SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In any other year, the opportunity to pitch for his native Korea in the World Baseball Classic would have been enticing to Cha Seung Baek.

But Baek, who is seeking to lock down the No. 3 spot in the Padres' starting rotation, said Wednesday exactly where he wants to be this week.

"I want to be here," Baek said.

Baek, who went 6-9 with a 4.62 ERA in 22 games after being obtained from the Mariners a year ago, battled nagging triceps and leg issues late in the season. That's partly why he passed on the opportunity to play for Korea.

"[The regular season is] more important. I want to make sure I'm ready for the season," Baek said.

At times Wednesday, Baek looked like he might be getting there. After throwing fastballs and changeups in his first outing last week, when he yielded two runs in one inning against the Indians, Baek added a slider and curveball against the Rangers.

The results during the Padres' 4-3 loss were mixed.

Baek allowed one run on two hits in two innings against a Texas lineup that included regulars Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Hank Blalock and led the Major Leagues in runs last season.

"Overall, I thought he threw strikes when he needed to. He accomplished a lot," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's a four-pitch pitcher. He's got to use them all in all counts. What's going to make him successful is any one of his four pitches can be thrown [for strikes] at any time."

Baek needed 12 pitches in a second-inning at-bat against David Murphy before getting the Texas outfielder to pop out to catcher Eliezer Alfonzo on a changeup.

"I didn't walk him. That's a big out," Baek said.

Baek worked on an improved tempo -- not taking so much time between pitches -- and a more streamlined windup during the second half of last season. Whereas he used to pause at the top of his delivery, Baek now employs a more fluid delivery, something he has worked on with pitching coach Darren Balsley.

"I don't want [opposing hitters] to get comfortable," Baek said. "I want to keep pounding the strike zone."

Also Wednesday:

• Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff played in the field for the first time this spring after being brought along slowly after offseason shoulder surgery. He handled two balls hit to him, and Black said Kouzmanoff came out fine.

• Right fielder Brian Giles, who has been nursing a strained quadriceps, ran in the morning in Peoria and was fine after the workout. Black said Giles would be in the starting lineup on Saturday against the A's in Peoria.