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Better-balanced Pirela off to torrid start

4 multihit games in first 5 starts
San Diego Padres

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

When the Padres acquired Jose Pirela from the Yankees in November of 2015 for pitching prospect Ron Herrera, the infielder-outfielder came with a bit of a reputation.

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

When the Padres acquired Jose Pirela from the Yankees in November of 2015 for pitching prospect Ron Herrera, the infielder-outfielder came with a bit of a reputation.

Good hitter ... but where do you play him. But in his first season in the Padres organization, Pirela's reputation took a hit because he didn't hit with Triple-A El Paso or the Padres while missing most of the season with a leg injury.

But he is hitting now.

Since being promoted from El Paso on June 6, Pirela is hitting .500 (11-for-22) with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs. Pirela has four multi-hit games during a five-game hitting streak that includes three walks. Since his promotion, Pirela has a .560 on-base percentage and a .909 slugging percentage for a 1.469 OPS.    

And while with El Paso, Pirela was hitting .331 with 10 doubles, three triples, 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 48 games with a 1.022 OPS and a .635 slugging percentage.   

"All I heard every time I called down and talked to (El Paso manager) Rod Barajas was how well Pirela was swinging the bat."    

Green hadn't seen that in 2016. Pirela wasn't balanced at the plate. He was still aggressive at the plate, but he was on top of neither the fastball nor the breaking ball. He wasn't the hitter who batted over .300 in three straight seasons in the International League, which has a reputation of tilting toward the pitcher.    

"Pirela had a rough year last year in a new organization while trying to fit in and show what he could do," said Green. "I don't think it went very well for him last year."  

And this year?    

"He's got a good swing," continued Green. "You watch him in the box and you expect him to hit. He's one of those guys who has hit his whole life wherever he's been. This is who he was when we traded for him."

"It's good to see him back that way. His swing looks outstanding, the best it has ever looked. I love what he's done so far. He's balanced in the box. He's always been aggressive with the lower part of his body. He's more centered. He's been in that position consistently.

"He's in such a better hitting position right now. He's driving through the baseball, off-speed as well as fastballs."

And as long as Pirela is hitting, Green said he'll be finding time in left field and second. When Pirela is at second, Yangervis Solarte slides over to third.

NOTEWORTHY

• Fifteen homers were hit by the Royals and Padres in the three-game series. It was one homer shy of the three-game series record of 16 at Petco Park set July 14-16, 2006, in a series between the Padres and Atlanta Braves.     

• RHP Phil Maton received a standing ovation from the home crowd as he left the mound after retiring the Royals in order in the eighth in his Major League debut. And Green applauded the Padres' fans. "That tells you something about Padres fans," said Green of Maton's welcome. "I didn't do him any favors. I sent him out against the heart of the order." Maton, 24, had a 2.84 earned run average with Triple-A El Paso and was tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with 13 saves. He had 31 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings over 23 appearances with a 0.59 WHIP. Maton was the Padres' 20th-round selection in the 2015 draft out of Louisiana Tech. Maton made his Major League debut in the eighth inning and retired the Royals in order starting with a strikeout. 

• 3B Cory Spangenberg hit two home runs Sunday covering 419 and 428 feet. They were only the second and third homers of the season for Spangenberg in 133 at-bats. Spangenberg has 10 homers in 546 Major League at-bats. But this was his second, two-homer game, the first coming on May 14, 2015, against the Nationals.

• RHP Kevin Quackenbush was optioned to El Paso Sunday to make room on the 25-man roster for Maton. It marked the fifth time this season that Quackenbush, 28, was optioned to the Chihuahuas. He has a 6.38 ERA in 15 appearances with the Padres and a 4.00 ERA in seven appearances with El Paso.

San Diego Padres