SAN DIEGO -- With setup man Mike Adams on the disabled list since July 16 (retroactive to July 12), Padres rookie reliever Ernesto Frieri has already been called upon to fill some important innings since the All-Star break.
And Frieri has delivered so far, allowing one hit and one walk in 4 2/3 shutout innings since being called up from Triple-A Portland.
Even more impressive has been Frieri's strikeout rate, as he has fanned nine of the 16 batters he has faced in his five appearances.
"There's always been a sort of quiet confidence to this guy that I saw a couple years ago," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's not afraid of the challenge of pitching. Because of his delivery, he has a great deal of deception. Now, it's just a matter of him getting the ball in the strike zone."
Frieri was arguably put in the most crucial situation of his young career on Wednesday against the Dodgers when he came on to replace San Diego starter Clayton Richard in the seventh inning after the Padres had come back to take a 2-1 lead in the previous frame. He retired both batters he faced, fanning Matt Kemp on three consecutive fastballs and then getting Casey Blake to pop out to second.
"A first-time look for anybody, the pitcher has the advantage," Black said. "He's got a good arm. He has a couple things working in his favor that can get big league hitters out."
Part of Frieri's deceptive delivery comes from an unorthodox stride direction that causes him to throw across his body. But that can also lead to walks -- Frieri had 18 free passes in 37 2/3 innings with Portland -- which is something Black said he would to see Frieri cut down on as he continues to develop.
"Even in Triple-A, the walks were a little high on a scouting scale," Black said. "But there's some signs of potential success based on the low [amount of hits allowed] and the high strikeout [number]. It tells you he's got stuff."