Maurer leads charge in revitalized bullpen

Padres reliever credits improvement to everyone having a role

Maurer leads charge in revitalized bullpen

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres bullpen may have finally hit its stride, and if that's the case, Brandon Maurer deserves a lot of the credit.

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In a 'pen with no shortage of veterans, Maurer -- in his third season, and first as a full-time reliever -- has emerged as one of manager Bud Black's most reliable options.

Since May 1, no one has made more relief appearances for the Padres than Maurer's 21. In that time, he has a 0.41 ERA, allowing just nine hits in 22 innings.

Maurer attributes his success, in part, to the way things have settled in the bullpen.

"We all know our roles for the most part," Maurer said. "When you're getting ready, you know how to prepare for it, which helps."

Maurer, who came to the Padres from Seattle during the offseason in the Seth Smith trade, has been successful in large part because he's kept the ball on the ground.

His 34 percent fly-ball rate is the lowest of his career, and as a result, he's allowed just one home run in 32 innings. He allowed six in 69 2/3 innings last season, and 16 over 90 innings in 2013.

"We saw the stuff in Spring Training," Black said. "We might not have seen the pitcher that we thought he could be in Spring Training. But you're watching him grow before your eyes as a guy that could be a very, very good Major League pitcher."

Something about the relief role might just suit Maurer, who came up in the Mariners' system as a starter. Opponents are hitting .156/.212/.220 against him this season -- a season in which he hasn't faced a hitter twice in the same game.

In his career, opponents are batting .336 in their second plate appearance against Maurer within a game.

"His confidence is growing, and you can't deny the stuff," Black said. "The stuff is legit. He's got three weapons."

Since Maurer's emergence at the beginning of May, the San Diego relief corps has a 2.66 ERA -- after posting a 4.33 mark in April.

Again, Maurer attributes that to the settled nature of a bullpen.

"Stretch in the sixth, be loose and get ready for that seventh," Maurer said. "... It's awesome, it's about getting through my job to get [Craig Kimbrel] the ball. [Saturday] was the first time I had sat out there for [Kimbrel's entrance.] I got a little amped up there, I'm not going to lie."

Worth noting

• Shortstop Trea Turner is officially a Washington National.

For all intents and purposes, the Padres' 2014 first-round pick has been a National ever since the three-team trade that netted Wil Myers, but Turner was not yet eligible to be traded. Instead he was agreed upon as a player to be named later in the deal.

Turner was hitting .322/.385/.471 for Double-A San Antonio in 58 games. He was the Padres' third-ranked prospect.

Josh Johnson will work one inning in his simulated game Monday, throwing about 15-20 pitches, Black said. Johnson is currently recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.

Cory Luebke, also recovering from a second Tommy John surgery, will make his next rehab start for Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore on Tuesday, as scheduled. Luebke, who threw 14 fastballs on Saturday, will begin working his breaking ball into the mix.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.