PHILADELPHIA -- Padres catcher Rene Rivera made his eighth start in the last nine games on Tuesday against the Phillies. Rivera, who began the season as pitcher Andrew Cashner's personal catcher, has swung the bat decently, but has really impacted the pitchers on defense.
In 28 previous games behind the plate, the pitching staff posted a 2.72 ERA (70 earned runs, 231 2/3 innings), the second-best catcher ERA in the Majors this season with a minimum of 200 innings.
"I haven't really been able to play every day in the big leagues," Rivera said. "This is great. I finally get an opportunity to do it. I'm trying to take advantage."
"He's playing well and I like the way he's catching," manager Bud Black said. "He's doing a good job with the pitching staff and our team ERA is really good when he's catching."
Rivera's in there for his effectiveness calling pitches, but he has provided enough offense to keep himself in the lineup. He entered Tuesday hitting .259 (7-for-27) against left-handers and .290 (9-for-31) with runners on base.
Yasmani Grandal, the other catcher on San Diego's roster, is hitting .183 (22-for-120) this season.
"Grandal potentially has a lot of upside," Black said. "A switch-hitting catcher in his mid-20s with some tools, you'd like to think that the guy could grab the job and get the majority of playing time. But for now, Rene's playing better."
Alonso turning corner after slow start at plate
PHILADELPHIA -- Yonder Alonso's .210 batting average entering Tuesday's series opener against the Phillies doesn't tell the whole story.
The Padres' first baseman had several stints on the interstate early in the season and was hitting as low as .157 on May 8. But, Alonso has fared better from the batter's box since. Over his last 27 games, he hit .278 (25-for-90) with five homers and 14 RBIs.
Alonso went the first month and a half of the season without a homer, but Padres manager Bud Black thinks Alonso's getting on base is more indicative that he's turning things around than the recent power surge.
"I think last year, with the wrist problem, it had something to do with his power. And he missed a lot of games last year," Black said. "And I don't think anybody thought of Yonder, even out of the Draft, as a pure home run hitter. But he's got power to hit home runs. Yonder is more of a gap-to-gap, line-drive hitter. He gets into trouble when he tries to hit homers, and when he tries to pull the ball.
Alonso's also done well of late when he has come to the plate with runners in scoring position. In his previous 26 games, he hit .294 (5-for-17) in those situations.
"I would prefer line drive to left-center, line drive to right-center, line drives all over the park with a sprinkled in homer," Black said.
Portillo among Padres' Minors awards winners
PHILADELPHIA -- The Padres announced their Minor League Players of the Month for May, as selected by the player development staff.
Jake Bauers earned Hitter of the Month honors. The Class A Fort Wayne Tincaps' first baseman batted .379 (36-for-95) with five doubles, two triples, three home runs and 20 RBIs in 27 games. Bauers, who was San Diego's seventh-round selection in the 2013-First Year Player Draft, was named the Midwest League's Player of the Week for June 2-8.
Pitcher of the Month honors went to right-hander Adys Portillo of the Double-A San Antonio Missions. The 22-year-old did not allow an earned run in May. He gave up seven hits and one unearned run in 14 2/3 innings of relief while posting a 21/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Mallex Smith took home Baserunner of the Month for the second consecutive month. The Fort Wayne outfielder swiped 25 bases in 34 attempts to lead the Minor Leagues. The 21-year-old has an Minors-leading 46 stolen bases. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft.
Defensive Player of the Month was given to Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore shortstop Diego Goris, who made three errors in 29 games in May. The 23-year-old was acquired by the Padres in the 2012 Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft from Kansas City.
• Right-hander Andrew Cashner will get an extra day of rest and start San Diego's series opener with the Mets on Friday. Lefty Eric Stults will take Thursday's spot in the rotation to conclude the Padres' series with the Phillies.
In his first start since missing 20 games with right elbow soreness, Cashner threw 70 pitches in six scoreless innings against Washington last Saturday. Black is continuing to be careful with Cashner, and will monitor his pitch count on Friday night.
"He won't throw 120," Black said.
• The Padres announced on Tuesday that left-hander Jason Lane was outrighted to Triple-A El Paso and he accepted the assignment.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.