Nevin Out, But Confident At First

Not only was San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy happy to have Phil Nevin's bat back in the Padres lineup, he was happy that Nevin's glove is at first base. Then came the injury that will sideline Nevin for up to four weeks.

"We'll have to take a look and see where he is at when Opening Day comes," Bruce Bochy said. "We're going to use good judgment here. As much as (Nevin) might not like it, we're going to do the right thing."

This came just days after Bochy boasted about Nevin's play at first, "I fully expect Phil to be an above average first baseman."

Above average would be very good news for the Padres, who have gotten less than adequate defensive play from first the last two years from Ryan Klesko, who is moving to left field this season.

But now with an ailing shoulder, there is a major setback.

Nevin has been working this spring with Wally Joyner, who was regarded as one of the game's top defensive first basemen.

"Phil's got great hands," said Joyner. "He also has good eye-glove coordination. He naturally reads hops on throws. His hands are better than his feet, but he should be very good at first. The best thing about Phil is that he wants to do well at the position. He's asking for help and all the groundballs and throws he can get in practice."

As a converted third baseman, Nevin, who is considered more agile than Klesko, knows the importance of having a strong gloveman at first.

"You want your infielders to be comfortable when they throw," said Nevin. "Some infielders ... they reach such a strong bond with their first baseman that they make the throw even when they know the chances are slim.

"They throw the ball because they know that even if it's not a perfect throw, the first baseman is going to get it. That gives the fielders the confidence to try for great plays. They'll buck the odds because they know the first baseman is going to save them from a really bad throw.

"As a third baseman, I've played with some first basemen who were very good and some who were not that good. And it makes a huge difference. I want our fielders to have absolute confidence in me."

Now 33, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Nevin knows he has to learn the fundamentals of first ASAP, despite the injury. "I don't want to have the season start and have the other infielders thinking I'm still learning the position," he said. "There always are going to be ways to improve. But I want to be as solid as I can be entering the season."

Bochy believes that is exactly what will happen.

"He looked good over there," Bochy said. "We're not going to make any drastic changes. He'll be ready in about four weeks."


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