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Isotopes Notebook: No panic for the pitching staff

The Isotopes are working to get starting pitcher Stephen Fife back on track.
The Isotopes are working to get starting pitcher Stephen Fife back on track.
Courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes, used with permission

The last three games at Isotopes Park have taken their toll on the Albuquerque pitching staff. It is just three games, however, so no one is about to hit the proverbial panic button.

"Right now everybody's gotten their feet wet," Isotopes pitching coach Glenn Dishman said. "They understand when the ball's up it usually stays up in the zone. When it's down you usually get good results, usually ground balls or weak contact."

The bullpen has been a particular problem so far. In the last three games, all losses, Albuquerque has seen eight relievers charged with 16 runs, 14 earned, in 11.1 innings. A reliever has taken the loss in each game.

"It's not necessarily how hard you throw but where you spot the ball," Dishman said. "(We tell them) try to do your best to minimize the big inning."

Dishman has been the Isotopes pitching coach since taking over midway through the 2010 season. He said he's seen plenty of pitchers, both young and old, deal with some initial yips in Albuquerque.

"It happens every year, you get a group of new guys that come in, have to feel their way around a little bit," Dishman said. "The guys that have been here, they understand. The guys who have been in this league kind of understand.

"It's that learning curve of coming in here, figuring out what the ball is going to do. It's getting used to a routine, a schedule and getting back to pounding the ball in the zone."

The starting pitching has been better, though right-hander Stephen Fife was the exception. He allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits and six walks in four-plus innings against Tacoma on Monday.

"I was really encouraged about how he warmed up (Monday)," Dishman said. "That was what we had seen two years ago, where the ball was coming out great, down in the zone. But somehow we lost it in transition on the way to the mound.

"He made some good pitches, but he made more off-the-plate throws than he needs to. Because he's a guy that relies on a little bit of late movement to get weak contact and get quick outs. (Monday) was moving more off the corners."

Familiar faces abound on Chihuahuas

The El Paso Chihuahuas will make their first trip to Albuquerque on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. The former Tucson Padres are still San Diego's top affiliate, but they have spent almost all of April on the road while waiting for their stadium to be ready by April 28.

While the roster does feature some Padres prospects of note, it also features quite a few familiar names. Included are a New Mexico native, a former UNM Lobo and two ex-Isotopes.

Outfielder-first baseman Kyle Blanks (.333, 3 HR, 8 RBI) is a graduate of Moriarty High School. The former Pinto was one of the last cuts from San Diego's spring camp.

Left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise (3.38 ERA, 2 saves) is the former Lobo. He was claimed off waivers from the Mariners this spring.

Outfielder Alex Castellanos (.219, 5 runs) and right-hander Tim Sexton (7.71, 1 game) both have plenty of experience at Isotopes Park. Sexton pitched with Albuquerque in 2011, while Castellanos played with the Isotopes in 2012 and 2013.

Other names of note include Jason Lane, a former Astros outfielder turned pitcher, plus infielder Brooks Conrad and outfielder Jeff Francouer. Outfielder Cameron Maybin is also with El Paso while on a rehabilitation assignment.

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