Hawpe having fun getting reacquainted at first

Hawpe having fun getting reacquainted at first

Hawpe having fun getting reacquainted at first
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Returning to his natural position has presented Brad Hawpe with any number of challenges this spring.

There have been bunt plays to learn for Hawpe, pickoffs to work on. He's worked hard on his footwork around the bag and is still trying to get a handle on the nuances that go with the position.

As far as his biggest challenge in moving to first base after spending the last seven seasons in the outfield, Hawpe said it's having a clear head at all times.

"In the outfield, you're standing out there and you start thinking about other things, like your swings," Hawpe said. "At first base, you don't get a second to lose your focus.

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"The position won't allow you to do that."

Hawpe has been charged this season with the unenviable task of replacing three-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez, who shined on defense, winning two Gold Gloves during his five seasons with the Padres.

Hawpe, who signed a one-year deal in January for a guaranteed $3 million, has worked diligently in the offseason and on the back fields of the Peoria Sports Complex to get in touch with a position that once came easily to him.

Hawpe, an 11th-round Draft pick of the Rockies in 2000, played parts of four seasons at first base in the Minor Leagues before finding a substantial roadblock in Todd Helton at his position. So he moved to the outfield.

Getting reacquainted with first base has taken some work.

"It's been fun," Hawpe said. "The work has been fun and enjoyable. Instead of running after fly balls, you've got a lot of picks drills, throwing it around the infield and so on. The guys [other infielders] have been great and their throws have been pristine."

San Diego third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, who works with the infielders, said Hawpe has taken well to his old position, and his instincts make it obvious that he's played the position before.

"The one thing I like is he asks questions and picks up on things quick," Hoffman said. "He's enjoying it. It's a little like getting on a bike again, but at first base, every play is different."

One area Hawpe -- who took a .303 spring average with two home runs into Wednesday's game against the Reds -- has been working on lately is how he receives the ball at first base.

"He was catching it kind of deep instead of getting out there," Hoffman said. "But those are mechanical things he can correct."

Hawpe has also worked to gain a comfort level with second baseman Orlando Hudson in trying to determine what Hawpe can get to and what Hudson can.

"I'm trying to be aggressive with that ... and I think they want us trying to get to what we can," Hawpe said. "The work around the bag is another thing. That's something that took a little feel and practice."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.