Padres bullpen shuffle

Brandon Puffer was there -- twice -- and then he was traded. Ricky Stone has been there twice. Blaine Neal is with the San Diego Padres, a promotion from Portland. Rod Beck returned but has not been himself. Akinori Otsuka seemed overworked for a spell. And the beat goes on...

It was only last weekend when Padres manager Bruce Bochy shook up his bullpen and moved Blaine Neal ahead of Rod Beck.

The Padres had to be wondering if the magic of last year's 20-for-20 save comeback is gone. Beck's top velocity rarely hits 80 these days. And his psyche isn't as intimidating in a setup role. He had made only four appearances over the last 12 games and has allowed eight runs on nine hits (including two homers) and three walks in a net of three innings. His ERA was a bullpen-worst 8.38.

But in two games since the switch, Neal has been hit hard.

Wednesday night (June 30) in Arizona, Neal gave up two hits and a walk without retiring a batter. Two runs scored, pinning Neal with his first loss.

In two games since Bochy made the switch, Neal has allowed three runs on five hits and two walks in one inning over two appearances.

Meantime, Beck, who approached Bochy after the original switch was made and said "don't give up on me yet," retired all three hitters he faced Wednesday after coming on in relief of Neal. Since the switch was made, Beck has worked two perfect innings.

Toss out one bad outing against Tampa Bay on June 16 (four runs on five hits, three of which had eyes, although one was a Jose Cruz Jr. homer), and the reliever, Scott Linebrink, claimed off waivers from Houston last year has great numbers. Even with that inning, his ERA is 2.28 after 37 appearances. Not only can he work every day, he can pitch two innings as well as get a tough hitter. He's the unsung hero in the bullpen led by All-Star candidates Trevor Hoffman and Akinori Otsuka.

RHP Trevor Hoffman is in sole possession of fourth on the list of all-time saves leaders at 370 and is 20 shy of third-place Dennis Eckersley (390). Hoffman officially passed Jeff Reardon with his 368th save on June 21 against Arizona.

Antonio Osuna won't be a candidate to rejoin the Padres bullpen until after the All-Star break.

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