PEORIA, Ariz. -- Russell Branyan preceded Kevin Kouzmanoff in the Cleveland Indians organization, departing for Cincinnati in 2002, the year before Koumanoff signed as a sixth-round First-Year Player Draft pick out of Nevada-Reno. Passing through Double-A Akron last year en route to Cleveland, Kouzmanoff was treated to tales of mammoth blasts Branyan unloaded in 1997 and 1998. "There's this restaurant way out beyond the fence," Kouzmanoff said, "and he used to clear the restaurant. You'd look out there and wonder how it was possible."
Branyan showed his formidable muscle and other talents in his 27 games with the Padres last year, his fifth Major League club. He was a valuable contributor in the drive to the National League West title with his bat (.292, six homers) and solid glove. He'd spent the early part of the season in Tampa Bay, playing right field mainly, before coming to San Diego on Aug. 25 in exchange for pitcher Evan Meek and cash. The Padres exercised his option for $1 million, and Branyan is eager to make an impact -- in any role or position they see fit. "It's kind of up in the air," Branyan said at Peoria Sports Complex, where the club held its first full-squad workout Thursday. "They're kind of banking on Kouz at third base and [Terrmel] Sledge in left field, but there's nothing carved in stone. "For a team of this caliber to have two open positions, it's open range, and I'm taking my best shot. We've got two positions that are unsettled, and guys are going to be trying to get their hits and compete. There are a lot of decisions to be made." Branyan, 31, has 111 career homers in 627 games. He feels his .232 career average reflects his struggle to find a secure role on a club. He has experience at all four corner positions -- first and third, left and right. "I've never been in an everyday role in the big leagues," he said. "If it came to a point where I could play a different position every day, I would love to do that. Anything to get on the field." No guarantees: Kouzmanoff, who came to the Padres along with pitcher Andrew Brown in exchange for the popular, productive Josh Barfield, is taking nothing for granted as he goes about the business of fine-tuning for the big challenge ahead.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.