Inbox: Why take Eckstein out of lineup?

Inbox: Why take Eckstein out of lineup?

Let's call the first edition of the Padres Inbox for the 2010 season the middle-infield edition. We tackle questions about shortstop Everth Cabrera, second baseman David Eckstein and, well, Cabrera and Eckstein. Oh, there's a Luis Durango question since seemingly everyone has developed a soft spot for the speedy outfielder during his 10 minutes (a conservative guess) with the team in September.

So, Inbox, let's have it.

Why did manager Bud Black sit Eckstein on Tuesday in Arizona? Is this going to become a trend?
-- Matt M., San Diego

It's a little early to be dissecting Black's lineup choices, but I'll play along. Very good reason for the move: Black wanted to give Jerry Hairston Jr. a start at a position that he will be playing a lot of in 2010. That said, look for Hairston to see time at third base, shortstop and even the outfield. Black wants his players to remain sharp, so that's why you'll see guys like Hairston get occasional starts. Honestly, though, Hairston is going to start a lot this season anyway. We know where, just not when.

Are there any trade rumors floating around regarding pitcher Tim Stauffer?
-- Dave A., San Diego

None currently, Dave, but that doesn't mean there won't be. The Padres decided to keep Stauffer instead of dealing him because he pitched well this spring, and they figured that he could help them moving forward. He showed his worth on Opening Day, tossing two scoreless innings and helping save the bullpen. Most teams are set with their rosters now that the season has started. If someone gets hurt and a team needs pitching, I would think teams would inquire about Stauffer. Either way, the Padres are in a pretty good spot right now by keeping him.

I really like Cabrera's potential. Where will he bat this season?
-- Jim C., Denver

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Jim, the Padres really like Cabrera's upside as an offensive player. They think he is capable of more than the 28 extra-base hits he had a year ago. He had a double and triple in Tuesday's victory over Arizona. Cabrera hit leadoff on Wednesday, and I think that he will do so in games where Tony Gwynn sits and Scott Hairston plays center field. I think Cabrera has all the makings of a good top-of-the-order hitter in time. He has the speed. He just needs more patience and seasoning. For the time being, expect him to get most of his at-bats low in the order, like eighth.

Durango is doing very well. Like Cabrera, he has good speed. Do you think there's a good chance the Padres bring him to the Major Leagues?
-- Erik B., San Diego

Oh, you people love go-go Durango after he showed his speed in a small, small sample size in September. I will admit I've come more around on the outfielder's bat after I watched him in Spring Training. That said, his speed is his biggest weapon. Honestly, I don't know if we'll see him this season. The Padres are very deep with outfielders, and I don't see that changing. Plus, prospect Aaron Cunningham is a player the Padres like a lot. Durango needs a full season at the Triple-A level to show the organization that his bat can play at the highest level of the Minor Leagues. If it does, then he could be in the mix for a spot in 2011.

Do you think Luke Gregerson will be the same late-inning force he was last season, and do you think he is the closer of the future?
-- Mark S., Chicago

I think Gregerson can be a late-inning force -- at home, at PETCO Park. For me, he still has to prove he can get consistent outs and important outs late in the game, on the road. If you look at his 2009 statistics, you'll see a pitcher who was lights-out at home (0.65 ERA) but struggled mightily on the road (6.48 ERA). That made the overall body of work (3.24 ERA) pretty good. But he'll have to find a way to fare better away from PETCO Park to keep his current role and to have serious aspirations of someday becoming a closer.

I've noticed that former Padre Josh Barfield is back with the organization. Do you see him making a comeback and fitting in, given that this is Eckstein's final year with the team?
-- Manuel H., Mexicali, Mexico

The Padres signed Barfield as a Minor League free agent during the first week of Spring Training (without a big league camp invite) for middle-infield depth in Triple-A Portland. That's where he'll stay for the time being, especially with Matt Antonelli looking like he will begin the season on the disabled list with Portland. There's always a chance that he could return to San Diego, where he was the starting second baseman in 2006, but with Eckstein and Jerry Hairston playing there, it won't be easy.

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