SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Those who are ready to push the San Diego Padres into the NL West basement before the 2010 season even starts might want to reconsider.
Particularly if right-hander Kevin Correia pitches the way he did against San Francisco on Sunday. Correia pitched seven shutout innings against his original team, scattering seven hits and walking just one in a 7-0 victory. It was the first shutout for the Padres and the first shutout against the Giants this spring.Except for walking Aaron Rowand in the third inning -- the first free pass he has issued this spring -- Correia was encouraged by how he pitched in his fourth start. He is due to pitch in one more game against minor leaguers before assuming the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Jon Garland and Chris Young."My last two starts, I have felt pretty strong. Everything was working pretty well," said the 29-year-old Correia after throwing 91 pitches. "It is the type of game that I have been looking for."He feels considerably more secure than he did at this time a year ago, when he was in the Padres' camp as a non-roster invitee.He went on to start a career-high 33 games and recorded a team-best 12 victories, creating some stability in a staff that was turned upside down by a shoulder injury that shut down Young for the season in June and the deal that sent ace Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox at the July 31 trading deadline.Correia signed a one-year, $3.6 million deal and wants to justify the Padres' faith in him."My goal is to improve on what I did last year," he said.It is making manager Bud Black's job a bit easier."He is throwing the ball well, continuing to pitch the way we saw him last year. He was changing speeds. It was good to see," Black said.Black also liked what he saw in the bases-loaded double to the left-field corner by Chase Headley, highlighting a four-run fourth inning. The third baseman also pushed across a run in the first inning when he walked with the bases loaded and now has 21 RBI this spring, putting him among the major-league leaders.The switch-hitting Headley was batting left-handed against right-handed reliever Denny Bautista. His double to left kept tailing away from Mark DeRosa, an infielder for most of his career who is learning the intricacies of playing the outfield.Headley hit .262 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI in 156 games last season, and is looking to cut down on his 133 strikeouts."What we like about Chase is that he is picking up those RBIs," Black said. "He's got a nice approach up there (at the plate). He uses the whole field and he has developing power. He's a switch-hitter and he has a keen eye. Hopefully we'll put him in the middle of the lineup and he will produce more runs."
RHP Matt Cain, who agreed to a new three-year contract Sunday, pitched seven strong innings in a minor league game. He threw 95 pitches, giving up three runs on three hits while walking three and striking out eight. "I thought I pitched well," he said. ... After playing most of the spring in left field, John Bowker is expected to get more time in right field in the final week of the spring and could start the season there. ... Padres LHP Joe Thatcher, who was on target to claim an Opening Day roster spot, suffered a setback. He received a cortisone shot in his ailing left shoulder and likely will not be ready to start the season.