PEORIA, Ariz. -- There was only one way to describe the scene on Saturday at Arizona State University's Packard Stadium, where Pat Murphy, the Padres' Minor League coach and former Sun Devils head coach, was honored by the school.
"It was humbling," said Murphy, who was a four-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year and led the Sun Devils to four College World Series appearances.
Murphy, who will manage the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, returned to Tempe for the first time since 2009, when he was forced to resign after winning 629 games over 15 years following an NCAA investigation that led to probation.
The school honored Murphy with many of his former players in attendance, including Willie Bloomquist, Andre Ethier, Brooks Conrad, Mike Leake and Travis Buck. Murphy got text messages from players who are training in Florida, like Dustin Pedroia, Brett Wallace and Ike Davis.
"It was kind of extending an olive branch," Murphy said. "For president [Michael] Crow and also the athletic department to do it, just five years later ... it was really a great gesture. It was great to see all those guys [former players]. The fans were great.
"I went over with a little caution because it was pretty messy at the end ... and I wasn't happy with the way it happened," Murphy said. "But I was very humbled."
Murphy joined the Padres' organization in 2010 as a special assistant to baseball operations. He managed two seasons with short-season Eugene before managing Triple-A Tucson last season.
Early throwing sets stage for Black, Balsley
PEORIA, Ariz. -- In eight minutes and 25 pitches, Padres manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley can tell a lot about a pitcher.
These early bullpen sessions in camp, like the one that occurred Sunday when many of the projected starters on the team threw, are brief in nature and don't often include more than fastballs and some changeups.
But it's still a period of evaluation for Black, Balsley and the rest of the staff, who huddle around the seven bullpen mounds at the Padres' complex.
What are they looking for on, say, Feb. 16?
"The first week or so I'm pleased if they get through the bullpen with their allotted time, not having to stop early," Balsley said. "I want them throwing the baseball where they want to, so if that's down and away, then throw it down and away.
"And I'm looking for fastball command above anything else. I know that's something that everyone will stress, but that's going to be a very big emphasis with our staff because we have a lot of guys who can dominate with their fastball."
Balsley was talking about starting pitchers Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Josh Johnson and even Ian Kennedy, who Balsley still pegs as a power arm because he's shown the ability to throw the ball by hitters in the past.
Black, a former pitcher himself, says he spends the early bullpen sessions looking more at pitching mechanics than anything else.
"I got right to the delivery of the arm action," he said. "I don't want to base anything early about how the ball is coming out of their hand. You hear a lot about that. I don't pay much attention to that. I look at the fundamental points of the delivery: stride direction, arm action, release point, finish.
"That sets my initial thoughts of that pitcher."
Black also said that establishing a dialog with a pitcher -- especially the young ones new in camp or the offseason acquisitions -- is critical as well.
"When you start the dialogue about pitching, you learn a lot more," Black said. "The process that we get through to know our guys, the new guys in camp, is important."
Kelly reaches 65-pitch mark on comeback trail
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Right-hander Casey Kelly, working his way back from Tommy John surgery, took another step forward in his rehabilitation on Sunday when he threw 65 pitches off a bullpen mound.
"Each kind of milestone we hit is something to feel good about," Kelly said.
Kelly, who had reconstructive surgery on his right elbow on April 2, threw 35 pitches at 50 percent and another 30 pitches at 70 percent, all under the watchful eyes of the training staff as well as new upper level pitching coordinator, Trevor Hoffman.
"We're just starting getting built up to get into games," Kelly said. "This is the next step in our program."
Earlier this week, Padres manager Bud Black estimated that Kelly is "three or four weeks" behind the other pitchers here in camp. Kelly himself said recently that he hopes to be pitching in real games by April or May, even if they are Minor League rehabilitation games.
For now, though, he's content with the path he's on. This was Kelly's second bullpen session since he arrived in Arizona last week, but the first where he's thrown more than 50 pitches.
"That [three or four weeks behind the other pitchers] is a pretty good assessment of where I'm at," he said. "That's what I'm setting my goal at. And if we have to take a day off, we can."