03/21/12 5:40 PM ET
Bass' path to rotation may be a familiar one
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
That said, there are some signs that the Padres are essentially grooming Bass for a role similar to the one that pitcher Cory Luebke had a year ago -- when he began 2011 in the bullpen in order to gain experience before moving into the rotation, where he shined.
"He's a guy who might fit into that category this year," Padres manager Bud Black said Wednesday, noting quickly that no official determination has been made as to Bass' inclusion on the Opening Day roster or even what his role would be.
A year ago, Luebke -- who entered the 2011 season with 17 2/3 innings at the Major League level -- posted a 3.23 ERA in 29 relief appearances before moving into the rotation, where he had a 3.31 ERA over 17 starts.
Could Bass, 24, who made his Major League debut last season, throwing 48 1/3 innings, be on his way toward a similar role?
It's beginning to look as if Bass will make the team as a long reliever. He's been a starter in the Minor Leagues and even made three starts for the Padres last season. And while the rotation appears to be firm entering the season -- with Tim Stauffer, Luebke, Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard and Dustin Moseley -- things happen to disrupt that over the course of a season.
"As long as I'm in San Diego, it will be pretty easy to do what they want me to do," Bass said. "Honestly, I just go out there and focus on throwing strikes, not worrying about starting or relieving. But in the end, hopefully, I'll get that chance to start."
Bass had a 1.89 ERA in 24 relief outings a year ago after he was recalled from Double-A San Antonio. On eight occasions, the right-hander tossed two or more innings. For someone who started, his arm surely showed some resiliency, which didn't go unnoticed by Black.
"If you have a Minor League starter and you bring him to the big leagues and you put him in the bullpen, there's a couple of things you need to know right away," Black said. "Can the guy bounce back? Does he have a resilient arm? Can this guy pitch three or four times a week? The answer to that was yes."
Black said that Bass also shows a willingness to accept his new role and therefore, based on where he is in his development, he is better off pitching in relief at the Major League level than every fifth day in the Minor Leagues.
"Is he gaining more experience going to a big league stadium," Black said, "walking in a big league clubhouse, rubbing shoulders with Major League players, getting appearances and helping the club as a reliever, throwing 50 to 80 innings, as opposed to throwing 150 Minor League innings?
"I think in most cases, when a guy is ready, that's a better scenario for development."
Bass, who has a 2.00 ERA in four outings this spring with seven strikeouts in nine innings, has worked closely with pitching coach Darren Balsley on commanding his fastball, especially low and outside. To that end, Balsley has moved Bass to the first-base side of the rubber.
The team also wants him to be faster to the plate with hopes of controlling the running game and also use his changeup more.