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Notes: Hampson returns to Padres

Notes: Hampson returns to Padres

DENVER -- It hardly seems fair, but each time Padres relief pitcher Justin Hampson has done his job, and done what manager Bud Black has asked, his reward has been the same.

A one-way ticket to Triple-A Portland.

Hampson, who was recalled Monday by the Padres, with Royce Ring headed to Portland, was reminded of this much before the opening game of the three-game series against the Rockies at Coors Field.

Consider the evidence:

On April 29, Hampson eats up four innings in relief that saves the bullpen in a 17-inning loss to the Dodgers. The next day, Hampson is optioned to Portland.

Then on July 6, Hampson tosses three scoreless innings in a loss to the Braves. The next day, Hampson is headed back to the Rose City.

"You've got to be careful, it seems," Hampson joked. "But that's just the way it's worked out. Like Buddy [Black] said, it's just a numbers thing, where you need to have a fresh arm. I was the odd man out."

Not on Monday, though.

The Padres needed a fresh arm after the batting their bullpen took in the final three games -- all losses -- to the Phillies at PETCO Park. In those three games, the Padres allowed 28 runs, with the bullpen soaking up 11 1/3 innings.

"Coming in here, our bullpen was taxed against the Phillies. A fresh arm always helps," Black said.

Hampson is 2-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 16 appearances with the Padres this season, and 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 10 games with Portland.

"He's been here before, he knows the guys, he knows his role, he'll be fine," Black said.

Ring pitched well at times with San Diego, but has appeared in four of the last six games. In 15 appearances with the Padres this season, Ring is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA.

On the trade front: It's not as if Kevin Towers' phone hasn't been ringing, though the Padres general manager figures that things will pick up this week, with the non-waiver trading deadline (July 31) creeping closer.

"We're placing calls, as other teams are, but I think things will heat up this week," Towers said on Sunday. "We're not focusing on any one area. We're looking at pitching, ways to improve the bench, looking to improve bullpen depth. Any way that we can improve our club."

With Geoff Blum figuring to get a majority of the playing time at second base for Marcus Giles, that takes away a switch-hitter off the bench. With two players (Russell Branyan and Terrmel Sledge), on the bench, who are prone to strikeouts, adding another player for the bench might make the most sense.

But who would the Padres part with? That's where it gets tricky.

It won't likely be anyone from their 25-man roster, at least not without extreme reluctance.

And there's not much help at Portland, either. And it's common knowledge that prospects like Minor League infielders Chase Headley and Matt Antonelli won't likely be going anywhere.

"We don't have a lot of valuable trade piece at the Triple-A levels," Towers said. "Most of our prospects are younger."

A different look: Black mixed up his batting order on Monday, inserting the team's hottest hitter as of late, outfielder Milton Bradley, into the No. 3 spot.

Bradley is hitting .311, and has two home runs and six RBIs, in his first 11 games with the Padres.

"He's swinging the bat as well as anybody," Black said of Bradley.

Black also moved center fielder Mike Cameron to No. 2 in the order on Monday, with a left-handed pitcher (Jeff Francis) on the mound. Cameron has a career .353 batting average in 17 at-bats against Francis.

"More than anything, it's just mixing it up a little," Black said. "Cammy swings very well against left-handers. I like separating [Adrian Gonzalez] Gonzo and Brian [Giles}. ... Just tweak it a little bit, put guys in different order, see how that looks."

Marcus Giles was back at second base on Monday, after not playing in four of the last five games, likely because he has four hits in 10 at-bats against Francis. Blum figures to see a majority of the playing time at second base in the foreseeable future.

Monday's lineup was their 76th different lineup in 98 games.

Friar notes: Left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt, the Padres first pick in the June First-Year Player Draft, threw three scoreless innings with two strikeouts on Sunday for Single-A Fort Wayne. Schmidt has a 1.80 ERA in two games this season, spanning five innings. The Padres have said they would like to limit Schmidt's innings to around 50 this season. ... Entering Monday, Single-A Lake Elsinore had won a franchise-best 13 consecutive games. ... The Matt Vasgersian Texas Hold 'Em Celebrity Throw Down tournament for charity will take place on Aug. 2 at the San Diego Hall of Champions at Balboa Park. The entry fee is $200. For more information, see www.4sd.com.

On deck: Chris Young (9-3, 1.85 ERA) gets the start for San Diego on Tuesday when the Padres face the Rockies in the second game of a three-game series at 6:05 p.m. PT. The Rockies will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 3.60).

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

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