Battle at second base won't wait for 2020

Wingenter sent to Double-A as Martini joins the Padres' outfield

August 30th, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Padres' 2020 competition at second base is off to an early start.

For the most part, the San Diego infield is settled for next season -- and well into the future -- with Eric Hosmer at first, Manny Machado at third and Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. Second base is the glaring exception.

Rookie remains the favorite to anchor that role long term. But his early struggles in the big leagues have caused some concern. The Padres maintain that Urias still needs to earn his way into that job.

In that regard, the club expects a serious competition for playing time at second next spring. But the next month might offer an even better audition for Urias and fellow rookie . Both will see regular playing time.

Urias has shifted to shortstop, where he'll continue to play in Tatis' absence. That provides France with opportunity at second, where he's sharing time with the lefty-hitting .

"I embrace the opportunity," France said. "I'm just trying to make the best of it. Every opportunity I get, I go to work."

A lifelong third baseman, France is still learning the nuances of second. He'll never be on Urias' level defensively. But it's still possible France could earn the job with his bat.

Thus far, however, neither France nor Urias has grabbed hold of a long-term place in the Padres’ infield. France's numbers are slightly better, but they aren't particularly good. Entering Thursday, he was hitting just .226/.276/.339 this season, while Urias has posted a .184/.315/.264 line.

Then again, Urias and France both raked at Triple-A El Paso, and they weren't always getting regular playing time in the big leagues. They are now, and the Padres brass will be watching closely. For the most part, France has held his own at second base.

"He's made the plays on the balls that have come to him, and he's been pretty consistent," manager Andy Green said. "We're still working on feeding second base and the pivot. But I think he's been relatively solid overall. ... We'll see what he makes of it. Then there's also an offseason."

When Tatis went down with a back injury two weeks ago, the Padres huddled to decide on their infield plan. If they'd been in contention for a playoff spot, it's possible Machado would've moved to shortstop, with France at third and Urias at second.

Instead, Tatis' absence presented something of an opportunity. The Padres already knew Urias could handle second base, and they knew France could handle third. They wanted to learn how France might fare with regular reps at second, and they wanted to learn whether Urias could be counted on at short, in case of emergency.

The results have been mixed thus far. Urias has been mostly solid, but his 10th-inning error cost the Padres on Wednesday against the Dodgers. France has made nearly every routine play, but his range at second has been nowhere near Urias'.

Ultimately, however, it will probably be offense that decides the job at second base next season. The Padres already know what they have in the veteran Garcia, who has strong numbers against right-handed pitching and will be in the mix again.

Urias and France, meanwhile, are being given a chance to make a statement for that wide-open job at second base. There's a month remaining in the 2019 regular season for them to do so.

"Obviously, I have big goals, and I'm trying to prove myself in the big leagues," Urias said. "Right now, I've been struggling, but I've been feeling good at the plate. ... I'm just trying to compete every day."

Said France: "When you play this game, you want to be the everyday starter. You want to be like the Hosmers and the Machados. That's obviously everyone's goal. But right now, for me, where I'm at, it's about seeing: 'Do you fill a need?' I'm embracing it and trying to run with it."

Martini arrives

Outfielder joined the Padres in San Francisco on Thursday, a day after he was claimed off waivers from Oakland. A lefty-hitting on-base threat, Martini will serve in a backup outfield capacity, mostly in left.

A year ago, Martini batted .296/.397/.414 in 55 games for Oakland. But he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in February, and when he returned to full health, the A's didn't have a spot for him.

"I unfortunately got hurt in Spring Training and never really got a full opportunity," Martini said. "But I'm excited to be here and excited for the new start."

The Padres optioned righty reliever to Double-A Amarillo to clear space. Wingenter allowed three runs on Wednesday, as he recorded his first career start in a planned bullpen game.

Travel shakeup

The Padres' extra-innings loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday ended too late for the team to make its flight to San Francisco before curfew at San Diego International Airport. Instead, the team arrived around 12:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

"It wasn't that bad," Green said. "We got on a really nice plane at 11 o'clock, flew straight here, had a bus pick you up and take you to the ballpark. ... The guys are ready to go."