As the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training starts, fans are getting increasingly enthused, yearning for the real action. Please e-mail questions to beat writer Lyle Spencer, including your first name, last initial and hometown.
Do you think the new-look Padres with the additions of right-handed power bats such as Mike Cameron, Mike Piazza and Vinny Castilla, now fit PETCO Park better offensively than they did in 2005? -- Alec E., Sierra Madre, Calif.
That's the plan, certainly, behind those moves for veterans with proven credentials as power hitters. PETCO clearly favors right-handed hitters who can pull the ball.
It's interesting that Khalil Greene has launched more homers into the Western Metal Supply Co. seats than anybody else in two years. You wouldn't expect that from a shortstop, but Greene is no normal shortstop.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that Cameron, Piazza and Castilla, players with years of experience, will work counts and find enough good pitches to pull to reach 20-25 homers each. It's just a matter of staying healthy and quick with the hands. Bat speed is crucial for a right-handed hitter in PETCO; if you're late and you can't turn on a ball, chances are you'll be frustrated.
Piazza is the exception there, though. He can launch balls out of any park when he gets extended. That old 411 sign in deepest right wouldn't have fazed him in his prime. If he's rested properly and on top of his game, he'll put on some shows for the customers.
Now that we have Piazza, doesn't trading Mark Loretta, our starting second baseman and our best hitter in 2004, for a backup catcher, Doug Mirabelli, seem silly? -- Marc S., Mamaroneck, N.Y.
I wouldn't call it silly. Risky is more like it.
Loretta was popular and productive, a quality performer and person. Fans grow attached to players like him, as well they should.
The acquisition of Piazza changes Mirabelli's role only slightly, in my judgment. I don't think he was going to catch 130 games, anyway. I see Piazza and Mirabelli, in effect, sharing the job. Manager Bruce Bochy likes to go with the hot bat, but I think he knows he can't play Piazza too many games in a row, given his advanced age.
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Piazza and Mirabelli are excellent complements -- a big bat and an excellent defensive player. You'll probably see Mirabelli frequently enter games in which the Padres have a lead in the seventh or eighth inning.
Piazza will probably play 20 or so games at first and nine as a DH in Interleague play, giving Mirabelli more starts. There's a good chance they'll carry a third catcher, too -- David Ross, most likely.
No question, there will be pressure on this new group to perform to the level of Ramon Hernandez, Miguel Olivo, Robert Fick and Miguel Ojeda last season. This was a position of strength for the club.
Hernandez, in particular, will be determined to show the Friars they made a mistake by letting him go. He looked tremendous -- fit and strong -- in hitting for the cycle for his native Venezuela in the opener of the Caribbean Series against Mexico. I have a feeling that, reunited with Miguel Tejada and playing in a ballpark that should be conducive to big numbers, he'll have a big year in Baltimore.
If Dave Roberts is traded, what happens to the left-field job and, more importantly, who will lead off? -- Mike G., Lincoln, Neb.
Very good question, one that I'm sure weighs on the Padres' decision-makers. I, for one, wouldn't deal Roberts. I attach great value to leadoff catalysts, and Roberts has everything you want in a top-of-the-order generator, except durability.
Terrmel Sledge is an intriguing player, a pure hitter who has shown the ability to get on base as well as drive the ball with some power. He'd be one option. There's also Eric Young, still a quality leadoff man. A platoon, Sledge and E.Y., probably would be the way to go.
Will Clay Hensley make the starting rotation? I mean, he has the stuff to be in the starting rotation. -- Ismael E., San Diego
Absolutely correct. I'd love to see Hensley in a starting role, but I don't know how that's going to shake out with so many candidates for the back end of the rotation.
There's a chance that Hensley could be forced to return to a middle relief or a seventh-inning setup role.
If Woody Williams, Shawn Estes and Chan Ho Park shine, they figure to get first crack, after Jake Peavy and Chris Young, at starting slots. If anyone falters, however, Hensley and Tim Stauffer should get first consideration. Both have proven they can get it done.
It's good to have depth -- quality depth -- in the rotation. If everyone performs to his capabilities, it's there in abundance with this club.
Chan Ho Park will participate in the WBC for Korea. Will he begin the 2006 season as a starter? -- J.W. Lee, Pusan, Korea
The Padres would love to see Chan Ho regain his confidence and return to the form he showed with the Dodgers. They believe it can happen and will do everything possible to make him feel comfortable.
What I've come to understand about Park is that he's at his best when he feels wanted. He's a sensitive person, and his struggles in Texas clearly weighed heavily on him when he came to San Diego in the Phil Nevin swap.
There is nothing wrong with Park's arm or his stuff. He still throws hard, with a nice variety of stuff. He can win games in the Major Leagues, no doubt. The Padres certainly hope to get some W's for their $10-million investment.
How quick of a trigger do you think the Padres will have with Ryan Klesko? Considering the talent they have stockpiled at first, it seems they would have little patience if he stumbles out of the gate again. -- Ray V., San Diego
That will be an interesting development to follow. They do have a lot of options now at the position, creating an even bigger challenge for Klesko to bounce back with a quality season.
If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say Bochy will be patient with him. He likes and respects Klesko and wants him to be a big contributor. He won't explicitly put any pressure on him, but it will be apparent, with Adrian Gonzalez, Paul McAnulty and Walter Young pushing him, that he needs to deliver.
Piazza will play the position against tough lefties on occasion, but I doubt they'll want to make a habit of it.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.