"You hate to see anybody get hurt, but even before this happened, people were asking me how I was doing and I'd tell them I'm healthy," Nieves said before the Padres played the Rangers in a Cactus League game on Saturday at Peoria Stadium. "It's always tough getting hurt. Last year I hurt my quad and I lost a month."
Nieves, a non-roster invitee, has played 11 seasons for seven teams, started 305 games behind the plate, and is a .243 hitter with nine homers and 110 RBIs. Most recently he started 34 games for the Phillies last season, batting .254. But as he said, he strained his right quad running the bases in Philadelphia, the injury coming just before starting catcher Carlos Ruiz was hit in the head with a pitch.
Nieves, 37, considers that a huge opportunity lost, but now he has another big chance after signing as a free agent on Jan. 31 with the Padres.
"Definitely, but I still need to work hard," Nieves said. "I was telling some of the guys [that] every year I have to prove myself. Every year I come to Spring Training I have to prove myself. The only year I had something guaranteed was last year with the Phillies. But even when I have that my mentality is to play hard because that's the only way I know how to do it."
Nieves has a long and storied resume. He played 28 games for the Padres under manager Bruce Bochy in 2002, small parts of three seasons for Joe Torre with the Yankees, two years for the D-backs and Kirk Gibson and last year under Ryne Sandberg with the Phillies. As recently as 2013, he batted .297 in 71 games for the D-backs.
At this point, all that makes him the most palatable option in camp to back up Norris, although Nieves is hitless in eight at-bats so far this spring.
"With Wil, he brings a veteran presence," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Actually a couple of years ago he had a nice year in Arizona. I knew Wil from our days back with the Angels so I know what he brings to a club. He's going to have to do his thing to show that he's very capable of being on a big league club and he's doing his part. He's doing fine."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.