Padres know value of deep bench
Team has 10 players vying for three spots on roster
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Not to sound greedy, but Padres manager Bud Black has a particular mind-set when it comes to constructing what he would consider to be the idyllic bench.
"You want good hitters on the bench, you want good defenders, you want some speed. You want some power. You want it all," Black said, smiling. "But it doesn't happen."
The reality for the Padres -- and, really, for every other Major League team -- is finding players who fit all of those qualities isn't feasible. Instead, Black would like to pick a particular set of players who fit some of those qualities.
The Padres may have accomplished just that, though Black couldn't tell you for certain at this point of spring what players -- other than backup catcher Michael Barrett and Tony Clark -- will fill what figures to be three open spots on the bench.
As Black said Monday, a day before the team is split for five days, with a team heading to China for two games and another squad sticking back in Arizona, there are "10 guys for the three spots."
At the very least, the Padres will keep at one backup outfielder and one backup infielder with the third player being one or the other. Sound pretty simple? It's not, as the recent injury to outfielder Jim Edmonds changes things moving forward, especially if he isn't able to play Opening Day.
There's also the Crabbe factor -- as in Callix Crabbe who has the skill set to not only play three infield positions (all but first base) but can also play the outfield, which has set him apart from the other infield candidates, Craig Stansberry, Luis Rodriguez, Oscar Robles and Edgar Gonzalez.
Crabbe (hitting .375 going into Monday's game), Gonzalez (.533) and Rodriguez (.563), at least offensively, have swung the bats well thus far. Robles might be the best defender of the bunch. Crabbe clearly has the best speed. Gonzalez packs a little pop.
Stansberry, Rodriguez, Robles and Gonzalez can essentially play anywhere in the infield, with Gonzalez able to play some first base, the outfield and, quite possibly, catch if the team got in a pinch.
The Padres aren't merely looking for offensive pop off the bench, something American League teams can afford to do.
"Defense plays a premium, too," Black said. "If you double-switch, you want to bring in a guy who is a good enough defender who won't cost you, especially in close ballgames."
Black certainly had a good idea of the role of the bench in his first season with the Padres after coming over from the Angels and wasn't afraid to use the double-switch or utilize pinch-hitters.
"Seven years of Interleague Play sets you up for 162 games but there was enough, going back to my four years in the National League as a player," Black said. "The importance of the bench on a daily basis, the moves that are made, figures way more than an American League team."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.