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By The Sports Xchange January 11, 2013 4:30 AM
The San Diego Padres will bring three more relievers and an extra catcher to spring training in order to cope with the franchise-record, 37-game exhibition season. "It's going to be a good spring to get a longer look at some of the younger prospects," manager Bud Black said. "The big challenge is going to be the first 10 games, games we're not usually playing. "To that end, we're already mapping the pitching out. Guys will have their regular bullpen sessions before they work. But we're gauging guys where they are now in their offseason throwing programs ... how often they've thrown on the side." The four extra players being invited to spring training are some of the Padres' younger top prospects -- 20-year-old catcher Austin Hedges (a second-round pick in 2011) and right-handed relievers Kevin Quackenbush, Matt Stites and Johnny Barbato. The Padres are inviting 63 players to spring training -- the 40-man roster, 21 non-roster players, plus two players on the restricted list. Catcher Yasmani Grandal opens the season facing a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy, and right-handed pitcher Jose De Paula has been on the restricted list since last spring due to visa issues. The Padres will begin playing exhibitions on Feb. 22 -- just six days after the full squad begins practices and only 10 days after pitchers and catchers report. Usually, the exhibition season starts around March 1 and numbers 30 games. Black said that in addition to the extra players invited to spring training, the Padres would be using more younger prospects from their advanced minor league mini-camp, which opens Feb. 23. The Padres' pitching situation is further complicated because many of their rotation candidates missed major chunks of the 2012 season due to injuries, and the club hasn't been able to expand its starting-pitching depth this offseason. At the same time, the Padres don't want to ramp up their younger pitching prospects too early while knowing they could be without Edinson Volquez for much of spring training. Volquez has been asked to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the third World Baseball Classic. "We've been counting bodies and innings," general manager Josh Byrnes said. "We haven't buttoned down the total, but we'll be adding more relievers in camp, guys who can work an inning to fill in the holes."