Medica, Decker, Needy, Quackenbush on El Paso roster

Medica, Decker, Needy, Quackenbush on El Paso roster

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Triple-A El Paso opens the season Thursday with 15 players with Major League experience and 12 returnees from the 2014 Chihuahuas roster that helped create one of the best success stories in Minor League baseball.

In their first season in El Paso, the Padres' Triple-A affiliate posted a 72-72 record and drew 548,435 fans to Southwest University Park. The Chihuahuas had 48 sellouts and 8,186 fans at their new ballpark -- which was named the Ballpark of the Year by three publications.

By the way, the Chihuahuas' average attendance last season was 86 more a game than the official capacity of 8,100 at Southwest University Park.

Pat Murphy returns for his third season as the Padres' Triple-A affiliate manager. He will be assisted by pitching coach Bronswell Patrick and hitting coach Jody Davis.

Headlining the Chihuahuas' roster will be hitters Cody Decker, Tommy Medica, Alex Dickerson and Rymer Liriano; top catching prospect Austin Hedges; starting pitchers Casey Kelly, Robbie ErlinJames Needy, Cory Mazzoni and Jason Lane and relief pitchers Kevin Quackenbush, Brandon Mauer, Chris Rearick and Scott Elbert.

The Chihuahuas' 25-man roster will number 13 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and four outfielders.

First baseman Decker, 28, led El Paso with 27 homers and 79 RBIs last season while becoming the Padres' all-time leader in Minor League home runs with 133. Jake Goebbert hit .296 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs in 79 games with the Chihuahuas last season. Liriano, 23, hit .452 in 16 games with El Paso last season. Liriano had 11 doubles and a triple with 13 RBIs in 62 at-bats with the Chihuahuas in 2014.

Medica and Brett Wallace both had outstanding springs with the Padres.

Medica, who turns 27 on Opening Day at Southwest University Park, hit .421 during the Padres' exhibition season and led the team with four homers in 38 at-bats. He also drove in 12 runs with a .789 slugging percentage and 1.253 OPS. Over the past two seasons, Medica hit .246 with 12 homers and 36 RBIs in 309 at-bats.

Wallace, 28, hit .391 this spring.

Lane was 9-9 with a 4.51 ERA in 24 starts for the Chihuahuas. Needy, 24, a graduate of Santana High, was the Padres' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2014 after posting a 10-5 record with a 2.90 ERA in 26 games (24 starts) for Double-A San Antonio. Needy was also a member of the Texas League postseason All-Star team and played in the Texas League All-Star Game along with Chihuahuas teammates Hedges and Liriano.

Quackenbush, Maurer and Rearick were all late cuts by the Padres.

The El Paso roster:

Starting pitchers (5): Robbie Erlin (L), Casey Kelly, Jason Lane (L), Cory Mazzoni, James Needy.

Relief pitchers (8): Leonel Campos, Scott Elbert (L), Stephen Kohlscheen, Marcos Mateo, Brandon Maurer, Aaron Northcraft, Chris Rearick (L), Kevin Quackenbush.

Catchers (2): Rocky Gale, Austin Hedges.

Infielders (6): Cody Decker, Alex Dickerson, Taylor Lindsey, Mike McCoy, Ramiro Pena, Brett Wallace.

Outfielders (4): Abraham Almonte, Jake Goebbert, Rymer Liriano, Tommy Medica.