Russell looking to impress Padres
Reliever acquired in Peavy trade getting extended look
SAN DIEGO -- The final month of the season means different things to different players. For newcomer Adam Russell, one of four pitchers obtained from the White Sox in the Jake Peavy deal, it's a time to make a strong first impression."Anytime that you come to a new team, you want to prove yourself right away," Russell said. "I'm really going to try to show that I can be a guy they can rely on and do good things for this team. September is going to be a big month for me." So far, so good for Russell, who has two holds and a victory -- his first with the Padres in four appearances since he was promoted from Triple-A Portland on June 25 with a 3.00 ERA. He got the Padres out of a jam on Monday, stranding two runners in the seventh inning in what would become a 3-1 victory over the Nationals. "We like him. ... I like the strength of the arm, I like the fastball. I like the conversations I've had with him. I like what I'm hearing," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "He's a guy who has some potential to help our bullpen. He's going to continue to get his work. "He's a guy who might be part of that bullpen." With Mike Adams, the Padres' designated eighth-inning specialist, sidelined with a strain of the right shoulder, the club would like nothing more than for Russell to pitch well enough to lock down a late-inning spot. Russell, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, differs from other relievers in the sense that he will show various arm slots depending on what kind of batter he's facing. "To lefties, I stay mostly over the top with a fastball and curveball and a changeup. To righties, I'll drop down to the side with my fastball and slider and a changeup. It gives hitters a different look," Russell said. "It changes their eye level. From talking to other hitters, it's tough to pick up, a big guy coming from down low. "It's helped to accelerate my career." But that doesn't mean it hasn't been met with resistance along the way, as most pitching coaches prefer a pitcher to stick with one arm slot, believing that changing can do more harm than good to a delivery. "I've been doing it for about two years now. When I was first presented with the idea I was like, 'Oh, one arm angle is tough enough, let alone two,' but I took to it right away. ... It felt pretty natural to me," Russell said. "I'm sure a lot of pitching coaches wondered if I would be able to stay in the strike zone with it. But it's helped me attack the strike zone better." Black, a former Major League pitcher and pitching coach, isn't about to ask Russell to change anything -- yet. He wants to see a bigger sample size over the final month of the season. "We're going to continue to talk about that. I think in most cases it's proven to let a guy show what he can do without tinkering too much," Black said. "Before we talk about changing anything, we're going to watch him."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.