The Padres still need pitching. Most of the baseball world believes their biggest weakness is starting pitching, which they really haven't addressed this off-season.
But what the Friars have been doing is bolstering their bullpen. They signed veteran Drew Pomeranz a few weeks ago and now they're taking a chance on a guy who had to go to another continent to get his baseball career on track.
The Padres signed reliever Pierce Johnson to a two-year deal worth reported $5 million. He spent last year with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League. He used to be one of the Cubs top prospects but threw just one Major League inning for Chicago. Johnson spent a season with the Giants but struggled with his command, walking 22 with 36 strikeouts in 43.2 innings.
So he ended up in Japan, where he decided to change his whole approach. Pierce used to throw mostly fastballs and cutters, with a curveball and changeup mixed in. In Japan he realized the hook was his best pitch when he threw it just a little bit harder so he scrapped the cutter and change completely. Now he's a strict fastball-changeup guy and the results are encouraging.
Johnson struck out 91 hitters in 58 innings with just 13 walks. Most of his whiffs came on the curveball. In fact, hitters in Japan this year voted Johnson's curve the nastiest pitch in the entire league.
If it translates to the Major Leagues stateside then the Padres have themselves a steal.