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03/26/08 5:18 PM ET

Germano named Padres' fifth starter

Right-hander's changeup the key to his spring success

PEORIA, Ariz. -- He was the Padres most consistent starting pitcher during the spring, but at no point did Justin Germano allow himself to think that he had won a job in the starting rotation.

Not until he was told that he'll open the season as the Padres fifth starter, a point affirmed Wednesday morning when manager Bud Black informed Germano that he will be part of the rotation to start the season.

"You can't really take anything for granted, unless it's told to you. I knew I had a pretty good chance and I just kind of took it as that. I felt I put in a pretty good effort in Spring Training."

So too, apparently, did the Padres, though the decision to tab Germano as the fifth starter was a relatively easy one after the way the 25-year-old right-hander pitched.

Germano was 0-1 with a 3.65 ERA in 24 1/3 innings, a heavier workload than any of the other starters (Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf) in the rotation.

"I thought he pitched very well this spring, he answered the challenge of competing with a few other guys who were vying for that spot," Padres manager Black said. "We thought that some of the improvements he made in his game showed and hopefully that they carry over to the regular season."

Part of Germano's success this spring stems from his changeup, a pitch that he's always had but one he's refined and been able to use with his fastball and his curveball. A third effective pitch was something Germano lacked in 2007 when he went 2-7 after the All-Star break with a 4.98 ERA and lost his spot in the rotation.

"It's weird, because I didn't really do anything different with it," Germano said of his changeup. "It was kind of locked in. It turned out to be a pretty big pitch for me this spring. It helped guys stay off my fastball and, at times, made my fastball look a little harder. I think it's going to be a big pitch for me in the long run."

Germano didn't win the job by default, even though Shawn Estes, one of the pitchers who were competing for the fifth spot, struggled this spring. Germano won the job with consistently good outings including one this month in, of all places, China.

"You look at the whole spring when you evaluate players," Black said. "It doesn't come down to one at-bat, one start or one inning. In his case, he threw the ball pretty well from Day 1. His early side sessions, his batting practices, his games ... you could tell he was throwing the ball well."

Germano will remain behind in Arizona and will throw in a Minor League game on Sunday, his regularly scheduled day to throw. He will then make his first start of the season on April 4 against the Dodgers at PETCO Park.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.