SD@MIL: Noel ropes an inside-the-park home run

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It took him two seasons, but Padres outfielder Rico Noel now considers himself to be a "true switch-hitter."

It was a rough adjustment at first for Noel, who turned 25 in January. A natural right-handed hitter, he took up switch-hitting at the urging of the organization before the 2012 season.

"It was frustrating at times but I kept with it," Noel said. "I sort of sat back and realized that it was only going to make me better."

After hitting .256 from the left side with 126 strikeouts in 2012, Noel improved last season to .272 with 104 strikeouts while playing for Double-A San Antonio.

"I feel I can hit more aggressive early in the count and I've been able to put the ball in play early in the count," Noel said. "I think that's the key to not striking out as much, not getting to two strikes. When you get your pitch to hit early in the count, don't miss it.

"It's going to be better for my career. There are so many more things you can do hitting from both sides. It's helped. Getting that strength from the left side took some time."

In his first four seasons in the organization, Noel has a .258/.352/.321 line with 228 stolen bases. He also has 396 strikeouts, though that number dipped from 151 to 119 a year ago.

"The first year [of switch-hitting] I wasn't that comfortable and my pitch selection wasn't good. … I was taking a lot of pitches for called third strikes," Noel said. "It got better last year. I cut it down last year. Now I feel comfortable hitting with two strikes where before I didn't."

Noel, who took a .143 average in 21 at-bats this spring into Thursday's game, showed his speed recently in a game against the Brewers when he had an inside-the-park home run.

"As soon as I saw him [Brewers center fielder Elian Herrera] dive, I was like, 'I don't know if he's going to get to that ball.' I came out of the box pretty hard thinking I would have a shot at the double. Then when he dove, I started to turn it up," Noel said.

"You don't see that too often. You see the home run over the fence a lot, the stolen base. It helps that you have a good, aggressive base coach."

Johnson happy with slider in Thursday's start

MIL@SD: Johnson fans Segura in the first

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With each start he makes this spring, Josh Johnson has a fairly specific agenda that he wants to follow.

On Thursday against the Brewers, it was using more of his slider, a pitch that, when balanced against his low- to mid-90s fastball, has been a plus pitch for him at times during his career.

Of the 60 pitches he threw in four innings of an 8-0 loss to the Brewers, six were sliders, which rates as the most he's thrown in any of his three outings this spring.

"I wanted to get that thing a little more locked in," he said. "I threw some good ones … a front-door slider to a righty and a back-door to a lefty. It was pretty good."

Johnson allowed one run on two hits in four innings -- his longest start of the spring -- and walked one with three strikeouts.

Johnson also threw 13 changeups and one curveball and only needed eight pitches to get through his last inning. He'll likely throw in upwards of 75 pitches his next time out.

"I have got no complaints," Johnson said. "I'm feeling good, feeling strong. I stayed tall and used my leverage."

Padres make second round of cuts

SD@CLE: Liriano jacks two-run shot to left in ninth

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres made their second round of camp cuts Thursday, though none of the moves yielded much surprise.

The team optioned right-handed pitcher Keyvius Sampson to Triple-A El Paso and outfielder Rymer Liriano to Double-A San Antonio.

The Padres also reassigned right-handed pitcher Leonel Campos and infielder Jonathan Galvez to Minor League camp.

The Padres now have 52 players in big league camp.

Liriano, who missed all of last season after having Tommy John surgery, impressed manager Bud Black during his time in camp. He'll likely begin the season with San Antonio. Liriano hit a home run Wednesday and hit .273 over 22 at-bats this spring.

"Liriano has some tools. He's still a little rough around the edges … but he has a skill-set that plays at a higher level," Black said.

Sampson had a 7.20 ERA in three games and five innings. He'll begin the regular season with El Paso. Campos had an 11.57 ERA in five games and 4 2/3 innings. He'll likely begin the season with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. Galvez hit .286 in 14 at-bats and is likely ticketed for El Paso or San Antonio.

Short hops

• Pitcher Casey Kelly, who missed all of 2013 while rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery, will throw to live hitters in a batting practice session Saturday. It's a step forward for Kelly, who threw six bullpens to get to this point, throwing 45 pitches last week. He'll likely throw several live batting practice sessions before moving on to a simulated game or pitching in a Minor League game here in Arizona. Kelly had surgery on April 2 last year and his rehabilitation has essentially gone without a hitch.

"It's exciting," Kelly said Thursday morning.

• Closer Huston Street, who hasn't appeared in a game yet because of a slight right groin pull, will likely pitch Saturday in a Minor League game, Black said. The Padres will not break camp here until March 26, so Black believes there's still time to get Street the innings he needs in order to be ready to pitch on Opening Day against the Dodgers on March 30 at Petco Park.