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Spangenberg knocking on big league door

Infielder is hitting .382 in Triple-A, playing solid defense
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres made the surprise decision to leave Cory Spangenberg off the Opening Day roster, they did so with the caveat that he needed to receive everyday at-bats and perform consistently when he got them.

Spangenberg has done just that at Triple-A El Paso. He's hitting .382/.433/.491, while reportedly playing a stellar defensive third base.

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SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres made the surprise decision to leave Cory Spangenberg off the Opening Day roster, they did so with the caveat that he needed to receive everyday at-bats and perform consistently when he got them.

Spangenberg has done just that at Triple-A El Paso. He's hitting .382/.433/.491, while reportedly playing a stellar defensive third base.

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In short, he's knocking on the big league door. Question is: Do the Padres have space for him?

The club's original rationale for sending Spangenberg to El Paso was that Yangervis Solarte and Ryan Schimpf blocked his path to playing time in the Majors. Coming off a quad injury that kept him out for most of the 2016 season, Spangenberg needed everyday at-bats.

Three weeks after the Padres' decision to send Spangenberg to Triple-A, that same conundrum still exists to some extent. But there could be more playing time available at third base, given Schimpf's struggles.

"I'm thrilled that he's playing really well," Padres manager Andy Green said. "... Circumstances can change. But I would say there needs to be a consistent amount of playing time available for him, at the least."

This season, Schimpf is hitting .120/.313/.300 with 19 strikeouts. Of course, three weeks is an extremely small sample to write off a hitter who mashed 20 homers in the final three months last season.

The possibility remains that the Padres split time between Schimpf and Spangenberg at third base. But they would first need to free up a roster spot.

That's where things get tricky, as the Padres continue to carry three Rule 5 Draft picks who can't be sent to the Minors. Bench players Luis Sardinas and Christian Bethancourt and Hector Sanchez are all out of options and would need to clear waivers to do so.

Essentially, it won't be easy for San Diego to promote Spangenberg, without potentially losing another player for good.

But if Spangenberg keeps hitting, he just might force the Padres' hand.

"He's performing really well," Green said. "You speak with your bat, and you speak with your performance. All I've heard is really, really good things.

"Cory is a really good person, and I know he wants to be here and wants to be helping us win baseball games. I'm sure he's battling through what a lot of guys battle through in the Minor Leagues when they feel like they're more than ready to contribute here. We're very pleased with the way he's handled it."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Cory Spangenberg