DENVER -- Pitcher Tyson Ross, who won his fifth game of the season on Thursday, is using his slider more this season, throwing it 36.9 percent of the time compared to 32.6 percent a year ago.
This much, Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley is well aware.
"His slider is just so good. I think he's throwing it a little more than before," Balsley said. "And, honestly, I would like him not have to throw it quite as much. But it's also such a devastating pitch … and when it's that good, it's kind of hard not to throw it a lot."
According to FanGraphs, Ross' slider usage is up from 2013 and he has also increased his swinging-strike rate (12.6 percent from 11.1) while also lowering his contact rate (70.6 from 75.3).
"I think that he's throwing more fastballs in hitters' counts, throwing his two-seamer more, getting to two strikes quicker," Balsley said. "He's ahead into the count more than he was last year. He should continue to get better and better."
This is certainly a far cry from Spring Training in 2013 when Balsley was charged with helping Ross to streamline his mechanics and harness his command. It has been a work in progress.
"For me, I think the ultimate guy is a high ground-ball, high-strikeout pitcher," Balsley said. "He [Ross] might turn into one of them. He's improving every day."
Black has method to lineup madness
DENVER -- No Major League manager has used more different starting lineups this season than Padres manager Bud Black.
Going into Friday's game against the Rockies, Black had used 42 different lineups, a different one for every game this season.
Next on the list is Cubs manager Rick Renteria and John Gibbons in Toronto (38). On the other side of that equation, Ned Yost of the Royals has used just 17 different lineups. For the National League, this number is slightly skewed as it takes into consideration the starting pitcher.
Black's figure might be changing, as for just the second time since Sept. 5 of 2012, the Padres had Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Yonder Alonso in the same starting lineup on Friday. Injuries have often kept one or more of the players from the starting lineup since 2012.
But why use so many different lineups, Black was asked.
"I think the way our roster sets up, we do have a couple of players who are built to play every day and some others who perform best when they get a day off from starting, when we can give them the best possible matchup available," Black said. "It's also keeping those guys who don't play every day fresh. I think our guys understand this is what's best for their performance."
Shortstop Everth Cabrera (40 starts before Friday), second baseman Jedd Gyorko (39), outfielder Will Venable (36) and first baseman Alonso (36) have essentially been in the lineup nearly every game.
Now that Headley, Quentin and Maybin have returned from disabled list stints this season, they could soon join the list of players getting starts more often than not.
Black said there are many factors to consider when putting together a lineup -- health, matchups, going with a hot hand (or bat) and also keeping in mind that a day off in April or May could benefit a player in, say, August or September.
"It is years of experience and knowing our players, communicating with them," Black said. "Some guys wear down quicker than others. Some guys need to stay fresh for bat speed, legs and the mental side. It's good for the team to get everyone involved.
"And I don't think there's a drop in quality and performance when we do mix and match those guys."
Padres getting most out of Roach, Stauffer
DENVER -- As Spring Training started in February, one of the questions facing the Padres and manager Bud Black was if the team would keep a second left-handed reliever in the bullpen.
The team auditioned lefties Patrick Schuster, a Rule 5 pick, and veteran Tony Sipp, giving them each a long look before ultimately deciding to not keep either of them.
Instead, the Padres went with two long relievers -- rookie Donn Roach and Tim Stauffer, the longest tenured Padre.
What really wasn't a consideration in February has evolved into a situation where Black could see two long relievers in the bullpen the rest of the season.
"I think so, yes," Black said.
Roach has a 2.57 ERA in 12 appearances this season and 21 innings. Eight of his 12 outings have seen him throw more than one inning. Stauffer has a 2.30 ERA in 11 appearances and 15 2/3 innings. He has thrown more than one inning in five of his 11 outings.
The Padres haven't always needed length from the bullpen this season, but Roach and Stauffer have certainly provided it -- with good results -- when called upon.
"It's a little bit comforting because you can use those two guys each and every night and you can space them out where you're never worried about length on any given night," Black said. "With Donn, even though he's been a Minor League starter, his arm is resilient. He's the type of pitcher who can develop into a resilient reliever.
"Stauffer has shown his ability to pitch out the pen and appear in multiple occasions in a given week."
As it stands, Alex Torres is the lone lefty in the bullpen, but because his stuff plays well against righties and the fact that Joaquin Benoit and closer Huston Street have fared well against lefties were other reasons as to why Black didn't see the need to add Schuster or Sipp.
"For me, it starts with who you feel comfortable with at the back end," Black said. "Our comfort level with Huston, Joaquin, Nick and Dale against either left- or right-handed hitters, that sets you up for the last three innings."