-- Jim P., San Diego
From everything I've heard, the partial tear of the plantar fascia in Blanks' right foot is healed. The injury occurred in August and didn't require surgery. If the season started today, he'd likely be the starting right fielder. As for spelling Gonzalez from time to time at first base, that will happen as well, though Gonzalez isn't really one to take too many days off. With the Padres wanting to add a right-handed hitter to play center field, the development of Blanks, who has as much raw right-handed power as anyone in their entire organization, could be pivotal to the success of the Padres. What can you expect from Blanks? Well, the Bill James projection for 2010 has him at .277 with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs. I think the Padres would be perfectly fine with that.
How willing do you think the new general manager will be to utilize Will Venable, Blanks, Everth Cabrera and/or Mat Latos as trade bait in order in order to get the outfielder that the Padres seem to have a desire to pick up?
-- David B., Berkeley, Calif.
I think the outfielder you speak of will come from a free-agent signing and the Padres won't have to part with any of the young players you mentioned. These are guys -- Venable, Blanks, Cabrera and Latos -- who figure to be part of the team moving ahead and important pieces. They're young and controllable (and affordable) players, ones the organization (aside from Cabrera) have developed since Draft day. You don't trade off those players unless you get a deal you can't pass up.
Who are the Padres looking at as far as a backup catcher? I like free agents Kenji Johjima or Yorvit Torrealba over Paul Bako or Brad Ausmus. What's your opinion?
-- Guillermo M., San Diego
Well, Johjima is heading back to Japan so we can take him off the list. Torrealba is an interesting thought, though I'm thinking he'll get an offer that will probably exceed the one the Padres would be willing to make. I still think Mike Redmond and possibly Ausmus might be better fits. Remember, this is a guy who will serve primarily as the backup to Nick Hundley, who doesn't need a lot of time off. If the Padres can land a defensive-minded catcher, that would be a bonus.
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Is there any talk of a Padres fan event at PETCO Park this year? It was such a great time, and with all the new, young guys playing prominent roles now, the event would offer fans a chance to get to know them a little. The Padres need to build some goodwill with their fan base after chopping payroll and trading Jake Peavy.
-- Juan M., San Diego
You wish has been granted, Juan. After a year hiatus, FanFest will return to PETCO Park on Feb. 13. Details are still being finalized (we'll know more this week), but I'm hearing good things about what the Padres have in store for the event. I would expect a handful of players, members of the baseball operations staff, autograph opportunities and clubhouse tours to be on the agenda. I would think new broadcaster Dick Enberg might swing by. Again, look for more information later this week on padres.com.
What is the status of Oscar Salazar? Was the flash of the bat last year an anomaly or is he for real, and do you see him getting any more time as a position player?
-- Jason W., Roy, Utah
The Padres like Salazar. He hit .269 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in 55 games after he was acquired from the Orioles for reliever Cla Meredith. This is a guy who can bounce around the diamond a little, though I wouldn't expect you would see him in a reserve role in the middle of the diamond (shortstop, second base). He's a nice right-handed bat off the bench, one who has a little pop. Because the bench is so much more important in the National League than the American League, I would think you would see quite a bit of Salazar this season, especially as a pinch-hitter.
Can you see Heath Bell being traded away any time soon? He did a pretty solid job the first half of the year and I'm sure he'll only get better.
-- Alex B., San Diego
Good question. Bell, who led the National League in saves (42) and made the All-Star team, is due for a big bump in pay this season. I have to think the team is listening to offers on Bell and just about everyone else. That's good business. Should they get an offer they can't refuse, I could see them parting with Bell. This doesn't mean that the Padres don't like Bell, but I think if they get an offer of young, controllable, affordable talent, a mix of Major League-ready talent and prospects, they could move him. My best guess is he starts the season here. He would likely have more trade value closer to the non-waiver Trade Deadline (July 31) than now anyway.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.