Brandon Hernández 9 a.m., Aug. 1
Third baseman that aren't named Wade Boggs are supposed to have power - at least, that's the conventional thought among baseball's best minds. Exceptions like Boggs are sometimes made (Boggs averaged only 8 home runs per year but finished his career with a .328 lifetime batting average and was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot), but normally clubs would like to see the corner infield and outfield positions fielded by players that hit for power. Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who has a season average of 11 home runs, realizes this. He has said so several times this spring, and that power is something he is working on.
Headley was born and raised in Colorado, and in high school he played both basketball and baseball, graduating as valedictorian. He attended University of the Pacifica and played baseball there for one season at shortstop before transferring to the University of Tennessee where he was transitioned to third base. Chase excelled at UT, both in baseball and academics, graduating as an All-American. The Padres drafted him in 2005, in the second round.
In the minor leagues, Headley progressed quickly, starting in A-ball and spending a year at each level until AAA in 2008, when he was called up in June. Stuck behind Kevin Kouzmanoff who was the regular Padres third baseman, Headley played left field. In 2009, Headley started and played the entire season as the team's left fielder. After the 2009 season, the Padres traded Kouzmanoff to the Oakland Athletics, and Headley returned in 2010 to his natural position at third base.
Since then, Headley has played defensively very well at third, and has batted very well for average away from Petco, but not so much in the home park. And the power, which appeared to project well in the minor leagues, hasn't developed to the level that Chase expects it should. Headley's 2011 season was cut short by injury, but prior to that point he was having a good year so far as his batting average, winding up with .289 for the season. However, while Petco Park isn't a power hitter's paradise, there were only 4 home runs.
This season, Headley hopes to continue to hit well for average, but to also flex more power out of his bat. If successful, this presents the Padres with a problem, perhaps a good problem to have. Jedd Gyorko projects to be breathing down Headley's neck, perhaps by as early as 2013, and Headley will be fully arbitration eligible in 2013. This is going to be a very interesting year for Chase Headley, and for the Padres.
In Peoria on Sunday, Chase Headley returned to the lineup, no worse for wear after being held back with back issues. He says he feels fine, and that seemed to be the case as Headley went 1 for 3 with a walk against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The offensive player of the day for the Padres was second baseman Orlando Hudson, who went 2 for 3 with a double and a line-drive home run, his first home run in the Cactus League this year. Center fielder Blake Tekotte also hit his first home run.
Tim Stauffer's second start in this year's Cactus League is likely one he would rather forget. After giving up 3 runs on 5 hits and a walk, Stauffer was relieved in the 3rd inning with runners on first and second base and no outs. Robbie Erlin relieved Stauffer and pitched a magnificent third inning. With a lazy fly ball out, and then a walk, a tailor-made double play ended the inning without allowing a run. Erlin then pitched a perfect fourth inning.
The game itself was a more typical Cactus League game, a little bit crazy and high-scoring. The Padres ultimately lost as Arizona put up 2 runs in the eighth inning due in part to an error by shortstop Jeudy Valdez, and then 3 runs in the ninth inning were given up by reliever Brad Boxberger, on 3 hits and a walk. At that point the Padres were down 8-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning, and put up a run, had runners on first and second base, but came up short. The final score was 8-7, Diamondbacks.
Padres prospect Edinson Rincon's bat continues to be on fire. Rincon went 2 for 2 after relieving Headley at third base, both doubles. Rincon is now 7 for 10 in Cactus league play with 5 doubles. Rincon can hit in the minors as well, his progression at the plate has been fine. Fielding is his biggest issue, the third baseman from the Dominican Republic is still learning. But there's a lot of time, he's only 21. He has a ways to go yet, but he's certainly worth keeping an eye on.
The Padres will travel to Scottsdale on Monday to play the Colorado Rockies. Cory Luebke figures to get his second start in the Cactus League, with Jeff Suppan, Luke Gregerson, Erik Hamren, Alex Hinshaw, and Jorge Reyes penciled in to get some work on the mound. The 1:05PM game will be carried on radio, 1700 AM.
(Image: Chase Headley)
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