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Bullpen coach Blair getting familiar with staff

PEORIA, Ariz. -- First-year Padres bullpen coach Willie Blair has had his hands full learning a new job and learning a whole new set of pitchers this spring.

But there are a few pitchers in camp that Blair is very familiar with from his work the last two seasons as pitching coach for the Padres' Class A affiliate in the Midwest League, the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

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"I've got to be honest, I'm really nervous when they go out there," said Blair, talking about pitcher Matt Stites, Johnny Barbato and Adys Portillo.

"I want them to do so well. When you're coaching these kids, you almost look at them like they're your sons. You want them to have a good experience and when it doesn't go well, it hurts you."

Blair, 47, pitched for eight teams over parts of 12 Major League seasons, including the 1995-96 seasons with the Padres.

He replaced Jimmy Jones, who was the interim bullpen coach for part of 2012 after Darrel Akerfelds lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last June.

This spring has offered Blair a crash course in getting to know the Padres' pitching staff.

"I'm just trying to learn each individual pitcher, learn their strength and weaknesses, how they go about their business and really talking a lot to [pitching coach Darren Balsley] to see what I can learn with him. ... Really, it's getting reacquainted with the big league game again," Blair said.

"It's figuring out what's expected of me. Really, most of Spring Training, I've been in the dugout to get a good feel for each pitcher. In the next week or so, I'll go out to the bullpen and getting used to game situations, getting guys ready."

Blair is thankful for the opportunity the Padres and Randy Smith, the team's vice president of player development and international scouting, gave him. So far, this has been a spring unlike any Blair has been a part of, which is saying something considering his playing career began in 1986.

"The coaching staff has made me feel welcome and the whole staff has made it fun," he said. "Of all the Spring Trainings I've been to, this is the most fun I've experienced. These guys get their work in, but they have fun doing it."

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

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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }