SAN DIEGO -- Cla Meredith remembers Matthew Gwaltney being very quiet, someone who played basketball and baseball for Thomas Dale High with a businesslike approach. "I remember him more in basketball than I do baseball," Meredith said. "He was a Little League teammate of mine who played at a rival high school. He was always very kind, very approachable." Gwaltney was one of the 32 victims who died in the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16.
On Friday, Meredith -- the Padres reliever from Richmond, Va. -- left a jersey and a hat, both worn in games last week in Arizona, on a table inside the clubhouse for teammates to sign. Meredith said he intends to send the autographed items back home, where his father will deliver them to Gwaltney's parents, Greg and Linda, who live in Chesterfield, which is about 20 miles from in Richmond. "My dad went to the service last week and got his parents' address," Meredith said before Friday's game at PETCO Park against the Dodgers. "They probably don't know who I am, but I figured it was the least I could do. ... He was trying to save people." The 24-year-old Gwaltney was nearing the completion of his master's degree in civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. He was the sports editor of his high school paper in Chesterfield and an avid sports fan. Meredith, 23, played on the same Little League All-Star team as Gwaltney, and they later played against each other in high school. Meredith attended Meadowbrook High School in Richmond. "I'm going to send a little letter with the hat and jersey," Meredith said. "I appreciate the boys helping me out." Bard in, Branyan out: As expected, the Padres activated catcher Josh Bard from the 15-day disabled list before Friday's game against the Dodgers. What wasn't expected was the corresponding roster move. Third baseman Russell Branyan was placed on the bereavement list following the death of his father-in-law. Branyan has left the team to return to the Cleveland area. Branyan is required to miss a minimum of three days on the bereavement and is allowed to miss as many as five days. "He's been productive in the games he's played in," manager Bud Black said. "The games that he has played, he's been a productive player. He's played solid defense and has had some timely hits. When he's ready to return, he will and then we'll adjust our roster accordingly." Had Branyan -- who was hitting .294 with a home run and four RBIs in 24 at-bats this season, mostly backing up Kevin Kouzmanoff -- not gone on the bereavement list, San Diego would have likely optioned catcher Pete Laforest to Triple-A Portland. For now, the Padres will carry three catchers. Bard, who went on the disabled list on April 12, the day after straining his left groin while sliding into second base against the Giants, played in three extended Spring Training games in Arizona this week, going 6-for-14 and catching in two of the three games. Bard won't be limited in how he's used, though Black said that there's a good chance that after catching Friday, he will likely get Saturday off before catching the final game of the three-game series against the Dodgers. Getting there: Terrmel Sledge had three hits on Wednesday against Arizona ace and defending National League Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb to break an 0-for-19 funk that started on April 14. Sledge has been working with hitting coach Merv Rettenmund before games on getting his timing down at the plate. Too often, the left-handed-hitting Sledge has been too far out in front or not quick enough in getting his lead foot down before starting his swing. "That's probably the best I've felt at the plate all year," Sledge said. "Even before any pitches were thrown, I was in a comfortable -- loaded position for the first time in a long time. It's just timing, especially with my swing, getting my foot down." That three-hit game raised Sledge's average to .250. It's been hard to get in the starting lineup these days with Jose Cruz Jr. -- who took a .367 average into Friday's game -- playing so well. Correcting his timing issue and, of course, subsequent success at the plate will go a long way in determining playing time. "I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't thinking about being 0-for-whatever," Sledge said. "The way I'm looking at it is you keep starting over each day. You keep looking at the positives." Pads and ends: Meredith has tossed 11 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen to start the season. That's the most innings among Major League relievers who have yet to allow a run. ... The bullpen is second in the Major Leagues this season with a 2.34 ERA, holding opponents to a league-low .180 batting average. ... Khalil Greene had his 10-game hitting streak snapped Thursday against Arizona. He hit .364 over that span. On deck: The series against the Dodgers continues on Saturday, when Greg Maddux (1-2, 4.24 ERA) takes the mound for a 7:05 p.m. PT contest at PETCO Park. The Dodgers will counter with Brett Tomko (0-1, 2.65).
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.