Veteran lefty Elbert impressing Padres' staff early

Veteran lefty Elbert impressing Padres' staff early

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When pitcher Scott Elbert opted for free agency this past offseason, ending an 11-year run in the Dodgers' organization, the left-handed reliever was eager to start the next chapter in his pro career.

"I took it as a new beginning," Elbert said.

The funny thing about his "new beginning" is that when Elbert landed with the Padres on a Minor League deal in January, and more so when he walked into the clubhouse in Peoria last month, the room wasn't exactly teeming with strangers.

Across the room was former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz and, sitting two seats down from him, another catcher, Griff Erickson.

"It's been good," Elbert said. "We all came up together."

Elbert, 29, might be in camp on a Minor League deal, but that doesn't mean he's a long shot in terms of winning a job as a left-handed specialist in what's become a crowded bullpen.

The team currently has three lefties who have a viable chance of winning a spot on the roster -- Alex Torres, Frank Garces and Elbert, who had a 3.54 ERA over parts of six seasons with the Dodgers. Elbert has shown that he can get lefties out (.253 opponents' average) and righties (.223 in 163 at-bats).

So far, he's opened eyes in his first camp with the Padres.

"He has been throwing very well," said Padres coach Darren Balsley. "It looks to me like he's throwing harder than he used to. He's got great command and is a lefty with a low arm slot who gets lefties out. He's been impressive so far."

Elbert's first postseason K

Elbert missed the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and only pitched in seven games in the regular season in 2014, but pitched in the playoffs, taking the loss in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals last October.

Elbert said he was hoping to land a big league deal this offseason, but he settled on a Minor League contract with the Padres because they looked like a good fit.

"I wanted to come to a team where I had a good opportunity of making the squad," Elbert said. "Looking at [the Padres'] depth, there's not a whole lot of lefty depth here. I took that into consideration."

Elbert's proving ground begins Wednesday, as Cactus League play starts.

"It's the fastball, a nice breaking ball, a sort of a cross-the-body type delivery, which is tough on hitters, as far as his angles," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He has some experience and some poise to him. He's doing well."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.