ST. PETERSBURG -- Needing a pitcher to replace Clayton Richard in the rotation, the Padres could have promoted any number of pitchers from Triple-A Tucson, ones with Major League experience, like Thad Weber, Tim Stauffer or Sean O'Sullivan.
Instead, the Padres selected 23-year-old right-hander Burch Smith, the organization's 20th-ranked prospect, to make his Major League debut Saturday when he faces the Rays at Tropicana Field -- after making just six starts at the Double-A level.
San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes said Friday that this decision was more about promoting the best pitcher instead of taking a leap of faith.
"All season, he's thrown well ... more than well," Byrnes said. "He's been dominant. Really, that was it. He throws a lot of strikes with a dynamic fastball. I think he's caught everyone's eye.
"Like any decision, we feel like he can help us win games right now. Longterm, he has a chance to be part of our roster moving forward."
Byrnes saw Smith pitch recently, and others in the front office have filed similar positive reports on him. Smith had a 1.15 ERA in six starts for San Antonio. A 14th-round Draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma, Smith has moved fast.
"As much as we talk about the preferred development timeline, you can't always follow a script," Byrnes said. "This time last year, Burch and [Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani] were in the Cal League, and now both are in the rotation. Every guy goes at his own pace."
As for Smith, he spoke with reporters Friday and talked about how Hulk Hogan was on his connecting flight from Atlanta to Tampa.
"I try to be consistent every time out; I'm not doing anything too different from last year," Smith said. "I try to tell myself it's the same game. I like to work up and down, in and out, get ahead with that, let the defense work for me."
The Padres need to add Smith to the 25-man roster before his start Saturday, meaning they will most likely option another pitcher to the Minor Leagues at that point. Smith will also need to be added to the 40-man roster, which might present a trickier proposition for the organization.
Reunion with high-school teammate eludes Blanks
ST. PETERSBURG -- Padres outfielder Kyle Blanks will not get a chance to face Matt Moore this weekend, as Moore -- undefeated at 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA -- will not pitch in the Rays' three-game series against San Diego.
Had the two faced each other, it would have made for an interesting reunion between the two former high school teammates from Moriarty High in New Mexico.
Blanks, 26, was a senior when Moore, 23, was a freshman at Moriarty. In fact, Blanks' best man in his wedding was Moore's older brother, Bobby, who was also a standout athlete.
Moriarty High is not exactly a baseball factory, and the city covers 4.8 square miles with a population of 1,910, according to the latest census.
"He was good," said Blanks when asked about Moore as a freshman. "I saw him pitch as a freshman and then not again until professional baseball. He grew substantially."
Moore was selected in the eighth round of the 2007 Draft and reached the big leagues briefly in 2010. A year ago, he was 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA in 31 starts. This season, he has been dominant, allowing 26 hits in 42 innings.
"I always knew he was a good athlete," Blanks said. "I knew the potential was there. When he signed, he did it every year and was successful."
Hundley aims to move past Grandal comments
ST. PETERSBURG -- Catcher Nick Hundley said Friday he had reached out to Yasmani Grandal regarding comments Hundley made in a U-T San Diego article that suggested Grandal "had a couple of good months on steroids."
"It was completely out of the realm of conversation ... and it wasn't in the context that we were talking," Hundley said before the Padres began a three-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"But unfortunately, I said it publicly."
San Diego manager Bud Black talked with Hundley about the comment Thursday.
"He's one of the guys on this team with the most tenure, service time," Black said. "Guys look to him for leadership. And I think Yazzy will as well."
Hundley said he had attempted to contact Grandal but had yet to speak with him as of Friday afternoon.
Grandal is serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. He is working out in Arizona at the Padres' temporary extended spring training facility in Surprise.
Grandal is eligible to come off the restricted list May 28 when the team is in Seattle, though he can begin a Minor League stint May 18.
In the article, an endorsement of Hundley's fast start, he was quoted as saying "you want to talk about a guy who is unproven and had a couple of good months on steroids, go ahead."
"I'm disappointed it was put in that context and that I put him out there," Hundley said. "But it's water under the bridge. I'm going to move on and try and beat the Rays."
San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes said Friday that "I don't anticipate it being a team issue. Nick spoke his mind. It's an issue people feel strongly about."