Outfield in flux, infused with talent

Outfield in flux, infused with talent

MESA, Ariz. -- For a team with a supposed shortage of outfielders, there are certainly a lot of them making a strong impression this spring.

Brian Giles and Jim Edmonds are locks to start in right and center, respectively, but both could be on the disabled list to start the year. Scott Hairston is also a safe bet to make the roster, although his role is unclear.

After that, things continue to be muddy, with Chase Headley, Paul McAnulty, Jody Gerut and Jeff DaVanon battling each other for the remaining pieces of the pie.

Each player entered Thursday batting at least .333, so this positional battle won't be easily won.

"Competition's a good thing," bench coach and acting manager Craig Colbert said. "That shows a lot of what's inside a player."

Headley, a 23-year-old switch-hitter who was the organizational player of the year for 2007, is a very recent convert from third base, but he entered Thursday batting .400 with 11 RBIs and 21 total bases in 25 at-bats this spring. He's currently receiving a trial by fire under the desert sky, the optics of which are notoriously hard on outfielders. But with a short exhibition season, there's only so many chances to learn.

"For Chase, the only way he can learn to play left field is under live conditions," Colbert said. "Hitting him fungoes can teach him some things, but it's hard to simulate a guy throwing 90 [mph] and the ball coming off the bat."

Headley is game for the challenge and said he doesn't care where he plays.

"If I can help this club as an outfielder, great," he said. "... It does make me a little more versatile and gives me one more option to make the club."

Gerut and McAnulty both homered Wednesday against the Giants. Each player is batting .391 and is slugging over .800. Gerut hit 22 homers in 2003, and McAnulty has spent parts of three seasons with San Diego.

"It's like one of them does something, the other does something," Colbert said.

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DaVanon, 34, made two excellent plays in center field Wednesday and is batting .333 with four walks. Also, he is a .259 career hitter with a good batting eye and can play all three outfield spots.

Veteran Chip Ambres' name isn't mentioned as often as the aforementioned, but the 28-year-old has played with the Royals and Mets and is batting .238 with two extra-base hits and four walks in 21 at-bats this spring.

There are also several outfielders in camp without any Major League at-bats who are working their way up the organizational depth chart.

The veteran players are mindful that if they don't make the Padres' roster, they might be able to catch on with another Major League club.

"I just hope that things can continue the way that they've been going, and I can continue the momentum through April and the summer, wherever I am," Gerut said.

Mark Thoma is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.