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Early throwing sets stage for Black, Balsley

PEORIA, Ariz. -- In eight minutes and 25 pitches, Padres manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley can tell a lot about a pitcher.

These early bullpen sessions in camp, like the one that occurred Sunday when many of the projected starters on the team threw, are brief in nature and don't often include more than fastballs and some changeups.

But it's still a period of evaluation for Black, Balsley and the rest of the staff, who huddle around the seven bullpen mounds at the Padres' complex.

What are they looking for on, say, Feb. 16?

"The first week or so I'm pleased if they get through the bullpen with their allotted time, not having to stop early," Balsley said. "I want them throwing the baseball where they want to, so if that's down and away, then throw it down and away.

"And I'm looking for fastball command above anything else. I know that's something that everyone will stress, but that's going to be a very big emphasis with our staff because we have a lot of guys who can dominate with their fastball."

Balsley was talking about starting pitchers Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Josh Johnson and even Ian Kennedy, who Balsley still pegs as a power arm because he's shown the ability to throw the ball by hitters in the past.

Black, a former pitcher himself, says he spends the early bullpen sessions looking more at pitching mechanics than anything else.

"I got right to the delivery of the arm action," he said. "I don't want to base anything early about how the ball is coming out of their hand. You hear a lot about that. I don't pay much attention to that. I look at the fundamental points of the delivery: stride direction, arm action, release point, finish.

"That sets my initial thoughts of that pitcher."

Black also said that establishing a dialog with a pitcher -- especially the young ones new in camp or the offseason acquisitions -- is critical as well.

"When you start the dialogue about pitching, you learn a lot more," Black said. "The process that we get through to know our guys, the new guys in camp, is important."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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