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Padres may return to 7-man 'pen, 5-man bench

Despaigne's eight-inning start follows trend of longer outings

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

Right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne went eight innings for the first time in his career Sunday night. He also became the first Padres starter to go eight innings this season.

The fact that San Diego's starters are beginning to lengthen out their starts could trigger a shift in the roster construction Monday, if first baseman Yonder Alonso comes off the disabled list as expected.

The Padres have been carrying eight relief pitchers for the past 13 days while going with a four-man bench. Manager Bud Black has said his club will likely return to a seven-man bullpen and a five-man bench when Alonso returns.

Alonso was 2-for-4 with a double, a run and a RBI for Triple-A El Paso on Sunday night in the fifth game of his rehab assignment.

Alonso has been on the disabled list since May 8 with a bone bruise to his right scapula.

"The injury is no longer affecting Yonder's swing or throwing," said Black.

Despaigne, meanwhile, allowed one run on seven hits and a walk Sunday in his first time facing the Pirates. Since joining San Diego last June 23, Despaigne has pitched against 14 Major League teams. In his first game against a team, Despaigne is 4-5 with a 3.03 ERA, with 57 strikeouts against 24 walks.

Before yielding Gregory Polanco's solo homer in the seventh inning Sunday night, Despaigne had worked 17 straight scoreless innings -- the longest scoreless innings streak by a Padres pitcher this season. Polanco was the first left-handed hitter to homer off Despaigne since catcher Miguel Montero connected 15 starts ago last Aug. 22.

Over his last three starts, Despaigne has a 1.35 ERA, allowing three runs on 18 hits and three walks with 13 strikeouts in 20 innings. Black believes Despaigne is working more off his fastball and not trying to "trick" hitters.

"He doesn't have to try to do that," said Black. "He's got low-90s velocity. He has a variety of arm angles. He doesn't have to rely on trying to trick hitters. He's too good a pitcher."

From the scorebook

• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is hitting .308 over his last 17 games, going 20-for-65 with three doubles, four homers, nine RBIs and seven runs. He had a two-run homer and a sacrifice fly Sunday, equaling his season high with three RBIs. Middlebrooks was 5-for-14 in the four games against the Pirates.

• Left fielder Justin Upton was 3-for-5 Sunday to extend his hitting streak to eight games. He is 14-for-31 (.452) during the streak, with a double, a homer and eight RBIs. Upton hit .343 (37-for-108) in May, with four doubles, six homers and 23 RBIs in 29 games.

• Shortstop Clint Barmes had three hits Sunday, including the 900th hit of his career on his fifth-inning single. It was his first three-hit game of the season and his first since last Sept. 17, when he had three hits for the Pirates against Boston. Barmes has four hits in his last seven at-bats to raise his batting average to .258.

• Second baseman Jedd Gyorko is hitting .333 (11-for-33) against left-handed pitchers this season. He is 4-for-14 in his last five games.

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