Padres turn page with start of camp

Padres turn page with start of Spring Training

PEORIA, Ariz. -- In order to get his offseason work done, Josh Bard retreated from the bitter cold of another Colorado winter to the confines of Coors Field, where the feeling was every bit as chilly to the Padres catcher.

After all, Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, is where Bard and the rest of his teammates played their last game of the season, that wild 13-inning affair in the play-in game that determined the National League Wild Card.

It seemed everywhere Bard looked, there were substantial reminders of that fateful game.

"If I have to look at one more celebration photo," Bard said, "... I'm going to throw up."

Welcome to the start of Spring Training, where the Padres are moving ahead toward the start of the 2008 season and no longer dwelling on what occurred in the final days of the 2007 season.

In that sense, Thursday was the perfect way to do so, as pitchers and catchers -- as well as a handful of position players -- trickled into the team's Spring Training facility in Peoria, though many more have been here for several days.

Manager Bud Black said he was encouraged by the number of early arrivals in camp and that other than the two pitchers on the team coming back from surgery -- Mark Prior and Clay Hensley -- nearly everyone is expected to participate in Saturday's first workout.

Even the manager is ready to move on from 2007.

Black admitted Thursday to feeling more comfortable in his surroundings this spring than a year ago when everything -- including the drive to the Peoria facility -- was still so new to him.

"Last year, everything was new, the ballpark, the players, the staff," said Black, who led the Padres to an 89-victory season. "Now, I'm coming in more in-tuned to Peoria and the organization."

Black said there would only be a few small tweaks in the team's spring regimen, though he certainly can't say the same for the roster itself.

There's a new second baseman (Tadahito Iguchi), center fielder (Jim Edmonds), a starter in the rotation, possibly two (Randy Wolf and Prior) as well as several new players to contend for spots on the bench as well as the bullpen.

And, as there are every spring for every team, there are questions that need to be answered.

Can Edmonds, the eight-time Gold Glove winner, stay healthy, play good defense in an unforgiving ballpark and make Padres fans forget about Mike Cameron, who is now in Milwaukee?

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Can Iguchi recapture his old form, both offensively and defensively and provide stability at the second-base position that was anything but steady in 2007? He'll likely hit No. 2 in the order and can provide some pop there.

How will Wolf and Prior fare with the Padres? They've both signed deals for one year to rebuild their credentials as starting pitchers in the National League and both are coming off injuries. Wolf is cleared for workouts and Prior is already throwing off a mound after having his shoulder surgery 10 months ago.

And what to make of left field, where Scott Hairston, Chase Headley and a cast of many others will try to win that position during Spring Training? The team would like Headley, the MVP of the Texas League, to have a big spring.

"He's going out to the outfield on the first day," Black said. "We think there's some merit to it [moving from third base]. We're hopeful things work out."

Black on Thursday also cited the competition for bench spots as an area to watch during the spring. The Padres have agreed to terms with veteran Tony Clark on a one-year deal but still have several spots to fill.

Black cited Oscar Robles, Luis Rodriguez, Craig Stansberry, Callix Crabbe and Edgar Gonzalez as all being in the mix for one or two bench spots, though Crabbe might be as close as a lock as there is given he can play center field and has speed.

Black is excited about the addition of Clark, who figures to back up Adrian Gonzalez at first base, be a pinch-hitter off the bench and serve as the designated hitter in Interleague road games.

"He's a good player and he's proven in his role," Black said.

Another player who could factor in the equation for the Padres bench is outfielder Paul McAnulty, who is out of options. But McAnulty, a left-handed hitter, insisted that he didn't come to Peoria to win a bench job.

"I'm not trying to make the team as a pinch-hitter," he said. "My goal is to become a starter."

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