Notes: Linebrink key link in late innings

Notes: Linebrink key link in late innings

SAN DIEGO -- When Padres pitcher Chris Young left Wednesday's game after throwing seven scoreless innings against the Marlins, manager Bud Black went to his bullpen for a familiar face: Scott Linebrink.

Black has leaned on the right-handed Linebrink as the Padres' eighth-inning specialist this season, the bridge between middle relief and All-Star closer Trevor Hoffman.

But Black said this week that he's not reluctant to look at other relievers in that important role, though that's not to be misconstrued that he has lost any faith in Linebrink, who has blown three saves and allowed five runs since June 9.

Linebrink, who tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Wednesday's 1-0 victory over Florida, took a 2.58 ERA into Thursday's series finale. He has allowed seven home runs in 38 1/3 innings after allowing nine all of last season in 75 2/3 innings.

"If you look at Liney's numbers -- hits-to-innings pitched, walks, ERA -- it's still pretty good," Black said. "He's been nicked. Things haven't caved in on him."

Opponents are hitting just .224 against Linebrink and his innings-to-hits ratio (38 1/3 to 32) is still good. His walks (10) are roughly on par with what he finished with a year ago (22).

Which means you can expect to see more Linebrink in the eighth inning, though Black said relievers Heath Bell and Cla Meredith certainly wouldn't be excluded from being used in those situations either.

"I still think for us to be successful, we're going to have to use what we originally called our triangle of Cla, Linebrink and Bell," Black said. "Linebrink has the most experience and the track record of pitching the eighth inning."

Bell is enjoying a breakout season for the Padres, posting a 2-2 record with a 1.45 ERA in 49 2/3 innings. Bell has allowed 28 hits in 41 games with 51 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting just .168 against him.

Meredith is 3-5 with a 3.69 ERA and has allowed three runs over his last 12 appearances. He's lowered his ERA from 3.94 on June 9 with more consistent outings. Both Bell and Meredith have primarily been used in the seventh inning.

"We're not underestimating what Heath has done or can do," Black said. "But as the season goes on ... on a game-to-game basis, you could see a combination of Meredith and [Royce] Ring in certain situations."

Padres impressed by Bush: The buzz from Arizona is that converted shortstop Matt Bush's velocity has consistently run between 94-98 mph in his first three outings while pitching with the Padres' affiliate in the Arizona League.

And while he's certainly been impressed with the hop on Bush's fastball, Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of player development and scouting, said that velocity is not what has him most excited about Bush.

"Obviously, everyone gets a little carried away with velocity," Fuson said. "But, for me, his delivery has been solid."

Last month, the Padres -- who used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft on Bush, who played locally at Mission Bay High School -- made the decision to convert him to pitcher after Bush struggled offensively for the better part of four seasons.

In three outings covering 3 1/3 innings, Bush hasn't allowed a run and has posted eight strikeouts in that span.

He was hitting just .204 with 13 errors in 26 games at Class A Lake Elsinore when the Padres opted to move him to pitcher, a position that many teams liked Bush at when he was playing at Mission Bay.

As a senior at Mission Bay, Bush was 9-1 with a 0.42 ERA. He had 91 strikeouts in 66 innings and consistently threw 90 mph.

"He's has really pitched at all in four years," Fuson said. "But he's always been gifted ... and he's always had the arm strength."

Bush last appeared in a game on Monday. Fuson said that there's "no timetable" as for how long Bush will stay in Arizona before he's moved, but one possibility is a move to short-season Class A Eugene of the Northwest League.

Young drops appeal: San Diego pitcher Chris Young dropped his appeal of the five-game suspension he received last month for his role in an on-field altercation with Derrek Lee of the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Young felt that he had a legitimate case to, at the very least, get his suspension reduced but opted for serve his suspension beginning Thursday so that he wouldn't have to miss any starts for the Padres.

Young will miss the four games leading up to the All-Star break and then the first game back on July 13 before starting the next day against the Diamondbacks.

On deck: The Padres open a three-game series against the Braves at 7:05 p.m. on Friday. Justin Germano (5-2, 3.12) gets the start for San Diego. Atlanta will counter with Buddy Carlyle (2-2, 4.74).

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