New Padres set to follow veteran Stults' lead
Lefty gets ball in San Diego's spring opener as teammates suit up for first time
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Veteran left-handed pitcher Eric Stults will throw the first pitch of the spring Thursday for the Padres, and he has a pretty good idea what it will be.
Good luck in getting him to tell you, though.
"I can't give that away," Stults said, smiling.
There were plenty of reasons to smile Wednesday, as the Padres pushed ahead with their last full day of workouts before their spring slate begins Thursday, when they face the Mariners in the two teams' annual charity game at the Peoria Sports Complex at 12:05 p.m. PT.
The game will be broadcast online at padres.com.
While Stults is certainly a familiar face to Padres' fans, there will be a handful of new players who will wear a San Diego uniform for the first time on Thursday -- pitchers Josh Johnson, Joaquin Benoit, Alex Torres, Jesse Hahn, Patrick Schuster and a handful of non-roster invitees.
On the position player side, infielder Ryan Jackson, outfielder Seth Smith as well as several non-roster hopefuls will suit up for the Padres for the first time and possibly get in the game.
After nearly two weeks of workouts -- at least for pitchers and catchers -- manager Bud Black said that it's time to start playing games, and Thursday's game against Seattle signals the official start up to the push for Opening Day on March 30 against the Dodgers at Petco Park.
"It's always good to play a game, no matter what type of game it is. I remember as a player or even as a manager, it was always good to play a game, even if it was an intrasquad game," Black said. "It was something to look forward to. I think anytime you put the uniform on and there's umpires and opposition, you start to get to evaluate your players in a different light.
"And for the players, there's nothing better than competition."
Stults, who led the team in innings and victories a year ago, will throw one inning against the Mariners before giving way to a handful of pitchers who are on the bubble for making the 25-man, Opening Day roster: Tony Sipp, Anthony Carter, Schuster, Blaine Boyer, Donn Roach and Kevin Quackenbush.
"It's exciting. We put a lot of work into the offseason to get ready for Spring Training. I think it's exciting with the team we have this year, the arms that we have," Stults said. "I'm looking forward to getting the first game underway and getting ready for the regular season."
Stults isn't the only one eager to see some of the pitchers who figure to be part of the rotation. Count pitching coach Darren Balsley in that group as well, as he'll preside over more power arms on one staff than he has in a very long time.
"We've had three very good pitchers in the rotation at the same time. But they weren't power arms like this with [Andrew] Cashner, [Tyson] Ross and Johnson. You can include [Ian] Kennedy in that mix. No matter what the velocity is, if you can throw the ball by a guy, and Ian can do that, then you're a power guy."
There aren't a lot of jobs up for grabs here, as the starting rotation appears set with Cashner, Ross, Johnson, Kennedy and Stults.
There could be one or two spots left in the bullpen to fill and there's a question if the Padres will keep two lefties in the bullpen.
Also, the team will determine who will comprise the bench. What to do with Kyle Blanks and Tommy Medica? Does veteran Xavier Nady have a chance? Will the team keep Ryan Jackson or Alberto Gonzalez as a reserve infielder?
There's certainly time to sort through all of this during games.
The Padres will break camp after their game on March 26 against the Royals before heading home to San Diego for two games against the Indians (March 28-29) prior to Opening Day.