Las Vegas Sun

June 20, 2019

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Gubanich injury bad timing for Stars

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brian Anderson made headlines recently when he somehow injured his elbow while riding in a taxi.

Las Vegas Stars catcher Creighton Gubanich can relate to Anderson. Gubanich believes he injured his left (non-throwing) elbow during the team's flight home from Albuquerque last week.

"As soon as I got off the plane it was like, 'Ouch!,'' Gubanich said before the Stars' 5-4 win over New Orleans at Cashman Field. "I've got no clue on how it happened. That's the frustrating part."

Gubanich is to have X-rays on the elbow today. The pain kept him not only out of Sunday's lineup, but also from warming up pitchers in the bullpen.

And when Greg LaRocca pinch-hit for starting catcher Jimmy Gonzalez in the ninth inning, it meant Stars manager Jerry Royster was forced to use veteran infielder Archi Cianfrocco as his catcher in the 10th.

"I can't remember the last time I caught in a game," the 31-year-old Cianfrocco said. "I think I have two innings of catching under my belt now. I did it once in spring training a few years ago."

Cianfrocco teamed with reliever Paul Menhart to work a 1-2-3 10th, then singled, stole second and scored the game-winning run on center fielder Chris Prieto's single.

"I felt fine out there," Cianfrocco said. "It was just a matter of getting the signs right so I didn't screw up the pitchers."

Royster is contemplating putting Gubanich on the seven-day disabled list if his sore elbow isn't better after today's off day.

"I can't go too long without a No. 2 catcher," Royster said. "I need another catcher."

Royster was asked if double-A catching star Ben Davis, considered the top position prospect in the Padres' organization and a sure bet Sept. 1 call-up for San Diego, might be headed to Las Vegas.

"I don't know," Royster said.

The timing of the fluke injury couldn't have come at a worse time for the 6-3, 200-pound Gubanich.

After starting the year slowly -- make that very slowly -- with a dismal .159 average in mid-May, Gubanich almost has doubled his average to .294 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs.

He was especially torrid in July and early August, batting .416 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs over one 28-game stretch that saw his batting average soar 90 points.

"That's what we got him for," Royster said. "He's a good offensive catcher."

Gubanich hit a combined .310 with 15 homers and 57 RBIs with three different triple-A teams in 1997. He signed with the Padres as a minor league free agent last November.

"Last year I hit .310 and I thought I had it all down," Gubanich said. "Then this year in our second game I went 3-for-3 and I was hitting .500. I thought, 'All right, here we go!' But then it all fell apart."

Gubanich credited some pointers from Stars veterans Eddie Williams and George Arias as well as increased emphasis on soft toss workouts with hitting coach Craig Colbert for turning his batting around.

"I think I was peeking too much instead of keeping my head down and watching where the ball was going," Gubanich said. "Everything was going all right until this injury. ... I went out for batting practice (Saturday night) and I couldn't even swing, it hurt so bad."

Depending on today's X-rays and another day of rest, that could change.

"He's doing much better today," Stars trainer George Poulis said. "He should be fine."

"Hopefully everything will turn out all right," Gubanich said. "It's frustrating not being able to go out and play and help the team."