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Rivera's offense a much-needed surprise

SAN DIEGO -- Coming off of a 3-3 trip to Cincinnati and Colorado, the Padres returned home at 21-24 with a little spring in their step and their eyes on .500.

Clearly, their pitching has kept them afloat so far this season, and one short-term challenge now will be to keep that going in the absence of ace Andrew Cashner.

The bigger challenge, both short-term and long-term, has to do with the sticks, not the arms.

"We've got to continue to pitch like we are, our pitching has been fine. But we've got to score more runs to play winning baseball," manager Bud Black said. "We're pitching to where it can happen, but if we score more runs we can gain on .500 and hopefully surpass that."

One recent surprise has been catcher Rene Rivera, who mostly during his six-year career has been known for his defense. But this month, he's hitting .333/.364/.762 with two homers and six RBIs.

Black credits hitting coach Phil Plantier and assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell for their work with Rivera, and Rivera for making the adjustments.

"He's got some power and some bat speed," Black said. "It's laying off the right-handed breaking ball that's down-and-away. It's swinging at strikes. He's more aggressive.

"It's more of an approach to staying in the middle of the field."

Scott Miller is a contributor to
Read More: San Diego Padres, Rene Rivera