8/3/2014 2:22 A.M. ET
Nelson makes clutch play in first-base debut
By Corey Brock and Will Laws / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- If you thought Braves' closer Craig Kimbrel walking three and allowing a game-winning hit in the 12th inning Saturday was a long shot (it was), then consider the latest Padre to take a turn at first base, Chris Nelson.
Pressed into duty in extra innings, Nelson -- who had never played a single inning in the big leagues at that position -- might have saved the game with a smothering stop of a ball Chris Johnson scorched in the top of the 12th inning, setting the stage for the Padres to beat Kimbrel in the bottom of the frame.
The Padres won, 3-2, in 12 innings on Will Venable's walk-off single off Kimbrel.
Not out of the woods yet, Stauffer got Johnson to hit a ball the other way down the first-base line that Nelson -- who plays everywhere else in the infield -- drove to his left and knocked down, recovering in time to flip to Stauffer for the last out of the inning.
"That was a game-saver," said Padres manager Bud Black.
After the game, Stauffer was told that Nelson, a shortstop by trade, had never played first base in his five seasons in the big leagues -- and only seven games in parts of 11 Minor League seasons.
"I'm glad I didn't know that before," Stauffer said, smiling.
Nelson, who signed a Minor League deal with the team on June 19, said he got a lot of playing time at the position in Spring Training with the Reds. When asked to rank where first base fit with all of the other positions he played, Nelson smiled.
"It's right at the top," said Nelson, who has only played second and third base with the Padres. "It's all about comfort and confidence. And I'm comfortable over there."
Padres' bats clicking in second half
SAN DIEGO -- After a rough first half marred with offensive troubles, something has seemingly clicked for manager Bud Black's crew since the All-Star break.
San Diego leads the National League in runs scored (71) and batting average (.281) during that 14-game span, and on Friday, the Padres produced perhaps their most impressive performance of 2014. They defeated Atlanta 10-1 behind a season-high 20 hits, the most registered by the Padres in a nine-inning game since 1995.
On Saturday, Black opined several reasons as to why a team that recently traded away a player considered by many to be the face of the franchise (Chase Headley) and now features castoffs such as Jeff Francouer and Chris Nelson is suddenly averaging a robust 5.1 runs per game.
Other than just plain old luck finally going the Padres way, Black pointed out that the roster shuffling related to the Trade Deadline has coincided with the return of regulars such as Jedd Gyorko, who's 8-for-19 (.421) in five games since returning from a 44-game stint on the disabled list.
He also praised Yangervis Solarte, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Headley deal and has a line of .325/.383/.525 in 10 games for San Diego.
"We changed the roster a little bit, and that brought a little bit of energy and opportunity to the club," Black said. "Solarte has brought a good brand of offensive baseball. … He's added a nice punch to us since he's been here."
Black says the Padres' ability to sustain that success, though, will largely depend on one of its longest tenured players in shortstop Everth Cabrera.
"Cabby relishes the role of leading off a game," Black said. "I think his ego likes that, he wants to be known as that prototypical leadoff hitter."
Since he debuted in 2009, it's been quite clear that Cabrera has the speed and defensive chops to fill such a role. The question has been whether he could hit well enough.
In 2013, Cabrera hit .283 with an OPS of .736, and was the lone Padres player to make the NL All-Star team as a result. But this season, he is batting just .225 with a lowly .560 OPS.
"He's frustrated and disappointed by his statistical measures so far," Black said. "He knows that's his challenge, he's gonna be the first to admit it."
Like many of his teammates, Cabrera has been performing better in the second half. He's come back from a hamstring injury to hit 6-for-16 (.375) in San Diego's last four games.
It's a small sample size, but after the Friars endured one of the toughest stretches in franchise history both on and off the field in the first half, the Padres are eager to turn things around in the last two months of the season.
"We have a lot of new faces in here, and a lot of talented guys," said Tommy Medica, who became the first rookie in Padres history to record five hits in a nine-inning game on Friday. "Right now, it's working. We'll ride this out and see how it goes and just keep on building.
"Our pitching staff has been great all year. If we can score four runs a game -- that's what we want to shoot for -- Who knows what can happen after that?"
Cashner to make first rehab start Friday
SAN DIEGO -- Pitcher Andrew Cashner, on the disabled list since June 21 with right shoulder soreness, is scheduled to make his first Minor League rehabilitation start on Friday for the team's Class A Advanced affiliate in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Cashner threw an extended bullpen session prior to Saturday's game against the Braves at Petco Park. He's scheduled to travel with the team on Monday to Minnesota, where he will throw another bullpen session before flying back to California.
Cashner has actually been free and clear of any residual shoulder soreness for quite some time, but he had soreness in his neck that bothered him leading up to the All-Star break. He took five days off from any time of throwing before throwing a bullpen last weekend in Atlanta.
Cashner is 2-6 with a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts. He also missed time in May with soreness in his right elbow.
San Diego manager Bud Black said he anticipates that Cashner will throw between 30-40 pitches in his first rehabilitation start. Black didn't say how many appearances he will need, though he'll first need to rebuild his stamina and endurance before he's able to rejoin the big league team.
Mexican League matchup to follow Sunday's game
SAN DIEGO -- About 30 minutes after the conclusion of Sunday's game between the Padres and Braves, the Tijuana Toros and Mexico City Diablos Rojos will play a Mexican League game at Petco Park.
This isn't a novelty, but more potentially a precursor to the Padres' increased involvement in terms of their push into Baja California.
"It's one idea of bridging the gap between the Padres, San Diego and Baja," said Tom Seidler, who is part of the Padres' ownership group and has headed the effort to get this game played at Petco Park. "I know in [team president Mike Dee's] first stint here [1995-2002], he and the team were very successful with reaching into Mexico.
"They played a regular season game there, played an exhibition game, just connecting comprehensively with the community of Baja. There's a lot we can do. The franchise kind of lost its focus on Baja in recent years. The goal is to get it back to where it was."
Admittance to the game Sunday will be included with a ticket to that day's Padres game. The game will be the final game of a weekend series between the Toros and the Diablos Rojos, with the first two scheduled to be played Friday and Saturday at Estadio Gasmart in Tijuana, home of the Toros.
This marks the second time Petco Park has hosted a Mexican League regular-season game. On June 11, 2006, the Tijuana Potros defeated the Mexico City Diablos Rojos 4-0 following an afternoon Padres game against the Marlins.
The Diablos Rojos are owned by Alfredo Harp Helu, who was at Petco Park on Saturday.
The Padres nearly played an exhibition game in March in Tijuana against the Indians but couldn't get the game finalized in time. They may try again in 2015 and could possibly make a push to play a regular season game in Mexico again, like they did in 1996 when they became the first Major League team to play a regular season game in Mexico.
"I think the possibility is certainly there. We have to work it through with our players, the visiting team, the player's association, but we feel strong it's good for the game to grow in Mexico and feel we can lead that effort in Mexico," Seidler said. "Not only with our proximity to the border but with Alfredo Harp, who is widely respected throughout Mexico, being part of our ownership team."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. Will Laws is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.