Sunday, March 23, 2008

Headley likely to start the year in Portland

Chase Headley was moved from a place where had become comfortable to a place he had only played once at the University of Tennessee.

The third baseman turned left fielder has done nothing but impress the Padres' brass on how well he's handed playing left field during spring training. The conditions are unlike anything he'll face at Petco Park, but he's shown that not only can he track down fly balls in Arizona conditions, but his arm strength has improved. So much so that he threw out a runner at the plate this past Thursday. He's also impressed at the plate, out slugging every other player that remains in the big league camp.

You would think that with his hitting and impressive fielding, that he would have done enough to earn a spot on the Padres roster when they open the season at the end of March, but according to manager Bud Black and general manager Kevin Towers, it's more likely that Headley will open the season with AAA Portland.

Manager Bud Black, “The only question we have to answer ourselves is can the jump be made from Double-A to the major leagues with a position change on Day One? It's only a matter of time before this guy gets an opportunity in the big leagues.”

GM Kevin Towers, “He's validating pretty much what type of offensive player I thought he was. He's able to get into good hitting counts almost every at-bat and he's driven the ball from both sides of the plate.”

“All of this is going to take time. I don't know that he's going to learn a new position in a month. It takes time. He has a chance down the road to be an average defender out there. It certainly hasn't been a disaster.”

There's one thing that the Padres could be looking at is Headley's strikeout rate. He struck out every 3.8 at bats, striking out 13 times in 42 at bats included a 3 strikeout game against the Brewers this past Friday.

Do I think he's done enough to earn a spot? Absolutely, but I also think that Headley getting more time in Portland to hone his skills is also a good thing. The Padres don't want Headley in San Diego as a bench player, they want him starting every day, but they won't throw him to the fire too quickly.

The Padres are yet to make the decision on Headley, but the Padres need to make their roster decisions by this coming Thursday, so look for that to come down on Tuesday or possibly Wednesday.

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