Alonso at third gives Padres another option

Move makes room for Myers at first, Venable in center field

Alonso at third gives Padres another option

SAN DIEGO -- Padres manager Bud Black has faced a season-long dilemma regarding how to fit his glut of outfielders onto his lineup card. The newest solution came Saturday night -- and it might not be a temporary one.

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Yonder Alonso got the start at third base against the Dodgers for the first time in his four seasons with the Padres, and just the second time in his career. The move allows Wil Myers to play first base, freeing center field for Will Venable.

"By all means, I don't think I'm going to be a Gold Glover like some other players at third," Alonso said. "But I'm up for the challenge. I love competing when there's something new on the horizon."

Alonso grew up playing third base, and he spent most of his freshman season playing there at Miami. When Danny Valencia, currently with the Blue Jays, arrived in Coral Gables, Alonso moved to first -- and he has played primarily first base ever since.

But the Padres current roster makeup may have mandated Alonso's move to third. With the concurrent returns of Myers and Alonso from the DL, Venable appeared to be the odd man out.

But in his last 32 games before Saturday night, Venable was hitting 288/.352/.441, while offering the Padres a much better defensive option in center than Myers.

"[This move] is probably more about how Will's playing," Black said. "Will's playing good. He's swung the bat well, had some good at-bats in Atlanta."

Venable has been especially proficient against right-handed pitching, to the point where the Padres couldn't afford to leave him out of the lineup vs. a tough righty -- like the Dodgers' Zack Greinke.

And while the move is mostly an offensive decision, it's worth wondering just how much the Padres are really sacrificing defensively. Sure, Alonso is a stark drop-off from Will Middlebrooks at third. But the upgrade in the outfield, where Myers has the lowest defensive runs saved (-9) of any center fielder in baseball, might just be worth it.

"We're going to have a look at it," Black said. "We'll see what it looks like, and we'll see if this is something we could use at times, moving forward."

Alonso was quick to say he views Middlebrooks as "the guy" at third base. He added that he feels proficient fielding bunts and throwing across the diamond.

Alonso has taken occasional grounders at third since Spring Training and has been doing so with increased frequency in the past few weeks.

"Practice ground balls are completely different than off the bat in the game, when somebody is running to first and you've got to maybe hurry a little bit," Alonso said. "But I think once I get that first one out of the way and get my feet moving, I should be all right."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.