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BAL@DET: Porcello holds O's to one run to earn win

Rick Porcello's preparation for Interleague Play in San Diego began in a very distant and unexpected place -- Lakeland, Fla.

It's where Porcello spent most of last year's Spring Training and a good chunk of this year's trying to hone his curveball, his equalizing pitch against left-handed hitters and his stepping-stone pitch last season. It's not where he usually has to worry about taking batting practice.

Yet, with more than a week to go in camp, there he was, taking his cuts in the indoor batting cages at Joker Marchant Stadium, readying for an early April meeting with the Padres in his second start of the year.

"I'm used to an American League pitcher's routine, where I come to the ballpark, I work out, I throw and that's all I have to worry about," Porcello said. "So when you're preparing for Interleague, you have to make sure you take batting practice, so the preparation's a little different, routine's a little different.

"But I think for me, the biggest thing is not knowing the hitters that I'm facing and trying to acquire as much information as I can on them and their strengths and weaknesses. That's the biggest adjustment."

Recent history shows Porcello has handled both quite well.

Three of Porcello's 13 wins last season came against National League competition. He threw quality outings in all four of his Interleague starts, including eight scoreless innings against the Pirates in May at Comerica Park. When Porcello gave hitters a different look last year, NL opponents who had barely seen him struggled to adjust from scouting reports.

He didn't make any major changes this spring, but he's facing a Padres lineup he has never seen and whose hitters haven't seen him. The only current Padres player who has faced him is former Oakland Athletics outfielder Seth Smith.

"The preparation for these teams takes a little bit more work because I'm not familiar with anybody," Porcello said. "It goes to everything. It goes to video, to percentage charts and different pitches that they like to hit or don't like to hit. It's all about data that everybody's got."

He won't need to go far for information. His first-year manager, Brad Ausmus, knows most of the roster, having spent the previous three years as a special assistant in the Padres front office.

"They're very well-prepared," Ausmus said. "They have the ability to run the bases. They can steal bases. They can hit-and-run. Guys like Will Venable have power and speed. Chase Headley has the ability to steal bases. He has power and speed. They're a pretty balanced team, and they've got some good starting pitching that a lot of people haven't heard of because they play in the Pacific time zone "

The Padres will likely have a lot to ponder on Thursday, their final off-day of the month before playing 20 games in 20 days.

The first and foremost thought might be this: Will the team's offense improve once they return home Friday to open a three-game series against the Tigers at Petco Park?

On Wednesday, the Padres scored two runs in 18 innings of a doubleheader against the Indians, losing the first game, 2-0, before winning the nightcap, 2-1.

They are now 10-for-75 with runners in scoring position in nine games. They have scored 20 runs in their first nine games.

And they jump into a series against the Tigers, who will go with Porcello, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in the series.

Verlander and Scherzer won American League Cy Young Awards in 2011 and '13, respectively.

This will be another test for the Padres, off to a 3-6 start, with another dose of good starting pitching awaiting them. So far this season, they've already faced Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren of the Dodgers, as well as Jose Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi of the Marlins.

On Wednesday against the Indians, Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer tied them in knots.

"Every night you're facing a pretty good Major League pitcher," said Padres manager Bud Black said. "They're not in the league if they don't have good stuff. It's up to you to get it done."

Andrew Cashner is set to start for San Diego on Friday. The right-hander has posted a 2.25 ERA over his first two starts this season, but he's looking for his first win.

Tigers: Hunter hopeful for return on Friday
While Torii Hunter supposedly felt some improvement in his bruised left knee Wednesday, he still had swelling that limited his mobility. Thus, he was held out of the starting lineup as Ausmus tried to give him two days of rest ahead of Friday's series opener.

"I'd like to keep him off his feet, for the most part," Ausmus said.

Hunter bruised the knee colliding with the short wall down the right-field line Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, eventually leaving the game once the knee swelled up.

With Hunter out, rookie Tyler Collins started in right field Wednesday and recorded his first two big league hits. Hunter's absence also meant Miguel Cabrera returned to his customary third spot in the batting order, with Victor Martinez returning to cleanup.

Martinez hit the game-winning home run in the 10th inning of Wednesday's 7-6 win in Los Angeles.

Padres: Let's play … two?
The Padres are no strangers to doubleheaders, as the one they took part in their 214th on Wednesday.

Before Wednesday, the last doubleheader the Padres played in was April 20, 2011, when they split the two games with the Cubs.

The games against the Cubs were preceded by a rainout the previous day. In this case, the Padres and Indians were rained out on Monday.

The Padres haven't swept a doubleheader since May 19, 2004, in Pittsburgh. The franchise is 192-236 in doubleheaders.

Worth noting
• Porcello is a sneaky hitter for having never played in the NL, with four hits and two RBIs in 17 at-bats. Fellow Tigers starter Verlander is still looking for his first hit.

"I'm pulling for Ver to get a hit," Porcello said, "because it's driving him crazy and I'm tired of hearing about it."

• Ausmus will have a decision to make on whether to start Martinez, who played in both games at Dodger Stadium earlier this week. He had an adventurous game behind the plate Wednesday after playing at first base on Tuesday. He'd be more likely to catch Porcello on Friday than Verlander on Saturday.

• The San Diego series gives Ausmus a chance to spend a weekend at home. He has lived in the area for the past 20 years.

• Padres rookie first baseman/outfielder Tommy Medica turned 26 on Wednesday. Medica shares a birthday with Padres Hall of Famer Nate Colbert (April 9, 1946), who once hit five home runs and drove in 13 runs during a doubleheader in Atlanta in 1972.

• Padres reliever Nick Vincent entered Game 1 on Wednesday and struck out the only batter he faced to strand baserunners at second and third. He has now stranded all five baserunners he's inherited this season. He stranded 16 of 21 a year ago. Comments