Bethancourt's super-utility transition underway

Padre pitches one inning of relief in winter ball in Panama

Bethancourt's super-utility transition underway

SAN DIEGO -- The Christian Bethancourt experiment is officially underway.

Playing in the Panama Winter League, Bethancourt made his first appearance as a pitcher, tossing one scoreless inning on 17 pitches. His fastball velocity reportedly ranged from 93-96 mph, and he mixed in five offspeed pitches as well.

Bethancourt is playing for Caballos de Cocle in his native Panama -- whose winter league is relatively unheralded compared with those of other Latin American countries. The Padres feel as though the league's low profile provides Bethancourt the perfect opportunity to begin his transition to a super-utility role.

A career backstop, Bethancourt also is serving as an outfielder and designated hitter in winter ball. The Padres view him as a potential jack-of-all-trades, who can catch, play the outfield and pitch in relief. That kind of versatility would make him very valuable on a 25-man roster that could feature as many as three Rule 5 Draft selections.

In 73 games last season, Bethancourt batted .228/.265/.368 with six homers. He pitched twice in mop-up duty and did not allow a run.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.