Padres mull where to station Bethancourt

Padres mull where to station Bethancourt

LOS ANGELES -- Christian Bethancourt spent six innings in the visiting bullpen at Dodger Stadium Wednesday night. Then the phone rang. Padres manager Andy Green had decided it was more likely Bethancourt could enter the game as a pinch-hitter.

A day later, Bethancourt got warmed up in the fifth, then served as a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth during the Padres' 10-2 loss. He would pitch the bottom of the inning, struggling as he allowed four walks, all of which came around to score.

In the bullpen at Dodger Stadium, there's an exit that leads back to the dugout. So Bethancourt, who converted into a pitcher/position player hybrid this offseason, jogged through the bowels of Dodger Stadium and joined the team on the bench minutes later.

"It's just part of my job," Bethancourt said before the game," I started in the bullpen, just so I could be down there in case they needed me as a reliever. Then I got a call to come back."

Bethancourt spent Monday's game in the 'pen before making his debut. He spent Tuesday's game in the dugout. And he spent Wednesday and Thursday shuffling between the two.

It won't be so simple when the scene shifts to Petco Park for Friday's home opener. There's no easy-access route for Bethancourt to take from the bullpen back to the dugout.

That means Bethancourt could end up trotting in from the 'pen in the half-inning prior to serving as a pinch-hitter.

"It's my job to do whatever I can to give him as much notice as humanly possible," said Green. "... You're juggling a lot of balls in the air with him. When you read a game and see it's going to go a certain way, it's on my list of things to do -- to communicate with him."

Typically when Bethancourt serves as a pinch-hitter, he'll take a few swings in the batting cage and go through a series of stretches. He had time for his usual routine on Wednesday -- when the Padres considered using him in the eighth inning against lefty reliever Alex Wood. (Bethancourt is arguably the Padres' best bat off the bench against left-handers.)

If the game moves too quickly for Bethancourt to get full preparation for an at-bat, he's fine with that, too.

"That run that I did yesterday kind of warmed me up," Bethancourt said of his jog through the ground floor of Dodger Stadium. "I'll take that as a warmup."

There's an unlikely scenario in which the Padres could use Bethancourt's services as a pinch-hitter, while he's still stationed in the bullpen. That would most likely occur if he were warming up to pitch the following inning, while the constructs of the stadium don't allow for him to move between 'pen and dugout. Green said he would do his best to minimize the likelihood of that happening.

Thus far, the Bethancourt experiment has flopped in the regular season. In 9 2/3 spring innings, the right-hander allowed only two runs. In two games against the Dodgers (1 2/3 innings), he surrendered seven.

"I'm not ready to pull the plug on him on three days into the season," Green said after Bethancourt's four-walk performance. "But he's got to get in the strike zone, he's aware of that and that's something that's going to be a challenge for him. He's learning to pitch at the Major League level right now. That's not an easy thing to do."

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