Gallagher driven to win spot in Padres’ rotation

San Diego Padres pitcher Sean Gallagher was career-minded this

offseason.

First he traveled to Venezuela for winter ball to get his left

knee back in pitching shape. Then he headed to Peoria to get his

whole body in top shape.

It’s all part of Gallagher’s plan to have the best possible

chance as he competes for one of two available spots in the Padres’

starting rotation. One of three pitchers acquired in a July trade

that sent outfielder Scott Hairston to Oakland, Gallagher is

expected to compete with Clayton Richard, Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc,

Tim Stauffer and several other pitchers for a starting job.

“My career has got to come first,” Gallagher said. “This year

is a big year for me.”

The Padres weren’t sure what kind of shape Gallagher would be in

when he arrived in late July. The player to be named later in a

July 5 deal – Hairston has since been reacquired by the Padres –

Gallagher had been on the disabled list with Triple-A Sacramento

and rehabbing a strained left knee in an experimental physical

therapy program.

Shortly after he arrived, however, the platelet-rich plasma

therapy Gallagher was receiving had him strong enough to throw

several bullpen sessions. By September, Gallagher returned to the

mound and pitched 5 1-3 scoreless innings over eight relief

appearances for the Padres.

Despite the rust, Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley could see

that Gallagher, 24, had talent.

“He had a very good delivery, four quality pitches that he had

command of, and a really good feel for off-speed stuff,” Balsley

said. “That’s a talent in itself. He has a terrific arm.”

Gallagher just needed to assure himself that his knee, which he

hurt June 5 while fielding a grounder, was ready to handle 80-100

pitch outings. The Padres arranged for Gallagher to spend October

and November pitching for Navagantes del Magallanes and he made six

starts, finishing with a 5.33 ERA. Though he wanted better results,

Gallagher wasn’t about to push his luck.

“I wanted to get down there and build up the stamina, build up

the endurance,” Gallagher said. “If it tired out, I wanted to

make sure it would hold up over the course of a full game. I had no

problems whatsoever.”

Gallagher had been expected to compete for a job in Oakland’s

wide-open 2009 rotation. But he fell out of favor quickly and began

the season at Sacramento.

“I was very disappointed in myself with how things played

out,” Gallagher said. “I knew going to training camp with Oakland

I had an opportunity. I wasn’t right and when I was right and

started to feel well the injury happened. That kind of put me back

down in my place again.

“My biggest priority first was to get healthy and make sure I

could pitch on my knee, and then it’s just getting back into the

best shape I possibly could.”