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Dodgers size up Petco Park and like it

Matt Kemp, among others, is happy to see the fences have been moved in at the traditionally hitter-unfriendly ballpark.

April 10, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez

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SAN DIEGO -- The right-field wall at Petco Park is 11 feet closer to the plate than it was last season.

Asked if that made the opposite field look any more inviting, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp laughed.

"When I'm on, can't no ballpark hold me," he said.

BOX SCORE: Dodgers 4, Padres 3

He's probably right. But for the majority of other players, the renovations to one of baseball's most pitcher-friendly parks could make a difference.

There were 109 home runs hit at Petco Park last season, the second-fewest in any park in the major leagues. Only AT&T Park in San Francisco had fewer, with 84.

As part of an effort to aid hitters, the dimensions of the park were altered over the off-season.

With the right-field wall moved in, the part of right-center field that used to sit 402 feet away from the plate is now 391 feet away. The wall in left-center field was moved in from 402 feet to 390.

"There were some areas out there where you could crush and it wasn't going to go out," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "As a hitter that bothers you a little bit."

But Mattingly believes the environment will continue to favor pitchers.

"I still have to believe it's going to play fairly fair," Mattingly said.

Mattingly doesn't mind.

"We kind of play in a big park too," he said. "Ours is a pitchers' park. San Fran's is. I think we're OK here. We're kind of used to it. It's a pitchers' division."

Adrian Gonzalez, who played five seasons with the San Diego Padres, believes the ballpark's dimensions aided his development as a player. With the right-field wall so far away, he was encouraged to hit to the opposite field.

"Absolutely, it makes you better," he said. "That's why when you go on the road, your numbers are better. You look up and down, you look at everybody's numbers, their numbers are better. You have to be a better hitter at home. You might not get the results, but the results will be there on the road."

Gonzalez said he liked the changes at Petco Park. As a first baseman, what he liked most was that the visiting bullpen was moved from foul territory along the right-field line to behind the home team's in center field.

"For me, going for a foul ball out there, you don't have to worry about that anymore," Gonzalez said.

Familiar faces

Before Wednesday, Gonzalez had played 10 games against the Padres since they traded him to the Boston Red Sox.

Gonzalez batted .500 (21 for 42) in those games with 11 runs batted in and four walks. He doesn't think it's a coincidence he hits well against his former team.

"I think, for the most part, it's that I know them," he said. "I know how they're going to attack me. I know how they're thinking. I was over there so long that I understand their game plan, I understand what they're trying to do to hitters. I think my game plan can get a little more precise."

Short hops

Zack Greinke will pitch the series finale in San Diego on Thursday. Greinke has pitched against the Padres only once, as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on May 9, 2011. He earned a victory by holding the Padres to two runs and five hits in six innings. ... Ted Lilly threw 90 pitches over six innings for triple-A Albuquerque as part of a minor league rehabilitation assignment. Lilly gave up six runs (five earned) and eight hits. He struck out five and walked one. … Andre Ethier turned 31.

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