The unsung workhorses of this team, they toil in relative obscurity, throwing two innings one day, three another, sometimes even more. They are up in the bullpen at a moment’s notice, often getting loose before another swift exit by a wobbly rotation. They are the Padres’ long relievers, and especially this pitching-starved season they have come in handy. “If you have five starters who are giving you 200 innings, there might not be a great deal of need for a long reliever,” manager Bud Black said recently. “But on that given night when you need one, you’re glad you have one.” For much of 2013, the Padres have needed two, and on more than a few nights. Only one starter, Jason Marquis, is on pace to reach that 200-inning marker. This season’s long-relief duty began with Anthony Bass and Andrew Cashner. It’s since fallen to Thad Weber and Robbie Erlin as well. “It was difficult the first time,” Bass said, remembering his long-relief debut in 2011, “just knowing when to start getting ready for the ballgame, when I might be used, when I might not be used.” Bass, a third-year player, is used to it by now. The versatile right-hander sees himself as a future starter, but he also recognizes the value in his current role. “You definitely get your feet wet,” said Bass, who last season made 15 starts but, interrupted by shoulder inflammation, later returned in the bullpen. “Usually you go in when the game’s kind of out of hand. There’s not a ton of pressure, but there is always pressure. It’s never an easy task getting big-league hitters out.” In just over a month, Padres starters have seemingly compiled a season’s worth of ugly starts. There have been three-inning misadventures, four-inning clunkers, even a 1 2/3-inning cameo. “We’ve been a little bit inconsistent with our starting pitching,” said Darren Balsley, the Padres pitching coach putting it lightly. “In the past we’ve usually carried one (long reliever) instead of two. This year we broke camp with two.” In his first 10 appearances this season, Bass has thrown 22 1/3 innings, more than any other reliever on the team. Entering Saturday, he'd seen nearly as much work as No. 2 starter Clayton Richard, who lasted just 22 2/3 innings over his first five outings.
For Padres, it's long on relief
San Diego Union-Tribune | May 4