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Padres displaying dazzling infield defense

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SAN DIEGO -- Every club in the big leagues emphasizes having solid infield defense, so the Padres being pleased with their glovework shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

But in San Diego, the sparkling play around the diamond takes on a bit more significance.

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The Friars play their home games in Petco Park, where runs are scarce, and they do so with a pitching staff that tends to pitch to contact -- especially ground-ball contact.

With that in mind, the dazzling play of Chase Headley at third and Everth Cabrera at short this season has been nothing short of imperative. Rookie Jedd Gyorko hasn't missed a beat in his transition to second from third base, and manager Bud Black believes first baseman Yonder Alonso is on the path to becoming a Gold Glover.

"That's the whole point of a team," Gyorko said. "Each person has to be accountable for their part. With guys like [Jason] Marquis or [Eric] Stults, we want them to pitch to contact. Get the ball in the zone early, and let them hit it. Let us make the plays. It all works together."

There was no better example than in the sixth inning of Monday night's 4-2 victory over St. Louis. As is typical, Marquis induced a couple of ground balls -- the first a diving stop by Headley that was picked brilliantly by Alonso at first, and the second a backhand stab by Cabrera, who threw on the run to get Yadier Molina.

Right now, Headley -- the reigning National League Gold Glove Award winner at third base -- ranks second among NL third basemen in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), according to Fangraphs, and Alonso ranks third among first basemen. Cabrera's splits have improved immensely from last season, and Gyorko has drawn praise from the Padres' coaching staff for his ability to adapt.

"This group here is really fun to watch," Black said. "And it's going to be fun to watch for years to come."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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