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Padres get creative prepping for Summer Camp

@AJCassavell
June 30, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- Logistically speaking, it's a Spring Training unlike any other. Technically speaking, it's not even Spring Training. The Padres are slated to open "Summer Camp" in San Diego on Friday in preparation for a 60-game season that will begin either July 23 or 24, and a host of

SAN DIEGO -- Logistically speaking, it's a Spring Training unlike any other. Technically speaking, it's not even Spring Training.

The Padres are slated to open "Summer Camp" in San Diego on Friday in preparation for a 60-game season that will begin either July 23 or 24, and a host of challenges await them.

Location is a big one. With daily exhibition games off the table (and a surge in COVID-19 cases in Arizona where the Padres typically train), San Diego was the obvious choice for rebooting camp. But it won't be easy.

"Obviously, in Arizona at our regular Spring Training facility we've got eight fields," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said last week. "We've got all kinds of batting cages, bullpen mounds, we're able to handle it with a lot of space. In Petco [Park], it'll be different. ... [Manager Jayce Tingler] and his group have done a nice job being creative, being organized."

Padres FAQ: Details on the upcoming season

On that front, the Padres have finalized plans to use the University of San Diego as their second training site. The workouts will take place at Fowler Park -- named for Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler -- and should give the team a bit of flexibility.

According to sources, the tentative plan is for pitchers who aren't throwing bullpen sessions to do their daily work at Fowler Park, where they'll go through their regular running program and play catch.

A number of the team's top prospects will work out entirely at USD as well, with a few members from the Minor League staff there to oversee proceedings. That group will be mostly comprised of players who are unlikely to crack the Opening Day roster.

Gore, Hassell part of Padres' player pool

Sources indicated that these plans are always subject to change. But the current set-up should whittle the daily group at Petco Park to about 20 position players and a handful of pitchers.

Even with such a light group, there are obstacles. The ballpark has four bullpen mounds and two batting cages available -- a stark contrast to the team's Arizona complex.

Infielders and outfielders are eligible to report early in the day for extra work. But the Padres plan to shut down the ballpark in the early afternoon each day for a cleaning and disinfecting crew.

Then the workouts begin. The team plans to use both the home and visiting batting cages for hitters. Catchers will also go through defensive drills in those cages, as well as in the bullpen. Team defense and batting practice will take up the bulk of the practice time on the main field.

According to sources, the Padres plan to get into regular intrasquad games quickly -- perhaps as soon as this weekend. A number of their pitchers have spent the past few weeks ramping up to a level where they’re ready to face live hitting.

In his press conference last week, Tingler seemed to hint at a desire to move things toward game-like action as soon as possible.

"Being able to get into intrasquad [games], being able to see live pitching, getting live reads off the bat, the sooner we can do that, the more of those situations we can create, we believe will help prepare us to get off to a good start," he said.

But Tingler also offered a word of caution on that front.

"Our biggest challenge is, in three weeks, getting our guys into shape, ready to play, understanding the reality that if we make a misstep or somebody steps on the gas too early, a six-to-eight week injury ... you're probably going to miss the entire season, if not a huge portion of it," he said. "So we're balancing getting our legs underneath us, getting our arm cycle back into shape and getting back into playing shape -- and having to do that relatively quick."

Padres radio crew stays home

The Padres' radio and TV broadcast teams will call all 60 games from Petco Park this season -- even when the team is on the road.

The decision to keep TV broadcast crews from traveling was finalized earlier this month in the league's safety protocol. But the decision to let radio crews travel was left up to the individual clubs.

The Padres, citing safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, opted against sending radio duo Ted Leitner and Jesse Agler on the road. Instead, games will be broadcast through a world feed to both sets of announcers at Petco Park.

Oña, others won't be added before camp

Aside from the expected additions of infielder Jorge Mateo and right-hander Cole Wilcox, it seems unlikely that the Padres will make any in-house additions to their player pool before camp opens on Friday. Team sources indicated that the Padres' plan is to assess the status of the players in camp before making any further decisions. That includes learning the results of COVID-19 testing and an assessment on any injury or health issues.

Once the Padres have a clearer picture, Preller might begin to maneuver as soon as the weekend or early next week. Second baseman Brian Dozier and outfielders Juan Lagares and Abraham Almonte remain under contract and can still be added to the list. But the Padres might also look externally.

Another interesting case is that of outfield prospect Jorge Oña, the only healthy player from the 40-man roster to be left out of the player pool. Oña was never likely to crack the big league club this season. But he still might be added to the player pool for development purposes.

Oña had been working out at the team's spring complex in Peoria, Ariz., and the Padres are assessing his status after he missed most of the 2019 season with a torn labrum. A decision on the 2020 plans for Oña will come next month.

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