"That was the hope all spring that I gradually got better. I didn't feel like I would struggle this bad with my command, but I'm improving, making progress."
Padres manager Buddy Black liked what he saw of Estes against the Royals.
"Shawn threw well," Black said. "I liked Shawn's sink on the fastball. He had some good running action and got some grounders. He ran it in on some lefties and away from righties. He looked good."
Black noted Estes hasn't missed his turn in a game or throwing bullpen sessions. "So that's a great sign for Shawn that he's coming around physically," Black said.
"It's just a matter of fine-tuning some things, finding my release point more consistently, being more consistent with my mechanics, being more fluid," Estes said. "Now that I'm full strength, it's like the first time I've picked up a baseball. When I get on the mound, I feel great at 80 to 85 percent, but when I get that extra 10 to 15 percent effort, things have been falling out of whack a little bit.
"It's a matter of being able to throw and compete at full-strength again, mentally knowing that everything is fine, now throwing strikes. It's just been different. It's been difficult."
Callix Crabbe, a Rule 5 Draft pick, started in center and then switched to third. He went 1-for-4 with a walk and is hitting .365. Crabbe is getting a long look in center.
The Padres are uncertain on whether center fielder Jim Edmonds will be ready by the March 31 opener because of a calf injury that has sidelined him most of Spring Training.
"That one is going to be real close," Black said. "He's improving daily, but whether Jimmy is going to be healthy enough to get in a handful of games prior to March 31 is still up in the air."
Black said Scott Hairtston "probably right now is the leading candidate to play center" should Edmonds open the season the disabled list.
"But then again, Jody Gerut is battling for a spot and has center field experience," Black said. "Crabbe, who is battling for a spot, has outfield experience as well as in center. Both guys are trying to make the club. Hairston has the club made."