PEORIA, Ariz. -- A year ago, Cody Decker was a first baseman trying his hand at catching. Today, Decker is in big league camp with an eye on one specific goal for the upcoming season.
"I want to catch a lot more this year," Decker said.
Decker appeared in nine games last season as a catcher with Triple-A Tucson. He spent most of the year learning the position, putting in extra time before games and learning from one of the best, former San Diego special assistant Brad Ausmus, who has moved on to managing the Tigers.
The position isn't completely foreign to Decker, who caught in high school and at UCLA. But, after several attempts of trying to talk himself into a position change -- or adding a position is more like it -- the team finally gave him a shot.
"He's continued to push it. If he can catch and make himself a viable third catcher and first baseman ... he's put up good numbers everywhere," said Randy Smith, the team's vice president of player development and international scouting.
"He's flies under the radar. But Cody finds a way to do damage every year. He's a guy you root for. He wants it and tries really hard."
In parts of five seasons with the Padres, Decker has a .269/.353/.534 line with 106 home runs. A year ago, Decker hit a combined .262 with 19 home runs between Double-A San Antonio and Tucson.
Chances are, Decker will get a lot more time behind the plate this season with Triple-A El Paso. His time in big league camp will allow him time to improve at the position and handle many of the same pitchers he will during the regular season.
"I want to get to the big leagues," Decker said. "First base, so far, hasn't really done it. I like catching. I was a catcher in college, high school. Anything I can do to make myself more attractive to anyone, I'll do."