PEORIA, Ariz. -- A year ago, Padres manager Bud Black opened the season with no left-handed pitchers in his bullpen. This season, Black could carry as many as two, but if he does, it won't simply be for conventional reasons. Black isn't cut from the managerial cloth that adheres to carrying at least one left-hander for situational purposes. Instead, Black wants to carry the seven best relievers, regardless of what arm they throw with. "This is something we did in Anaheim," Black said. "When you're talking about relievers, if you have guys who are capable of getting both left-handers and right-handers out, then you don't need to be so situational with left-on-left, right-on-right.
"That's primarily what we look at. ... Can they get hitters out, regardless of left or right?" It just so happens that two of the pitchers competing for spots in the bullpen who can do so, or at least did so a year ago, are left-handers: Joe Thatcher and Justin Hampson. Hampson was 2-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 39 games and had the distinction of being on the Triple-A Portland-to-San Diego shuttle more than any pitcher in 2007. He held left-handers to a .213 batting average and right-handers to a .255 clip. As for Thatcher, who came over from Milwaukee in the Scott Linebrink trade in July, he was 2-2 with a 1.29 ERA in 22 games. He earned important innings in September. Left-handers hit .200 against him, while right-handers hit .151, as Thatcher was able to use a cut-fastball to get in on the hands of righties. It remains to be seen if Hampson and Thatcher -- both still have Minor League options -- make the team, one or the other or neither. There is plenty of competition this spring for four spots after Cla Meredith, Trevor Hoffman and Heath Bell. "We will not hold a left-handed pitcher just to face a left-handed batter," Black said. "There has got to be performance there. Both of those guys [Hampson and Thatcher] we feel can perform against left or right. "They showed they were good against left-handed hitters. They proved in basically their first year that they're Major League pitchers. They've got to continue to prove that they belong." The first casualty: The distinction for the first injured player of the spring -- and he certainly won't be the last -- goes to reliever Carlos Guevara, who suffered a strained hamstring Sunday.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.