3/8/2014 7:11 P.M. ET
Ross applying strategy to use of top-notch slider
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Tyson Ross estimated that he threw "five or six" sliders in his three innings Friday against the Royals, which seemed about right to him for his second outing of the spring.
As Ross moves into his second season in the Padres' rotation, he'll again rely on his slider, considered a plus-pitch for him.
"It's one of the best in the National League," said Padres manager Bud Black.
Last season, only five starting pitchers in baseball used their slider more than Ross did (32.6 percent). This season, Ross wants to better utilize the pitch, which doesn't mean using it more than before.
"I think I can work the sequences a little better to keep guys off the slider," he said. "I think guys are starting to look out over the plate [for the slider] with two strikes ... so that's going to open up some heaters in. I think that I can use that to my advantage, sort of altering my attack."
Black doesn't see the need to stray too far away from what Ross did a year ago, when opposing batters hit just .201 against him in the second half.
"You've still got to pitch your game and pitch to your game as the game tells you. What we're trying to do with Tyson is really gain confidence in his fastball command, and that will make his slider better," Black said. "He's got a very good slider, there's no doubt about it."
JJ weathers tough luck while mixing in pitches
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Josh Johnson doesn't need to see a string of zeros on the scoreboard to know that he's making progress -- though it certainly doesn't hurt.
Johnson, in his second outing of the spring, allowed three runs in the first inning of his start in Saturday's 4-4 tie with the Indians, but he felt more snake bit than ambushed -- a ball lost in the sun for a hit, an eight-hop single through the hard infield dirt, a fastball in on the hands of Nick Swisher, who blocked it the other way for a single.
"I made some good pitches, made some really close pitches, too," he said. "They weren't called strikes, but I thought they were pretty close. Two ground balls, one sun ball and the ball up the middle [Carlos Santana single] wasn't hit real hard, it was probably the hardest-hit ball all day."
Johnson recovered well, retiring eight of the final nine hitters he faced in a three-inning stint that saw him allow the three runs on five hits with three strikeouts. He mixed in more sliders in this outing and several changeups while also working on his fastball command.
"I thought he threw the ball with some velocity, his mechanics [were good]," said manager Bud Black. "I thought he threw the ball fine. He threw some changeups, mixed his pitches. He's doing fine."
Johnson said he wanted to focus on using his slider more in this start.
"You can throw it as much as you want in the bullpen, but when you get a hitter in there and you see the reactions, when you see where you want to start it, where you want to finish it, things like that, you start building off that," he said. "I threw three [sliders] last time. I pretty much wanted to double it, if not go a little bit more than that. I probably got close to six or eight or so."
Padres welcome well-traveled Castellanos
PEORIA, Ariz. -- If Alex Castellanos has learned anything from his peculiar offseason, it was to never get too attached to one organization.
Since Oct. 23, Castellanos has been property of the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers and now the Padres, who claimed him off waivers from Texas on Friday.
It's enough to make your head spin, said Castellanos, a 27-year-old infielder/outfielder.
"Don't take any pictures with any jerseys on," Castellanos said Saturday, when asked what he learned most from the offseason.
The Padres are hoping Castellanos is a good fit for the 25-man roster, as his skill set and versatility seem to set up well for a National League team -- someone who can play all three outfield positions, as well as second and third base, and someone who can run and has some power.
"He's a guy who can move around the diamond, and he's very comfortable in the outfield. I know he has some infield play in his past," said Padres manager Bud Black. "We've got to get acclimated to him. He's got some bat speed, can run a little bit, an all-around player, and has some tools."
Castellanos arrived at the Padres' facility early Saturday and met several of his new teammates, as well as getting reacquainted with some familiar faces -- Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Ryan Jackson, who all have Miami ties, which is where Castellanos was born and raised.
Castellanos appeared in five games this spring with the Rangers, collecting three hits in nine at-bats. He was designated for assignment on Wednesday, when Texas signed free-agent pitcher Joe Saunders.
He worked out locally at a gym not far from the Padres' facility with hopes of finding a team to play for -- soon.
"I was just waiting for the phone to ring," he said.
The decision to add Castellanos came one day after the team found out that outfielder Cameron Maybin will miss between four and six weeks with a ruptured left biceps tendon.
For the time being, Castellanos will get work in the infield and outfield during morning drills and could see time in the infield and outfield during games.
"They already told me to bring all my gloves out there," he said, smiling.
Castellanos took part in a simulated game in the morning, taking swings against a trio of pitchers.
The Padres had a short simulated game Saturday morning to get three pitchers -- Burch Smith, Joe Ross and Juan Oramas -- some extra work. The game also allowed several players like Carlos Quentin, Chris Denorfia and newcomer Castellanos a chance to get extra swings in against live pitching. Yasmani Grandal caught during the game as he continues to inch closer to actual Cactus League games.