Apparently, the blinders are off now.
As the Padres moved forward into their most critical month of the regular season, they'll do so with Cameron and veteran Doug Brocail as the primary setup pitchers for eighth-inning specialist Heath Bell, manager Bud Black said Sunday.
Black said that Brocail and Cameron will likely get the nod during the sixth and seventh innings of critical games. Cla Meredith, who has struggled at times in that role, will also get consideration, though Brocail and Cameron will likely get the nod first.
"Brocail has been throwing the ball extremely well and with his experience we feel he'll be able to handle the situations late in the game," Black said. "Kevin Cameron has come on where he's proven he might warrant some late-inning activity in close games. We feel comfortable with him possibly pitching late in the game."
Brocail (5-1) has shaved nearly a run off his ERA in the last five weeks, going from 4.64 on July 22 to 3.69 entering Sunday's game against the Dodgers at PETCO Park. The right-hander has shown improved command and good velocity in his recent appearances.
Cameron has picked up two victories since Aug 10 and is ERA is 1.39. Cameron's hits-to-innings pitched differential (42 to 52 1/3) is among the best among relievers in the National League and opponents are hitting just .221 against him.
"I'm happy to make a little more of an impact, to be able to effect a little more important of a game, instead of a 7-0 game," Cameron said. "You always want to pitch in the closer games."
Meredith, who a year ago set the NL on its ear with a 1.07 ERA, has had location issues at time this season. Meredith's ERA has climbed to 3.44 and he's yielded 82 hits over 65 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .309 against him.
Meredith allowed a three-run double to Mark Reynolds in an 8-7 loss to Arizona on Aug. 30 and blew a save on Aug. 23 in New York, when he allowed a pinch-hit home run to Marlon Anderson.
"We're keeping an eye on him," Black said. "But Brocail and Cameron and Meredith ... depending on who is available, we've got some guys who can get some outs in the sixth and seventh inning."
Making out a lineup: The Padres rolled out a different lineup on Sunday against the Dodgers, as Morgan Ensberg started at third base, Michael Barrett at catcher and Terrmel Sledge in left field.
According to Black, there were good reasons for shaking up a lineup that has proved to be so productive the last 10 days.
"You think long and hard every night about the next day," Black said. "But in this case, it made sense to rest Josh Bard. He's been out there a lot. We've got to get Michael back up to speed. We think the combination of Bard and Barrett is a great thing, keeping both those guys fresh."
Bard caught the previous six games, with his last off-day coming exactly a week ago when the team was in Philadelphia. Barrett was activated from the disabled list Saturday, providing the perfect timing to give Bard a rest.
"With Kouz, I think that we're getting into a month where this is his first full season from Spring Training," Black said of third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. "We're getting into territory where we need to keep an eye on him physically and mentally. And Morgan Ensberg is a good player."
Kouzmanoff -- who has his batting average up to a season-high .248 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs -- has appeared in 118 games this season and hadn't had a day off from third base since Aug. 17.
Then there's left fielder Milton Bradley, who has certainly sparked the team offensively lately. He hit .315 in August with six home runs and 16 RBIs. Bradley got a day off Sunday as his left oblique muscle was bothering him some. Black said he'll play Monday in Arizona.
"He just needs a day," Black said.
Friar notes: The shutout over the Dodgers on Saturday was the Padres' Major League-leading 18th of the season. The team is now only one shutout away from tying the club record of 19 set in 1985. The 18 shutouts are the most in baseball since Oakland had 19 in 2002. ... The team announced on Sunday that season tickets for the 2008 season will go on sale on Tuesday at 9 a.m. PT. Season tickets can be purchased at padres.com or by calling 619-795-5500. ... Trevor Hoffman's next strikeout will be the 1,000th of his career. According to Elias Sports Bureau, only seven relief pitchers have 1,000 or more strikeouts, led by Hoyt Wilhelm (1,359). ... Expect pitcher Clay Hensley to join the team Tuesday in Arizona. Catcher Pete Laforest could clear waivers on Monday and could also join the team. ... It looks as though pitcher Jack Cassel will start on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks.
On deck: The Padres begin a three-game series against Arizona at 1:40 PT on Monday at Chase Field in an afternoon game on Labor Day. The Padres will turn to Greg Maddux (10-9, 3.79 ERA) in the first game of the series. The Diamondbacks will counter with Micah Owings (6-7, 4.51).
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less