Club feels right-hander's pitch arsensal is better-suited for relief role
By William Boor
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Brandon Maurer came into camp hoping to win a spot in the Padres' rotation, but he will start the season in the bullpen, a role he filled effectively last season.
The 25-year old right-hander made 21 starts over the first two years of his career, both with the Mariners, but he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and appeared in 53 games for the Padres last season.
Behind Tyson Ross, James Shields and Andrew Cashner, the Padres have a pair of openings in the rotation, and although Maurer had hoped to transition back into a starter, the club feels he is better-suited as a reliever.
"We want to go ahead and get [Maurer] back acclimated to being in the bullpen, putting him in a position where we think he's going to be very successful," manager Andy Green said. "He was successful in that role last year, and in light of how the other guys are throwing the ball and in light of what we think is best for our bullpen, giving us a measure of stability back there, we just went ahead and made that [decision]."
While Maurer admits he was "a little bit" surprised by the decision, he did acknowledge that it would be better for the team.
Maurer has made three starts this spring and the results were not what he'd been hoping for -- 16 runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings. In his last start, Maurer was charged with 10 earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Although Maurer's bullpen role is still to be determined, he was successful pitching the seventh inning last season and said he feels he can repeat that success.
Maurer appeared in 27 seventh innings in 2015, posting a 3.00 ERA. Overall, he struck out 39 in 51 innings and his ability to strike people out is one thing Green likes in a late-inning reliever.
"He's got a kill pitch, that's a very powerful weapon to have," Green said. "If it is the seventh-inning role and we reach for a reliever and there's guys on second and third, we've got a guy that can punch somebody out, who can get through an inning quickly. Those are really nice options to have as a manager."
Pitching out of the bullpen last season, Maurer primarily relied on his fastball and slider. Maurer sometimes threw a changeup and this spring -- as part of his conversion to a starter -- he was working on a curveball as well.
Now that Maurer is back in the bullpen, he is abandoning the curveball and is simply focusing on the other pitches so that he can attack hitters.
"I know I can hit my spots letting it rip," Maurer said.
"He's got a lot of weapons, so for my sake and for [pitching coach] Darren Balsley's sake, it's nice to have him in that capacity," Green said.
William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.