07/20/12 9:20 PM ET
Volquez's prep as impressive as performance
By Corey Brock and Chelsea Janes / MLB.com
But it wasn't any sequence of pitches or any particular pitch that or, really, anything that Volquez did during the start that impressed Balsley.
It was more the preparation than the execution that stood out most.
"He's really starting to study hitters more, and he's really focused on looking at the strengths of each hitter before a start," Balsley said. "He's doing a much better job of being prepared."
Of course, Volquez had a good idea of how to pitch some of the Astros, especially since he was pitching in the National League Central while with Reds up until this season.
Volquez needed 117 pitches to get 27 outs on Thursday, walking three with five strikeouts. The lone hit came in the fourth inning, when Matt Downs reached on an infield single.
In three starts this month, Volquez is 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 21 innings. He's allowed 13 hits over that stretch and has generally been much sharper than he was in June, when he posted a 4.08 ERA in six starts.
"I just think the focus lately has been a little stronger," Balsley said.
Grandal receives praise for catching Volquez
SAN DIEGO -- If you've seen the kind of stuff Edinson Volquez brings to the mound each start, it might be surprising to learn that it took the righty 110 starts to get his first complete game on Thursday.
What's more surprising is the fact that it was 23-year-old Yasmani Grandal, catching just his 13th big league game, who maneuvered the 29-year-old Volquez through those lapses in command and high pitch counts that doomed his previous bids for longevity.
"[Grandal] did a really good job, called a good game," Volquez said after his one-hit shutout. "I didn't have too many pitches tonight. We were on the same page, and that gave me more confidence to throw each pitch."
Grandal and Volquez both came to the Padres this offseason in the deal that sent Mat Latos to Cincinnati. Despite the fact that Grandal had not yet been drafted when Volquez had his breakout rookie season in 2008, and concedes 98 games of big league experience to the big righty, the youngster was well-prepared to help his veteran pitcher break through.
Grandal said he studied Volquez and the Astros a great deal prior to Thursday's game, though he was surprised to know the complete game was Volquez's first.
"I didn't know that." Grandal said. "I figure [former Reds catcher] Ramon [Hernandez] caught a couple of those, but I guess he didn't."
"I did a lot of research on them: I went back to the games [Volquez] threw against [the Astros] when he was in Cincinnati, and kind of saw what Ramon Hernandez was doing with him." Grandal said. "I kind of took a little bit off of that and used the same strategy."
It worked. And while it may be a small sample size, Grandal's willingness to learn seems to be working pretty often. Just ask his manager, Bud Black, who says he and his staff are impressed with the job the rookie is doing managing his pitching staff.
"Pitch-calling, game-calling, in-game adjustments, communication with the pitchers, he's done a nice job," said Black, a former pitcher. "He's also confident that he knows he has a lot to learn, and there's a lot of players that don't want to show that. But there's a willingness to learn."
Black also noted that his rookie backstop was "not one bit intimidated by anything," an important characteristic for the man charged with blocking the nasty breaking balls that can make Volquez just as grueling to catch as he to hit.
And while Grandal was always a prospect known more for his prowess at the plate than behind it, his early defensive success is no surprise to his former University of Miami teammate, Yonder Alonso.
"He's done it before," Alonso said. "It's no secret to me. I've seen it since college. He's a good catcher, and I'm sure we're going to see more from him."
Wrist could keep Maybin out all weekend
SAN DIEGO -- There's a good chance that center fielder Cameron Maybin won't play in the three-game series against the Rockies this weekend.
Maybin wasn't in the starting lineup for the third consecutive game on Friday due to a nagging right wrist that has bothered him the last two months.
"You might not see him swing a bat for a few days," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He's a little better [Friday], but it will probably be a couple of days until you see him."
That will leave the Padres a little short-handed for their series against the Rockies, who will start three left-handed pitchers.
Alexi Amarista started in center field for the second time in as many days in Friday's series opener.
This isn't the first time Maybin has dealt with a sore wrist. He missed four games in late May due to similar soreness. He had an MRI at that time that didn't reveal and structural damage.
"There's some action in there," Black said earlier this week.
Black went on to say that a stint on the disabled list for Maybin is "highly unlikely."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.