Jay likely to lead off, start in center for Padres

Morrow progressing, but may not have time to be ready for Opening Day

Jay likely to lead off, start in center for Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- In each of his past six Cactus League starts, Jon Jay has been penciled into the Padres' starting lineup as their leadoff man and center fielder.

Don't expect that to change when the regular season rolls around.

Padres manager Andy Green wasn't ready to make any official declarations regarding Jay at his Friday afternoon media session. But when asked whether Jay projects as the club's starting center fielder and leadoff man, Green told reporters, "I think you can read the tea leaves."

Spring Training: Schedule | Tickets | Information

Jay, who led off Thursday night's game with a home run, came over from St. Louis in the trade that sent infielder Jedd Gyorko to the Cardinals in December. He spent the first six seasons of his career with St. Louis, where he started 105 games in the leadoff spot.

Jay's solo home run

The majority of those leadoff starts came in 2012, one of Jay's best seasons as a pro. He batted .305/.373/.400 that year, compared with his career .287/.354/.384 slash line.

"He's been an on-base guy for the majority of his career," Green said. "He's been a guy with very neutral splits. Some years he's hit lefties better than he's hit righties, so he's a guy where you don't have to worry about who's on the mound.

"We're searching for that guy who can be a catalyst at the top, and his at-bats have gotten better and better as spring progressed."

Jay's splits have, indeed, been fairly even over the course of his career. But he struggled mightily last season, specifically against left-handed pitching.

But Jay isn't too concerned where he hits -- so long as he's getting the chance to hit at all.

"I've really enjoyed hitting leadoff in the past," Jay said. "But I'm looking forward to whatever role they want me to do. I'm going to embrace the opportunity here."

Jay's projected center-field job means Melvin Upton Jr. will likely continue to get reps in left. Upton played 63 games in center for the Padres last season. But the Padres like Upton's athleticism and range in left field, and Green went so far as to say he thinks Upton could compete for a Gold Glove Award there.

Jabari Blash and Travis Jankowski are also in the mix for a starting outfield job.

Morrow likely to begin season on DL

Right-hander Brandon Morrow, who underwent October shoulder surgery, could make his Cactus League debut as soon as Monday, Green said. But the Padres don't foresee him being healthy in time to make the Opening Day roster.

"It's going to be tight, especially if we're considering a starter role with him -- which we are," Green said. "We're going to take a look at him and see how he progresses. ... There's some I's to dot and T's to cross before he's ready to go."

Morrow opened last season in the Padres' rotation and was sharp over five starts, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP.

Padres announce FanFest details

Padres FanFest will be a two-day event this year, running in conjunction with the club's two exhibition games against the White Sox on April 1 and 2. FanFest is free of charge and will take place in the Park at the Park area behind the outfield at Petco Park. Tickets to the games will be $10 (but free for season-ticket holders).

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.