Fast starts make for tough decision

The battle has begun. Josh Barfield versus Mark Bellhorn. If Bellhorn wins the rookie goes home - actually called Portland - but if Barfield wins he has hte support of the fans and rookies everywhere. In the outfield, the Padres are giddy over the potential of the starting three.

Both of the players involved in perhaps the Padres' only position battle of the spring are off to fast starts.

Veteran Mark Bellhorn and rookie Josh Barfield are vying for the Opening Day spot at second.

If Bellhorn wins the job, Barfield would start the season with Triple-A Portland. But if Barfield wins the job, Bellhorn will be with the Padres. He can also play third.

"The biggest factor is going to be whether we think Josh is ready to start the season here," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said after the 23-year-old hit two doubles Sunday to drive in four runs. Bellhorn hit a two-run homer in the same game.

"Bellhorn is going to be here, either way," Bochy said. "But Josh does look like a man on a mission. This is going to go deep into the spring. You want them both playing well. You want the young kid to have a little pressure."

Dave Roberts, Mike Cameron and Brian Giles started as a group in the Padres outfield for the fifth time in six days Tuesday.

And it wasn't by coincidence.

Padres manager Bruce Bochy said he will play the trio as a unit whenever possible in exhibition games this spring.

"I want them to get accustomed to playing together," said Bochy. "I like the way the outfield looks."

Padres general manager made rebuilding the outfield an offseason priority. The key move was bringing in Cameron to play center in a trade that sent Xavier Nady to the Mets. The acquisition of Cameron allowed the Padres to move leadoff man Dave Roberts to left and shift Ryan Klesko from left to first.

"Obviously we're going to be able to cover more ground this year," right fielder Giles said the new alignment. "And the more you play together gives you a better understanding of each other. Understanding develops as you play."

Defensively, the trio has been flawless thus far.

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