Padres work to maximize innings for surplus of arms

Four pitchers in competition for No. 5 starter role

Padres work to maximize innings for surplus of arms

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Between meetings and pressed for time, Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley scooped up a bowl of pasta just before the lunchroom closed at the team's training facility, a quick bite before he huddled again with the coaches.

Balsley has been busy devising a way to find innings for the 29 pitchers in big league camp during the upcoming Cactus League schedule, which begins in earnest on Wednesday against the Mariners.

And no matter how well Balsley and the coaches plan, something quirky always happens that leaves the staff scrambling.

"It's definitely a challenge," Balsley said. "There's so many guys in camp. We'll miss something and go, 'whoa, this reliever hasn't thrown in three or four days.'"

One unique challenge facing the Padres this spring is there are four legitimate candidates for the team's No. 5 starter spot, even though manager Bud Black has said that Brandon Morrow or Odrisamer Despaigne might have a small advantage at this point over Robbie Erlin and Matt Wisler.

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That said, they will all need innings and the opportunity to be evaluated before the team breaks camp on April 2.

"We have a lot of guys who are candidates to start, more than usual. You've got to find places for them to pitch and get their innings extended," Balsley said.

Black announced Saturday that Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy will get their first chance to pitch Thursday against the Mariners in a Cactus League game in Peoria.

Cashner is expected to pitch one inning, with Kennedy throwing two innings. Erlin is also expected to pitch in that game.

Veteran Jason Lane gets the start on Wednesday, also against Seattle.

James Shields won't appear in the first three Cactus League games and won't pitch live batting practice until Monday. The team has built in an extra day or two for him for the simple fact that he pitched deep into October with the Royals, who lost the World Series in seven games to the Giants.

"We don't have to start him until a little further out," Balsley said. "He's the only guy we've moved to give him an extra days rest. No big deal."

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.