Black waiting for outfielders to emerge from pack

Black waiting for outfielders to emerge from pack

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have five active outfielders, more if you count part-timers like Tommy Medica and Alexi Amarista, but only one everyday starter in Seth Smith. Manager Bud Black said that it's an open competition to fill the other two spots for the rest of the season.

On Monday night, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable were penciled in for the series opener against the Brewers. But on San Diego's recent road trip, Abraham Almonte saw increased playing time and took advantage by reaching base in nine of 10 games he played, and rookie Rymer Liriano has started 11 of his first 13 games in the Majors since being called up on Aug. 11.

So what will those players have to do to separate themselves from the pack?

"We're looking for somebody to really be able to play a complete game -- play defense, hit, run the bases, all those things," Black said. "The other four or five guys have shown it in spurts. We sort of want to see somebody sustain it over two, three or four days and then keep going. We want some guys to get hot."

The first major move new general manager A.J. Preller made was to promote Liriano from Double-A San Antonio to the Majors, so one could easily presume that the team would love to see the 23-year-old claim a starting job. But Liriano is batting .216 (8-for-37) and has just one multihit game. He's shown good plate discipline for a rookie, drawing a walk in 14 percent of his plate appearances, but has just two extra-base hits to buoy a less-than-impressive .324 slugging percentage.

"I don't think we've seen all that he can do, especially with the bat," Black said. "There's a difference between Major League pitching and Minor League pitching -- no doubt about it. And he's learning that firsthand. But he's doing a nice job of hanging in there."

Almonte has batted .283 since being acquired from the Mariners for Chris Denorfia, but cooled down after a nice stretch during the team's 10-game road trip. Maybin is 3-for-10 since returning from his 25-game drug suspension, and though Venable had just two hits in his last 18 at-bats entering Sunday, he went on to belt a pinch-hit home run in the Friars' win over Arizona -- and that was enough to warrant a start on Monday.

"Almonte's got some hits. Liriano's hanging in there, [Venable] had a big homer last night, let's see if we can get him going," Black said. "We'll look at the best matchups and go from there."

Will Laws is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.