ST. PETERSBURG -- No knock on Nick Hundley, but John Baker, who started Saturday, was probably the right choice to be behind the plate for rookie pitcher Burch Smith's first Major League start.
Baker was asked before the game how one goes about preparing to catch a pitcher he has never caught before, including in Spring Training.
"You could either deem it fortunate or unfortunate, but I spent seven years in the Minor Leagues, and in Triple-A especially you see new pitcher after new pitcher after new pitcher," Baker said. "I can't imagine how many guys I've caught in my life."
Baker's work with Smith actually started Friday when the 23-year-old Smith arrived from San Antonio, where he had been pitching for the Padres' Double-A affiliate.
"Yesterday when we met we went out and played catch, and I got down so I could see what his ball did; we talked about how he pitches," Baker said.
Baker says trust is a big factor in the pitcher-catcher relationship, regardless of history between players.
"You kind of develop the ability to make someone feel comfortable, even if you don't know them and they don't know you," Baker said. "There will be a feeling-out process during the game, but we get so much information at this level, scouting reports, things that he can trust that.
"It's more about making him feel comfortable. There's a reason that he's got to his level. He's physically proven that he can do it. I want him to be comfortable with what we're doing and take his mind out of it and let him be comfortable."
Baker said he also planned to check in with San Antonio catcher Eddy Rodriguez at some point before Saturday's game to get a better feel for Smith's stuff.
Padres promote right-hander Smith for Saturday start
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Padres officially added right-handed pitcher Burch Smith to the roster before his Major League debut Saturday against the Rays.
To make room for Smith on the team's 25-man roster, the Padres optioned right-handed reliever Brad Boxberger to Triple-A Tucson.
Boxberger, who joined the team May 2, allowed one unearned run in two appearances that covered 3 2/3 innings. He pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief in Friday's 6-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
San Diego manager Bud Black made note of Boxberger's performance and the way he handled himself during his stint on the roster. This was the fifth time Boxberger had been added to the Major League roster in the last two seasons and the first this season.
"Major League success or performance that is sustained happens for guys at different timelines," Black said. "Last night, when we told him he was going to Tucson, we told him that his two outings here and how he carried himself was better than any time that we've seen him. He looked like a Major League pitcher."
To make room for Smith on the 40-man roster, the team designated right-handed pitcher Fautino De Los Santos for assignment. Santos was 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two games for Tucson in the first week of April.
The Padres claimed De Los Santos off waivers from the Brewers on Feb. 6. He was optioned to Tucson on March 12, after he allowed three runs in four innings during Spring Training.
Smith, the Padres' No. 20 prospect, joined the team Friday after posting a 1.15 ERA in six starts for Double-A San Antonio. A 14th-round Draft pick only two years ago out of the University of Oklahoma, Smith has moved quickly through the system.
Richard throws sim game en route to Triple-A start
ST. PETERSBURG -- Clayton Richard threw a 40-pitch simulated game before the Padres faced the Rays at Tropicana Field on Saturday.
Richard, on the 15-day disabled list since Sunday with an intestinal virus, did not show many signs of rust amid his heaviest workload since May 4, his last start.
"It went well," Richard said. "I took it like a game day -- got here early and went about it like I was preparing for a start."
San Diego manager Bud Black was encouraged as well, so much so that the team decided to send Richard on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment Thursday, when he will start for Triple-A Tucson on the road in Des Moines, Iowa.
"Going into the sim game, after two side sessions with [pitching coach Darren Balsley], the goal was to get his arm slot a little higher," Black said. "To get him back up on top of the ball, to get a better angle. Today, he repeated the arm slot, and the ball had good action."
As for the intestinal virus, Richard had a colonoscopy in San Diego on Friday and rejoined the Padres prior to Saturday's game against the Rays.
"I feel good," Richard said, adding that the doctors had "an idea what it might be. It's nothing serious, but it's something I might have to deal with in the future. The flu set off possibly something else."
Richard was slowed by a nasty virus for more than two weeks. He was 0-3 with a 13.09 in three starts while he tried to fight off the virus, which caused him to lose 12 pounds. Overall, Richard is 0-4 with an 8.54 ERA in six starts.
"I'm getting there," Richard said. "It was so long of up-and-down feeling. But I'm getting closer to my normal [in-season] weight ."