Maurer trade creates 'pen options for Padres

Maton, Yates gives Green more flexibility for deployment of Hand

Maurer trade creates 'pen options for Padres

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

Might the back end of the Padres' bullpen be more flexible with the trade of Brandon Maurer and the decision to retain Brad Hand?  

Manager Andy Green believes so.    

Although he experimented with using both Maurer and Hand to close games just over a month ago, Green scrapped that strategy because of Maurer.    

Hand has thrived in any situation. Maurer, not so much.    

"We wanted to explore that possibility [of alternating Maurer and Hand in the setup and closing roles based on the situation], but honestly felt that Brandon performed at his best when he was locked into the specific role as closer," said Green.    

"So we kind of moved away from the concept of moving those two guys back and forth. Maurer thrived in that closer role, and it was very obvious that when the game was on the line, Brandon was great at saving it for us.   

"Now I feel like we have pieces that are more flexible and easier to bounce around. Matchups and all else being equal, Brad will be getting the ball in the ninth. He closed out three straight last week."    

But the roles could change now if the Padres are holding a lead with three left-handed hitters coming up in the eighth . . . or facing a situation where the game is on the line with a tough left-handed hitter coming up with two out in the seventh.    

Green said he could go to Hand earlier in such a situation and leave it to right-handers Phil Maton or Kirby Yates to close it out in the ninth.   

"I'm being noncommittal to who closes games out right now," said Green. "Kirby, Brad, Phil will be getting the opportunity to close games. So many times, the key to the game is the seventh inning and two outs. I'll use Brad there if a left-handed batter is up and let him pitch into the eighth . . . then close with Kirby or Phil.    

"I like to have that liberty to use Brad Hand in different situations. And he knows that. Hand handles everything really well. Nothing really rattles him. He goes about his business very well."    

Clearly, Green was very happy that A.J. Preller didn't move Hand at the Trade Deadline.    

"All of us are very happy to have Brad here, especially me and fans who like watching him pitch at the back end of games," said Green. "He adds to the culture of the club, the way he prepares every day and the way he competes. You want young guys coming up and seeing that. There's a ton of value in Brad and not just in the games alone."    

The Padres control Hand for the next 2 1/2 seasons. If the goal is to challenge in 2019 or '20, the prudent thing might be to keep Hand and shape the bullpen around him.    

Meanwhile, Hand was one of two Padres receiving awards this past week.    

Center fielder Manuel Margot was named the National League Player of the Week for the final week in July. Hand was then named the National League Reliever of the Month for July.