Justin Germano takes winding road back to Portland's mound

It doesn't sound like an endorsement of Portland, but it is.

'I was definitely glad to hear this would be my worst-case scenario,' says pitcher Justin Germano, back with the Portland Beavers after spring training. 'It's comfortable here. I have family on the West Coast. I love the town. For a Triple-A town, and a worst-case scenario, I liked it.'

The Bevos open their home schedule against Fresno at 7 p.m. Friday at PGE Park.

Top prospect Cesar Carrillo is scheduled to pitch in the home opener, and Germano is set to start Saturday's 2 p.m. game. It'll be déjà vu for Germano, who was part of the Bevos' staff in 2005 before being sent away.

In the thick of a pennant race, the parent San Diego Padres traded Germano on July 23, 2005, to Cincinnati for major-league third baseman Joe Randa. Germano finished the year with Triple-A Louisville - managed by former Bevo skipper Rick Sweet - and started the next year with the Bats while enjoying some call-ups to the Reds, appearing in two games.

At the 2006 trade deadline, the Reds sent him to Philadelphia, where he played for the Phillies' Triple-A team and got some call-ups to the bigs.

This year, during spring training, the Phillies waived Germano (a waiver occurs when a player has run out of options and a team must keep the player in the big leagues or waive him).

The Padres, who originally drafted Germano in 2000, reacquired him off waivers and later sent him to Triple-A.

'Just my luck, after I got sent away, two (Philly) starters went down (with injuries),' he says. 'So, two other guys who weren't going to make the team made the team. I was bummed to hear that. But I was glad to be back with San Diego.'

Germano pitched for the Beavers in 2004 and 2005. He went 16-11 with a 3.53 ERA in 39 starts, with three complete-game shutouts. In 2004, he pitched in seven games (five starts) with San Diego.

At 24, Germano still has some baseball ahead of him. He doesn't have dominating stuff, but he gets the job done.

'I try to get hitters to put the ball in play,' he says. 'I throw a lot of strikes, but I don't waste my time trying to get strikeouts. If I happen to get two strikes (on a hitter), I'll flip a curveball up there. If not, I'll just try to get them to hit the ball on the ground.'

Germano says he won't be working on any pitches in particular, just trying for the usual 'consistency … stringing starts together.'

The Beavers have some capable starting pitchers - Jack Cassel; Ryan Ketchner; prospects Jared Wells and Carrillo; and Germano. Another guy still in the prospect category, Tim Stauffer, will pitch from the bullpen while he tends to his biceps injury.

All of them have interesting background stories:

Cassel, 26, got released by the Padres last spring, re-signed soon after and started last week's opening Beaver game. He's the brother of Matt Cassel, a former USC quarterback and current New England Patriot backup.

Ketchner, who turns 25 on April 19, has 10 percent hearing and wears two hearing aids that help him detect vibrations. He communicates by reading lips and sign language.

According to the Beavers, Ketchner would be the first deaf person in the major leagues (if he makes it) since 1908.

The touted Carrillo, 22, has returned to the mound after staying off it for the past eight months with an elbow/forearm injury.

Wells, 25, made 27 starts last year, including 15 at Portland, where he went 2-9 with a 7.27 ERA.

Portland Beavers

Next: After games at Sacramento the next three days, the Beavers open their home schedule against Fresno at 7 p.m. Friday.

Opening series: Portland dropped three of four games at Fresno and had to play from behind in all four games. In Sunday's 5-4 loss, in which relievers Aaron Rakers and Scott Strickland gave up big late-inning hits, 'we played with a lot of energy and better focus,' manager Rick Renteria says.

Craig Stansberry (.333, two doubles, two RBIs) and Royce Huffman (.313, three doubles, three RBIs) stood out, and young Luis Cruz hit a two-run homer in Friday's 6-4 win.

'We have some work to do, getting themselves acclimated to each other and the situation,' Renteria says. 'They've got to get a feel of what we want, which is primarily effort - approach at the plate, executing pitches. Hitters are trying to find their timing, pitchers are working on repeating their delivery. I'm really happy with the effort.'

- Jason Vondersmith

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