Hedges to play winter ball in the Dominican

Hedges to play winter ball in the Dominican

SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres conclude the regular season on Oct. 4 with a game at Dodger Stadium, rookie catcher Austin Hedges will make the drive down I-5 for his home in Orange County.

The drive isn't a long one -- nor will be the break Hedges gets between the end of the regular season and when he heads to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball for the first time in his career.

Hedges will play for Leones del Escogido in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The general manager of the team is Moises Alou, who is in his first season with the Padres as a special assistant, player development.

Hedges, who played in the Arizona Fall League in 2013, will seek more at-bats and additional time behind the plate playing in the Dominican Republic.

"Overall, [I'm going] for the experience itself, but also to get some at-bats and get some more playing time and use that to work on some things to be locked in and ready to go for next year," Hedges said Monday before the Padres opened a four-game series against the Rockies at Petco Park.

Since being promoted from Triple-A El Paso on May 4, Hedges has appeared in 37 games, starting 33 at catcher, including Monday's series opener.

He made 11 starts behind the plate in July, the most since he's arrived in the big leagues, though Derek Norris still gets the majority of starts there (101 starts).

Hedges is hitting .173 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 110 at-bats after going 1-for-3 in Monday's 6-4 loss against the Rockies. He's worked closely with hitting coach Mark Kotsay and assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell on his swing and approach.

"Every time I step in the box, I feel I can do some damage," Hedges told MLB.com last month.

A year ago, infielder Cory Spangenberg played for Leones del Escogido. Hedges said he has heard nothing but good things about the experience in the DWL.

"I talked to a lot of guys, especially Moises. I've heard a lot of good things about how he takes care of the guys. I'm excited to go," Hedges said.

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