SAN DIEGO -- When Padres reliever Luke Gregerson has a good feel for his slider, the results speak for themselves.
With Gregerson riding a stretch of 18 consecutive scoreless outings (17 2/3 innings) entering Monday night's game against Pittsburgh, both the right-hander and manager Bud Black said that Gregerson's slider is as good as it has been at any time during the reliever's four seasons with the Padres. The numbers would seem to support that claim as Gregerson has held opponents to a .161 average with 19 strikeouts over the scoreless streak.
Both Black and Gregerson admitted that the slider escaped the 28-year-old last season, to a certain extent, and his strikeout total dipped from 93 in 2009 and 89 in '10 to 34. After working on his slider throughout last season and in the offseason, Gregerson said his slider is back to where he wants it to be.
"I've got a really good feel for it, and I don't mind throwing it pretty much at any point in time," Gregerson said. "It's been a confidence builder for me, especially last year, because I kind of lost it a little bit, but I feel like it's right back on point. I worked on it a lot last season and this offseason, and I don't think it was really until around the start of this season that I started to get the feel for it again."
Black echoed those sentiments and has regularly used Gregerson to protect the lead in close games, primarily in the eighth inning.
"He worked hard on a couple of different things," Black said. "He fooled around with the grip and with his release point. This year, there is a confidence that comes with throwing well, and with that, his feel came back."
With the renewed confidence in regaining his feel for the slider, Gregerson said his approach to throwing sliders can vary with the situation.
"Depending on the count, I like to put it a little more into the strike zone sometimes," Gregerson said. "If I'm behind, I'll look for something more down in the zone to get a ground-ball, or if it's a put-away pitch I'll kind of move it around a lot. It's just kind of whatever the situation dictates."