Padres Insider: The Outfield

The only battle to be played out in the outfield is the mental game. How will Terrence Long handle his reserve role? How will Jay Payton hold up in center? Will he and each of the outfielders remain healthy? Will Ryan Klesko make a mockery of ineptitude in the field? Will Brian Giles...of course he will.

RF Brian Giles hit .298 with the Padres, but had only four homers in 29 games. He was very happy to get home to native San Diego County, although he was disappointed that fellow San Diego native Jason Kendall remained stuck in Pittsburgh.

Spacious right field at Petco Park could hurt his power numbers (totaled only 20 homers last year after four straight 30-plus seasons). Penciled in to play left, but Petco dimensions demand that he be in right rather than Ryan Klesko.

The Padres love his career .417 on-base percentage and that sort of production in the three spot will drive in plenty of runs and give Nevin and Klesko plenty of opportunities to knock him in.

LF Ryan Klesko hit only two homers after All-Star break as shoulder impingement reduced his power.

Klesko, 32, is coming off shoulder surgery and many of his drives to right center could be eaten up by the spacious pasture at Petco Park. His health and production will be pivotal to the Padres success in '04.

His defense will also be something to monitor. With a young staff, cutting down on gap hits and making plays on balls that other fielder would will be paramount to the success of the starting rotation.

CF Jay Payton, 31, was signed because Brian Giles and Terrence Long aren't suited for center. Payton, currently out for a week with an injury will have to stay healthy to provide some semblance of defense at Petco.

Payton hit .302 with Colorado last season with 28 homers. But half those homers were on the road and not the mile-high altitude of Coors Field. Yes, Payton played left with the Rockies. But he has the range to patrol what has turned out to be a very wide if not deep (396 to the dead center wall) center field at Petco.

OF Terrence Long, 28, came to the Padres with Ramon Hernandez from Oakland. Has some left-handed pop (14 homers in 486 at-bats with Oakland last season and has the legs to play left or right at Petco Park. But he was unhappy when not playing full time in Oakland. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Padres.

Right now, Long is talking the talk, but he will have to walk the walk. If he maintains the happy clubhouse face, he could be a great fourth outfielder. He recently said he will be more aggressive at the plate this year and was slacking some last season and lost his edge.

1B/OF Brian Buchanan, 30, is among the more popular players in the Padres clubhouse. Has power (eight homers in 198 at-bats last year) but has to improve on his 2003 mark (.227) as a pinch-hitter. Has good speed for a 6-foot-4 specimen.

He will be counted on heavily to provide relief at first for Phil Nevin and in the outfield. Buchanon will also be the number one bat off the bench.

OF Xavier Nady, who was the Opening Day right fielder last year, isn't likely to make the team.

The Padres will play him every day at Triple-A Portland, unless they can move Terrence Long and find a way to get Nady into some type of a rotation. Even if Nevin does not return in time, Nady does not figure much into the equation. Others are ahead of him on the first base depth chart.

OF Gene Kingsale has a chance to make the final roster if extra speed is needed and Brian Hunter has a chance to make the roster if a third catcher isn't kept instead. Odds are they will both be on the outside looking in.

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