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Headley, Padres in no rush to reach long-term deal

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Chase Headley says he wants to remain with the San Diego Padres past this season, although neither the third baseman nor the club believes contract negotiations will take place during the 2014 season.

Headley is eligible to become a free agent next winter.

There are no contract negotiations currently under way between the Padres and Headley.

"We're hoping at some point that we can come to common ground," Headley said Feb. 17 after arriving at the Padres' renovated spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz. "I really love San Diego, and they really like me as a player, so I certainly don't want to close the door.

"Both sides understand where the other party is coming from and, frankly, respects where the other side is coming from."

But neither side is totally comfortable talking money given Headley's roller-coaster recent history.

Through 2011, Headley never hit more than 12 homers or drove in 64 runs in a season. Then, particularly in the second half, Headley had a breakout season in 2012, finishing with a .286 average, 31 homers and a National League-leading 115 RBIs.

Headley finished fifth in the Most Valuable Player balloting and won both the league's Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards at third base.

However, in 2013, Headley reverted back to pre-2012 form with a .250 average, 13 homers and 50 RBIs.

Which is the real Headley? Trying to answer that question is complicated the long-term contract talks that were held between the Padres and Headley. And he understands the situation.

"That's part of what makes it so tricky," Headley said. "You've had such a big variation in the last two seasons. To really pin something down is difficult. I understand that, and I think they understand that as well."

Headley missed the first 14 games of 2013 with a broken bone at the tip of his left thumb, and he had surgery at the end of the season to repair a tear to the MCL in his right knee. Ironically, Headley's best play last season came immediately when he came off the disabled list in April and during September (.305, five homers, 14 RBIs), when he was slowed by the knee injury.


--With LHP Cory Luebke missing the 2014 season due to a second round of Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, the last spot in the Padres' bullpen could fall to career-long minor league starters LHP Robbie Erlin and RHP Burch Smith. Manager Bud Black likes to have a young starter interning in the bullpen. It looked as if Luebke would get that assignment for the start of the 2014 season as a way to ease him back into the rotation while protecting his innings. That changed abruptly just before spring training when Luebke learned he had suffered a new tear in his ulnar collateral ligament while rehabbing. The loss of Luebke opened a potential roster spot for 23-year-olds Smith and Erlin, who both had strong moments as rookies in 2013.

--RHP Casey Kelly, who missed all of the 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery, threw 65 pitches off a mound Feb. 16. The Padres hope that Kelly might be able to pitch in minor league games by the end of April or early May.

--C Yasmani Grandal is on a restricted program early in spring training while still rehabbing from ACL reconstruction surgery on his right knee performed Aug. 8. On days when he doesn't squat or catch, Grandal still throws to the bases and takes batting practice. "His schedule is going to vary from day to day based on what our trainers think and how he feels," manager Bud Black said of Grandal's program. "He's on a scaled-back program, but he's doing enough." Grandal has told the Padres he expects to be ready for Opening Day.

--LF Carlos Quentin, 31, was limited to a total of 168 games and 560 at-bats in his first two seasons with the Padres due to recurring right knee problems (three surgeries in a span of 19 months). However, manager Bud Black believes Quentin will play in more than 100 games this season while getting 450 to 500 at-bats. Quentin said his knee feels much better since his latest operation in September. "It feels as good as any time since I've been here," Quentin said. With Seth Smith available this year, Black might be better positioned to give Quentin regular time off.

--The Padres' spring training facility in Peoria, Ariz., underwent $15.5 million in renovations since the start of last season. The building was expanded from 48,000 to 60,000 square feet with the feature being new major and minor league clubhouses. The major league clubhouse has 70 player cubicles and natural lighting from a series of windows in the raised ceilings. The remodeled facility also has expanded training areas (with a hydrotherapy pool and four plunge pools), weight rooms and a state-of-the-art video room. When the Padres moved to Peoria from Yuma in 1994, there was no provision for a video room.

"The complex is fantastic," general manager Josh Byrnes said. "I'm actually surprised at the difference. Everything feels bigger, newer and more functional."

Added veteran RHP Tim Stauffer: "It's a huge improvement. The circular clubhouse is like we have at Petco Park."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "A lot depends on how we do and how he does. There are a lot of elements to it." -- GM Josh Byrnes, on how he views future talks with 3B Chase Headley on a long-term contract.



RHP Andrew Cashner

RHP Josh Johnson

RHP Tyson Ross

RHP Ian Kennedy

LHP Eric Stults

Cashner came within a seventh-inning single of throwing the first no-hitter (and perfect game) in Padres history last Sept. 16 in Pittsburgh. He took giant steps forward toward developing into a staff ace. Cashner (3.09 ERA) and Ross (3.17 ERA) both emerged as quality starters in 2013.

The key to the rotation's success could be Johnson, who had an operation last October to remove particles from his surgically rebuilt elbow. When healthy, Johnson has top-of-the-rotation stuff.

Kennedy and Stults are competitive innings-eaters at the bottom of the rotation. The Padres will have four solid starting prospects in minors in RHPs Matt Wisler, Burch Smith, Joe Wieland and Casey Kelly and LHP Robbie Erlin. Wisler and Smith have the highest ceilings.


RHP Huston Street (closer)

RHP Joaquin Benoit

LHP Alex Torres

RHP Dale Thayer

RHP Nick Vincent

RHP Tim Stauffer

The free agent signing of Benoit gives the Padres two potential closers. If not closing, Benoit is the perfect setup replacement for RHP Luke Gregerson, who was traded to Oakland for left-handed-hitting OF Seth Smith.

Torres is more than a situational left-hander. He has the stuff of a late-inning setup man, a fact that could open the last spot in the bullpen to another left-hander (Rule 5 acquisition Patrick Schuster or Zach Braddock). The veteran Stauffer is the perfect long man, and he also has the stuff to make an emergency start.

Thayer is durable. Vincent was an unsung hero the past two seasons.


1. SS Everth Cabrera

2. OF Will Venable or OF Chris Denorfia or OF Seth Smith

3. 3B Chase Headley

4. LF Carlos Quentin

5. C Yasmani Grandal

6. 2B Jedd Gyorko

7. 1B Yonder Alonso

8. CF Cameron Maybin or Denorfia or C Nick Hundley

The Padres used 145 starting lineups last season due to injuries and suspensions. Even if they are healthy this season, they could come close to matching that figure. The reason is roster versatility. The Padres have three switch hitters: Grandal, Headley and Cabrera. Manager Bud Black could field a starting lineup of eight right-handed position players against a left-handed pitcher and seven left-handed hitters against a right-hander.

Black will have five outfielders to choose from, giving him ample ways to rest Quentin's tender right knee.

Aside from Quentin, the Padres have few proven power hitters -- although Gyorko hit 23 homers as a rookie in 2013 and Headley had 31 homers in 2012. Given Cabrera's ability in the leadoff slot and Quentin's presence when healthy in the No. 4 slot, the offense should be improved this season from one through eight.

Black believes all five of his outfielders -- Quentin, 2013 club MVP Venable, Denorfia, Smith and Maybin -- are capable of 400 plate appearances this season.

TOP ROOKIES: OF Rymer Liriano probably will open the season at Double-A San Antonio after missing the entire 2013 season following Tommy John surgery. The 22-year-old is still viewed as the top outfield prospect in the system, and he could be promoted to Triple-A El Paso and the major leagues by the end of the season.

RHP Matt Wisler, 21, was a combined 10-6 with a 2.78 ERA at Class A Lake Elsinore and San Antonio last season. He could be inserted into the major league rotation when needed this year.


--RHP Casey Kelly (Tommy John surgery in April 2012) threw off a mound in mid-February. The Padres hope that Kelly might be able to pitch in minor league games by the end of April or early May.

--RHP Josh Johnson (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2013) had chips removed from his surgically repaired elbow. He will be on a restricted throwing program at the start of spring training.

--C Yasmani Grandal (right knee surgery in August 2013) had a torn anterior cruciate ligament repaired. He will be limited early in spring training, but he aims to be ready by Opening Day.

--LHP Cory Luebke (Tommy John surgery in May 2012) will undergo another elbow operation. He will miss the entire 2014 season.
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