Tucson Padres manager Pat Murphy believes his bullpen has been the team's strong point this season and he calls it one of the best in the Pacific Coast League.

A big reason is right-handed closer Miles Mikolas.

Before Monday night's 4-3 win to Salt Lake at Kino Stadium, Tucson (56-52) was 50-3 when leading after seven innings and 45-0 when ahead after eight.

Mikolas, who has made three trips to the big leagues since June 23, entered Monday's game as one of the top closers in the league.

He's 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA and has struck out 33 batters over 50.1 innings. Plus, he's third in the league with 21 saves.

"Miles has been tremendous," Murphy said. "He had a couple rocky outings early, but he hasn't been anything but lights-out since."

Mikolas, who made his MLB debut in May of last year, credits his big-league trips for his success this year. He made 25 appearances with San Diego last year and maintained a 3.62 ERA over 32 1/3 innings.

"I wasn't closing up there, but I think what I learned in the bullpen up there has just helped me be a little more relaxed coming into those late-game situations," Mikolas said. "Especially since going in up there in the seventh inning is more pressure than going in the ninth inning down here."

His experience last season and his trips this year have helped him grow each time. Although he's only appeared in one big-league game this year, he's learned a lot, including how important it is to stay calm, cool and collected.

"Going up and down, no matter how short the stay is up there, you always get a chance to pick something up and bring it back down here to work on it," said Mikolas, a seventh-round draft pick of the Padres in 2009.

The Jupiter, Fla., native, who turns 25 next month, said he's changed up some of his fundamentals since last year - including the addition of a bigger leg kick to help him get his whole body into it, rather than just his arm.

His primary pitch is his fastball, but he said he's also trying to perfect his curveball and develop a third pitch, an out pitch, which Murphy said could make him a perfect fit for the next level.

"He's still not fully developed as a pitcher yet, but he will be soon," Murphy said. "He's working on some things and when gets that, I think he's a major leaguer."

Murphy braved about Mikolas' performance last month when the righty had eight saves in 13 appearances and held a 1.13 ERA in 16 innings.

"The June he had was pretty special," Murphy said. "He really came into himself in June. You knew when he came into the game, it was over."


• Who: Tucson at Memphis

• When: 5 p.m. • Radio: 1290-AM