Notes: Hensley inserted into rotation

Notes: Hensley inserted into rotation

ATLANTA -- Clay Hensley had a fascinating reaction to Friday's news that he would be taking Dewon Brazelton's place in the Padres' starting rotation on Tuesday night against the Rockies, with Brazelton going to the bullpen. Pressure? What pressure?

"As soon as they told me," Hensley said, "it felt like I was going back home."

A starter all his life, Hensley adapted admirably to middle relief when he was summoned from Triple-A Portland in July, leading the club with a 1.70 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. He figured prominently in the Padres' drive to the National League West title.

Hoping to get a crack at starting, Hensley, 26, spent the winter in Houston preparing as he always had -- as a starter. Learning quickly this spring that he was ticketed for a setup role, he put his starting dream on the back burner -- until the fire was ignited by manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Darren Balsley, who decided to send Brazelton to the bullpen after two unimpressive starts.

"If I keep the ball down, give up some ground balls, I'll be all right," said Hensley, who went five innings, giving up three first-inning runs (only one earned) against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, in his lone start with the Padres last season.

"This was the first time I've broken camp as a reliever. I have a starter's mind-set," Hensley said. "I already feel more confident. That's what I told [Bochy and Balsley]. It's going to take some pressure off me, starting. I already feel better about my game."

Hensley has given up five earned runs on nine hits in four innings of relief.

"We contemplated putting Hensley in the rotation in the winter for a while," Bochy said. "It's something that'll be good for Clay -- to get some work, some multiple innings. Clay's a sinkerballer -- ideal for Colorado or anywhere."

Change of pace for Brazelton: Bochy said he feels it's in the club's best interest to make the move, considering the 17 earned runs and 17 hits Brazelton has given up over 6 1/3 innings in starts against the Rockies and the Marlins.

"Hopefully, it will be best for both pitchers," Bochy said. "We want to get Braz straightened out to where he was this spring.

"This should relax him a little bit, to get in a little more comfortable situation. He's put a lot of pressure on himself, wanting to make an impression here -- and he's been real hard on himself with his rough starts. He's in a good frame of mind now. It doesn't mean he's going to stay in the bullpen. How they perform will depend on what happens, both in the bullpen and the rotation."

Brazelton took it in stride.

"All I want is the team to win and to do well," said Brazelton, acquired from Tampa Bay in the offseason for third baseman Sean Burroughs. "I'll just do what I need to do.

"I'm not upset about it. My attitude is I had a couple bad games; that's life. I'm 25 years old, with a lot of good days ahead. They told me it's not that big a deal, and that's how I feel. I feel like when I came here, they thought I was going to be in the bullpen and work my way into being a starter. I did well enough in the spring to be a starter, which is more than anyone expected."

Cameron passes test: Recovering from a strained left oblique muscle in his abdomen, center fielder Mike Cameron took a step toward getting back on Friday by swinging off a tee: 25 swings, a break, then 25 more.

"No setbacks," Cameron said. "Progression is the key. I've got to get healthy -- and stay healthy. It's a work in progress. I'm trying to get in baseball condition again."

If all goes as planned, Cameron said, he'll move on to soft-toss swinging the next few days and take batting practice in Colorado. Cameron plans to make several rehab starts at Class A Lake Elsinore before making his delayed Padres debut.

Bellhorn's first start: Giving Josh Barfield a break at second, Mark Bellhorn was enthused about making his first start in a San Diego uniform on Friday night against the Braves' Tim Hudson. "It's tough to stay sharp getting one at-bat as a pinch-hitter," said Bellhorn, 2-for-7 with a double and a walk in his career against Hudson. "It's a totally different approach when you start."

Coming up: In a duel of aces, the Padres' Jake Peavy (1-1, 7.36 ERA) faces John Smoltz (0-1, 6.75 ERA) for the first time on Saturday night at 4:05 PT. "This'll be a neat matchup," Peavy said. "He's one of those guys I grew up admiring as a Braves fan in Mobile. I've got some friends on that team, and they love the guy."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.