CHICAGO -- Given the way his 2012 season started -- and remained throughout -- it wasn't hard for Nick Hundley to find improvement this April. But he did so, by leaps and bounds.
Out of Wednesday's starting lineup, the catcher was able to put a bow on a banner month. Hundley's batting .329 overall, with a .901 OPS. Hundley, who played through a torn meniscus in his right knee last season, hit .167 with a .464 on-base plus slugging percentage. He's already matched his home run total from last season (three) and eclipsed his doubles mark (eight this year, after seven last season).
"Obviously I had to go to work and get my swing back," Hundley said. "I think I've gotten to the point with [hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell] and we've really simplified a lot of things. It's been a good first month."
Hundley put a cap on his April on Tuesday night with a 446-foot blast that nearly traveled out of Wrigley Field. According to ESPN's Hit Tracker, it was the third-farthest homer of the week.
Hundley is hitting .370 with no men on base, .500 with a man on first, but with runners in scoring position, he's just 2-for-19.
Last season, Hundley hit .217 through 20 games in March and April, then hit .123 in 20 May games. He played 15 more in June (hitting .157) before just three the rest of the year. He was optioned to Triple-A, where he continued to struggle and was eventually placed on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. The meniscus injury ended his forgettable season.
"For him, it's huge for the self confidence now that he is back," manager Bud Black said. "Last year was tough. He struggled. There's some reasons for the struggle. A lot of it was physical, but still, you don't like seeing certain numbers next to your name. And that's hard on a player, because players have pride and they see themselves performing at a certain level, and when that doesn't happen, it gets you."
Erlin was amped up while making big league debut
CHICAGO -- Robbie Erlin's Major League debut was a long time coming, and that may have made it all that much sweeter.
After being called up on April 24, the left-hander finally made his way into a ballgame on Tuesday night, when he pitched the ninth inning of San Diego's 13-7 win against the Cubs.
"It felt good," said Erlin, who is the club's No. 7 prospect. "It was good to get the first one out of the way. I was a little amped up, but I felt fine. I felt like I had a pretty good feel for my pitches. Maybe the offspeed release points might have been a little off, but that's all right."
Erlin gave up two earned runs on three hits, including a solo home run to Cody Ransom.
The former third-round Draft pick spent the 2012 season between Rookie ball and Double-A San Antonio, combining to go 3-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 14 starts. All three of his appearances with Triple-A Tucson this year had been starts. He was 2-0 with a 4.72 ERA in 13 1/3 innings before being called up.
"It was good to see Robbie. He's been here a while," manager Bud Black said, "but Robbie's going to pitch in the big leagues and he's going to have a nice career. I'm sure that Robbie was excited to be out there, especially in this type of ballpark. Wrigley Field, it's a great place to make your Major League debut. He looked poised, he looked calm."
• For the third time in as many starts, John Baker was behind the plate for Andrew Cashner on Wednesday. Black said that while Cashner and Baker have worked well together this season, it's more because of the opportunity to give Hundley a rest the night before a day game, with a right-hander on the mound Wednesday night.
"You've got to keep your bench current, you've got to get your guys at-bats," Black said. "With John, he and Cash have put together two good games. He pitched well in San Francisco with Baker catching and he threw well in his last start against the Giants, too, with Baker catching. But a lot of it has to do with the pitcher matchup on the opposition."
• Right-hander Tyson Ross, who is working his way back from a left shoulder impingement, made his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Tucson on Tuesday night, allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings.
"The pitching line is not indicative of I guess how he threw the ball, according to [Triple-A manager Pat Murphy]," Black said, "but he got his pitch count up into the 40s. If he comes back into our bullpen, we've got to make sure he keeps his length to fill a role in the 'pen of a guy who can go multiple innings if we need him. But his stuff was good."
Ross will pitch again in relief Friday.
• James Darnell went 1-for-3 while hitting third and playing left field in Tuesday's game. It was his first rehab game in the field, as he returns from a left oblique injury suffered in Spring Training.
"He seems to be over his oblique," Black said. "I think he's right about now probably considered a healthy player working his way back to the Major Leagues, based on performance."
• The Padres plan to offer third baseman Chase Headley a multiyear deal "before midseason," executive chairman Ron Fowler told U-T San Diego.
Headley finished fifth in the National League MVP voting last year after a breakout season of 115 RBIs and 31 homers. The third baseman began this season on the disabled list, but he is hitting .261 with two homers and five RBIs entering Wednesday.
"Will it be 10 years? No," Fowler told the paper. "We're not going to do something like that. But we will do an offer that will be the largest offer we've ever made to a player in San Diego history and think it will be very close to some of the numbers I read in the press."
Headley will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Fowler said there's been dialogue with general manager Josh Byrnes, and the team hopes to have an offer "probably sooner versus later.