Q&A: Lots of questions for Darren Balsley, Padres pitching staff

With the bullpen practically brand new, and the back end of the rotation up for grabs, the Padres have a lot of questions that need answers before the start of the season. Pitching coach Darren Balsley has work cut out for him. Here’s how he plans to address those questions for the Padres in 2016:

Brandon Maurer is making the transition from reliever to starter this year, what have you seen from him so far and where does Colin Rea fit in the mix for a spot in the starting rotation? 

 

How do you get Andrew Cashner back to his 2013-2014 form?

“I don’t like making excuses for anybody and I don’t even like the word luck, bad luck or good luck, but he had a lot of misfortune last year with what happened to him. It seemed like every ball hit found a hole. Actually, he did some good things last year. His strikeout rate was up. He threw the ball well. He stayed healthy for 31, 32 starts (Cashner started 31 games in 2015), whatever it was. Making it through an entire season as a starter was big for him and every fifth day he took the ball and went out and competed. Even if we don’t make any changes with Andrew, I think he’d do well this year, but we are making a few mechanical changes that may help him. He’s wiped his slate clean and so have I with him, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll have a bounceback season.”

What kind of mechanical changes are you working on with him?

“We’re working on a little bit more of a turn. He’s an explosive athlete, a big kid, and I think he can handle it. Just getting a little more torque in his delivery, help his hand get on the top of the baseball, and throw downhill and get that good sink back. Last year, he had more run-time movement than sink so we’re just trying to get his hand back on top of the ball and throw more downhill.”

What was the thinking behind naming Tyson Ross the Opening Day starter so early in Spring Training?

“He’s earned it. He’s earned the right to be one of the 30 guys in baseball who take the ball Opening Day. He’s had two, three fantastic seasons in a row and we want him to take the next step. It’s time for him to become an elite pitcher, not just a good pitcher, an elite pitcher. I’m looking forward to that, Tyson’s accepted the challenge and it’s going to be fun.”

You’ve traditionally had strong closers at the back of your bullpen, how do you get Fernando Rodney back to his 2014 All-Star form?

“Moving in to the Spring Training, I had a lot of ideas. But, from what I’ve seen thus far, he’s throwing strikes. His changeup’s fantastic. Sometimes for a coach the hardest thing to do is just leave guys alone. That’s what I’m going to do with Fernando at this point. If he needs help moving forward, that’s fine, but he’s looked great so far. And he’s been there, done that, and knows how to save games so I’m just going to leave him alone for now.”

What about your 7th and 8th inning roles?

“It’s up for grabs to be honest with you. We have a lot of candidates who are capable of doing it. It’s going to be a fun spring. Competition is always good. A Nick Vincent, a Kevin Quackenbush, guys we’ve had around before are able to do that. At the same time, we have (Carlos) Villanueva here, got a lot of Rule-5 guys here fighting for a job. They’re all capable. Breaking camp, whomever earns those positions, we’re going to be confident with. The good thing is we have a lot of good arms to chose from.”

 

 –Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)

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