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Stronger frame has Rea in better shape to earn spot

Padres' No. 4 prospect is battling in Spring Training for back end of rotation
MLB.com @FollowThePadres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Pitcher Colin Rea wasn't happy with the way last season ended -- and not just because he was shut down in early September with soreness in his right elbow and forearm.

The rigors of a long season left Rea at 207 pounds, down about 13 from where he started the year, which left him feeling "unstable" on the mound.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Pitcher Colin Rea wasn't happy with the way last season ended -- and not just because he was shut down in early September with soreness in his right elbow and forearm.

The rigors of a long season left Rea at 207 pounds, down about 13 from where he started the year, which left him feeling "unstable" on the mound.

"The biggest thing was my legs. Some days, my legs weren't underneath me," Rea said. "I wasn't able to use them as much, therefore I had to use my arm more. I don't think my core stability was as strong as it should be."

So Rea, the Padres' No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, huddled with Padres strength and conditioning coach Brett McCabe before he went home to Iowa for the winter to make a plan to get stronger.

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"We focused on heavier weights and less reps to add muscle, and we also were able to focus on my core stability more," Rea said. "I feel really good."

Rea reported to camp at 230 pounds, and he looks different physically. He said that he typically loses 10 pounds during the season, meaning he wants to carry 220 pounds the entire season this time around.

"Hopefully this will help me get through the season [better]. It's a long season," Rea said. "Another thing is it helps keep me more stable ... so I'm not flying all around. I'm stronger now.

"Being able to use my whole body is big."

Internally, the Padres are excited about how Rea looks, and they are curious to see him on the mound this spring.

"He has worked really hard. From a stamina, velocity and stuff standpoint, it can help," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said. "There's even [potential] mental edge, too. When a player gets in the gym and works really hard and comes into camp, they feel like they've earned something."

Rea's goals this spring are simple: He's trying to earn a spot at the back end of the team's starting rotation. Spots Nos. 4 and 5 are open, though Brandon Maurer is viewed as the likely candidate to fill the fourth spot.

After beginning the 2015 season in Double-A, Rea appeared in the All-Star Futures Game and was then promoted to Triple-A El Paso. That earned him another promotion to San Diego, where he went 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA in six starts.

That experience from a year ago, coupled with a stronger frame, has Rea excited to face some live batters, which will come in the next week.

"[The ball] feels like it's coming out better. I don't know if it's coming out hard. We are still just getting started here," Rea said. "I'm excited. Bullpens are fun to throw, but I'm excited to get a live batter in there and throw some live BP."

• First-year bench coach Mark McGwire is back in Southern California this week tending to family matters, according to manager Andy Green. There's no timetable for his return. McGwire was in camp briefly last week before returning home.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

San Diego Padres, Colin Rea