Guzman finding success in bench role

Guzman finding success in bench role

SAN DIEGO -- Thanks in large part to the return of outfielder Carlos Quentin from the disabled list in late May, Padres outfielder Jesus Guzman has seen his at-bats decrease steadily each month this season. As of late, he's served mostly as a backup first baseman to spell Yonder Alonso, as well as a strong right-handed pinch-hit option off the bench. But regardless of where, when or how often his opportunities have come lately, Guzman has taken advantage of many of them.

Guzman leads San Diego with two homers in 34 pinch-hit at-bats and is hitting .302 (29-for-96) against left-handers, the majority of his at-bats of late. He's also 4-for-his-last-10. And while his recent opportunities at the plate have been limited to a handful of starts at first and those late-game appearances, Padres manager Bud Black says that Guzman's ability to perform regardless of playing time makes him a rare find.

"It's a talent to be able to sit and not get a lot of playing time and still give a quality at-bat -- a lot of guys can't do that," Black said. "He's a hitter; he's a natural hitter."

Guzman showed that natural aptitude immediately upon being called up from Triple-A Tucson in June 2011. The 28-year-old led the big league club in doubles and RBIs while ranking second in hits and batting average. After playing in 76 games after that callup and the majority of games in the first two months of 2012, the move to the bench meant Guzman had to fill a role he hadn't yet played in the Majors.

"When you look at Guzzy's role on the team, we see him as a very valuable bench player with the ability to be an impactful bat on the bench every night," Black said. "I think [he] knows his role, which is a big part of it. He's held his own with getting some limited at-bats. He still gives you a quality at-bat, regardless of the amount of time he's been out there."