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2/27/2014 4:15 P.M. ET

Grandal waiting for opportunity to play games

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Catcher Yasmani Grandal is itching to get into a game here in Arizona, though he might have to wait a bit.

Grandal, coming off major knee surgery last August, is taking part in catching drills each day with the other five catchers in Padres camp -- catching bullpen sessions, live batting practice and taking part in hitting and other assorted drills.

Manager Bud Black, who has said several times that Grandal is working ahead of schedule in terms of his rehabilitation, indicated there's no specific date when Grandal will appear in a game.

"There's no plan yet. He still has to clear some hurdles with stamina and strength as we get into games," Black said. "There's nothing etched in stone as far as a specific date."

Black said Grandal got a break on Wednesday, getting a day off after a steady diet of drills. That hasn't changed his timetable, which could see him ready to go by Opening Day.

"He was a little sore yesterday, so gave him a day off," Black said. "But our training staff and doctors are very happy where Yazzy is."

Rene Rivera got the start behind the plate for Thursday's Cactus League opener against the Mariners. Rivera and Nick Hundley are expected to win jobs on the 25-man roster if Grandal, the starter when healthy, isn't ready for the start of the season.

Boyer making best attempt to win roster spot

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's not entirely uncommon for a pitcher to go a few games or even a few weeks without one of his primary pitches.

But eight years?

That's precisely what happened to Padres pitcher Blaine Boyer, a non-roster invitee who is trying to win a job on the 25-man roster.

Boyer had labrum and rotator cuff surgery in 2006 while a member of the Braves. When he got back to the big leagues the following season, he discovered that his best pitch -- his curveball -- wasn't working for him.

"That was my go-to pitch," Boyer said. "When I came back in '07, I had to remake myself a little. You're out there trying to survive and get guys out."

It worked, to some degree, Boyer said.

Boyer spent parts of the three seasons with the Braves before being traded to the Cardinals in 2009. He bounced around baseball after that and didn't play at all in 2012, before getting back into pro baseball last season, first with the Royals' Triple-A affiliate and later in Japan.

Boyer, 32, has never felt better. And, better still, his curveball has returned.

"I honestly feel like my stuff is better than it's ever been," Boyer said. "It sort of makes sense now. After my surgery, I had a hard time getting on top of the ball. Now, I can do that."

Former Cy Young winner Jones helping arms

PEORIA, Ariz. -- There was a familiar face in the clubhouse on Thursday morning -- a former National League Cy Young Award winner, in fact.

Randy Jones returned to Peoria for his second year of helping the staff as a guest instructor. Jones, who won the 1976 NL Cy Young Award, going 22-14 in 40 starts, will work with pitchers in Major League as well as Minor League camp, which gets underway next week.

"I'm very thankful for [manager Bud Black] for having me back," Jones said.

Black said that pitchers, regardless of age and experience, can learn something from Jones during his time in Arizona.

"He will be here 10 days to two weeks, to meet with our players and get another eye on our pitchers," Black said. "It's great to have Randy here. He has a great deal of wisdom on the pitching side. He's a great Padre, one of the greatest of all-time."

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.