There is no timetable for Hensley's return to San Diego mostly because there's currently not a place for him in the starting rotation. Black indicated last week that he was looking for some "finality" to Hensley's stint with Portland.

"Clay's challenge now is to regain the consistency he had last season," Black said. "I think last night was a great start for him heading in that direction."

Hensley, who went on the disabled list on May 4 with a strained right groin, struggled in his first three appearances with the Beavers, allowing 21 hits and 11 walks over 12 1/3 innings to go with a 7.30 ERA.

Friar notes: Outfielder Brian Giles took batting practice before Tuesday's game, which was something he wasn't able to do on the recently completed six-game road trip to Pittsburgh and Washington. But there's still no timetable for when Giles will come off the 15-disabled list, as the bone bruise in his right knee is still a problem for him, though not nearly as much as it was when he played his last game on May 19 in Seattle. ... San Diego shortstop Khalil Greene was a late scratch Tuesday because of a sore right arm.

On deck: The three-game series with the Dodgers continues on Wednesday with Greg Maddux (4-3, 3.92) getting the start against Los Angeles. The Dodgers counter with Randy Wolf (7-3, 3.68). Game time at PETCO Park is 7:05 p.m PT.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.