Padres get first win of new season
Fired-up Bell nails down save to close solid game for 'pen
SAN DIEGO -- While it's true Trevor Hoffman has moved on, taking with him the legacy of, statistically at least, being the greatest closer of all time, the lessons that No. 51 left on the relievers that stayed behind still hold true today.
This was never truer than on Tuesday, when Heath Bell sprinted in from the bullpen, his veins full of adrenaline, amped not only by the situation but his entrance music that blared from the PETCO Park speakers.
What is the first thing Bell did when he climbed on the mound, charged with protecting a two-run lead? He put his emotions in check, remembering something Hoffman once told him about the art of survival in these potentially thorny situations.
"Before every pitch, I was just telling myself to pitch, to just stay in control. That's one thing Trevor taught me. To stay in control," Bell said of Hoffman, who signed with the Brewers in the offseason when the Padres made it clear they were going a different direction.
That was an important lesson not only for Bell, who struck out the side in the ninth inning as the Padres held on to defeat the Dodgers, 4-2, but for the two relievers who got the ball and the lead to Bell before the ninth inning.
Yes, composure was key on Tuesday as the Padres bounced back from their Opening Day loss to the Dodgers with a performance that included quality starting pitching from Chris Young, timely hitting and the kind of bullpen performance this team has coveted.
"We pitched, played good defense and got timely hitting," said Young, who allowed two runs over six innings. "It was a great team effort."
One that was highlighted by the back end of the bullpen, the one area of the team that the front office was most skittish about during Spring Training, which is why the team added four relievers in the final three weeks of camp.
"The bullpen is awesome," Young said, diverting the credit away from himself. " ... They won the game for us."
It just wasn't as easy as it might have looked, though.
Rookie Edwin Moreno, who made the team with a run of lights-out performances in the spring, walked two batters in the seventh inning with the Padres holding a two-run lead.
"I was a little nervous. I felt a little pressure at first. Then I felt right," said Moreno, who walked just one batter in Spring Training.
Those nerves probably didn't subside until after Moreno struck out Orlando Hudson with the last of two nasty changeups, a pitch the right-handed Moreno is able to get outs with against left-handed hitters.
"That pitch is a great equalizer," Padres manager Bud Black said.
That brought up Manny Ramirez, who doubled in the fourth inning. Moreno quickly fell behind Ramirez 3-1 before offering a changeup that the Dodgers' left fielder was out in front of. Ramirez sent the ball skyward near first base where Adrian Gonzalez caught it.
"Edwin ... he's got the stuff and the ability. He's going to be huge for us," Young said.
Duaner Sanchez, who wasn't with the Padres when Spring Training started, worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning before handing the ball over to Bell, who kept his emotions in check, for him, at least, as he struck out three and walked one.
"I'm the closer, it's all or nothing. There's nothing behind me," Bell said afterward, his right arm wrapped tightly in ice. "I love doing what I just did tonight."
The Padres (1-1) surely wouldn't mind seeing more of that kind of performance -- from Bell and the rest of the bullpen as well as from Young, who left Arizona with an ERA of 12.96 and the inability to get a grip on his slider in the light air.
That wasn't a problem on Tuesday, as Young looked sharp at times, striking out five and snapping off a few sliders that weren't seen in Peoria, Phoenix, Surprise or any points in between.
"I thought his velocity picked up and he held it throughout the game," Black said. "He threw some good sliders. I like the way CY was throwing the ball early in spring. Later, he had a few rough outings. But as long as he was healthy, I saw the arm strength and action on his secondary pitches."
In other words, Black wasn't the least bit worried about a 12.96 ERA in the desert. He only cares about the ERA in April and two quality starts by his top two pitchers -- Jake Peavy on Monday and now Young -- Black is content with where those two are.
The Padres didn't have much luck against former teammate Randy Wolf (0-1) until the sixth inning when the left-handed Wolf allowed singles to start the inning to Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff. Chase Headley, hitting right-handed, then turned on a ball and bounced it down the third base line for a two-run double.
Headley later alertly tagged up on a ball down the first-base line that Dodgers' second baseman Hudson made a sliding grab of in foul territory. Headley sprinted to third base and then scored when Luis Rodriguez lifted a two-strike sacrifice fly to right field for a 4-2 lead.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.