PHOENIX -- Padres vice president and assistant general manager A.J. Hinch spent the first game of this series against the D-backs in Chase Field's designated box for the visiting general manager.
It's a far different view than the one Hinch had over parts of the 2009-10 seasons when he was manager of the D-backs and had a perch on the top step of the home dugout here.
"I think you're always connected to the past," Hinch said Saturday. "I had a lot of fond memories here, both in the front office and managing. There's still a lot of familiarity here, but there's been a lot of change, too.
"Certainly, we've moved on and I've moved on and enjoy the new challenge in San Diego. I like it more when we beat them [D-backs]."
Hinch is in his second full season as the vice president and assistant general manager of the Padres. He spent one season as vice president of professional scouting.
With the D-backs, he led the team to a 58-75 finish in 2009 after replacing Bob Melvin. He was 31-48 in 2010 when he was dismissed as manager on July 1.
Hinch first joined the D-backs organization after the 2005 season. He spent time with the organization as the manager of Minor League operations before moving on to become director of player development and later vice president of player development.
Would Hinch ever consider the opportunity to manage again?
"In this game, you never really quite know what lies ahead," he said. "I get a little bit of my baseball fix in a lot of different areas now. I don't think you ever say never in this game. I don't lay awake at night wondering what's next.
"I'm very happy doing what I'm doing for the Padres. We have a lot of energy in this organization and I'm proud to contribute and be involved in many areas. I enjoy being a part of what we do to build a winner."
His current role allows Hinch to have a hand in a lot of different areas in the organization, which he said he enjoys.
"I'm enjoying touching a lot of areas, whether that's the Draft, player development, the Major League team and trades," he said. "I have a great passion for people. I get to assist [general manager Josh Byrnes] and help connect the dots.
"I'm lucky to be involved in many areas."
Ross hopes to reach next level by improving changeup
PHOENIX -- There was a lot to like about Tyson Ross' last start against the Brewers, when he won his first game with the Padres, allowing one run over six innings.
He'd like for his next start, which comes Sunday against the D-backs, to be even better.
To get there, the Padres would like to see Ross utilize his changeup more than he did in Milwaukee on July 23, when he only used it a handful of times, occasionally to great success.
"First and foremost, I have to continue throwing it in games and not shy away from it. As soon as I see that sign put down, I have to be committed to it," Ross said.
The Padres don't just want Ross to use the changeup more, but to take some heat off it, decreasing the velocity on it to create a greater differential between his fastball and the pitch.
The trick to doing so, of course, is keeping the arm speed the same so hitters don't get tipped off that the changeup is coming.
"Once I get a better feel for throwing it in game situations, it will be better," Ross said. "You can baby things in the bullpen a little, but if you do that in the game, the hitters are going to recognize that arm speed differential. I think the key to the deception is the arm speed, making it look like a fastball."
Ross began the season as the No. 5 starter in the rotation and made three starts. But he was sidelined with a subluxation of his left (non-throwing) shoulder swinging a bat in a game on April 17. Ross has now returned to the starting rotation after a short stint with Triple-A Tucson to build his endurance.
Ross threw 82 pitches to cover six innings in that start against the Brewers. Black believes he can push beyond 90 pitches on Sunday.
Black looking for more innings from his starters
PHOENIX -- It's no small wonder the Padres head toward Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline with the hopes of adding a starting pitcher -- not just for the rest of the season, but moving into next year.
If there's been anything that's held the Padres back this season, it's been their starting pitching.
The Padres have been besieged by a number of short outings by starting pitchers this season. All told, 22 percent of their starts this season have been 4 2/3 or fewer innings. A year ago, it was 18.5 percent.
"It would be nice to get some extended work from our starters," said Padres manager Bud Black before Saturday's game against the D-backs.
"The importance of a rotation pitching deep is very critical to the long-term success of a team. You need it. There's close to 1,500 innings pitched during a year and you'd like your starting pitchers to amass 1,000 or them or more. When that doesn't happen, the bullpen takes on a lot of work."
The Padres are on pace to have just two pitchers make 30 or more starts this season -- Edinson Volquez and Eric Stults. This would be the third consecutive season Black has had just two starters hit that mark.
"That's not the ideal. The ideal is when you start the regular season, you have a group of starters in place," Black said. "Those are the guys you want to start 30-plus games."
The Padres have lost two pitchers to injuries thus far, Jason Marquis (22 starts) and Clayton Richard (11 starts), which hasn't helped their ability to work deep in games.