Brach looking to continue his relief success

SAN DIEGO -- It's been a trying start to the season for Padres reliever Brad Brach.

Coming off a very solid 2012 campaign, the Friars right-hander has struggled out of the gate to the tune of a 6.23 ERA and a 2.23 WHIP entering play Monday.

So what needs to change in order for the right-hander to return to his role as a valuable piece of the Padres' bullpen? Brach says the solution is simple: "More strikes."

"I think I'm off just a tick," Brach said. "I went on a nice roll after that first week, but last week wasn't the best. It's just one of those things where I just need to concentrate pitch by pitch."

Brach allowed four runs on Opening Day and eight hits in his first three appearances, but he seemed to settle in after that, tossing eight straight scoreless innings. Since then, however, he has allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings and has walked a man in each of his last three outings.

But it's not the walks that have hurt Brach. His BB/9 ratio is about the same as it was last season, when he notched a 3.78 ERA. It's the hits -- 6.8 per nine innings in 2012 and 14.5 in 2013 -- that have caused him the most trouble.

Still, that's a product of him not throwing strikes early in counts, Brach said.

"I've got to throw more in the strike zone," Brach said. "My strike-to-ball ratio has me falling behind guys, and any time you fall behind guys in the Major Leagues, you're going to get hit around."

Black outlines plan for ailing Richard

ARI@SD: Black on Richard's rough vs. the D-backs

SAN DIEGO -- Left-hander Clayton Richard made his trip to the gastroenterologist Monday morning and is still awaiting test results for the intestinal virus that landed him on the 15-day disabled list.

In the meantime, San Diego manager Bud Black outlined the club's plan for Richard over the next couple of weeks, noting that while the the virus has sapped some strength out of Richard, his arm feels fine.

Richard will throw a series of bullpen sessions, during which the club will try and straighten out his mechanics. Once he's feeling up to full strength, Richard will likely head out for a rehab assignment in the Minors before returning to the big league club.

"First of all, get healthy," Black said. "Today was a day where the doctors are going to try and get a handle on what's going to happen the next couple of weeks. His arm feels good. He's still a little weak. His strength has been depleted. But he feels good enough to throw."

It would be hard to overstate Richard's struggles this season. He's 0-4 with an 8.54 ERA and has been unable to avoid the big inning. He has pitched into the sixth inning just once in six starts.

The Padres have noticed a dip in the left-hander's arm angle and hope to get that straightened out by the time he can return. Black said Richard's April struggles could be attributed to a combination of his health and the poor arm slot.

"The first month of this season, April, there have been some things physically -- not his arm -- that have caused the performance," Black said, referring to the illness. "At times his arm angle, the last three starts, has dropped a little bit. Whether that was due to his not feeling strong, I'm not sure. But we're going to address his arm angle."

'Creature of habit' Headley back in rhythm

ARI@SD: Headley's RBI single puts Padres on the board

SAN DIEGO -- For Chase Headley, baseball has always been a rhythm game.

The Padres third baseman is at his best when he's in the lineup every night, fulfilling his daily routine and getting as many reps as possible in the cages.

So, it's not surprising that Headley struggled a bit coming off a fractured left thumb tip that held him out of action for the final two weeks of Spring Training and the first two weeks of the regular season. When that rhythm returned, Headley quickly reverted back to his 2012 form.

"You have your select few natural guys who wake up out of bed and can come put the barrel on the baseball each and every day without thinking about it," Headley said. "Unfortunately, I'm not one of those guys. It takes me some time, it takes me some repetition to get me where I want to be. But hopefully once I get there, I can sustain it."

Headley has hit in 10 straight games entering Monday, marking the fifth time in his career he has posted a double-digit hitting streak. He has raised his average from .160 all the way to .286 during that time.

"That's why you get Spring Training -- so you can have some at-bats going into the season," Headley said. "Unfortunately, I had mine cut short. I missed four weeks, so I was basically starting over at square one."

Headley sustained the injury March 17 during Spring Training, and returned exactly one month later. From there, he had four hits in his first 25 at-bats, but has since hit .368 with five doubles, two homers and six RBIs during the hitting streak.

"Most players are creatures of habit," Padres manager Bud Black said. "There's structure to their day and there's structure to their daily routine. Chase is one of those guys."

Worth noting

• It will be 10-14 days before injured center fielder Cameron Maybin (right wrist) can swing a bat again, Black said. Maybin hasn't played since April 15, and he struggled from the start of the season, with just three hits in 33 at-bats.

• Black said he'd like to have a consistent lineup card each day, but if he has to change things around -- as he has had to do for much of the season because of injuries -- he doesn't think it affects the mindset of his players.