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Padres' spring bullpen crowded with hopefuls

Four spots taken, 3-4 more up for grabs among more than a dozen candidates
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With a month remaining until the Padres break camp in Peoria, half of their bullpen is set. The other half? That's anyone's guess.

"Four guys are clearly in our bullpen," manager Andy Green said. "The next three or four guys will have an opportunity to make it, and there's a long list of guys that are in that mix. I don't think you cut anybody off, because relief pitchers can come from anywhere."

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With a month remaining until the Padres break camp in Peoria, half of their bullpen is set. The other half? That's anyone's guess.

"Four guys are clearly in our bullpen," manager Andy Green said. "The next three or four guys will have an opportunity to make it, and there's a long list of guys that are in that mix. I don't think you cut anybody off, because relief pitchers can come from anywhere."

It's unclear whether the Padres will carry seven or eight relievers on Opening Day. For now, here's a breakdown of how the race might shake out.

Locks: Brad Hand, Craig Stammen, Kaz Makita, Kirby Yates

The Padres enter the season with Hand as their closer, though they won't hesitate to use him before the ninth inning if the situation calls for it. Yates and Stammen, meanwhile, earned their places with impressive 2017 campaigns in San Diego. Makita signed a two-year deal during the offseason, and the Padres are eager to see how his submarine delivery plays against big league hitters.

Video: WSH@SD: Yates K's the side in the 8th inning

Favorites: Phil Maton, Buddy Baumann

Maton is a prohibitive favorite here. He struggled with the long ball toward the end of his rookie campaign. But the Padres think he might be future closer material, and they expect him to take a step forward in 2018. Baumann's chances aren't quite so clear-cut. But the Padres need a left-handed middle-relief option, and Baumann currently sits atop that list. (His 2.55 ERA in 23 appearances last season won't hurt.)

Video: SD@SF: Maton retires Posey, seals Friars' win in 11

Rotation candidates, too: Matt Strahm, Jordan Lyles, Robbie Erlin, Chris Young

It's safe to assume the Padres carry at least one of these four as a long-man who would also serve as a spot starter. San Diego has a crowded rotation race, with eight pitchers -- including these four -- fighting for three spots. If Young, Erlin and Lyles miss out, they'll battle for that long-man role. Strahm, meanwhile, is a different case entirely. He's pitched out of the 'pen in the past, and some feel he might be best suited pitching high-leverage relief innings.

Video: Strahm discusses creating winning culture with Padres

On the fence: Colten Brewer, Carter Capps, Tom Wilhelmsen

If you're doing the math, you've probably realized there's not much room left in the 'pen. It's hard to envision more than one of these three options being named on the Opening Day roster. Capps, who underwent thoracic outlet surgery in the offseason, has yet to pitch. Brewer and Wilhelmsen have thrown a scoreless inning apiece. Brewer, who spent six seasons in the Yankees organization, signed a Major League deal, so his prospects seem positive. But Wilhelmsen and Capps have Major League success to fall back on. It'll be a matter of them regaining their old form.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Outside chance: Kyle McGrath, Brad Wieck, Trey Wingenter

McGrath is a legitimate dark-horse candidate for a spot in the bullpen, given that he's a funky left-hander who had success against lefty hitters last year. Wieck -- a 6-foot-9, high-extension southpaw -- has a similar case, but he's yet to prove himself in the bigs. Wingenter, meanwhile, looked sharp in his spring debut and posted excellent numbers at Double-A San Antonio last season (2.45 ERA, 33 percent strikeout rate).

Long shots: Miguel Diaz, Michael Mariot, Jose Castillo, Robert Stock, Jonathan Aro, Eric Yardley, Adam Cimber, T.J. Weir, Rowan Wick

Diaz could have his own category here. He'd likely fall into the "outside chance" camp if he were actively competing for a bullpen spot. But the Padres are stretching their former Rule 5 pick back into a starter's role, and it's likeliest he opens the year in a Minor League rotation. If something changes on that front, he'd be thrust into the bullpen competition. As for the rest, Green made it clear he isn't ruling any of them out. But they'll have their work cut out for them.

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

San Diego Padres, Brad Hand, Kaz Makita, Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates