Notes: Ring helps form deceptive duo
Lefty joins righty Meredith as sidearmers in Padres' bullpen
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It took Royce Ring essentially a full year to become comfortable with throwing sidearm, but knowing what he does now, the Padres left-handed pitcher would never consider going back to a more conventional delivery.
"Last year was a good year with it. I figured out some stuff and did well," Ring said. "As long as you're able to throw strikes down in the zone with it, then you're going to be able to get outs."
Throwing strikes, of course, is the name of the game no matter how you go about it. But the Padres think that two of their relievers -- Ring and right-hander Cla Meredith -- can have success with the deceptive delivery this season.
"It's a style that's advantageous because if you line up all 350 Major League pitchers on Opening Day, I would say over 90 percent throw over the top," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "But if you're facing them every day, every week and here come the Padres, and here comes Meredith, it's a different visual from down there."
Meredith certainly had plenty of success after coming over from the Red Sox in the trade that also landed catcher Josh Bard. All Meredith did in his first season in San Diego was post the lowest ERA (1.07) among National League pitchers with at least 50 innings.
Ring has only been throwing sidearm for two seasons. He struggled with it in 2005 before posting a 2.97 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk and a 2.13 ERA in 11 games with the Mets last season.
"I started with it Spring Training of 2005, the last two weeks when [Mets pitching coach] Rick Peterson said it would be a good idea for me to drop down," Ring said. "I decided to do it. I've always messed around with it, throwing the ball sidearm. It wasn't completely different for me."
Just because the Padres duo throw sidearm doesn't mean their stuff is alike. Ring does not throw nearly as hard as Meredith, who reaches 90 mph with his sinking fastball. Ring will often use a changeup, while Meredith is trying to incorporate the pitch more this spring.
"The thing that delivery brings is deception," Black said. "If they throw their pitch and execute it, they're going to get a grounder. It's tough to elevate the ball against that type of pitcher."
Encouraged, sort of: Jake Peavy came into Monday's start against the Royals in Surprise intent on doing one thing -- throwing his fastball down and away to right-handed batters.
He didn't do as much of that as he wanted during his 45-pitch, two-inning stint, though he came away encouraged by the life on his fastball and his ability to command his slider so early in Cactus League play.
"But I don't want to throw 30 sliders in a Spring Training game," Peavy said.
Peavy yielded two runs on three hits over two innings with two walks and four strikeouts, including a two-run home run to Ryan Shealy in the second inning.
"I felt great," Peavy said. "I wanted to turn the ball loose for the first time. It felt like the ball was coming out of my hand good. I wanted to get the ball down and away. I didn't. Those guys were aggressive."
No worries: Black was asked Monday about the runs Meredith and closer Trevor Hoffman have allowed early on in Cactus League play. He responded with three succinct words -- "no concerns whatsoever."
Meredith and Hoffman have allowed runs in each of their first two appearances, although one of those outings was the charity game against Seattle where the statistics didn't count. Each was dinged for runs in Sunday's 4-3 loss to Oakland.
"In early March, you work on certain pitches you're thinking of implementing during the season," Black said. "In Cla's case, he threw a couple of changeups, and the ball that was hit for a double was a changeup. We're encouraging him to throw it, just to get a feel for it."
As for Hoffman, Black said that baseball's career saves leader was toying more with his curveball than usual and certainly more than he might during a regular-season game.
"Probably the pitching patterns, the sequences and the pitches that you see out of some pitchers you see in the spring aren't nessasarily what you'll see," Black said. "Right now, we're not concerned about the results. We're concerned about health and getting their work in."
Sledge goes deep: Terrmel Sledge continued his hot start to the Cactus League season on Monday when he hit a monster home run in his first at-bat against the Royals.
Sledge, who has two home runs this spring, hit a solo home run off Royals starter Jorge De Le Rosa that traveled at least 410 feet, landed beyond a grassy knoll and nearly left the stadium.
"That was a bomb," Black said. "That was crushed."
Sledge narrowly missed another home run in the third inning when Royals right fielder Mark Teahen made a nice catch at the fence in right.
"He's had great at-bats," Black said. "All of his at-bats have been solid. He hasn't gotten a hit every time, but he's seeing the ball good. He's hitting left-handed pitching. I'm encouraged by Terrmel's play."
Mike Cameron later added a home run in the third inning, but it wasn't enough as the Padres fell to the Royals, 9-4.
Padres log: The Friars will play a "B" game Wednesday against the Mariners on one of their practice fields. That game won't likely feature many regular position players. Instead, its primary purpose will be to get some work for those pitchers who might not find it in Cactus League games. ... The Padres will split up Friday, with one squad headed to Tempe to face the Angels and another going to Mesa to play the Cubs. Black said he'll likely go to Mesa so that he can get a look at the Cubs, a team the Padres play twice in April. ... Black will get his first chance to manage against his former team on Wednesday when the Padres travel to Tempe. ... Chris Young is scheduled to go three innings on Tuesday when the Padres face Arizona in a 6:05 p.m. PT game in Peoria. ... Black said not to expect the first round of cuts to come any earlier than the weekend.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.