As opening day gets closer and closer, so does the focus on the 2012 San Diego Padres roster. We still don't officially know who the starter on opening day will be, but that announcement is coming soon (we hope!) from Bud Black. Going down to the final days are position battles, between Andy Parrino and Everth Cabrera. Each got a glowing tip of the cap today from Black saying "it's a good battle, each have individually stepped up their game". Black has cast a critical eye on each especially when it comes to fundamentals and little things. "Bench guys have to be as mistake free as possible", Black added.
We also found out today that Mark Merila the longtime bullpen catcher has been assigned a new role within the organization, I have the details later in the blog. Make sure you scroll down.
Lineup v. Cubs (1pm ESPN 1700, Scanlan/Coleman/Masur)
CF - Will Venable
LF - Mark Kotsay
1B - Yonder Alonso
C - Nick Hundley
RF - Chris Denorfia
3B - James Darnell
SS - Jason Bartlett
2B - Everth Cabrera
SP - Clayton Richard
Richard will make his fourth Cactus League start, he's made another start in a minor league game. Clayton is 0-1, with a 5.59 ERA, but don't let that fool you. The fact that he's fully recovered from the shoulder issue last season is the most notable thing to come out of his camp. The fact that he's made every start and done all his side work on schedule is a good thing as we head closer to the games starting for real.
- Luke Gregerson will throw today, saying his back feels much better.
- Kyle Blanks is ready to start playing, he's on the lineup card as a bench guy and could play today.
Stumping for Stumpy
We found out today, that long time bullpen catcher Mark Merila, will be taking on a new role in the organization. He is going to be a professional scout, and working under the direction of AJ Hinch. Merila will be responsible for scouting teams in his hometown of Minneapolis. His base of operations will be Target Field and he may also cover the minor leagues in Iowa, where the Cubs Triple-A affiliate is located. He'll send reports back on players that the Padres may be interested in acquiring near the trade deadline.
Merila is in his 17th season with the team and never imagined he'd be with one team for that long a period of time. He seemed emotional at times talking about transitioning away from being with the players on a daily basis, to a new role that he is in many ways looking forward to. Merila has talked to guys like John Vander Wal about the move to scouting and soaked up some information about how to grow the role.
The guy they call "Stumpy" was a 33rd round pick of the Padres in 1994 and played two years in the minors before becoming the bullpen catcher in 1996. He played collegiately at Minnesota where he was a two time all American second baseman. He began having health problems during his senior year. Collapsing on the field at one point, being rushed to a hospital where it was determined he had a cancerous brain tumor. Merlia fought it, and returned to baseball completing his senior year. But his minor league career was hindered by radiation treatments and he decided to accept a different role.
After 10 years of relative good health, without warning in 2005, he suffered a seizure while riding the subway to Shea Stadium in New York. The brain tumor recurred and the fight resumed. Merila recovered to the point that he was back around the team on a daily basis, and was always a smiling face in the clubhouse.
I'm not sure he even realizes the impact he's made the players. When Scott Linebrink was traded from the Padres to the Brewers in 2007, Linebrink requested the number 71 with Milwaukee, the same number Merila has worn with the Padres. Trevor Hoffman, the greatest closer of all time, always made sure that "Stumpy" was taken care of, knowing the kind of impact he had on Trevor's career and life.
It will be strange not seeing Merila around every day, but this is a good opportunity for him. I'll miss his smiling face and warm greeting every time we'd return to Petco following a long road trip. I will also miss our great and detailed discussions about each of our's 2nd favorite sport, hockey.
Stumpy is a good man, and I wish him nothing but the best of luck in his new role with the Padres.
Mud, what are you thinking?
After our meeting with Bud Black and Mark Merila today, we walked through the clubhouse to notice Mark Grant sitting at a table with a huge wrap around his right leg. According to the Fox Sports San Diego color analyst he 'blew out' his right hamstring, trying to race 1st base coach Dave Roberts in the 40 yard dash. Sounds like Mud got to about the 20 yard mark and had to 'roll' over the finish line.
So in this case, slow and I do mean slow, and steady did not win the race.
That's it for now....