Notes: Leadoff spot up for grabs

Notes: Leadoff spot up for grabs

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Speed is a nice luxury to have at the top of the lineup, but it is certainly not a prerequisite as far as first-year manager Bud Black is concerned.

That's a good thing, too, now that outfielder Dave Roberts has taken his team-leading 49 stolen bases from 2006 -- the fourth-most steals in the National League -- to the Giants.

Though Black is still unsure as to who will hit leadoff this season -- the competition figures to come down to outfielders Terrmel Sledge and Brian Giles, and second baseman Marcus Giles -- he is certain that an abundance of speed isn't a requirement for the job.

"We are not blessed with a guy who has what you call base-stealing speed," Black said. "Mike Cameron ... you could probably classify him in that category. But there's only a handful of players in the league who are true base-stealers."

With speed not so much a consideration at the top of the lineup, on-base percentage will be, which is why the best-suited player for the job might be Brian Giles, who ranked fifth in the National League a year ago with 104 walks to go with a .374 on-base percentage.

"The one thing you do want is someone who gets on base at the top of the order," said Brian Giles, who has played with some good leadoff hitters in his career, such as Roberto Alomar, Kenny Lofton and Tony Womack. "I know I'll be able to do that. I won't steal you 20, 25 bags. We don't have that prototypical guy here, but you can still put pressure on the defense in a variety of ways.

"It will be interesting to see how it pans out this spring."

Marcus Giles is another option, though he, by most reports, was miscast in the role last season with Atlanta, which was desperately seeking to replace Rafael Furcal. Giles hit a career-low .262 -- including .251 as a leadoff hitter -- with a .341 on-base percentage.

The left-handed-hitting Sledge could be a candidate for the job, even though he could end up in a platoon situation in left field. Sledge does not have Major League experience hitting leadoff, though he did so in the Minor Leagues.

"I don't feel like that's a real easy spot but, for me, it would be easier than hitting third or fourth," Sledge said. "There are maybe five guys in baseball who are prototypical leadoff guys anyway, like Ichiro, Juan Pierre, Roberts and Jose Reyes. I feel like I can make that adjustment and maybe use my strength and add some power there."

Black has said that he'll use exhibition games as an evaluation period to see who fits best at the top of the order. For now, though, he is not worrying about what he doesn't have, just concentrating on what he does.

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"Whoever leads off, we'll do some hitting and running, run against certain pitcher-and-catcher combinations," he said. "We'll set some guys in motion. There are a lot of ways to get around the bases."

On the mend: It stands to reason that running the bases during Spring Training workouts doesn't usually solicit excitement, though utilityman infielder Geoff Blum felt pretty good about it on Monday.

Blum, who tweaked his back last week, was able to run the bases during drills and participate in soft-toss drills in the batting cages. If his back responds well enough, he could resume batting practice by Tuesday or Wednesday.

Maybe then, he said, he'll feel useful again.

"I already had a talk with Bud when he came in and told me to take a break," Blum said. "That's now how I want to impress a new manager, by being in the training room. But he has been around the game and understands things like this can happen."

Blum isn't entirely sure how he tweaked his back, though he surmised it might have been something as mundane as moving his four daughters in and out of their car seats.

In the meantime, he will resist the urge to rush back, something that's not always easy.

"These guys are taking care of me," he said of the Padres' medical staff. "We talked with [trainer] Todd Hutcheson about what kind of pace to move at. I'm not going to make the team the first two weeks of camp anyway. It's the last two or three weeks that count."

A game ... sort of: The Padres won't play their exhibition game until Thursday --- a non-counting Cactus League game, with proceeds going to charity -- but there will be a six-inning intrasquad game on Wednesday, with pitching coach Darren Balsley and bullpen boach Darrel Akerfelds running each team.

Ten pitchers will throw during the game, including Mike Thompson, who will throw two innings. Other pitchers scheduled to throw one inning are Scott Strickland, Jared Wells, Royce Ring, Heath Bell and Jack Cassel.

On Thursday the Padres will face the Seattle Mariners at the Peoria Sports Complex in the annual charity game. Jake Peavy will start that game and likely throw one inning.

Corey Brock is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.