Questions in the outfield

The San Diego Padres are banking on productive seasons from their outfielders. The addition of Brian Giles late last year and Jay Payton this offseason give the team plenty of offense. Ryan Klesko will also patrol the spacious confines after playing first base last year. There are unanswered questions as the team sets themselves up to play in their new park and not knowing how Petco will play is just part of it.

No Padre faces more questions going into spring training than Ryan Klesko.

Not only is the 31-year-old Klesko coming off shoulder surgery that ended his 2003 season at the end of August, he is moving from first base to the outfield. But which field?

Padres manager Bruce Bochy has indicated Klesko might be better suited to play left in the Padres' new Petco Park home rather than the more spacious and quixotic right.

"There's a lot of room in right-center," said Bochy of the field that is 411 feet to the power alley. "And down the line, there are some interesting angles. Although Brian Giles is one of the league's top left fielders, he might be better suited to play right for us."

The bigger question facing Klesko might be his own ability to drive the ball out to right-center -- especially since he's coming off surgery that shaved the tip of his right scapula to remove an impingement.

"I had no power after the All-Star break," said Klesko. "I needed the operation. The shoulder feels good again."

Klesko has had back as well as shoulder problems the last two years as his numbers have dipped from his career-best 30-homer, 113-RBI season of 2001 to 29 homers and 95 RBI in 2002 to his injury-abbreviated totals of 21 homers and 67 RBI last year.

Klesko's speed has also declined. After hitting 34 doubles with six triples and 23 steals in 2001, he had only 18 doubles, no steals and two steals last season. The wide-open space in right center should help his extra-base capabilities -- if he's healthy.

Entering his fifth season in San Diego, Klesko is one of six Padres with more than 100 home runs and ranks eighth in career doubles.

"I'm ready to have a productive season," he said.

The only question is where.

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