PEORIA, Ariz. -- There are 56 names on the San Diego Padres' Spring Training roster, and 31 of those are pitchers. When the season opens in San Francisco, new manager Bud Black will be carrying 11 or 12 pitchers, most likely 12. At least eight of those spots appear to be nailed down, leaving about a dozen athletes competing for three or four openings in middle relief. The odds are against them, but Leo Rosales and Sean Thompson -- teammates and buddies for four seasons in the Padres' system -- have the enthusiasm and optimism of youth, and they're planning to make the most of the opportunity.
Rosales was awarded a spot on the 40-man roster along with Thompson after pitching superbly in 2006. Dominant at Class A Lake Elsinore (one hit, no runs in 6 1/3 innings), he was promoted to Double-A Mobile, where he was 5-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 61 2/3 innings, striking out 54 while walking only 18, six intentional. "There are openings [on the Padres' staff]," Rosales, 25, said Thursday as pitchers and catchers reported at Peoria Sports Complex. "But if it doesn't work out, I'll go back [to the Minor Leagues] and try to make them happy." Born in Los Angeles, Rosales was taken in the 20th round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of Cal State Northridge. Known for his deadly changeup, Rosales said he's looking forward to getting advice from the master, Trevor Hoffman, during Spring Training. "Leo has an amazing change," Thompson said. "I wish I could throw that pitch the way he does, off his fingertips. He's got a great feel for pitching -- and he's a great guy, very calm and down-to-earth. We're always pulling for each other." Making his bid: Thompson, a southpaw from La Junta, Colo., who could pass for Justin Timberlake's brother, was a fifth-round choice in the 2002 draft. He was 6-10 with a 3.86 ERA at Mobile last season, striking out 134 with 46 walks in 154 innings. "Leo is in a little different position, already being a reliever," Thompson said. "I've always been a starter. But if they were to come to me and ask me to pitch middle relief and setup, I'd be happy to give it a shot. "I want to make it difficult for them not to keep me. And I know Leo feels the same way."
He was carrying four bags, loaded with balls and equipment for kids in the Dominican Republic, where he was heading via Atlanta on a church mission. Told that he had to move the truck immediately as he tried to haul the bags into the terminal, he had the cuffs slapped on after asking the security guard to help him with the bags, he said. "That'll teach me to oversleep," he said. Peavy said he's in excellent shape and is eager to get started after going 11-14 with a 4.09 ERA, coming within one strikeout of a second NL strikeout title. He finished with 215 K's, one fewer than Cincinnati's Aaron Harang. Father Time calls: Hoffman, Major League Baseball's all-time saves king, sheepishly unfolded a pair of reading glasses as he sat at his locker Thursday afternoon. "Call them menu-helpers," Hoffman said, grinning. "I wasn't having trouble picking up the numbers coming in on my cell phone and reading menus. Now I can read again. "I guess there's no denying it -- I'm no kid anymore."
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Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.