Happy Opening Day.
When the Padres open the season in Phoenix, I'll be in Anaheim for Angels-Twins. That'll be a bit odd for me, because I worked the last 15 Padres openers. Travels to other major league camps have limited my Padres coverage -- but here's an Opening Day platter.
* Logan Forsythe will open the season at second base, with fellow prospect James Darnell at third. Both will be at Double-A. The way I see it, this is a pretty big move by the Padres. Second baseman David Eckstein is in the final year of his contract. It sure looks like Forsythe, a good hitting prospect who is fairly athletic, can position himself for the Padres' second-base job in 2011, unless someone else enters the picture. "Logan Forsythe was the best Padres prospect I saw this spring," says a National League scout. Forsythe is a good defender at third base. The Padres tried him at second base last month and liked what they saw, although the scout says his "thick body" may not be ideal for the position. Says Padres farm director Randy Smith: "We know what type of a third baseman he is. This gives us an opportunity to see if he can be an everyday second baseman, which gives us and him more options." Forsythe will play at third to keep his skills current there, but he'll be at second for about five games per week.
* Triple-A second baseman Matt Antonelli needs more medical tests on his hand. He's doubtful for Portland's season opener. "This spring, he hit the ball better than I've seen him hit it," says the scout.
* Single-A outfielder Everett Williams had a strong spring training.
* Donavan Tate returned to the family home in Georgia to be with his father, who had some health setbacks. The Padres expect Tate to return to workouts on Wednesday. Limited by a shoulder sprain, he had only six at-bats in spring training. Tate, drafted third overall last June, will remain in extended spring training, then report to Single-A Ft. Wayne during the season. For what it's worth, Tate looked a tad gaunt to me in early March. The Padres say that only recently had the center fielder regained most of the weight and strength that he lost after fracturing a jaw in an off-road accident last year.
* The Padres are thrilled with pitcher Simon Castro, who impressed Bud Black and coaches during major league camp and will open the season with Double-A San Antonio. "He's had a phenomenal spring," Smith says.
* Jaff Decker is still 2-3 weeks from playing. He pulled a hamstring muscle in the second day of conditioning drills. After getting up to speed in Arizona, he'll play as a corner outfielder for Single-A Lake Elsinore. Decker overcame an injury early last year and had a big season. The Padres expect him to do the same this year.
* Allan Dykstra is still searching for his swing. Wasn't a strong camp for the club's first-round draft pick in 2008.
* The non-Padres scout says he feels for Wade LeBlanc, who was returned to Triple-A partly so that the Padres could keep other pitchers who are out of minor league options. "The guy pitched good and has improved more than anybody thought possible," the scout says. "He used to have just a fastball and a changeup. Now he's got a cutter. He works both sides of the plate. I know everybody didn't think he was a prospect. Hey, the way he pitched in the spring and the way clubs need a fifth starter, he would've made some clubs. He still throws 85. But it's not a fluke -- he can get major league hitters out. For his arm, he was an overdraft. But he has come a long way, (to) where he can pitch in the big leagues now."
* The scout says Padres hitters murdered fastballs "out over the plate" throughout spring training. He says he has no clue whether it will continue into the season but that the Padres had the best spring training of the five teams he saw. "They were impressive," he adds. Also, he makes interesting comments about Bud Black, Kyle Blanks and Will Venable. "Black's coming along. He runs more. He manages with more confidence because he's been managing for awhile now. Blanks has great at-bats, then he has bad at-bats where he seems to be confused. This is a wait and see on this guy. Nobody is smart enough to figure this guy out yet, outside of he is terribly strong, and if you make some mistakes, there's going to be some home runs hit. He's a pretty good athlete, but he'll never become a great left fielder. Venable has got ability. He doesn't challenge left-handers that much. If he could bear down every at-bat, he could be a pretty good player."
* For what it's worth, Venable told me in March that it wasn't until last summer that he finally began to feel comfortable with his hand positioning. He lowered his hands to near his back shoulder, somewhat like veteran teammate Cliff Floyd. Venable tinkers pretty often with his swing, especially in spring training, when he searches for the comfort that he had the previous fall. He said the comfort followed him to spring training this year. "That's never happened," he said.
* A second non-Padres scout tells me that Everth Cabrera was a step slower in spring training than he was last season. "Maybe he's a little heavier," he says. The same scout questions whether Simon Castro's long legs will allow Castro to stay balanced enough as a starting pitcher. "Kind of reminds me of (reliever) Guillermo Mota," he adds.