PEORIA, Ariz. -- Chase Headley will be the first to tell you he had no idea what to expect from teammate Carlos Quentin last season, especially after Quentin missed the first 49 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery in March.
But one thing is for certain: Headley wasn't expecting to see Quentin hit three doubles with three home runs and six RBIs in his first three games out of the chute during a May series at Wrigley Field.
"I remember specifically telling him he was the best hitter that I had ever seen," said Headley, the Padres' third baseman.
"The first three games that I saw him play, every ball that he hit was squared up. Left field, right field -- it didn't matter. He was just hammering balls."
Quentin finished the season with 16 home runs and 46 RBIs in 86 games, producing a .877 OPS all while essentially playing on one good knee, as the right knee he had surgery on in March continued to give him fits as the season wore on, keeping him from playing left field more than he would have preferred.
"It's a frustrating thing, because you want to be out there playing," Quentin said. "The older you get, the more you realize how important health is. When you're younger, you don't think it's going to affect you at all. Now that I'm 30, I want to work toward feeling better, and my focus this winter was on being able to do that."
The Padres are counting on Quentin playing a bigger role in 2013 than he did a year ago. Manager Bud Black has said the team will look to give Quentin days off to keep him fresh, but it still expects him to play in the range of 120-135 games, even though he's only topped 120 games twice in his career.
A year ago, the Padres saw the benefits of having Quentin healthy. The team scored 651 runs in 2012, the third-highest total in Black's six seasons. Better still, from June 28 on, the team scored the fifth-most runs in the National League. That wasn't all Quentin, obviously, but it's clear the offense functioned better with him in the lineup.
"Pitchers fear him. He's a proven producer," Black said.
Black and Headley have seen the impact Quentin has -- the tangible results, like extra-base hits, and the ones that aren't so easy to see, the affect he has on the rest of the lineup, how Headley benefits from Quentin in the lineup and how first baseman Yonder Alonso does as well.
"It's hard to quantify, but guys just don't want to face Carlos with guys on base," Headley said. "They're going to be aggressive with the other guys. You've got to throw someone strikes. I was a beneficiary of guys attacking me more. It was definitely helpful.
"Now, we've got to find a way to keep him on the field."
Quentin wants the same thing, which is why he had minor cleanup surgery on that same knee two days after the regular season ended in October. Once the knee was healed, Quentin began with winter workouts three times a week at Petco Park. He succeeded in his goal of cutting weight, reporting 15 pounds lighter than he was when the season ended.
For the first time, Quentin hired a personal chef, Stuart Dodds, who previously worked for former San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
"It was interesting," Quentin said. "He was at my house for three times a day, six days a week. I got to know him pretty well."
Dodds didn't just cook healthy meals for Quentin, but he taught him a lot about food along the way. He served organic meals like a healthy shepard's pie, organic crusted chicken parmesan. Dodds provided a history -- cue the "Portlandia" theme music -- of where a particular piece of meat or poultry came from.
"The meals were made to help decrease inflammation in the body, to fight sickness, injuries," Quentin said. "It opened my eyes to a lot of different foods. So much so that when I could go and eat anything different, I would have a hangover, a food hangover, the next day."
There was one big drawback for Quentin, the native San Diegan, who signed a contract extension in July for three years and $27 million.
"All my taco shops are pretty much out of business [without me]," he joked. "But I would do it again. It was well worth it."
And it will be well worth it if Quentin can remain on the field for 120 or more games in 2013, which he feels would be an achievement in itself in a career that has been slowed far too much by injury.
"That would be great," Quentin said. "Second, I would feel like I have a good chance to help the team win the more I'm out there. That's important to me. The name of this game is being able to do it over the long haul."