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Spacious PETCO outfield suits Padres

Spacious outfield suits Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Pitching and defense are the Padres' bread and butter, especially at spacious PETCO Park. It offers the sort of challenging outfield that seems tailor-made for eight-time Gold Glove Award winner and offseason acquisition Jim Edmonds.

But Padres manager Bud Black said there's a lot more at work than simply dimensions, which are normal to left-center and spacious to center and right-center.

Black noted that parks like Coors Field and Chase Field also have plenty of ground in center, but that environmental factors -- aridity in Phoenix and altitude in Denver -- cause the ball to carry. It's not quite so at PETCO Park, which has yielded fewer runs than any other Major League park since its inauguration.

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"Because of the heavy air, some balls do hang up ... and they can be run down," Black said. "There's a little bit of a hedge there, because of the weather."

Catcher Josh Bard has witnessed as much from behind the plate. Offensively speaking, he said what works at other parks may not work in San Diego.

"I think you've got to hit the ball flat," Bard said. "When you hit the ball high in the air, you hit that marine layer."

That heavy moist air could work to the advantage of Edmonds, who is an expert at getting good jumps and tracking balls, but might not be quite as fast a runner as he once was.

Black said Sunday that Edmonds' calf is coming along, but that it will be a close call whether to put him on the Opening Day roster or the disabled list.

"We'll make a determination here in a couple days," Black said. "The calf is getting better."

Scott Hairston would start in center field, rather than left, if Edmonds is out March 31. Black noted that Hairston has center field experience in the Minor Leagues and that he has an average arm.

While Hairston isn't a prototypical center fielder like Edmonds or former Padre Mike Cameron, Black said Hairston played good defense in China and helps his cause by aggressively chasing after balls.

"That's underrated, for me, as far as skills go," Black said. "... If you charge the [heck] out of the ball, you're going to deter some baserunners."

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

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