Versatile Villanueva ready to rock and 'role'

Righty reliever expected to fill multiple spots in 'pen

Versatile Villanueva ready to rock and 'role'

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It takes a certain personality type to succeed as a jack-of-all-trades reliever in the Major Leagues. It's a job that can require pitching on back-to-back days or waiting more than a week between appearances. It's a job that can last for one batter or multiple innings.

By the estimation of Padres manager Andy Green, Carlos Villanueva has that very rare personality type.

Padres Spring Training info

The Padres signed the 32-year-old reliever to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million during the offseason. Early in camp, he was in the mix to win a starting role. But he's since been assured of a job in the bullpen, where he figures to take on any number of roles during the season.

"I've done it enough, I know how to adjust to it mentally," Villanueva said. "At the beginning of my career, if you sat me down for 10 days, I would have gone nuts. I wouldn't have handled it as well. I think I'm better for it."

In 35 outings for St. Louis last season, Villanueva posted a 2.95 ERA and a 1.164 WHIP. In every inning from the fifth to the ninth, he was given the ball at least eight times, and 18 of his outings lasted more than one frame.

"Through my years playing, I've heard a lot of pitchers complain about that type of treatment," Green said. "The reality of the game is: Occasionally that has to occur. ... There has to be someone willing to do that and willing to excel in that. It takes a ton of focus, a ton of mental strength."

Green pointed to a conversation he had with Villanueva early in camp when he let the veteran right-hander know that he was no longer in the rotation mix. Villanueva responded simply by saying, "Whatever you need. I'll do it all."

"The makeup is off the charts," Green said. "He thinks he can succeed in any circumstance, and that's mainly why he does."

It's been a bit of a struggle this spring for Villanueva, who had allowed seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings entering play Thursday. But Green is confident Villanueva will thrive during the season when he's given a specific gameplan for each hitter he faces. (In fact, Green mentioned Villanueva as one of his primary options for matching up with Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt -- arguably the best righty bat in the league.)

As for Villanueva, it'll be his first season in the National League West, meaning a new set of hitters to become familiar with. Before St. Louis, he had previously spent time with the Brewers, Blue Jays and Cubs -- all of whom play in notoriously hitter-friendly stadiums.

"It's a new division, it's a new challenge," Villanueva said of joining his fifth team. "And it's a pitcher-friendly park. In the past, I've been in launching pads."

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