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3/18/2013 8:10 P.M. ET

Richard works with delivery, improves on command

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Padres pitcher Clayton Richard allowed five earned runs in 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Cubs on Monday, but found something mechanically during the start that he hopes will serve him well moving forward.

San Diego pitching coach Darren Balsley noticed that Richard had been working at a lower arm slot than usually recently, and the two worked on the side to raise his arm in his delivery.

The results? Richard got 10 ground-ball outs and was much more efficient than he had been previously, as he needed 74 pitches to get 19 outs, his longest outing this spring.

"The change is so minimal, but it makes a big difference," said Richard, who allowed seven hits with no walks and four strikeouts. "[It allowed for] better action on the fastball, better command, pretty much everything it helped out with."

Richard, who will likely make two more starts in exhibition games before Opening Day, was encouraged with how he was able to get outs -- on the ground.

"Being able to keep the ball down with movement is a good sign," Richard said.

The Padres haven't named their Opening Day starter for April 1 against the Mets at Citi Field, though it will either be Richard or Edinson Volquez, who got the start on Monday in the World Baseball Classic semifinal against the Netherlands.

Alonso encouraged by recent stretch of solid contact

PEORIA, Ariz. -- First baseman Yonder Alonso has been flirting with a batting average around .200 for most of the spring, but he sounded more encouraged than discouraged on Monday.

"I think the past week or so, you're seeing more regular at-bats instead of playing one day and sitting a game out and then playing again," Alonso said. "Now, I'm getting consistent at-bats and having better at-bats."

Alonso, who entered Monday's game against the Cubs hitting .190, is pleased with the amount of hard contact he's had in the last week.

On Sunday against the Angels, he went 0-for-2 with a walk, though he hit a ball hard to center field that Vernon Wells tracked down. He also grounded out hard to Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo.

"You're seeing the better swings are starting to show up," said Padres manager Bud Black.

Alonso is shooting for those better swings with two weeks until Opening Day, when the Padres face the Mets at Citi Field on April 1.

"I talked to [teammate Mark] Kotsay three or four days ago, and he said this was the perfect time to get hot," Alonso said. "I'm seeing the ball better, making more consistent contact. For me, it's just a matter of playing every day and getting my timing back."

Mikolas sent to Triple-A as Padres trim roster

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres cut their roster to 48 on Monday when they optioned right-handed pitcher Miles Mikolas to Triple-A Tucson.

Mikolas had a 3.00 ERA in six innings over five appearances. He allowed five hits, three walks and four strikeouts.

Mikolas had a 3.62 ERA in 25 appearances last season, his first in the Major Leagues.

The Padres are getting closer to determining their seven-man bullpen, though closer Huston Street, Luke Gregerson, Joe Thatcher, Brad Brach and Dale Thayer are essentially guaranteed of spots.

The Padres opened camp last month with 67 players. They don't need to finalize their 25-man roster until before Opening Day on April 1 in New York against the Mets at Citi Field.

Worth noting

• Third baseman Chase Headley (injured left thumb) wasn't the only player to return to San Diego on Monday to visit hand specialist Lorenzo Pacelli. Reliever Nick Vincent, a right-hander, has been sidelined with soreness in his right wrist/forearm for a while.

• Left fielder Carlos Quentin, who had six plate appearances in a Minor League game on Sunday, played again in a Minor League game Monday, going 3-for-6 with a home run and two singles. Quentin, who has been nursing a sore right knee, could appear in a game sometime this week.

Corey Brock is a 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.