BALTIMORE -- It's nearly time for Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal to leave extended spring camp in Arizona and begin his road back to the big leagues.
Grandal was suspended for the Padres' first 50 games in November after he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
Grandal is eligible to come off the restricted list on May 28 when the team is in Seattle, though he can begin a Minor League stint on Saturday, a period that can't exceed more than 10 days.
The Padres have mapped out a plan for him that will see him report to Des Moines on Saturday, where Triple-A Tucson is playing. He will remain with the team during a four-game series in Omaha beginning Monday. The team returns to Tucson on May 24.
"He feels good, everything is solid, offensively and defensively," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said recently. "We will get him ready to play in those games and evaluate where he is and where our roster is."
Grandal was able to participate in drills and games in Spring Training, and he remained in Arizona when after the team broke camp in late May.
The Padres have two catchers on their roster; Nick Hundley and John Baker. Baker, who got the start against the Orioles on Wednesday, entered the game hitting .115. Baker has Minor League options, meaning that he'll likely be the one optioned to Triple-A Tucson when the Padres deem Grandal fit to return.
Grandal made his Major League debut with the team on June 2 of last season. In his first start against the Rockies on June 30, Grandal hit two home runs.
He later missed 17 games with a strained right oblique muscle. Grandal hit .297 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 60 games.
Cashner taking something off to go deeper
BALTIMORE -- Less is apparently more. At least that's how Andrew Cashner feels about velocity and being able to work deep into a game.
On Tuesday, Cashner pitched 7 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Orioles, the second time in as many starts he's gotten 22 outs.
Better still, Cashner needed only 77 pitches to get through seven innings. He finished with 92 pitches.
"I think a big thing for me this year is not trying to air it out," Cashner said. "I'm not trying to throw 100 mph."
In fact, Cashner is averaging 95 mph on his fastball this season, down from an average of 98 mph a year ago when he split time between the bullpen and rotation.
And Cashner has been using his two-seam fastball and his knuckle-slider more frequently, and he has created a greater speed differential with his changeup, which is down to an average of 85.7 mph this season from 87.4 last season, according to Pitch F/X.
So the days of Cashner reaching 100 mph might be gone, but they've been replaced by starts where he's more efficient and able to work deeper into a game.
"When you back off a pitch, [that] doesn't mean you're going to have better control with it," said Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley. "But a workload for a starter, if you're going to throw 100 pitches every five days, your velocity is probably going to go down a couple miles an hour."
In his last two starts, against the Marlins and Orioles, Cashner has allowed one earned run on nine hits and four walks over 14 2/3 innings. He's 2-2 with a 2.51 ERA in five starts and opponents are hitting .218 against him.
Cashner is performing like the Padres hoped he would when they traded first baseman Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs for him, and they always envisioned him as a starting pitcher.
"I see him executing pitches. I see him preparing better between starts. I see him becoming a starter in every facet, as far as film study, good bullpen, just overall preparation," Balsley said. "I think he's learned how to prepare as a starter."
Balsley isn't worried in the least that Cashner's strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio has dropped from 10.10 to 6.39 this season.
"As for strikeouts, they'll come. They come in bunches. He'll be close to one per inning by the end of the season," Balsley said.
Ross eager to get back into Padres' rotation
BALTIMORE -- It's not like Padres pitcher Tyson Ross is itching to swing a bat again, though he's certainly itching to pitch again.
Preferably as a starter.
Ross missed 14 games with a subluxation of his left shoulder, an injury sustained when he got his first Major League hit (off the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw), and he returned from the disabled list on May 5. In his first game back on Saturday, Ross gave the Padres extended innings in relief against the Rays when Burch Smith lasted only one inning.
Ross tossed four scoreless innings, keeping the score close in a game the Padres eventually lost, 8-7.
Ross is pitching in the bullpen until his (non-throwing) shoulder is deemed healthy enough for him to swing a bat again. Once that happens, he'll go back into the starting rotation.
"We still see him as a starting pitcher," said Padres manager Bud Black. "But that will be left shoulder related and whether he's physically able to do that. Right now, his strength is improving. In due time, he has to get in a cage."
So far, so good, Ross said.
"It's been good," Ross said. "I'm still able to pitch with it. It was nice to get some work the other day. I was happy to get an extended outing. I've just been getting treatment, doing exercises and I've been feeling good.
"We want to push it, so I'll see the doctors when we can get home. Hopefully, they can extend my leash a little."