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Hand displays multifaceted role in bullpen

MLB.com @AJCassavell

DENVER -- The Padres named Brad Hand their closer early in Spring Training, but from the start they hinted it might not be in the most traditional sense.

Manager Andy Green may have given the first indication of Hand's unconventional usage in Wednesday afternoon's 5-2 loss to the Rockies.

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DENVER -- The Padres named Brad Hand their closer early in Spring Training, but from the start they hinted it might not be in the most traditional sense.

Manager Andy Green may have given the first indication of Hand's unconventional usage in Wednesday afternoon's 5-2 loss to the Rockies.

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With San Diego trailing by three in the seventh, Colorado sent the heart of its order -- Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and David Dahl -- to the plate. Green called for Hand, who hadn't pitched since Friday night in Arizona.

"It made sense," Hand said. "I hadn't pitched in a while, and I'm not going to pitch tomorrow [an off-day]. Two lefties coming up that inning, you've got to keep the ballgame within striking distance."

Hand allowed a single to Arenado but kept the Rockies in check otherwise. His usage won't turn many heads, given that it didn't affect the result.

But consider this: Had the Padres been ahead in that same situation, Green said it's possible he'd have made the same call. The logic behind his decision on Wednesday certainly seems to hold up in both scenarios.

"Once you're into the teeth of that lineup in the seventh inning, that's the spot that I'd like to use Brad -- when you're staring Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado down," Green said. "There's no guarantee that pops back around in the eighth or the ninth.

"I feel confident in Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen if we go ahead and fire Brad off right there."

The merits of a traditional closer have come into question over the past few years. In recent postseasons, closers have been asked to pitch well outside their comfort zones.

During the regular season, the role of closer has mostly remained unchanged. But if the Padres want to change it, that's just fine with Hand.

"You do what the situation calls for," he said. "You can't only want to pitch in save situations, because sometimes you can't control the save opportunities you're going to get. Your job is still the same. It doesn't change whether you're saving a game or coming into a game in the sixth, seventh, whatever it is."

It helps, of course, that the Padres have a pair of experienced righty set-up men in Yates and Stammen to complement Hand. They've been excellent this season, too, combining for a 1.89 ERA and 20 strikeouts with just two walks.

As for the idea that a reliever is only at his best when pitching in a defined role, Yates dismissed the notion as somewhat out-of-date.

"If there's consistency involved in the decision-making, based on lineups, matchups, we can dissect on our own when [we're going to pitch]," said Yates. "I know how Andy likes to use me, and I generally know who I'm going to face on a nightly basis. ... As long as there's consistency, I don't think it really matters."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Brad Hand