Change of scenery

The San Diego Padres knew Dewon Brazelton had the stuff and figured he needed a change of scenery to excel. Brazelton felt the same.

A "happy" Dewon Brazelton is expecting big things of himself this season.

And thus far, the 25-year-old right-hander, acquired from Tampa Bay last winter for third baseman Sean Burroughs in a straight exchange of disappointing former first-round draft picks, is producing beyond the Padres' expectations.

With three shutout innings Thursday against Arizona, Brazelton is unscored upon in five innings. During that span he has allowed four hits while striking out seven.

Brazelton said he views the Padres as a fresh start now that he is free of the "turmoil in my life."

"I'm still Dewon Brazelton," he said after striking out six in three scoreless innings against Arizona on Thursday. "There's a reason why I was a first-round pick. I'm hungry."

He said that with more excitement than rancor in his voice.

The difference between now and last year, when he had a 1-8 record and a 7.61 earned run average with Tampa Bay? Location. Not so much the position of his pitches as much as the site of his pitching.

"From day one in Tampa Bay, it was not an ideal situation," said Brazelton, whom the Devil Rays selected with the third pick in the 2001 draft.

"A lot of people in Tampa Bay wrote me off. Here, I don't have to answer the same questions about what happened every day. I'm away from the stigma of being a first-round draft choice and the $5 million. It was never fun playing baseball. Now it's fun."

Brazelton then referred to the "turmoil that has been my life." It includes spending his formative years in a troubled family in the small town of Tullahoma, Tenn., and then a two-year custody struggle over his young son. There was so much turmoil in his life that last year he took an unauthorized leave of absence from the Devil Rays.

"People expect you to be a super human because you're an athlete, and I'm not," Brazelton said. "I'm just an ordinary guy. Things happen. A lot of pressure was put on me by outside people. My life story is perseverance and turmoil. You have to do what it takes to get you right."

That included leaving Tampa Bay.

"Here, I get to be Dewon again," Brazelton said of the Padres. "This is almost an escape. My life is good right now. I don't have to worry about things off the field. And the Padres want me to do well. My new teammates want me to do well. I really enjoy being at the ballpark now.

"I'm working toward something," said Brazelton. "I feel this is where I should be and that this is my time."

"I think the change of scenery is going to help Dewon," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy. "Ever since I first met him, he's been working hard. I think he's here to prove some things. And he's making it interesting."

Although Brazelton might not crack the rotation this spring, he's surely headed toward winning a spot on the pitching staff. Right now he is ticketed to be in the bullpen.

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