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Keystone battle heated for Asuaje, Spangy

Loser of fight for second-base job may not find spot on Padres roster
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- There's a roster crunch in Padres camp this spring -- meaning competition in the rotation, bullpen and outfield. But there isn't a fiercer position battle in Peoria than the one taking place at second base.

Consider the stakes: Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje are locked into a fight for playing time. The winner will open the year as the starter at second base. The loser might not have a spot on the roster at all.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- There's a roster crunch in Padres camp this spring -- meaning competition in the rotation, bullpen and outfield. But there isn't a fiercer position battle in Peoria than the one taking place at second base.

Consider the stakes: Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje are locked into a fight for playing time. The winner will open the year as the starter at second base. The loser might not have a spot on the roster at all.

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Spring Training information

"I definitely don't want to limit it," said Padres manager Andy Green. "But I think the way we're constructed right now, you're looking at probably one of them owning that job and one of them probably fighting to get back [to the Majors]."

Thing is, neither Spangenberg nor Asuaje have taken much time to consider the competition. They've both been here before. For Spangenberg, it's the fourth straight spring in which he's fighting for a roster place. For Asuaje, it's the second.

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"At first you think, 'I'm in a position battle with this guy, I have to outperform him,'" Spangenberg said. "In reality, it's that you're in a position battle with yourself. You just need to find ways to get yourself better, and that's how you make the coaches realize you're the guy to win that spot."

Asuaje echoed that sentiment, choosing to view the battle for playing time in a positive light.

"If you go to any winning organization, that's how it is," Asuaje said. "There's competition. They're always bringing in guys that are ready to play at the Major League level. You look around this clubhouse, and we've got a lot of guys who can play."

It's still possible both Spangenberg and Asuaje open the season on the roster. But the February signing of Eric Hosmer had a trickle-down effect that makes it unlikely.

Hosmer's arrival prompted Wil Myers' move to right field, which set up a tight race in left. As a result, Jose Pirela has gotten time at second, where he'll serve as the primary backup. It's a nice fit, given Pirela's powerful right-handed bat.

Both Spangenberg and Asuaje are lefties without power, making their presence on the roster a bit redundant. Spangenberg boasts more speed and slugging potential, where Asuaje brings better defense and on-base percentage.

"We see both of them as similar," said Green. "There are differences in their game. But with left-handed-hitting second basemen -- you want something that matches up a little better. You wouldn't really have a reason to take one out and play the other, other than just the hot hand."

Asuaje has the early "hot hand," hitting .333 in 10 games this spring. Spangenberg, meanwhile, missed a week with a balky left wrist. He's 4-for-17 with a homer. Last season, they both provided similar big league value, though Spangenberg spent the majority of the year at third base.

When the Padres acquired Chase Headley in a December trade, Green informed Spangenberg of the forthcoming position switch. It wasn't a major adjustment for Spangenberg, who came through the Minors as a second baseman.

Video: SD@OAK: Spangenberg lays out to make a great grab

"The angles are different, the throw's a lot shorter, it's just a different situation from third base," Spangenberg said. "But I've been playing it since I got drafted."

Asuaje, too, had a busy offseason, as he revamped his swing to cut out serious movement in his hands.

"I'm not satisfied with hitting .270," Asuaje said. "That's a pretty solid rookie season, but that's nothing to write home about. I'm trying to be better than that."

Sooner or later, the Padres have a decision to make. Asuaje and Spangenberg hope they can make that choice as difficult as possible.

"We'll watch those guys continue to compete," Green said. "I love the aggression they're both playing with."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Carlos Asuaje, Cory Spangenberg