Padres Interview: Blaine Neal

Blaine Neal was promoted from the Portland Beavers to the San Diego Padres this weekend and called the move to San Diego "a good situation." Neal was acquired from the Florida Marlins this offseason in a deal that sent Ben Howard east. Howard, coincidentally, made his Marlin debut just last week.

"I had been there for eight seasons," Neal said of his time in Florida. "It was tough to leave some guys I knew, but it's good to get off to a good start."

Good does not accurately describe just how well Blaine Neal performed for the Portland Beavers. Neal saw action in 27 games for Portland and gave up runs in just five appearances and earned runs in just four.

Prior to his promotion, the right-hander had not allowed an earned run in his last eleven outings, spanning 18 innings. And in his last 12 innings he struck out 13.

The numbers are eerily similar to the man he replaced on the San Diego roster, Brandon Puffer. Puffer had been equally impressive in Portland, but did not get the job done with San Diego, allowing nine earned runs in 16 innings over 12 games.

But Neal was not about to get mad over missed opportunities in the past or being passed over countless times this season already.

"That is just the way it is," said Neal. "I have been playing long enough. You can only control certain situations and just really the way I play. You are always hoping it is you but when it is somebody else it is out of your hands. You can only control what you can control."

And now Neal is with the Padres, but he has yet to make an appearance. His success this season, he attributes partially to the changeup he now throws more often at the insistence of the Padres organization.

"The only thing (that has changed) is to throw one or two innings and to allow me to throw my changeup a little more than usual," Neal says. "That has helped out a lot and developed a little bit more.

"Just staying consistent and getting an opportunity to pitch. Nothing else, just located all my pitches right now."

Neal hopes to continue that success in the Majors this year. He knows what the show is all about, having been there with Florida. He pitched successfully in 2002, making 32 appearances and boasting an ERA of 2.73.

In 2003, Neal didn't last long. His 8.14 ERA in 18 games meant a trip back down to the minors. And after offseason surgery on his elbow, Neal reports everything to be better than ever.

"I had four or five bone chips and a couple spurs," Neal reflected. "It was minor but there was some stuff in there. So far everything has been pretty good. I think my arm is working a lot better than it did last year so I think it has helped out a lot."

Denis Savage can be reached at

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