Padres close to decisions on rotation battle

4 players optioned to Minors in latest roster moves

Padres close to decisions on rotation battle

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres sent four players to Minor League camp on Monday, and could also be on the verge of making one of their biggest roster decisions of the spring later this week.

In a quartet of moves that came as no surprise, San Diego optioned outfielder Alex Dickerson to Triple-A El Paso and reassigned catcher Jason Hagerty and infielders Nick Noonan and Ryan Schimpf to the Minor Leagues.

Padres Spring Training info

But the most intriguing announcement made Monday was that the club could begin making decisions on its two rotation vacancies at some point this week.

"We're getting awful close to some of those decisions -- probably not naming five starters, but at least paring it down, with Brandon Morrow coming back into the mix," manager Andy Green said.

Morrow, who made his spring debut in a Minor League game on Sunday, is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He's one of five pitchers fighting for the two available rotation jobs -- joining Brandon Maurer, Drew Pomeranz, Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea.

Top Prospects: Rea, SD

It's unlikely -- but still possible -- that Morrow would be available for an April 13 start against Philadelphia -- the first time San Diego would need to use a fifth starter. Given Morrow's injury history, the Padres aren't rushing the veteran right-hander back to the hill.

But Morrow said his shoulder has fully recovered, to the point where he no longer feels lingering soreness after throwing. With an entire offseason to recover, Morrow said he "felt different" on Sunday than in his ill-fated attempts to return last year after he was sidelined in May.

"Everything has gone smoothly," Morrow said. "There hasn't been one day that I've come in and said, 'I'm a little sore, I need to take this day off, I need to kind of back off.' At this point there hasn't been anything like that. So I've been really happy with the way that everything has progressed."

In the cases of Pomeranz and Maurer, both have pitched primarily in relief over the past two seasons. If they don't crack the rotation, both would slot right into a Padres' bullpen that has experienced plenty of turnover from last year's club.

Maurer ends the frame

Part of Green's haste with deciding on his rotation is tied to the fact that he'd like to make sure his Opening Day relievers get a few innings of work under their belts.

"Whether it's Brandon Maurer or Drew Pomeranz or whoever slides back to the bullpen, we've got to start thinning the herd," Green said.

Maurer back at full health

After missing two days of camp with the flu, Maurer is back at full health, but his next outing will be pushed back one day -- to Thursday -- to make up for his absence.

With Maurer and Rea now scheduled to pitch on the same day, Green said one of them will likely pitch in a Minors game on Thursday. As expected, Pomeranz will start Wednesday in Maurer's place.

As for Maurer, who began feeling ill before a woeful outing Friday night, there was never a question in his mind that he'd make that start.

Five players named for Mexico City roster

Green announced that Puebla, Mexico, native Cesar Vargas would start one of the Padres' two games against Houston this weekend in Mexico City -- about two hours north of his hometown. Erlin will get the ball for the other contest.

Cory Spangenberg, Jon Jay and Yangervis Solarte are among the position players who will be making the trip. The club's full roster will be finalized later this week. Game 1 will take place at 6 p.m. PT on Saturday, with Game 2 following on Sunday at noon.

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.