Five thoughts: Big 3 of rotation must step up

Five thoughts: Big 3 of rotation must step up

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

After being shut out three times in the past four games, it'd be easy talk about the need for the Padres' offense to step it up -- and it does. But the top three pitchers in San Diego's starting rotation -- James Shields, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner -- also need to turn it up a notch.

They haven't been pitching terribly. But they haven't been pitching as great as the Padres expected them to pitch.

Going into Shields' start in Arizona on Friday night, San Diego's top three starters have a combined 5-8 record with a collective ERA of 3.67. Each of the three has made six starts thus far.

Shields is 3-0 with a 3.72 ERA. Ross is 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA. Cashner is 1-5 with a 3.16 ERA. Cashner has been a victim of the Padres' defense, which has a Major League-leading 10 unearned runs allowed.

But San Diego is only 6-12 in starts made by its "big three." The Padres are 9-3 when the pitchers in the back of the rotation -- Brandon Morrow (5-0), Odrisamer Despaigne (2-1) and Ian Kennedy (2-2) -- start.

From the scorebook

• Right-handed reliever Nick Vincent is being optioned to Triple-A El Paso on Friday as right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley comes off the disabled list. Vincent's cut fastball hasn't been as sharp this season as it was during his first 2 1/2 seasons with San Diego. In four outings since being recalled from El Paso on May 1, Vincent allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts in four innings.

• Right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit has made one appearance in the last 10 games, but he will likely avoid the disabled list due to his "cranky shoulder."

• First baseman Yonder Alonso, however, could be a DL candidate with a jammed shoulder. On the 25-man roster, the Padres have four players -- Yangervis Solarte, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks and Clint Barmes -- who can play first base, although Solarte is also being used against right-handed starters at second and third. The best Minor League options are Tommy Medica, Abraham Almonte and Alex Dickerson at Triple-A El Paso.

• Solarte is 11-for-33 (.333) in his last nine starts, with two doubles, eight RBIs and three walks.