Healthy Hensley working on command
Padres reliever avoiding damage despite rash of walks
SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after he walked four batters in two innings, San Diego relief pitcher Clay Hensley reveled in the fact that a discussion with a reporter revolved around his command and not his oft-injured past.
"It's nice to be talking about my control issues ... instead of whether my shoulder is still attached to my body or not," Hensley joked.
Hensley missed most of last season with several injuries that eventually led to surgery on his right labrum last September. The recovery from that surgery slowed his timetable for pitching competitively, though he's thrown well since joining the Padres on July 18.
Hensley carried a 1-2 record and a 3.80 ERA into Sunday's series finale against the Giants at AT&T Park, though his ERA as a reliever is a scant 1.93 in 18 2/3 innings.
Hensley had what amounted to a hiccup in Saturday's 4-3 loss to San Francisco, walking four over two scoreless innings. Nothing was hurt in the long run, as the Padres turned a double play behind him to keep the score tied.
"I felt like I was flying open a little bit and the ball was running away from me -- I think I was pulling off a lot on my fastball," Hensley said. "It ended up working out; we did not give up any runs. But as far as control, that was one of my worst outings."
Hensley has walked 15 batters in 23 2/3 innings and has walked at least one batter in his last five outings, though he's been able to avoid much damage.
"He's got the movement and when a guy has good movement, unless you have great feel for commanding the movement, you're going to get out of the strike zone," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It looks to me as though Clay is trying to generate velocity.
"A lot of times when you try to generate velocity, it's at the expense of command. I think Clay's challenge isn't so much to try and hit the corners but to get the ball in the [strike] zone early in the count and then expand the zone if he gets ahead."
Hensley made a spot start last month against Pittsburgh after Randy Wolf was traded to Houston, but Black likes having him in the bullpen.
"For what we need right now, we need him in the bullpen," Black said. "He gives us another weapon in a close game with [Mike] Adams and [Heath] Bell."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.