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SD@TB: Smith picks up first Major League strikeout

The Padres are using the final month of the season to evaluate the young talent in their organization.

San Diego will get another look at 23-year-old Burch Smith on Friday, when the right-hander makes his fourth career start in the opener of a three-game series against the Rockies at Petco Park.

Smith, the Padres' No. 9 prospect according to MLB.com, is in his fourth stint in the Major Leagues this season. After beginning the year in Double-A, Smith was promoted to the big leagues in May and made his debut in a start against the Rays. He allowed six earned runs in one-plus innings and has an 11.37 ERA over six appearances in the Majors.

Smith found success at Triple-A, going 5-1 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts with Tucson, and believes he's a better pitcher than he was earlier in the season when he struggled with San Diego.

"I'll get back out there and go at it differently this time," Smith said. "I'm going to try and execute my pitches and not just try to blow the ball by guys."

The Rockies are also out of the race in the National League West, but have won three of their past four series.

Juan Nicasio will start for Colorado and will look to find some consistency over his final few outings of the season.

Nicasio has been up and down all year, with three scoreless starts of at least six innings mixed in with a few forgettable outings. The right-hander was charged with six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start and has a 6.00 ERA over his past seven outings.

Still, Nicasio is most effective when he makes it through the sixth inning. In 22 starts of at least six innings during his career, Nicasio is 11-2 with a 2.19 ERA. He went six innings in his only start against San Diego this year, allowing two runs in a no-decision.

Rockies: CarGo considered day to day
The Rockies aren't sure how often Carlos Gonzalez will be able to play over the final month of the season, because the outfielder is still bothered by a sprained right middle finger that affects his swing.

Colorado manager Walt Weiss said Gonzalez would only play when his hand feels strong enough to do so, and the All-Star will be rested as necessary. Gonzalez could be used as a defensive replacement, as was the case Tuesday against the Dodgers.

"Even if he's not hitting, there's ways he can impact the game," Weiss said. "We've talked about different options. I think as it stands right now, we're going to play it by ear. If it gets to the point where that thing really flares up and we're closing in on the end of the season, of course we'll make that judgment. But as it stands now, we're going to go day to day with him."

Padres: Headley returns to lineup
Chase Headley was back in the starting lineup Wednesday, playing third base and batting cleanup, after missing six games while recovering from back spasms.

Headley belted a solo home run in his third at-bat and finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk. He had not played since Aug. 27 in Arizona, when he came out of the game after four innings.

• Cameron Maybin will have surgery Friday on a troublesome right wrist that has bothered the center fielder for the past two seasons.

Maybin suffered an impingement to the wrist this year, and a scan this week revealed damage to two ligaments and calcium deposits in the wrist. The procedure will also smooth over the wrist joint.

"It's good to finally get an idea of what we're dealing with," said Maybin, limited to 14 games this season. "It's unfortunate, but this gives me the time to get ready for next year. And this [surgery] doesn't seem like a serious process."

Worth noting
• Headley is 6-for-9 (.667) lifetime against Nicasio, with two homers and three RBIs.

• Rockies first baseman Todd Helton homered Wednesday to tie Lance Berman for 75th on the all-time list, with 366.

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