It's been a few days since the last one of these. No current or former Padres celebrated birthdays the past two days and I didn't make note of last year's backup catcher Rob Johnson on Sunday because he currently plays for an NL opponent, the Mets. That's a total lie. I was going to write about him but I ended up hiking and drinking beer in some state park. You totally would have believed that, though. Back to what this is all about, today brings us two former Friars blowing out candles. Ed Sprague and Kevin Kouzmanoff bookended the decade of the '00s at the hot corner with Sprague's only season in San Diego being 2000 and Kouzmanoff's last being '09.
The son of a former Major League pitcher with the same name, Ed Sprague was a two-time Padre, although both terms were in the same season, separated by a 33 game stint with the Red Sox. He came to the Padres as a free agent after an All Star 1999 season with Pittsburgh. He had a solid first half for San Diego and was shipped to Boston for minor leaguers Cesar Saba and Dennis Tankersley. Sprague scuffled there and was released less than two months later, at which time the Padres signed him again. He finished out the season and headed to Seattle, where he would spend a productive final season coming off the bench for their historic 116 win season. 2000 was one of those years when I got away from baseball so I don't recall much about his tenure as a Padre; I tend to remember him more with the Blue Jays, where he won a pair of rings and had a ridiculous 36 homer season in '96 which was sandwiched by totals of 18 in '95 and 14 in '96. If you immediately thought "Hmmm, that sounds a little 'roid-y," you were on to something. Sprague, now the head coach for The University of the Pacific, has admitted on his own volition to using performance enhancing drugs as well as homering with a corked bat.
Kevin Kouzmanoff is quite a bit fresher in the memory. Acquired from the Indians for Josh Barfield after the 2006 season, Kouzmanoff held down third base for three seasons in San Diego. His place in baseball history was cemented when he became the first player to hit a grand slam on the first Major League pitch thrown to him. He is also in the books as having the highest fielding percentage by a third baseman over a full season in '09 but he is remembered most by Friar fans for his propensity to ground into double plays. To allow Chase Headley to move back to his natural position, Kouz was sent to Oakland before the 2010 season for Scott Hairston's second tour of duty and Aaron Cunningham. He fared very poorly for them over a season and a half before being sent to Colorado last August, where he continued to struggle. Kouzmanoff signed with the Royals in the offseason and has spent the entire season to date in AAA Omaha, where he is homerless in 210 at bats.