The Padres’ sleeper status in the NL West has already taken a hit: center fielder Cameron Maybin will miss 2-3 months with a ruptured biceps tendon he suffered making a diving catch in Sunday’s game.
The injury comes after Maybin was limited to 14 games last season with wrist and knee injuries. So, the Padres are used to playing without him. Nevertheless, he is easily their best defensive center fielder and he’s had his moments offensively, too, though his chronic wrist troubles have taken away from his game there.
With Maybin out last year, the Padres divided up playing time in center between Alexi Amarista (53 starts), Will Venable (52 starts) and Chris Denorfia (36 starts), with prospect Reymond Fuentes (seven starts) getting a look in September. Fuentes is the only one from that group who can hang with Maybin defensively. Amarista has the most range, but also the weakest bat, of the veterans.
The Padres will likely now give Fuentes a chance to make the team this spring. He had been ear-marked for Triple-A after spending most of last year in Double-A and hitting .330/.413/.448 in 400 minor league at-bats. If Fuentes makes the team, he could start in center against right-handers. If not, then it could be Venable in center and Denorfia in right most of the time. The Padres also have Seth Smith and Kyle Blanks as right-field options with Venable sliding over, but an outfield that starts Carlos Quentin in left, Venable in center and either Smith or Blanks in right would be pretty brutal defensively.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.