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'Bullpen games' will continue on Tuesday

MLB.com @AJCassavell

ST. LOUIS -- If the Padres had it their way, Joey Lucchesi would be a healthy and thriving member of their starting rotation.

But while they wait for the rookie left-hander to return from his right hip strain, they're content to make do with a bullpen game every fifth day. The strategy has worked thus far, and the extra burden on the pitching staff has been non-existent.

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ST. LOUIS -- If the Padres had it their way, Joey Lucchesi would be a healthy and thriving member of their starting rotation.

But while they wait for the rookie left-hander to return from his right hip strain, they're content to make do with a bullpen game every fifth day. The strategy has worked thus far, and the extra burden on the pitching staff has been non-existent.

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Manager Andy Green is poised to turn to his nine-man 'pen once again on Tuesday against the Cardinals. And once again Matt Strahm will get the ball first.

"It speaks to the ability to spread the workload among nine different guys," Green said. "... It's a lot of weapons, a lot of different choices. I've enjoyed it. How long can you maintain it? We'll wait and see."

The Padres plan to maintain it at least through Tuesday and probably on Sunday in Atlanta as well. Lucchesi is slated to begin his rehab assignment Thursday, meaning he won't be back until next week -- at the earliest.

"We weren't trying to make this happen, but it's a product of our environment," Green said before the Padres' 5-2 loss. "It makes sense for us to continue on this path at least for the foreseeable future, but you can't even call it a path because anything could happen at any moment that forces you to deviate. We could go 18 innings tonight, and you're changing it."

Green's reality is this: A pitching staff has 45 innings to eat every five games (barring extras). If Strahm works three innings as a de facto starter, he's also available for a couple more in between those starts.

It's not traditional. But he's handling approximately the same workload.

"I don't know what the normal expectation level of a fifth starter is," Green said. "But my guess is around five innings. ... I've got four guys in that bullpen with the expectation of three innings at the drop of a hat."

Robbie Erlin and Bryan Mitchell have experience in the rotation, but they've struggled as starters this season. Instead, they're resigned to multi-inning assignments late in games.

Video: SD@WSH: Erlin fans Taylor in the 2nd

"They're all used to the amount of rest they're getting, and they're used to the amount of innings they're getting in the games," pitching coach Darren Balsley said. "The only thing they're not used to is pitching when they have. They may be in different innings than they're used to."

The Padres employed their bullpen-day strategy against Atlanta this past Wednesday. They mixed and matched five different arms en route to a 3-1 win. In Los Angeles last month, they held the Dodgers to two runs over seven innings before Tyler Webb -- pitching because the Padres trailed -- allowed four runs.

In neither case did the game place a noticeable strain on the Padres' deep bullpen.

Video: ATL@SD: Mitchell K's Markakis with the bases loaded

"We're not going to put anybody in the position where they're throwing more innings than they're used to," Balsley said. "We want to make sure they have enough rest."

Said Green: "If we felt stretched by it, we felt like somebody was put in jeopardy because of it, we'd amend the plan in a heartbeat. We'd bring [a starter] up to fill that hole. But we're working through it in a way we feel gives us the best opportunity to win baseball games."

Hedges set for rehab
Padres catcher Austin Hedges reported Monday to Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, where he went through a workout and took batting practice. He's expected to begin his second rehab assignment on Tuesday, as he looks to return from right elbow tendinitis.

Last month, Hedges had his rehab stint halted when he experienced a flare-up of the injury. The Padres' catcher hasn't played since April 30, and was batting just .173/.235/.293 at the time.

Reports: Padres sign Draft duo
The Padres agreed to a deal with third-round Draft choice Owen Miller on Monday, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman. They also inked high-upside 16th-rounder Michael Curry, per MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis.

Miller's signing bonus is unknown. He succeeded Paul DeJong as Illinois State's shortstop and played every inning of every game there over the past three seasons, while batting .384/.433/.537 during his junior year.

"Owen was, in my opinion, a more complete hitter," Illinois State coach Bo Durkac said earlier this month, comparing Miller with DeJong.

Curry, meanwhile, batted .322/.395/.532 with 13 homers in his junior season at Georgia. His signing bonus is worth $125,000 -- the maximum amount that does not count against the overall bonus pool.

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

San Diego Padres, Matt Strahm