4/12/2014 10:00 P.M. ET
Rivera-Cashner battery working for Padres
By Scott Miller / Special to MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- The more Andrew Cashner looks like an ace, the higher the stock soars for backup catcher Rene Rivera.
Rivera has been behind the plate for all three of Cashner's starts this season, including the Padres' season opener two Sundays ago against the Dodgers. He is not destined for the top job -- that belongs to Yasmani Grandal, especially as Grandal eases into being able to play back-to-back days following knee surgery last year.
But Rivera's place on the roster has perhaps never been more secure than it is now, given the way he is working with the Padres' budding ace. Though manager Bud Black will not formally say anything about Cashner having a personal catcher, it is difficult not to believe what the eyes see watching these two work together.
"Rene is a good catcher," Black said Saturday afternoon. "He catches everybody well. He's a good defensive catcher. That's not exclusive to Cash.
"But specifically to those two, it's been proven that there's been a great deal of success with those two statistically. That's hard to ignore."
Rivera, 30, is a six-year veteran who has bounced around since 2001, from the Mariners' organization to that of the Dodgers, Mets, Yankees and Twins before arriving in San Diego last year. He has big league time in Seattle, Minnesota and San Diego, but it would be hard to argue that he has previously clicked the way he is right now with Cashner, who calls Rivera's game-calling ability "incredible."
Among other qualities, Black and Cashner on Saturday each raved about Rivera's ability to "stick" pitches. Others refer to that as "framing." Time after time during his one-hit shutout Friday night against the Tigers, Cashner hit the outside corner for called strikes. Rivera's glove was waiting -- and still -- each time.
"He's got good hands," Black said. "There's a skill-set involved with that."
Black said Rivera's "ability to stick a fastball, slider, especially with pitches with movement … with Rene, we've seen this developing the last two years. I think he's really taken it to heart."
A year ago, the Padres pitched to a 3.00 ERA in games when Rivera was behind the plate, and since the start of the 2013 season, Cashner's ERA with Rivera as catcher is 1.43.
The Padres are making no promises, but it is increasingly difficult to imagine Rivera not being behind the plate for Cashner's starts.
"It's a long season, but I like what I've seen," Black said Saturday afternoon. "They seem to be in sync as far as pitch selection."
Most other things, too.
With shutout, Cashner gives energy, reliability
SAN DIEGO -- Most folks around Petco Park were still raving about Andrew Cashner's one-hit, 11-strikeout shutout in a 6-0 win over Detroit on Friday night, and that's certainly no surprise.
Cashner became the first pitcher in the Majors to throw a shutout this season, and going back to last September in Pittsburgh, the big right-hander has fired one-hitters in two of his past five starts.
"He made a lot of big pitches even when it was 2-0," San Diego closer Huston Street said. "He didn't have a six-run lead the whole game, which adds to the significance of it."
Opening a 10-game homestand, and knowing the Tigers were starting Justin Verlander on Saturday and Max Scherzer on Sunday, the Padres knew they needed a big game from Cashner, and he answered the bell.
Not only that, Cashner, at 235 pounds, went first-to-third on Everth Cabrera's seventh-inning single to right and then scored on Chris Denorfia's 6-2 fielder's choice, sliding home ahead of the throw.
"He wants to help the team win any way he can," Street said. "Bunting, sliding home for a big run … he's hustling. He's a baseball player.
"When he takes the mound, it gives us energy."
Padres get rare in-person look at Miggy
SAN DIEGO -- Attracting attention this weekend in San Diego is a rare Miguel Cabrera appearance. Though he has played 17 games in Petco Park (.246/.306/.308, one home run, three RBIs), it's not as if he comes around every summer.
Though San Diego fans were eager to see him, the Padres, of course, are viewing things from a different perspective.
"It's interesting, because those kind of thoughts really do go out the window when you're competing against somebody," outfielder Will Venable said. "Everything is stripped down to, 'We've got to get this guy out, we've got to catch the ball, we've got to make this pitch.'"
Having said that, Venable acknowledged that it was a completely different story when he happened to see the Tigers on television. Then, Venable said, you bet he stops what he's doing to lock in on Cabrera's plate appearances.
"I'm watching his approach, his at-bats, what it is he's doing," Venable said. "He's the best. He's fun to watch. For everybody, he's fun to watch, but especially for a baseball player who understands how hard it is to hit.
"You've got to stop and check him out."
• On the first night of his injury rehabilitation assignment, outfielder Cameron Maybin went 1-for-2 with an RBI double and scored a run for Double-A El Paso against top Arizona prospect Archie Bradley. Maybin, 27, landed on the disabled list last month with a ruptured left biceps tendon.
• Veteran Jeff Francoeur, recently signed by the Padres, is in El Paso, too.
"Setting a great example" for the younger players, manager Bud Black said. "He plays with energy. He still has some bat speed. And he has a great arm; he's already gotten a couple of assists."
Scott Miller is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.