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Preller explains Hedges, Mejia situation

MLB.com @AJCassavell

PHILADELPHIA -- On Thursday, the Padres acquired Francisco Mejia, the best catching prospect in baseball. On Friday, they reiterated that Austin Hedges -- their current starter behind the plate and a one-time top catching prospect himself -- still has an integral role to play in the club's future.

On the surface, those concepts appear to clash. Padres general manager A.J. Preller doesn't see it that way.

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PHILADELPHIA -- On Thursday, the Padres acquired Francisco Mejia, the best catching prospect in baseball. On Friday, they reiterated that Austin Hedges -- their current starter behind the plate and a one-time top catching prospect himself -- still has an integral role to play in the club's future.

On the surface, those concepts appear to clash. Padres general manager A.J. Preller doesn't see it that way.

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"You can never have too many guys up the middle," Preller said. "You can never have too much catching. That's almost become a two-man position at times in the big leagues. There's very few guys that are playing north of 105 to 110 games right now.

"Ultimately, we looked at it from a value standpoint and a talent standpoint with Mejia -- it was just too much to pass up."

Mejia arrived from Cleveland on Thursday in a trade for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. He's MLB Pipeline's No. 15 overall prospect.

Some have questioned whether Mejia is strong enough defensively to stick behind the plate. The Padres fully intend to find out. He'll spend a few weeks catching for Triple-A El Paso, allowing the club to get a better assessment of his abilities. Before the end of the season, a big league callup is likely in order.

"Austin's still a front-line guy for us," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He'll see the bulk of the opportunities here. … As an organization, we believe in him. We also believe in Mejia or we wouldn't have gone out and acquired him. But Austin's got opportunity out in front of him."

Hedges is widely regarded as one of the sport's best defensive catchers, but in parts of four big league seasons, he's struggled at the plate. Entering play Thursday, Hedges was hitting .232/.289/.376 with four homers in 135 plate appearances this year.

Video: CHC@SD: Hedges hits a go-ahead RBI single in the 8th

The reverse has held true for Mejia, who is hitting .279/.328/.426 at Triple-A this season. He's unquestionably a bat-first catcher.

Ultimately, Mejia could find himself in the outfield. He's also played a bit of third base, but the Padres have expressed a desire for versatility, and Mejia could fit that mold perfectly as a part-time catcher. Down the road, he and Hedges could find themselves sharing time.

"It's definitely going to be part of the conversation," Preller said of giving Mejia time elsewhere on the field. "Right now, we want to let him get back to catching full-time and see what that plays like when our staff and our people are around him. Then we'll have more discussions as we go to see what's the best way to use him."

And if they deem Mejia as a fit at catcher moving forward?

"Those are the kinds of problems you want to have," Preller said. "That's what you're striving for at every position on the diamond -- to get to a point where you have championship-caliber players in multiples throughout the organization. That's for down the road, to see how it plays out."

Stock, Brewer recalled
With Cimber and Hand off the roster, the Padres recalled right-handers Robert Stock and Colten Brewer, giving San Diego an eight-man bullpen.

With Kirby Yates slotting into Hand's role, it's perhaps likeliest that both Stock and Brewer will get a chance to take the same path that Cimber did. Cimber made the roster as a surprise out of Spring Training, and he was impressive enough to earn some high leverage roles in the mid-to-late innings.

Stock has made four appearances this season, allowing one run in three innings. Brewer has pitched two games in relief and hasn't allowed an earned run.

The duo made appearances in Friday's 11-5 loss to the Phillies. Stock allowed four runs while recording only two outs, while Brewer recorded the last out for the Padres without allowing a baserunner.

Pitching updates
• Right-hander Jordan Lyles allowed four runs on six hits over 2 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Triple-A El Paso on Thursday. He surrendered three homers in the first inning, when he was throwing exclusively fastballs. But otherwise, Green said reports were positive. Lyles, who hasn't pitched since he was scratched from his June 23 start with right elbow inflammation, is likely slated for one more rehab outing before a potential return to the big league club.

• Right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who is recovering from a right elbow impingement, threw a live batting practice session on Friday at Citizens Bank Park. He's likely set for a rehab outing at some point next week.

• Lefty Joey Lucchesi, who was optioned to the Minors ahead of the All-Star break, struggled on Wednesday, allowing seven hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 frames for El Paso. He struck out two and threw fewer than half of his pitches for strikes. Nonetheless, Lucchesi is still expected to be recalled and start at some point next week against the Mets. He was optioned to continue to work during the break after missing a month with a right hip strain.

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

San Diego Padres, Austin Hedges, Francisco Mejia