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03/15/08 7:06 AM ET

Germano makes case for rotation

Righty tosses five solid innings in China Series opener

BEIJING -- If the game ball from the first pitch of Saturday's historic game between the Padres and Dodgers at Wukesong Stadium was indeed earmarked for the Hall of Fame, Padres pitcher Justin Germano wanted to make absolute sure of something.

That it was a strike.

"That was one of the biggest things for me because I knew they wanted to keep the ball ... I was glad it was a strike," Germano said. "I was hoping the batter [George Lombard] wasn't going to come out of his shoes on it. I threw it right down the middle."

That strike might not have been Germano's best pitch of the day, as the right-hander had more than a few in a start that saw him allowed one run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Germano earned a no-decision in a game that was called after nine innings and with the scored tied, 3-3. But he may have been a winner just the same, at least in the eyes of the Padres coaching staff, including manager Bud Black, as Germano tried to win the fifth-starter spot in the rotation.

"He's pitched great all spring," Black said of Germano, who has a 3.14 ERA this spring and most of that damage was done in one game. "You could see the focus with him even when we got to the park. He showed very well again."

And he might well have vaulted himself to the top of a short list of candidates for that fifth starter spot. Shawn Estes (20.77 ERA) has been ineffective, Glendon Rusch (1.35) has looked good but has far fewer innings than Germano, as does Wil Ledezma (1.29) and Wade LeBlanc (2.25).

Germano allowed the first run of Saturday's game, oddly enough, to Lombard, who got a hold of a changeup in the third inning, sending it into the right-field seats. Undaunted, Germano pressed on and later worked out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs.

Germano got several outs on changeups and benefited greatly from his curveball, which might be his best pitch. The ball had good movement in the cool Beijing air, something that might not have happened in Arizona.

"It's good to get out of that thin air in Arizona and have a good feel for my curveball," Germano said. "I felt good. I wouldn't take anything back, not even the changeup he [Lombard] hit. He just put a good swing on it."

As for trying to win a spot in the Padres rotation, Germano isn't thinking a whole lot about it, or, at least, he's not saying as much. Like his other teammates here in China, he's trying to enjoy the overall experience of baseball and culture.

"I just told myself to have fun and that it was going to be a great experience," Germano said. "I was trying to have fun out there. I wanted to relax and enjoy the moment and not worry about the results. But I'm still happy with the results."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.