Manager Bud Black is heading into his eighth season with the Padres. He recently talked with MLB.com about his time in San Diego, the expectations for this team and much more.
MLB.com: You're going into your eighth year. Maybe it's gone by fast, maybe it's gone by slow. Are you still enjoying the job?
Black: There's nothing better than being in the game, working with players, teaching. I think that's what I enjoy more than anything now is the coaching aspect. Obviously, with managing there's a lot that goes into it. But I still love the players, still love everyone connected with the game, in and out of the clubhouse. Those of us who are in it still have a passion for it. That hasn't stopped since my playing days.
MLB.com: There's a sense of optimism every spring. I get that. But there seems to be a little more heightened optimism this spring. Maybe that has to do with the offseason acquisitions, the returning players, some young guys on the way. What do you think about this group so far?
Black: The optimism really started last year in the second half when our starting pitching really started to show up. You saw Andrew Cashner, you saw Tyson Ross, we traded for Ian Kennedy. You saw what we did collectively as a pitching staff. You add Josh Johnson to the mix, you add Joaquin Benoit, Alex Torres, and when you see who we have on the mound, it's exciting. If you put it together as a group, which we haven't had the benefit of, we've had some injuries to our position players [in the past], we're excited about this group of players.
MLB.com: The offense looks a tick better. I know this is still an organization built on run prevention, pitching and defense. That can win a lot of games in your ballpark, a lot of ballparks. But how do you feel about the offense, where there appears to be a little more production, one through eight (hitters)?
Black: I think if we have the right players out there, by that I mean the guys we project: Carlos Quentin, Jedd Gyorko, Yonder Alonso, Chase Headley, Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, our catchers, we feel as though we have a nice group. You get Everth Cabrera back at the top of the order, we feel it's a good group. But we haven't had that group together for a lot of games. We like the names as they project on paper. But as you know, you can't play games on paper.
MLB.com: Are you a better manager, or a better-equipped manager, now than you were in 2007? If so, how?
Black: I think experience is the best teacher. I think anything you do, and you do it repetitively, you would like to think you get better at it. I would like to think I'm a better manager now than I was in 2007 based on experience. I feel very fortunate, like all managers, and honored to have this position. Each of us, to a man, appreciates this position and really enjoys baseball from this side of it. Nothing beats being a player, but managing integrates a lot of what's going on in the game of baseball.
MLB.com: You're a guy who spends a lot of time in your car, commuting to and from Petco Park. Do you find yourself listening to the MLB Network, listening to XM Classic Vinyl, Steely Dan on CD, or do you find yourself thinking more and more about your team and what needs to happen, or what happened that night?
Black: It's a combination. On the way down to the ballpark, I'll get caught up to speed on what's going on through the course of the day with MLB Network on XM. On the way home, I might do a little reflection on the game, thinking about tomorrow, or have a little quiet time in the car ... or maybe Classic Vinyl or Classic Rewind. But I change it up. I'm not so rigid that I listen to just one station.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.