Baek's inconsistency troubles Padres
Projected No. 3 starter has been roughed up in past two starts
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's certainly no news to anyone that there are still jobs to be won here in Arizona, even as the Padres' regular-season opener is now less than two weeks away.
The No. 3 spot in the starting rotation didn't figure to be one of them, though the recent stretch of poor outings by Cha Seung Baek has the Padres concerned.
"I know it's Spring Training, but there are certain things you would like to see," manager Bud Black said after watching Baek allow nine runs on nine hits with three walks in a 10-5 loss to the Angels on Tuesday.
Baek, who has a 9.95 ERA this spring, has allowed 15 earned runs over his past two starts.
Baek's inconsistency, which dates back to last season, has baffled the Padres, especially Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley, who liken Baek's stuff to that of a top-tier starter when he's going good but are troubled by his lapses in focus and his inability to avoid big innings.
Take Tuesday against the Angels. Baek opened the game by striking out Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick in a 1-2-3 first inning. Then in the second inning, Baek stuck out Vladimir Guerrero and got two ground balls.
"He made a lot of good hitters look bad," Black said.
But in the third inning, Baek allowed three runs, and that was followed by six more during the fifth inning, including a monster home run to right off the bat of Gary Matthews Jr. Baek was gone after 4 2/3 innings.
After that start, Balsley talked with Baek. Black then did the same early Wednesday in the clubhouse. The message is simple.
"You've got to keep the mental side tough where you absorb the bad break, the broken bat hit, the walk, the double in the gap ... you have got to get out of it. You've got to develop that knack for getting out of an inning," Black said.
"He's shown me at times that he's been able to do that, at other times ... no. That's his challenge. That's something we'll continue to talk about with him."
In an example from 2008, Baek, who went 6-10 with a 4.79 ERA last season in 22 games after joining the Padres following a trade from Seattle, tossed seven shutout innings in a win over the Dodgers on Sept. 8.
But six days before that strong outing, that same club hit him hard for seven runs on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings. Baek allowed five or more runs in a start four times last season.
"It's not about throwing harder or making your curveball break any more. But it's about making a quality pitch in a good location," Black said. "I think he gets away from that a little."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.