Bethancourt eyes rare pitcher-catcher role

25-year-old's transformation continues, might also include outfield work

Bethancourt eyes rare pitcher-catcher role

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Never before has the phrase "pitchers and catchers report" been taken quite so literally.

Christian Bethancourt was among the Padres in camp Tuesday, the team's mandatory report date for pitchers and catchers.

And no one else at the Peoria Sports Complex fits that description quite so aptly -- right now Bethancourt is serving as both a pitcher and a catcher.

The 25-year-old backstop began his transition to the mound during the offseason, when he pitched seven relief innings in the Panamanian Winter League. He'll likely pitch in Cactus League games beginning in early March.

Around the Horn: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | SP | RP

"It's still a working process," said Bethancourt. "The first few days I'm going to be doing catching drills, and then the third day, I'll be doing pitching stuff. After that, we're going to see how it works, see how it feels."

The Padres approached Bethancourt about potentially working as a reliever after he made two mopup appearances last summer. His fastball sat in the mid-to-upper 90s, but his mechanics were sloppy and his offspeed pitches were very raw.

In Panama, Bethancourt began using a changeup and a slider, and both pitches have progressed, albeit slowly. Bethancourt says he's working on making his slider "slower and bigger," adding that the pitch more closely resembles a cutter in its current form.

Cassavell on Bethancourt

Of course, the Padres are looking to make sure Bethancourt's development on the mound doesn't hinder his role behind the plate. He's still projected as the club's backup catcher and could even see some time at the two corner outfield spots this season.

"I don't think we're going to rush him from a progression standpoint, because he's going to have some other things involved," said Padres skipper Andy Green. "He's going to be doing catching, a little bit of outfield, but mostly catching and pitching. From my perspective, he's going to have an opportunity to be a very unique piece on a Major League roster. He's going to have to step up and earn that and show value in all those areas. But he's got that opportunity."

The prospect of Bethancourt as a do-it-all 25th man could prove extremely valuable for Green. The Padres have a cluttered middle infield situation and three Rule 5 picks fighting for jobs. In that vein, Bethancourt's versatility might help ease the club's roster math.

"Any way I can help the team to win ballgames and whenever they need me -- in the outfield or catching or pitching -- I told them I should be ready any time," Bethancourt said. "Like me and any other guy, we're just here to help the team."

In camp, Bethancourt will spend the majority of his time on the mound, Green said. Until last season, Bethancourt had appeared only at catcher as a professional, so he's already comfortable there. And he's expected to play the outfield only sparingly, potentially after pinch-hitting against a left-handed pitcher.

"I'm just going to try to see how it goes as a pitcher and catcher," Bethancourt said before pausing.

"And also an outfielder," he continued. "I might have to report in three days again as an outfielder."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.