Petco a 'great place' but needs work

SAN DIEGO -- Not everything is perfect at Petco Park. Two right fielders have gone tumbling over a short wall in consecutive games at the new $458 million ballpark, and the San Diego Padres know something needs to be done before someone gets seriously hurt. San Diego's Brian Buchanan was tracking down a foul ball in the fourth inning of Sunday's 8-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners when he went over the wall that parallels the foul line. He was able to break his fall onto a concrete walkway that's about 2-to-3 feet lower than field level, in the process jamming a thumb and tweaking his left shoulder. He finished the game and said he was OK. "Once you hit the wall, it hits you about mid-thigh and it just kind of jacks you over," said Buchanan, who's 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. "There's no real way to hold on. Your legs go out. "There's not much in the stadium you can rag on. It's a great place to play. Maybe if they just build it up a little more it would be nice," said Buchanan, who had replaced starting right fielder Brian Giles in the third inning. Petco Park has much smaller foul territory than Qualcomm Stadium, which the Padres vacated after last season. In right field, it narrows to about 12 feet from the foul line to the wall. "You've got the bullpen, then you've got the wall with the cliff there," Buchanan said. "That's a long way to fall, for me." On Saturday night, Seattle's Hiram Bocachica, subbing for Ichiro Suzuki, took a tumble over the same wall. He was OK. Padres manager Bruce Bochy planned to talk with general manager Kevin Towers about the wall before the team left for Los Angeles, where it opens the season Monday. The Padres' home opener is Thursday night, against San Francisco. "There's concern there," Bochy said. "It's very short. It's fairly close to the line. It is a dangerous situation, so it is something we are going to address." One other design element that raised eyebrows was the cramped home bullpen beyond the fence in center field. All-Star closer Trevor Hoffman likes to play long toss to warm up, but there's not enough room to do that. He and other relievers preferred the bullpen along the right-field line, but the club stuck with the other one, citing the number of fans who bought season tickets specifically to be near the Padres' pen. Bocachica hit a two-run double in the Mariners' five-run sixth. Starter Gil Meche allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits in three innings. San Diego starter Sterling Hitchcock settled down after allowing two runs, one earned, in the first. He went five innings, allowing four hits, striking out six and walking one. Because the No. 5 spot in the rotation won't come up until April 17, Hitchcock was optioned to Class-A Lake Elsinore, where he'll start Saturday night. After the teams hit five homers Saturday night, no balls left the yard Sunday.

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