Cla's confidence not sinking this spring

Cla's confidence not sinking

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Adversity wasn't something Cla Meredith had to concern himself with last season, though the 23-year-old reliever is certainly getting a heaping dose this spring.

Meredith, who set the National League on its collective ear a year ago, took a 12.00 ERA into Wednesday's Cactus League game against Milwaukee at the Peoria Sports Complex.

Meredith struck out a pair of Brewers, but gave up a pair of hits and an unearned run in one inning. The sidearmer has now allowed nine runs -- eight earned -- on 14 hits in seven official appearances, and opposing batters are hitting .432 against him. Just twice has Meredith escaped an outing unscathed.

No, this isn't how Meredith figured his first Spring Training with San Diego would go -- not after a rookie season that saw him pitch a franchise-record 33 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing a run and post a scant 1.07 ERA.

So what's the problem? According to Meredith and the Padres' staff, there's isn't much of a problem at all.

"The first thing that I wondered was that I must be doing something wrong," Meredith said. "But the coaches have been great with me, coming up to me after an outing and telling me that I am doing all right. I'm staying true to my stuff."

Meredith, a sidearm pitcher who specializes in throwing a nasty sinkerball, has probably been affected most by the warm, Arizona air than most of his teammates, said manager Bud Black.

"He hasn't had the results you want, but I can see why this guy put together the streak that he did last year," Black said. "This guy has a lot of confidence. I don't think it's affecting his mind-set. The ball just isn't sinking here like it will during the regular season."

But Meredith isn't prepared to pin everything that's troubled him this spring on the climate.

"The ball does jump here, that's for sure," Meredith said. "I haven't had much success out here, but I'll be the first to not blame it on the elements. I've heard the rumors about how the ball doesn't sink here, but you just have to roll with it and not let it frustrate you."

That hasn't always been easy. He has allowed six runs in his last two innings, including a blown save on Friday against the Rangers. Walks haven't hurt him (he's walked two) and it's not the long ball either (one home run allowed). Where Meredith has been hurt the most is when his pitches are elevated coming through the strike zone.

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Meredith has resisted the urge to change anything mechanically, trusting that what he's doing now is what made him so successful last season after he and catcher Josh Bard came over from the Red Sox in May in the Doug Mirabelli deal.

"It's very tough because you don't want to do different things [mechanically] just for the next few weeks," Meredith said. "Then you leave the elements here and go to a normal climate and you might not be able to go right back to yourself. As long as you feel like the things you're doing on the mound are the things you're supposed to be doing, then you'll be fine."

But on those occasions when self-doubt starts to creep in, Meredith remains vigilant in that what he's doing is the right thing. If he needs a reminder, all Meredith has to do is think back to last season.

Meredith didn't allow a run over 28 consecutive appearances from July 18-Sept. 12. The streak eclipsed Randy Jones' 30-inning scoreless streak in 1980. Meredith also led the National League in ERA (1.07) and opposing batting average (.170).

In some ways, the 2006 season was a blur for Meredith -- albeit a good blur. The trade from the Red Sox gave him a new lease on his career, and he's forever grateful that his teammates made the adjustment easy for him.

"Honestly, it's still a little surreal," Meredith said. "It's probably something I won't really realize until further down the road. But regardless of the streak, it was important for me to be around these guys. They took care of me.

"Not only did I appreciate it, but it helped me on the field. There's no way I could have been that successful if I wasn't comfortable around the boys."

Corey Brock is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.