Padres bullpen dealing with heavy workload

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

Hours after expressing concern about the status of his bullpen, Pat Murphy sang the praises of his relief corps Monday afternoon.

"They came through," Murphy said after four relievers - Nick Vincent, Kevin Quackenbush, Marc Rzepczynski and Bud Norris - each pitched a scoreless inning in the Padres 6-4 loss to Colorado at Petco Park. "I'm pleased with that part of it."

For now.

Truth is, the Padres bullpen is both over-worked and wounded.

Joaquin Benoit, the eighth-inning, set-up right-hander for closer Craig Kimbrel was unavailable Sunday and Monday due to back spasms. Murphy said Benoit is "day-to-day," although Tuesday apparently won't be the day either.

For the moment, Benoit has joined two other key members of the Padres bullpen on the sideline. Right-hander Shawn Kelley has been out since Sept. 1 with a forearm nerve issue. And Brandon Maurer has been out since Aug. 10 with inflammation in his right shoulder.

The trio of Benoit, Kelley and Maurer formed a crucial element of the Padres bullpen, pitching, in some order, the seventh and eighth innings in front of Kimbrel. Now Murphy is drawing straws when he goes to the bullpen in the middle innings.

"We've got bodies in the bullpen," Murphy said Monday morning as he tried to identify healthy and rested relievers. "But the 6-7-8-inning relievers have been our Achilles heel the last 10 games. I thought our starters did a nice job holding the Dodgers in check for the first five innings.

"The bullpen is decimated. But everyone goes through these things."

In terms of numbers, the Padres currently have 11 pitchers in their bullpen. But that includes Benoit and Kelley, who are not available. Even in the expanded-roster month of September, nine healthy bodies would seem adequate.

But Padres relievers have worked 21 innings in the last six games. They didn't allow a run Monday, but three of the four relievers who worked might need Tuesday off along with Benoit.

Normally at this time of the year, the Padres could easily add relievers during September's roster expansion. But that is a bit complicated by the fact that Triple-A El Paso, which won the Pacific Coast League's Pacific South title and begins post-season play Wednesday.

And even the Chihuahuas need bullpen help. On Sunday, El Paso promoted Adam Cimber from Double-A San Antonio.

FROM THE SCORECARD:

--Matt Kemp's two-run homer in the first inning Monday extended his on-base streak to 27 straight games. That is tied for the second-longest active streak in the Major Leagues. Kemp has successfully hit in 25 of the 27 games, batting .321 (35-for-109) with eight homers and 32 RBIs. He has 18 of his 19 homers this season since June 6.

--Ian Kennedy and James Shields have each given up 28 homers this season, which is tied for the third highest total in the National League with Colorado's Kyle Kendrick - who, ironically, hit the first homer of his career Monday off Kennedy. Kennedy and Shields, however, are not close to any type of Padres record allowed by two pitchers. In 2001, Kevin Jarvis and Bobby R. Jones both allowed 37 home runs in a season.

--Kennedy made his 200th career start Monday. Kennedy, who is 8-13 this season, is 6-8 over his last 18 starts despite a 2.85 earned run average. His 2.97 ERA in 21 career starts against the Rockies is tied for the second-lowest mark ever among pitchers with 15 or more starts against Colorado.

--3B Yangervis Solarte was 2-for-5 Monday, extending his hitting streak to eight straight games. He is hitting .382 (13-for-34) during the streak and is hitting .314 over his last 41 games (50-for-159).