Bethancourt set to pitch, catch in Panama

Recent signees Ortega, Villanueva playing winter ball

Bethancourt set to pitch, catch in Panama

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Winter League baseball is winding down.

The regular season in the Dominican Republic ended Saturday, and the playoffs began on Tuesday. The regular season ends in Venezuela on Thursday, and the Mexican Pacific League ends Friday.

However, the Panamanian Winter League -- where Christian Bethancourt is scheduled to launch his bid to become a hybrid catcher-pitcher-outfielder -- doesn't open until Jan. 6. And the Australian Winter League opens its second half on Thursday.

Two players who recently signed Minor League contracts with the Padres also played winter ball.

Third baseman Christian Villanueva, 25, hit .278 with three homers and nine RBIs in 54 at-bats in his native Mexico. And outfielder Rafael Ortega, 25, hit .250 with five doubles, five triples and six RBIs in his native Venezuela.

Minor Leaguers Jose Pirela and Fernando Perez continue to be the Padres' leading hitters in winter ball.

Pirela, 27, who recently re-signed with the Padres, is batting .346 with nine doubles, two triples and two homers for 16 RBIs in 37 games with Zulia in Venezuela. He has 12 walks for a .412 on-base percentage. He also has a .900 OPS. Had he had enough at-bats, Pirela would rank fourth in Venezuela in batting and on-base percentage and eighth in OPS.

Perez, 23, a product of Otay Ranch High and the Padres' third-round pick in the 2012 Draft, is hitting .321 with Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League. The left-handed hitter, who is playing first base in Mexico, has six doubles with three homers and 14 RBIs in 42 games in the MPL.

Right-hander Zech Lemond has a 0.009 earned run average after eight appearances and 10 innings in the Australian Baseball League. He also pitched a scoreless inning in the ABL All-Star Game. Infielder River Stevens is hitting .310 in the ABL, while catcher Marcus Greene Jr. is hitting .282 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 20 games.

Among other Padres still playing winter ball, shortstop Jose Rondon is batting .242 with Aragua in Venezuela.