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Notes: Young has strong final tuneup

Notes: Young has strong final tuneup

LAS VEGAS -- In his final spring tuneup, Chris Young gave the Padres what they'd been waiting to see: a string of zeros.

Delivering four scoreless innings to open the game Friday, Young was pumping premium gas past hitters, including lethal Derrek Lee, and spotting his offspeed stuff. The Cubs put together a three-run fifth aided by a throwing error by normally impeccable first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, making one run unearned.

The inning featured a two-strike, two-run single by Lee before Gonzalez made amends with a sprawling stab of Jacque Jones' grounder, saving a run and ending the inning.

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"I was throwing the ball where I wanted," Young said. "It's still not perfect, but I felt like things started coming together. I definitely had the most swings and misses [of the spring] with my fastball; that's the way I pitch."

Young had a rough patch in the third, walking three hitters in succession before retiring hot-hitting Aramis Ramirez on a popup.

"I felt like my command was better," Young said, having ironed out his delivery right on time. "Even those three walks were on better pitches."

Young is scheduled for his Padres debut Wednesday night at PETCO Park against the Giants. With less to prove this Spring Training after a solid rookie season with the Rangers, going 12-7 with a 4.26 ERA, Young was careful not to do too much too soon.

"I'm excited," he said. "I'm ready to play games that count, get a little more adrenaline and help this team win games."

The Padres had given Young a four-run cushion with a first-inning outburst against southpaw Sean Marshall, starting with Brian Giles' two-out single and ending with a Vinny Castilla's three-run blast to left-center.

Doug Mirabelli crushed his fifth spring homer, and Gonzalez continued to sizzle with two doubles and a single off the right-field wall. Ben Johnson banged his second homer, and Mark Bellhorn launched his fourth spring homer, a two-run shot following the first of two Geoff Blum singles.

In his first relief appearance, Woody Williams looked dominant, striking out four in two scoreless innings. Scott Linebrink and Scott Cassidy finished the 8-4 victory.

Making his case: Hoping to land a spot on the 25-man roster, Johnson advanced his case with his homer to left against Marshall. The man from Memphis has the power and speed to develop into a productive offensive player and is capable of handling all three outfield spots.

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"I'm just trying to do whatever I can to make the ballclub," said Johnson, who has heard his name mentioned in trade rumors, notably with the Angels. "I loved my time in San Diego last season and think I can help the club."

Johnson, 24, batted .213 in 75 at-bats with the Padres in '05, with three homers and 13 RBIs. His play down the stretch earned him a start in Game 2 of the playoffs against the Cardinals' Mark Mulder. In the division-clinching win over the Giants, Johnson pounded three hits and had the distinction of handling the final out.

The club's Minor League Player of the Year in '05, Johnson batted .312 at Triple-A Portland with 25 homers and 83 RBIs in 107 games.

Hill shines: Infielder Bobby Hill, having signed to play for Portland after getting released and clearing waivers, made a backhanded stab at second base to end an eighth-inning threat by the Cubs.

"I like the organization, the way they run things," he said. "I'd like to make it back [to the Major Leagues]; that's what everyone's aim is. If I was going to play Triple-A, I thought it would be Portland."

A versatile performer, Hill, a .262 hitter who batted .290 as a pinch-hitter for Pittsburgh last season, could be this season's Damian Jackson. Summoned from Portland in May, Jackson played a pivotal role off the bench.

Coming up: Having nailed down the No. 4 spot in the rotation, Dewon Brazelton makes his fifth spring start and sixth appearance in the exhibition finale against the Cubs' Greg Maddux on Saturday at 12:05 PT at Cashman Field. Brazelton is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA, holding batters to a .179 average while striking out 15 and walking only four in 15 1/3 innings.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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