What are the prospects of Brian Giles being ready by Opening Day? I haven't heard much about him since before camp started, nor have I seen his name in the box scores.
-- Rob W., Austin, Texas

Giles is progressing well enough from his offseason microfracture surgery on his knee to get into Cactus League games this week. Giles played in Tucson on Monday and started in right field as well on Tuesday. He'll get about 40 or so at-bats this spring, which might be 10 or so fewer than he would have normally liked but it's looking like he will be ready for Opening Day. So far, he's knee has handled every rehabilitation has thrown his way. I think having a healthy Giles in right field -- and at the top of the lineup -- is so important to the Padres overall success.

I am a Cleveland Indians fan, but one of my favorite players is Jody Gerut. I kind of grew to love the team during the down years after the dismantling and Gerut was one guy I will always follow no matter what team he ends up on. He has a great attitude, is very smart and an excellent fielder despite the knee issues. Does Gerut have any shot with the Padres? I'd love to see him succeed out in San Diego.
-- Shane C., Youngstown, Ohio

Hey Shane, I'm sure Jody appreciates your support and, if he's looking for an agent, you might be the one to call. But seriously, Gerut has fared well very this spring. The Padres made a smart move in inviting him to Spring Training after he tore up the winter league in Venezuela. I think he's got a great chance to make the team out of Spring Training. I think Gerut is a guy who can play both corner outfield spots and has some pop in his bat. He's been a bright spot this spring. The Padres are coming to Cleveland this summer so you might get a chance to see Gerut if he indeed makes the team.

Do you think that the Padres are still considering bringing in a veteran outfielder? It seems that we could be wasting a great pitching staff with an undermanned outfield. We have a first-place staff and infield and a fourth-place outfield.
-- Jack C., San Diego

Hey Jack, I think we'll know more this week about the Padres plans for the outfield, as they should know more about Jim Edmonds' status -- or have a clearer idea -- of his status for Opening Day on March 31. If the Padres feel he won't be ready for Opening Day and aren't satisfied with the in-house candidates, I don't think that it's unrealistic for them to trade for a veteran outfielder. I'm not entirely sure they'll have to, as Paul McAnulty and Gerut have performed well this spring and could well make the 25-man roster. And don't forget about Chase Headley, who has also played well.

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Question:

Hey Corey, I love closer Trevor Hoffman and I remember the magic of 1998. But do you believe it's time for this stallion to retire?
-- Argenis V., Chula Vista

Pretty sure I've never heard of Trevor referred to as a stallion before, but I'll roll with it. I don't think it's time for Hoffman to retire for one simple reason -- He is still very good at what he does. Hoffman had 42 saves last season and, aside from the occasional hiccup -- yes, we can belabor what happened the last three days of 2007 under the stallions come home -- he was very good. He's looked good this spring, his elbow is healthy and he has never once said anything about retiring. What he has said is he wants to pitch beyond the 2008 season.

The Padres offense obviously has a lot of doubters. As a fan, I think more highly of their "O" than most. However, how good do you think their pitching staff (top to bottom) is? Should the team hit a collective .250 is the pitching good enough to win the West? I'd like to think that they are that good.
-- Tim H., Allentown, PA

Put it this way, the Padres nearly won the National League West with a .250 team batting average last season. I think the offense will be better as there are upgrades at second base (Tadahito Iguchi) and left field (Scott Hairston) and on the bench (Tony Clark, whoever the backup catcher is and, possibly, McAnulty and Gerut). The pitching should be just as good with Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Greg Maddux returning. The wild cards are Randy Wolf and the pitcher who starts the season in the No. 5 spot until Mark Prior is healthy.