Relief pitcher Kirby Yates of the San Diego Padres. (Screen capture:

Major League Baseball named its top performers for April on Thursday and San Diego Padres closer Kirby Yates was among them.

The right-handed veteran had 14 saves last month, leading the major leagues and earning him honors as the National League’s Reliever of the Month – and he did it in historic fashion too. He recorded the most saves before May 1 in baseball history.

Yates has allowed one run in 16 appearances out of the Padre bullpen this season.

In a season dominated by the buzz surrounding rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. and star acquisition Manny Machado Yates has flown under the radar, though calls the Padres closer “the most dominant reliever no one’s talking about.” He is:

“… an unassuming, laid-back Hawaiian. Yates is 5-foot-10, rocks a mohawk and serves as the bullpen’s funny guy. He just turned 32, after a winding career in which it took a decade to develop his splitter into one of the sport’s nastiest pitches.

“He’s not the body type you’d expect in a closer,” said Padres skipper Andy Green. “He’s not the package you’d expect in a closer. But he’s every bit a closer.”

Yates went undrafted out of college in 2008 and ’09 after missing two seasons because of Tommy John surgery (he had been taken in the 26th round out of high school by the Red Sox in ’05 but didn’t sign). That gave him the appropriate chip on his shoulder.

“In the Minors, if I was pitching, and I was facing a first-rounder or a second-rounder, I knew it,” Yates said. “I was totally conscious of that. I wanted to make a point, I wanted to strike them out. I want to test myself. But it got to a point in Double-A or Triple-A where I was just like, I don’t care who you are anymore. I’m good enough.”

Yates had stints with the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees before joining the Padres two years ago.

Yates and the Padres begin a six-game home stand with the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. The team announced via Twitter Thursday that the three-game series against their NL West rivals is sold out.

The Padres are in third place, 1.5 games behind the Dodgers and a half-game behind the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

– Staff reports