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Green continues to experiment with OF lineup

@AJCassavell
March 10, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres have experimented plenty with their outfield this spring -- an effort to settle the fiercest battle for playing time on the roster. In Saturday night's 6-2 win over the Reds, they trotted out perhaps their most meaningful outfield experiment of the spring. For the first

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres have experimented plenty with their outfield this spring -- an effort to settle the fiercest battle for playing time on the roster. In Saturday night's 6-2 win over the Reds, they trotted out perhaps their most meaningful outfield experiment of the spring.

For the first time, San Diego fielded an outfield with Wil Myers in center field, flanked by Franmil Reyes in right and Hunter Renfroe in left. It's an obvious attempt to get three big-time right-handed bats into the lineup, even if it costs them defensively.

Myers is a solid corner outfielder, but his 2015 stint in center quickly went south. This time, the Padres aren't planning to use Myers as an everyday center fielder. But if they can load their lineup with heavy-hitting righty bats against tough left-handed pitchers, they might try to take advantage. (Coincidentally, they'll probably face a tough left-handed pitcher in the Giants' Madison Bumgarner on Opening Day.)

The second inning Saturday summed up the good and the bad. Myers -- who has been otherwise solid in center this spring -- had trouble tracking down a deep fly ball from Kyle Farmer and played it into a triple. But in the bottom half of the frame, he roped a missile into the left-field corner for a double.

Along with those three, Manuel Margot and Franchy Cordero also find themselves squarely in the outfield mix. Cordero is the only lefty hitter of the bunch and should get ample playing time at all three spots against righties. Margot, meanwhile, is the best defensive center fielder (now that wrist surgery has sidelined Travis Jankowski).

If Margot's in center, that leaves the Padres with last season’s three best hitters -- Reyes, Renfroe and Myers -- fighting for only two spots. There's no easy answer, and in the eyes of manager Andy Green, there doesn't have to be.

"There's going to be times when people feel like they should be in the lineup and they're not," Green said. "It's not a lack of faith in that particular person. It's just faith in -- we have good players.

"A lot of our guys' skill sets line up. They're right-handed-hitting power outfielders. We're going to look at what gives us the best opportunity to win that day and not make any apologies for guys that have to be on the bench."

Lucchesi solid, Strahm dominant vs. Reds

The Padres may have sent two-fifths of their starting rotation to the mound against a big league-caliber Reds lineup Saturday night. Joey Lucchesi pitched the first four innings and Matt Strahm the last four (with closer Kirby Yates in between, covering the fifth).

Lucchesi wanted a true big league test, and he got one, allowing two runs in four innings while striking out six. He fell victim to some batted-ball luck, but was mostly sharp.

This spring offers a sharp contrast to his first big league camp a year ago. As a relatively undersold prospect, Lucchesi burst onto the scene last year with a string of dominant Cactus League starts. He parlayed that into a start on the second day of the season.

"Last year, gosh, I was nervous every day," Lucchesi said. "I just wanted to stay, make the team. I'm not comfortable [this year] if that's what it sounds like. But I'm just working."

Strahm, meanwhile, was borderline unhittable in his four frames. He struck out eight Reds and has now combined for nine scoreless innings with 12 K's and 5 hits in his three appearances this year.

Strahm is attempting to transition from the bullpen to the rotation this year, and Saturday’s outing marked the first time he’s pitched four innings in a game since June 2017. The following month, he’d undergo knee surgery, and he spent the ‘18 season as a dominant force in the ‘pen where his workload could be monitored.

Covering the bases

First: The Padres best hitter this spring? Try Francisco Mejia, MLB Pipeline's No. 26 overall prospect. Mejia walloped a grand slam onto the right-field berm in the bottom of the seventh inning. He's hitting .455 this spring with three homers -- an emphatic statement in his case for a roster spot and playing time behind the plate.

Second: Padres infielder Ty France went through a full workout Saturday, a day after he was struck in the helmet by a pitch. France passed all concussion protocol and the pitch -- which struck his helmet's ear flap -- left him merely with a slightly bruised jaw.

Third: Right-hander Brett Kennedy won't be ready in time to open the season with the big league club, Green said. He's dealing with "general arm fatigue" and hasn't pitched in the Cactus League since Feb. 25.

Home: Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to work out with the team on Sunday, and he could return to the lineup on Tuesday. Tatis missed two days after having his wisdom teeth removed.

Up next

Lefty prospect Logan Allen exited his most recent start after he was struck in the thigh by an Eloy Jimenez liner. He's fine, and he'll start on his turn Sunday when the Padres head to Goodyear to face the Royals at 12:05 p.m. PT. Infield prospect Luis Urias is expected to return from a few days off as well, after he experienced some minor hamstring trouble during the week.

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