Villanueva to break camp with Padres

Versatile infielder provides depth, brings promising bat

March 20th, 2018

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Opening Day is only nine days away, and can finally rest easy.
On Tuesday, Padres manager Andy Green indicated the versatile infielder will break camp with the club to start the regular season.
"He's looked good, and you can take it as good indication that I'm saying he's going to play for us," Green said. "That's probably as good as information that I will give you at any point in time in Spring Training."
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That's good news for Villanueva, who is out of options at age 26 and would have to pass through waivers if the Padres wanted to send him to the Minors.
"The front office hasn't told me anything in words, but I've played first base, shortstop and I'm training at second base and third base," Villanueva said in Spanish. "I think that says something. They want to see me at different spots. I'll do what I can, and I'll do what they tell me to make it on the roster."
Villanueva will back up at third base, at first base and at short. Hosmer and Galvis, both 28, were among the five players in baseball last season to play in 162 games, so it's uncertain how often the club will need Villanueva to play those positions.
"I think I'm probably more used to playing the corners, and in some ways, those positions are a little easier, but I can do it all," Villanueva said. "I had not played shortstop since 2009, and I'm working on second base. I think we will all hear more about the roster this week, but that's not something I can control, so I don't think about it."
Last season, Villanueva was called up to big leagues and hit .344 with four homers and seven runs driven in in 32 plate appearances. He also struck out 10 times during the 12-game span.
"We like what he has done," Green said. "He has earned that opportunity with what he did last year and also with what he has done in Spring Training. I would say as the season unfolds, his opportunity will be dictated by how well he plays. If he plays well, he's going to get a lot of opportunity."

This spring, Villanueva has 11 hits in 37 Cactus League at-bats, including three home runs and two doubles. He's driven in 13 runs in 16 games.
"I started off well and really, I'm confident in my abilities," Villanueva said. "Pressure for me doesn't exist. I just have to do my job when I get the opportunities here in Arizona."
Villanueva could use a few more hits to add to his confidence. He entered Tuesday night's start against the Reds hitless in his previous eight at-bats with four strikeouts.
"This is a great group of guys, lots of young players here, and we want to win," Villanueva said. "This is where I want to make it to the big leagues and stay for a long time."