PEORIA, Ariz. -- After a torrid second half last season, Jose Pirela probably has his roster spot locked up already, but there might not be a single player with a bigger impact on the club's roster competitions this spring.Pirela made his first appearance at second base during the Padres' 11-6
PEORIA, Ariz. -- After a torrid second half last season, Jose Pirela probably has his roster spot locked up already, but there might not be a single player with a bigger impact on the club's roster competitions this spring.
Pirela made his first appearance at second base during the Padres' 11-6 victory over Seattle on Tuesday. Last season he played only 39 innings at second, but the Padres are committed to giving him a longer look there in 2018. He made two very nice plays ranging to his right, but short-hopped a double-play turn in the first inning.
If Pirela proves proficient enough at second, that opens opportunities for manager Andy Green to tinker with his lineup in a number of ways. Pirela spent almost all of 2017 in left field, but Eric Hosmer's arrival has cluttered things.
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With William Myers shifting to right, the Padres have a backlog of outfielders eyeing the starting left-field job. Pirela is at the forefront, but his versatility could clear the way for Hunter Renfroe to receive more at-bats (or perhaps Franchy Cordero or a healthy Alex Dickerson).
It also means the Padres may have a third option at second base, where Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje are battling for a job. Both are left-handed hitters, and Pirela's powerful right-handed presence would make for a nice complement.
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"[Pirela] made some really nice plays, and if you watch ground balls, he looks fine," Green said. "I don't have a ton of concern there. The more reps we can get him, the better he'll be. We'll just look for ways to optimize our lineup this year, and if that means him bouncing in to second base against left-handed pitching, then that's what it means."
In 2017, Pirela posted a .288/.347/.490 slash line with a team-leading 122 OPS+. But throughout his career, he's been a defensive liability -- much more so at second base than in left field.
For now, Green isn't too concerned with Pirela's ability to transition, although he did acknowledge the challenges.
"He's an offense-first player," Green said. "When you divide his defensive reps, it makes it that much harder on him. It's that much more work to be sound in both situations."
Hedges powers up
Catcher Austin Hedges has played two spring games, and he's homered in both. Apparently, those offseason swing changes have already begun to pay off.
Hedges -- who entered camp with a revamped swing, one that limits the movement in his hands and allows him to see pitches better -- capped a five-run fourth inning with a no-doubt three-run homer on Tuesday.
"Good early returns," said Green. "I like where he is right now. I think he likes where he is. He's squared up some baseballs."
Lefty prospects take the mound
Ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, in the Padres system, Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi took the mound for the first time this spring on Tuesday afternoon. Neither has a serious chance of breaking camp with the big league club, but midseason callups certainly aren't out of the question.
Lauer looked sharp early, freezing Robinson Cano with a 3-2 fastball for a strikeout looking, but he hit the wall in his second frame, and allowed two runs on three hits over 1 2/3.
Lucchesi, meanwhile, worked around a one-out walk in the fifth before tossing a 1-2-3 sixth.
• Raffy Lopez, locked in a battle with A.J. Ellis for the backup job behind Hedges, homered in the sixth and smashed a double to right in the eighth. In three games this spring, Lopez is 2-for-4 with a pair of walks.
• Cordero, eyeing a backup spot in the outfield, has recorded extra-base hits in three of his four games, including a double on Tuesday.
• Spangenberg is day to day after jamming his wrist during a workout over the weekend, but the Padres don't expect him to be out long.
• Third baseman Chase Headley (bruised finger) participated in the team's workout on Tuesday morning. Presuming no further setbacks, he'll likely debut on Thursday.
The Padres have sky-high hopes for Dinelson Lamet in 2018. The 25-year-old right-hander was dominant at times during his rookie season, and now he'll be looking to add a measure of consistency. Lamet takes the ball for the first time this spring when the Padres host the Dodgers on Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. PT on MLB.TV.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.