When it comes to the World Baseball Classic, the not-so-well-kept secret across the game is that baseball operations people would prefer to keep their players in camp this time of year.
That’s not to say teams don’t value the experience, especially for their youngest players in the organization.
"That’s a pretty big stage,” general manager A.J. Preller said. "You’re trying to give guys opportunity to play in pressure spots, to do things that will prepare them down the road. Hopefully in our situation, we’ll get better in the next few years and are playing in some pressure spots and I don’t think it hurts guys to have played in the Classic.
"We’ve been really supportive of guys playing in international competition and specifically the WBC.”
That support includes allowing shortstop Javier Guerra
to suit up for Panama’s qualifier a year ago before ever playing in the Padres system. This year, the Padres have seven players participating in the tournament, from big leaguers Yangervis Solarte
and Jhoulys Chacin
(Venezuela), to well-regarded prospects like minor league first baseman Josh Naylor
(Canada) and lefthander Jose Castillo
Castillo’s participation, in particular, makes it trickier for the Padres to discuss stretching the 21-year-old out as a starter. He was 2-2, 2.03 with 49 strikeouts and a 1.38 WHIP in 40 innings out of high Class A Lake Elsinore’s bullpen a year ago.
Meantime, the left-handed-hitting Naylor—the organization’s No. 10 prospect—is in line for quite the education on the bench behind Canadian first basemen Freddie Freeman
and Justin Morneau
. Naylor hit .254/.264/.353 with three homers and 21 RBIs in 33 games for Lake Elsinore after arriving in the Andrew Cashner
• Among second-year skipper Andy Green’s outside-the-box experiments this spring is using Hunter Renfroe
in center field, flanked in the corners by the speedy Manuel Margot
and Travis Jankowski.
• Former reliever Akinori Otsuka
has been hired to serve as a rare bullpen coach at Triple-A El Paso, where the Padres expect to stash a number of relief prospects. Otsuka pitched two seasons for the Padres (2004-05) and two for the Rangers (2006-07).
— Jeff Sanders covers the Padres for the San Diego Union-Tribune