SAN DIEGO -- Royce Ring answered the bell on Monday night.In his San Diego Padres debut, the 26-year-old left-hander pitched a scoreless ninth inning in the Padres' 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals. Ring, who gave up a leadoff single to Dmitri Young, struck out Kory Casto and Brian Schneider before getting pinch-hitter Michael Restovich to fly out to right. "Just to get up here is exciting," said Ring, "especially with Spring Training and not making the team, going to Portland and how this bullpen has been going. Now that I got a chance, I'm trying to make the best of it. Ring felt Young's single came on a decent pitch, and the young southpaw didn't get discouraged. "I thought, 'Oh my, is this how the inning is going to go?' But I just tried to buckle down and just kept trying to throw strikes," Ring said. "I kept getting ahead and playing around and getting to full counts, but I got through it." Padres manager Bud Black was glad to see Ring work out of trouble but would like to see the lefty attack the strike zone a little more.
"Royce made some pitches when he had to," Black said. "He ran the count deep a few times, but got them to swing and miss. He had some life on the fastball and showed a couple good breaking balls and went after them."Black noticed the same control issues plaguing him this spring. Ring made seven Spring Training appearances with the Padres before his March 22 option to Triple-A Portland. He was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA. "Royce was out of his zone a little too much," Black said. "He needs to keep the ball down and let the action work down in the strike zone. The way he threw in Spring Training, he was out of the zone too much." Ring posted a 1.32 ERA in 11 relief appearances with Portland this season. He wasn't scored upon in his first five games with the Beavers (five innings). A native of La Mesa, Calif., who attended San Diego State, Ring went a combined 0-2 with a 3.47 ERA (23 1/3 innings) in 26 Major League games over parts of two seasons with the New York Mets (2005-06). He was acquired by the Padres on Nov. 15, 2006, along with right-hander Heath Bell in exchange for outfielder Ben Johnson and right-hander Jon Adkins. With the Mets, Ring was used most often in lefty-on-lefty matchups. "I think that dropping my arm angle two years ago with the Mets has been more of a move to be a situational lefty," said Ring. "But I think here they want someone to come in and get outs, and I'll do whatever I can to help out." While some speculated Ring would have a large crowd on hand for Tuesday's game, Ring said, "I didn't want to get too overwhelmed with ticket requests." Only Ring's fiancé and mother were in attendance on Monday. Giles out, Cruz in: Marcus Giles sat out his second straight game with bruised ribs on Tuesday, but Black said Giles was getting better. "Marcus is better and improving," said Black. "He's not 100 percent and is not in the lineup. But with a day off on Thursday, he could be ready for the weekend." Giles' spot in the batting order was taken by Jose Cruz Jr., who was batting first and playing left field. Oscar Robles filled in for Giles at second base for a second straight day. Cruz jammed his shoulder and neck while diving for a ball on Sunday. He pinch-hit for Terrmel Sledge in the seventh inning on Monday and went in and played left field. Cruz finished April hitting at a .355 clip (22-for-62) with four doubles, two triples, four homers, eight RBIs and 17 runs scored, marking a career-best average for the month. Sledge, batting in the leadoff slot for the first time this season in the absence of Giles, hit his third home run of the season on Monday. Branyan nearing return: Russell Branyan will return to the club on Friday when the Padres face the Marlins in Florida. He has been on bereavement leave since the death of his father-in-law last week. Branyan is hitting .292 with three doubles and a home run in 24 at-bats. Since the Padres got him from the Devil Rays in August, Branyan has reached base in 43 percent of his chances and slugged .552. The Padres will have to open up a roster spot. With three catchers on the squad, it would appear that Peter Laforest would be sent down. Metal bats at PETCO: The sound of "ping" sounded throughout PETCO Park early on Tuesday as Point Loma University and the University of California at San Diego played a college baseball game. Point Loma beat UCSD, 6-1. On deck: The Padres conclude a three-game series with the Nationals at 7:05 PT on Wednesday night with right-hander Clay Hensley (1-3, 7.86 ERA) on the mound for San Diego and left-hander Matt Chico (2-2, 5.70) on the mound for Washington. Chico grew up in San Diego County and pitched for the University of Southern California and nearby Palomar Junior College.
Sandy Burgin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.