Padres to send six to the Arizona Fall League

The San Diego Padres will tentatively send six players to the Arizona Fall League this year, including some of their top prospects. Josh Barfield will make the trek and he will be joined by position players Ben Johnson and Paul McAnulty. On the mound, Chris Oxspring will head south and west to play for the Peoria Javelinas and he will be joined by relievers Rusty Tucker and Brad Baker. We were lucky enough to talk to almost all of them.

The Padres top prospect, Josh Barfield, will join the countless of other top prospects around the league in Arizona, sometimes the final stage of a player's development before heading onto a successful career in the Majors. Barfield is hitting .249 with 17 homers for the Mobile BayBears of the Southern League. The second baseman is hitting .336 with runners in scoring position and leads the league with 77 RBI's.

"It makes me feel good that the front office has confidence in you and that they are not down on you despite a bad first half," Barfield said.

Ben Johnson is not far behind his teammate in production. The outfielder is batting .250 with 19 homers and 67 RBI's on the year. He leads the Southern League in second half homers with ten. Since the beginning of July, Johnson is batting .304.

"Early on in the season it was where I struck out three or four times a game it seems," Johnson said. "I feel like during the second half I have made some adjustments. I have started picking up the ball quicker."

Paul McAnulty has been pacing the Lake Elsinore Storm since the start of the season. He is batting .302 with 21 homers and 76 RBI's, leading the Storm in all three categories. He is also second in the California League with 76 walks and third in on base percentage at .411. Entering the year, McAnulty was not even sure he would get at bats!

"Stay in the lineup everyday," McAnulty said of his keys to the season. "That is my main goal. Stay in the lineup everyday."

Ironically, Monday was one of his rare days off but his season has just been extended.

Chris Oxspring, in Athens playing for the Australian National Team, has a shortened season due to an elbow injury he sustained in May and, of course, the Olympics. After a 3-0 April with a 2.01 ERA while pitching for the Portland Beavers, he struggled through June and most of July. Only recently had he turned it up, allowing one run over his last two starts before heading to Greece.

Brad Baker, the closer in Mobile, has had an exceptional season. Baker has already eclipsed the Mobile save record in a season with 28 this year to pass a player who will join him in Arizona. In 53 games, Baker has an ERA of 1.63 and has held the opposition to a .180 batting average. When he enters the game it has become near-certainty that the BayBears will win.

"I went there for 2002 for the Padres," Baker began. "It is a fun league and it will give me another chance to prove myself. The main thing is you are going against the top competition. It will give you me a chance to face them and see how I compare to them."

There goes the time off after the playoff season for the Mobile closer.

"That is a good thing for me," Baker said of the missed time off. "Being from the north it is better to be playing more ball. It should be an exciting off-season."

Rusty Tucker is the man Baker passed on his way into the record books. Tucker has been rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery performed last year. Tucker made several appearances with Peoria before joining the Storm last week. He has made two appearances with Lake Elsinore and has allowed one unearned run. Tucker also worked on the side with his former battery mates in Mobile for a period of time and looks to continue to strengthen his arm, which at one time threw in the mid-nineties. It has been reported that he is reaching 87-89 right now.

A year ago, Khalil Greene was supposed to head to Arizona but he was given a choice on whether he wanted to go and opted for rest instead. While these six players are scheduled to make the trek, it is not a certainty that they will all make it out to the Fall League.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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