SAN DIEGO -- Right-hander Burch Smith is one of a handful of young players on the Padres roster that the organization wants to take a look at over the final three weeks of the season to see if he's a fit for the starting rotation in 2014 and beyond.
On Friday, Smith, 23, made a significant step forward when he overcame a rocky start in a no-decision against the Rockies. After allowing two runs in the first inning, he followed with four scoreless innings.
Smith vowed before the start that he wouldn't simply try to 'blow the ball by hitters' as he did earlier this season when he struggled. After coming back from Triple-A Tucson last week, Smith felt he had a better way to attack hitters.
Consider it a work in progress.
"I was happy that it was better, but I could still be a lot better. I need to cut down on the balls and get ahead. I felt like I was working behind in the count to a lot of hitters," Smith said. "… It was better, but I'm still not satisfied."
Smith, who will likely start again next week in Atlanta, allowed two runs on four hits. He walked four, striking out a career-high seven batters in his five-inning stint.
This was a far cry from his Major League debut on May 11 when he allowed six runs in one inning against the Rays or his next two starts when he yielded five and four runs before heading back to Tucson.
"It didn't look like he was coming out of his delivery, didn't look like he was overthrowing the ball, which is a good thing," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It looked as though his mechanics stayed pretty much in form. I didn't see a lot of variation there. You want that consistency of delivery. I think he did that."
When the Rockies scored twice in the first inning, Smith didn't let it get away from him.
"I tried to slow the game and not let it speed up on me. Slow it down, take a deep breath and go one pitch at a time," Smith said.
The Padres think a lot of Smith, who started the season with Double-A San Antonio. He posted a 2.63 ERA in 18 starts for Tucson after he was sent down in May.
"I think you can envision, long term, a guy who has a chance to have Major League success. But there are some things he has to clean up moving forward, things he needs to be aware of," Black said of Smith, who will pitch in the Arizona Fall League next month.
Friars outfield trio accomplishes rare feat
SAN DIEGO -- On Saturday, the Padres had all three of their starting outfielders record an assist -- the first time that's has happened since June 9, 1986 when Tony Gwynn, Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martinez each had an assist in a game.
"I didn't know that," Padres first-base coach Dave Roberts, who works with the San Diego outfielders, said.
Right fielder Will Venable made a sliding catch in the seventh inning that turned into an inning-ending double play when he doubled Todd Helton off second base.
Then in the eighth inning, left fielder Chris Denorfia was credited with an assist on a throw to the plate that came out of the glove of catcher Nick Hundley as the Rockies scored their lone run.
Finally, and possibly most notably, center fielder Alexi Amarista doubled off Michael Cuddyer at first base to end the game after catching a fly ball.
The Padres are the only team this season to record three outfield assists twice in a game. The other time came on July 2 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. There have only been six games this season when a team has had three outfield assists.
"Three outfield assists from three different guys … it's pretty much unprecedented in baseball," Roberts said. "It's not always about the strongest arm. Our guys do a great job of getting to the ball, getting rid of it and trying to be accurate. I tip my hat to all three of those guys."
Gyorko proving to be more than just a masher
SAN DIEGO -- It's not just Jedd Gyorko's bat that has impressed manager Bud Black, though there's a lot to like, especially after Gyorko hit an eighth-inning home run Saturday to give the Padres a 2-1 victory over the Rockies.
"He squared that ball up," Black said.
But Black said that there's more to Gyorko, who went into Sunday's game with the most home runs (17) among National League rookies.
Take his deke in the ninth inning when he fooled Rockies baserunner Michael Cuddyer with his body language on a fly ball to center field that became a game-ending 8-3 putout.
"Those were two plays [home run and the deke] that project Jedd as a very instinctual and talented player," Black said. "There's a lot of in-game awareness."
Gyorko has scuffled some at the plate in the second half of the season -- he went into Sunday hitting .244 -- but has proven to be better than expected defensively at second base, where he has committed just four errors in 821 innings and 419 total chances.