Overworked Padres bullpen struggling

Relievers worked 14 1/3 innings the past two games

Overworked Padres bullpen struggling

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

The Padres' bullpen, which was the team's strength at the start of the season, is struggling.

Not only has the backend failed to hold some recent leads -- three blown saves since May 11 -- parts of the bullpen have been stressed by the workload. For example, in the past two nights against Arizona, the bullpen has worked a total of 14 1/3 innings.

Relievers worked 8 1/3 innings Friday night after Jered Weaver could not get out of the first. That is why an emergency call went out to right-hander Jose Valdez Saturday morning. And no sooner did Valdez arrive than he worked three innings Saturday night when Luis Perdomo could not get out of the third.

"I probably would have gone to get Luis sooner if our bullpen hadn't be used like it was Friday," Padres manager Andy Green said Saturday night after Perdomo gave up career highs for hits (11) and runs (eight).

Craig Stammen worked 3 1/3 innings Friday night. Valdez worked three scoreless innings Saturday night. Three other relievers worked more than an inning. It got to the point that closer Brandon Maurer was asked to work the final out in a mop-up role Saturday night.

In addition to the workload, some key relievers are struggling.

Maurer is 0-2 with two blown saves and one save in his last five outings, allowing 10 runs on 12 hits and three walks in a span of 3 2/3 innings, as his earned run average has ballooned from 2.03 to 6.88.

Ryan Buchter issued three walks and four runs (two earned) in one of his past two outings.

Even the most dependable Brad Hand has given up five runs (four earned) on eight hits and six walks (with 14 strikeouts) in 10 innings over his past seven outings. But Hand has been asked to go more than an inning four times in that span to cover the shortcomings elsewhere in the bullpen.

"Hand is as good as anybody in our league at stranding inherited runners," Green said recently. "Outside of Brad, that's been one of our biggest achilles heels. Guys are scoring at a high clip against us right now.

"We haven't found anyone other than Hand to come in and say 'Hey, it's over, it's done.' All these guys take it personally. They want to keep someone else's runs from scoring. When they give them up, it's tough on them. Each has to get a little bit better."

Keeping inherited runners from scoring and blowing late-game leads have played significant roles in the Padres' struggles of the past two-plus weeks. They were in position to win four of the games they lost during a 3-13 run.

"You never want to go through a stretch where you have leads slip away," said Green. "No team does. Those are tough losses to take. Every team experiences it through the course of a season. Every team [goes] through a stretch [that] feels like their bullpen is in shambles. I don't feel that way about ours.

"I have confidence in Brandon Maurer closing out games. I have confidence in Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter. Jose Torres has done some good things. Miguel Diaz has been throwing the ball really well lately. It's a group of guys who are going to get the job done. I think they'll rebound from what they've been through.

"I'm cognizant of my use of Hand," said Green. "Maurer has not been overworked. When a guy is as dependable as Brad has been, it's a manger's tendency to keep running him out there. We have to be cognizant of how much we use him."

Noteworthy

• Arizona catcher Chris Herrmann became the 500th player to homer at Petco Park when he connected off Perdomo in the first inning Saturday night. Jeff Praught is the historian of all Petco Park homers.

• The Padres enter Sunday's series finale against Arizona seeking to end their second five-game losing streak of the season. The first was April 14-18. The Padres have also lost 13 of their past 16 games. Over the first two games of the Arizona series, the Padres have been outscored 19-2 and outhit 30-8.

• RHP Trevor Cahill has been on the 10-day disabled list (for the second time this season) since May 13 with right posterior shoulder inflammation. He is eligible to return from the disabled list on May 24. Because the Padres have Monday off, they need to find a replacement starter for Weaver (on the 10-day disabled list with left hip inflammation) until May 27.

• 1B Wil Myers  wasn't able to reach base in each of the first two games of the Arizona series, after successfully reaching base in 18 straight games and 39 of his first 43 games. Myers was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Saturday night.