Addition of changeup helping Luebke
Injury gives rookie time to develop third pitch
SAN DIEGO -- If there was an upside to missing nearly two months of the season with a strained oblique -- and, really, there weren't many -- it was that pitcher Cory Luebke had plenty of time to refine an elusive third pitch: the changeup.
"It wasn't feeling too great in Spring Training," Luebke said of his level of confidence in his changeup, "but when I injured my oblique, it gave me the chance to work on it during my bullpen sessions."
Luebke, who already had a low-90s fastball he could command as well as a sharp slider, took advantage of his time at San Diego's Spring Training facility in Arizona during the rehabilitation process to refine the changeup.
How comfortable does Luebke feel with the pitch now?
Luebke estimates that he threw it 15 or so times in his victory over the Dodgers last week -- which so happened to be the left-hander's first Major League victory.
Luebke, who will make his third Major League start Monday in Denver against the Rockies, has gotten to the point where throwing that pitch no longer represents a leap of faith for him.
"I give a lot of credit to [catcher Yorvit Torrealba] for making me throw it, especially in fastball counts," Luebke said.
San Diego pitcher coach Darren Balsley, who impressed upon Luebke the need for a third pitch back in Spring Training, has been impressed by what he's seen.
"The changeup isn't quite a third pitch for him yet, but it's a legit pitch, and for me, it has been a pleasant surprise," Balsley said. "You've got to give him a lot of credit."
Luebke suffered the oblique injury right at the end of Spring Training, while he took -- if you can believe this -- batting practice with manager Bud Black throwing. He didn't pitch in his first Minor League game until May 25 with Double-A San Antonio.
Luebke went 5-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 10 games with the Missions before being promoted to Triple-A Portland, where he was 5-0 with a 2.97 ERA in nine starts.
Hundley enjoying hot streak at the plate
SAN DIEGO -- Though the Padres only managed three hits against the Giants on Friday, two of them came from Nick Hundley, who has been swinging a hot bat during the past three weeks.
Hundley has hit safely in nine of his past 11 games played dating back to Aug. 22, posting a .382 clip during that span with five doubles and two home runs. Before then, he had been in a 3-for-32 slump.
Hundley recorded the only hit off of Jonathan Sanchez when he ripped a double into the left-field corner in the fourth inning and later singled off of San Francisco reliever Santiago Casilla in the sixth.
"He's making sure he's swinging at pitches that he should swing at," Black said. "He has some zones where he's very good, and he has some zones where he's not so good. I think what's happening is he's swinging at balls that are in his zone, where he can do some damage."
Hundley agreed that better plate discipline has been the key behind his recent offensive surge.
"There are pitches I can handle well, and as a hitter, you have to know what you can't handle well," Hundley said. "I'm starting to figure out that stuff. It's an ongoing process, but you have to make the adjustments as they come."
Hundley, who is batting .256 overall in his third Major League season with a career-high 39 RBIs, did not start behind the plate for Saturday's contest against the Giants, making way for Yorvit Torrealba. The two backstops have continued to split the catching duties throughout 2010, with each appearing in 78 games following Torrealba's start on Saturday.
"That position has been, overall, a big reason to where we are," Black said. "Both Nick and Yorvit have contributed a great deal offensively and in how they're handling the pitching staff."
Padres honor memory of 9/11 with ceremony
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres honored the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks before Saturday's game against the Giants at PETCO Park.
The Padres held a pregame ceremony in remembrance of 9/11. The ceremony also honored Major League Baseball's Welcome Back Veterans.
The scheduled events for the day included the Marine Corps League and the Warrior Foundation bringing approximately 325 Marines and their families from Balboa Hospital and with Wounded Warrior Bn. at Camp Pendleton.
Among this group are an astounding 185 Purple Heart recipients, possibly the largest gathering of Purple Heart recipients in the entire country today.
Wounded Warrior Regiment Sgt. Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Major John Ploskonka from Washington D.C., was honored during the pregame ceremonies. Sgt. Major Ploskonka is the top enlisted Marine in the Marine Corps in charge of the thousands of wounded Marines throughout the world. He's a Purple Heart recipient.
There was also a moment of silence to remember 9/11, the unveiling of the Holiday Bowl Big Flag that covers the entire outfield grass -- held by Sailors and Petty Officer Selects from the USS Carl Vinson CVN-70 North Island, the newest Aircraft Carrier based in San Diego.
There was a flyover of jets scheduled for the conclusion of the national anthem.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by John Wood (San Diego Fire Department first captain) who was deployed to the World Trade Center site as part of the San Diego Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue, California Task Force 8.
Bell on the cusp of 40-save season
SAN DIEGO -- With his next save, Padres closer Heath Bell will record the 12th 40-save season in franchise history.
Bell, who has converted his past 26 save opportunities, currently ranks second in the National League with 39 saves.
Bell's past 26 saves have come over 35 appearances and it is the longest streak of successfully converted saves in his career. His previous best stretch was 15 games.
Last season, in his first full season as a closer, Bell had 42 saves.
Corey Brock is a reporter and Gina Mizell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.