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Padres have three-player competition for roster spot

The SportsXchange

The most interesting position battle with the Padres thus far is for one of the last spots on the Opening Day roster - the job of being the backup first baseman-outfielder and main right-handed pinch-hitter.

The candidates are Kyle Blanks, Tommy Medica and Xavier Nady.

Want a wild card?

With a surplus of outfielders and Yasmani Grandal probably not ready to catch every day at the start of the season (if he doesn't start the season on the disabled list), what about the possibility of the Padres keeping three catchers on the Opening Day roster. In that scenario, Rene Rivera could be the defensive backup catcher, meaning that either Nick Hundley or the switch-hitting Grandal could pinch-hit when not catching.

Padres manager Bud Black says that is not a possibility. That would also leave the Padres without a schooled back-up first baseman behind Yonder Alonso.

What makes the Blanks-Medica-Nady competition interesting is that each has an edge in one area and a minus in another.

The 27-year-old Blanks has the highest ceiling and is at home defensively as a corner outfielder or a first baseman. But the 6-foot-6, 264-pounder has a long history of varied injuries. He played a career-high 88 games last year despite missing six weeks with Achilles tendinitis. He played only four games in 2012 before having season-ending surgery to his left shoulder. In 2010, Blanks had "Tommy John" surgery to his right elbow. He also missed time at the end of the 2009 season with plantar fasciitis.

Blanks hit .243 last season with eight homers and 35 RBIs in 88 games. He has a career .228 average with 28 homers and 98 RBIs in just 705 at-bats - but over 4 1/2 seasons.

Nady, 35, is a career .240 hitter with 101 homers and 406 RBIs in 2,932 at-bats. He has higher career marks than Blanks in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. But he played all of the 2013 season at Triple-A (.296 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in 124 games) after missing out on a major league job due to a bout of plantar fasciitis last spring.

Nady is also a non-roster player, which would require the Padres to drop a player from their 40-man roster, which they might be hesitant to do. Both Blanks and Medica have options remaining. Nady is hitting .333 this spring.

Medica, who turns 26 on April 9, hit .290 with three homers and 10 RBIs in a 69-at-bat, late-season cameo with the Padres last season. He is hitting .409 with two homers in 41 at-bats this season. But he only started playing the outfield this spring.


--RHP Casey Kelly faced live hitters on March 15 for the first time since undergoing elbow recontraction surgery last April. Kelly threw 32 fastballs and change-ups. Kelly, 24, faced the bats of Yasmani Grandal and Chase Headley. Kelly will now face live hitters every fifth day and will throw four more sessions before appearing in his first simulated game. Said Kelly: "It's definitely the best day I've had so far feeling wise. The great part about today is I didn't really think about the elbow. I was thinking about pitching."

--RHP Andrew Cashner pitched in a minor league game March 15 rather than face the Dodgers. Why? Cashner is on pace to start Opening Night against the Dodgers at Petco Park and didn't want to give Dodgers hitters a sneak preview. In three major league starts this spring, Cashner has allowed no runs on eight hits over nine innings. He has eight strikeouts without walking a hitter.

--3B Chase Headley is scheduled to make his exhibition debut sometime this week. Headley has been sidelined since suffering a calf strain in run-down drills on the second day of full-squad practice. Headley has been fielding grounders and running, and he hit live pitching for the first time Saturday against Kelly.

--2B Jedd Gyorko spent the winter before his 2013 rookie season fielding thousands of balls at his new position. This winter he returned to his hometown of Morgantown, W. Va., to work on his conditioning. Gyorko lost 15 pounds.

--LHP Tony Sipp is making a strong bid to join Alex Torres as a second left-hander in the Padres bullpen. Sipp has not allowed an earned run over seven innings in six appearances. He has given up six hits with five strikeouts against no walks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel good, I feel like I'm right where I want to be. I've got good command of my fastball. My off-speed pitches are coming right along now and my slider is improving." - Right-hander Andrew Cashner, who has yet to allow a run this spring as he heads toward an Opening Night start against the Dodgers March 30 at Petco Park.
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