Abraham a Hulk in the Cal League

What makes a reliever tick?  Is it the warm-up session in the bullpen?  Taking the hill for that first pitch?  Or, perhaps it is the walk behind the mound, touching the rosin bag and seeing runners on every base with one out, knowing a ground ball double play will end the inning.  Paul Abraham, who has yet to allow an earned run on the year, prefers the latter.

It is no surprise that the California League right-hander fashions himself after the Incredible Hulk – you know the guy, the Bruce Banner clone that transforms himself green in times of stress.

  There is no gamma radiation playing for the Lake Elsinore Storm, the High-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, but Paul Abraham has proven to be as indestructible as the Marvel superhero.

  "He doesn't seem to fear anyone," Abraham said of the similarities.

  Translating that to baseball, Abraham revels in pressure situations.  His preference is to come into the game with men on base.

  The padding of personal stats isn't on his agenda.  His goal is simple – leave the game with the scoreboard reading the same as when he entered.

  "The most important statistic for me is inherited runners, without a doubt," Abraham said. "If I come in with the bases loaded and one out and can get a ground ball double play that is my job. My job is not to get the two outs for myself and my stats it is to get us back in the dugout with the score the same.  Inherited runners are very important."

  The 6-foot-2 Abraham has held eight of the last nine inherited runners in check, aiding the stats of those he relieves.

The Padres signed the West Islip native, originally drafted by the Rangers in the 12th round of the 2001 first-year amateur draft, on June 12, 2004.  He had a successful season in Fort Wayne last year, appearing in 37 games for the Low-A full-season squad, sporting a 1-2 record with a 2.79 ERA.

  This year his stats have been unbelievable, or to keep the analogy going, incredible.

  Through his first 18 appearances on the season, Abraham has yet to allow an earned run.  He has struck out 19 and walked just four in his 21 innings of work.  The 24-year old is 2-0 with three saves and has held the opposition to a .155 batting average against.

  "I am just throwing the ball well," Abraham concedes.  "Streaks are streaks.  I have had some great plays from the defense.  Some good calls, (catcher) George (Kottaras) is calling some good games out there.  It is not just me but all the people around me that are helping too."

  It would be hard not to think about such a dominant streak, especially in a known hitter's league. Abraham admits it is hard to put the success totally out of his mind but when runners are in scoring position the priority is simple.

  "If at all, (the scoreless streak) is in the very, very back of your head," said Abraham.  "You try not to think about it.  If we are ahead, my job is to come out of the game while we are still ahead.  If we are behind, it is my job to keep it as close as possible.  I just try to think about my job out there."

  The Hulk would be proud.  While Banner's alias is saving the world from certain doom, Abraham is saving the Lake Elsinore Storm from the loss column.

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