LOS ANGELES -- It was about a month ago, before a routine between-starts bullpen session, when Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley asked pitcher Clayton Richard if there was anything specific he wanted to work on.
It turns out, Balsley and Richard had the same thought in mind.
"He wanted to work on getting the ball down, sinkers down, hitting a low target," Balsley said. "Since then, he's been very focused on that. It's been his priority."
In his seven starts since that epiphany of sorts, Richard is 4-3 with a 2.68 ERA. And that includes one bad start against the Reds when he allowed six earned runs on July 7.
Richard, who had 14 ground-ball outs in a loss to the Dodgers on Friday, has a ground-ball rate of 54.4 percent, according to FanGraphs. That's up considerably from the 46.1 ground-ball rate he had in 2010, when he won 14 games.
"I think Clayton has realized what kind of pitcher he is," Balsley said. "Before he was a young kid with good velocity and movement who used both sides of the plate and worked quickly. I think he's realized he's a pitcher with great movement down, more of a ground-ball pitcher who can also jam you inside and climb the ladder.
"Those are the type of outs he wants to get now."