Heading to Spring Training on Tuesday, Brock made a detour from his Padres.com duties to answer questions for MadFriars.com readers:
Talk about the battle for the "Geoff Blum" position. Who has the inside track heading into spring, who has to really wow people to get the job, and how many of them will end up in Triple-A Portland ready to make the jump when injury inevitably hits?
Corey Brock: I think the Padres are still trying to figure this out, especially since there's three Rule 5 guys on the roster (two pitchers) and with the prospect of carrying 12 pitchers means there's even fewer bench spots. I think they like Oscar Robles' glove, Edgar Gonzalez's bat and Callix Crabbe's versatility and speed. I can see all three making it, along with Tony Clark, if they sign him.
Where do you see Edgar Gonzalez fit in the Padres plans, will be in Triple-A all year and come up in case of injury, or will he have a shot for the utility spot?
Corey Brock: I think he's got a good chance, as he can fill-in around the infield and can hit, which might be the sticking point for him. He might not be the best defender in the bunch of players contending for a bench spot but he's not far behind.
Speaking of Blummer, I would like to know exactly why the front office decided not to bring him back.
Corey Brock: The Padres think Blum is at his best when he's playing a lot and there simply was no guarentee of that here this season. They liked him and were thankful for what he did the last two seasons when Greene got hurt in '06 and when Giles slumped badly last year. I think they want to have someone who can play better defense on their bench, especially for late in games.
With Trevor Hoffman in the last year of his contract, do you see this as his ride into the sunset? Do you think the Padres will keep offering him 1-year contracts until he decides to retire, or will they be more proactive in replacing him with someone else, like Heath Bell?
Corey Brock: I think this could be Hoffman's last year, though he's said nothing to reflect that so far. Listen, the guy was very good last year, up until that final week of the season. I still think he's a very good closer and will be this season. I think Bell is the natural successor if and when Hoffman decides to retire.
What does Michael Barrett need to do in order to get back to being the player he was? Do you see last year's struggles as the beginning of a trend, or just a one-year anomaly?
Corey Brock: A few things on Barrett last year. The dust-up with Zambrano and then the trade might have messed with him a little as did the concussion he suffered in Cincinatti in August. The guy was never quite right. I think he'll be fine this year, splitting time with Josh Bard. I think that's an area of strength, especially offensively, for the team.
The recent news about Brian Giles microfracture surgery has been very encouraging, but most of it seems to be coming from Giles himself, who's not exactly truthful when it comes to injuries. Have you heard any news from the Padres trainers or medical personnel on his situation?
Corey Brock: The team, not just Giles, thinks that he's progressing well from the surgery and that he'll be ready on Opening Day. Of course, it's Brian's knee, not theirs, so who can say for sure. In these cases, you have to trust the player and his word.
Is it more than likely, this is Brian Giles final season as a Padre?
Corey Brock: There's a $9 million club option for 2009 with a $3 million buyout. I wouldn't be surprised if the Padres opted for the buyout.
Could Giles rebuild his career in terms of power if he plays in the central division, or with the Phillies in the east?
Corey Brock: Maybe, he certainly fared well in those ballparks last season, especially Cincinnati where he had a home-run binge. But power isn't really a big part of his game anymore anyway, so it's hard to say. I'm inclined to think at his age, Giles is what he is.
Corey Brock: Trades are always a possibility, especially with a general manager like Kevin Towers. Honestly, I don't see things going so bad that the team has to resort to a trade of Giles and/or Edmonds. I think it's possible that Headley earns playing time on his own merits this season. Huffman and Antonelli still need seasoning in the Minor Leagues.
What can Chris Young do during the season to minimize his injury risk? Does it all just come down to conditioning and preparation during the offseason?
Corey Brock: Chris has been doing Pilates and exercises to strengthen his core that, as he told me recently, have helped a lot. I think the guy is ready for a huge season.
How is Clay Hensley's rehab from surgery going? Is he on track to be ready to pitch in Spring Training? Does he have the inside track to the 5th starter position, if healthy?
Corey Brock: Hensley is progressing well and will be in the mix for the fifth starter spot this spring. I wouldn't say he has the inside track, as there are several candidates who could easily win that spot.
I don't think there was a clutch player on the team more than Scott Hairston. Hairston struggles when he doesn't get enough at bats. Is Scott going to get enough chances as a 4th outfielder?
Corey Brock: I think Hairston will be given the chance to win the left field job this spring. What he does from there is up to him. If he hits, he will play, plain and simple.
Who do see playing left field for the Pads this year?
Though the additions of Iguchi and Edmonds may help, do you think Khalil Greene may have more value in a trade to another team considering the Padres gaping OBP weakness at virtually every spot in the lineup?
Corey Brock: I think Greene's best value is to the Padres, regardless of his OBP. I think you have to look at the whole package of what the guy gives you (home runs, RBI and great defense).
Here's a volatile question for ya...If the Angels offered us Ervin Santana, Eric Aybar, and Reggie Willits for Khalil Greene and say a mid level prospect, would you agree to it? Does your answer have anything to do with Greene's desire to remain a Padre after his contract is up?
Corey Brock: I think I would take a good look at that deal. I think Aybar and Sananta could be nice long-term fits here. You can certianly argue that Greene's value has never been higher. But I would hang on to him at this point. Tempting deal, though.
Which non-roster invitees have the best chance to make the 25-man roster? I am hoping they find a spot for Robert Fick.
Corey Brock: Jeff DaVanon and Jody Gerut and Shawn Estes on the pitching side with Estes having the best overall chance to stick.
Will Crabbe be our best backup option for everywhere other than the toilet seat this year?
Corey Brock: Indeed, he can play everywhere but first base and play some center field. And the dude can run.
Will Kenny Lofton sign with us for less money than he can get anywhere else? Couldn't we use someone proven like that for LF? Who would YOU suggest for LF? You can't say Headley. Not yet.
Corey Brock: There's no interest in Lofton as far as I know. In a perfect world, yes, they would have someone proven out in left but Hairston is a good option. Look at what he did in a small sample size last year.
Is 2008 Paul McAnulty last chance with the Padres?
Corey Brock: Possibly. He's been working out and is in good shape and the guy can rake. Will see if he sticks here. There's some stiff competition.
Corey Brock: At least a year on both.
Is Antonelli going to be a 2B or a CF at the MLB level and how much does Iguchi's performance in 2008 play into this?
Corey Brock: Second base, though he'll likely play some center in the Spring Trianing. He's only been in the system two years and the Padres don't want to rush him. I think the Iguchi signing was smart.
Which Padres player is least approachable?
Corey Brock: The ones now with other teams. Kidding. They're all pretty good guys.
Who has the best starting rotation in the NL? (Hint: it rhymes with pets!)
Corey Brock: Pirates? Kidding. The Mets look awfully good, but what about the Diamondbacks or even the Padres.
When you step onto Petco Field (or any baseball diamond) are you tempted to steal a base? And have you ever been caught? Is that a misdemeanor?
Corey Brock: No, no and I'm not sure.
How often do you find yourself being just a fan while watching a game and realize that you have to actually watch what is going on in the game to be an accurate reporter?
Corey Brock: Great question. I've been doing this long enough that I'm essentially conditioned not to be "a fan" even when I'm at a game, which kind of stinks. It's a job and my job is to tell what happened and do so objectively. There's a saying: No cheering in the press box. Though we secretly cheer for quick games. Don't tell anyone.
Along the same lines, do you ever get mesmerized watching Jake Peavy pitch and wonder how anyone can hit him on a given night?
Corey Brock: When Jake is on, he's on and it's fun to watch, like the game in Arizona in April. It's always fun to watch good pitching.
What has been your most memorable battle to watch over the last year (hitter vs. pitcher)?
Corey Brock: That at-bat Nate Schierholtz had against Heath Bell last year. Lasted like three days, if I remember correctly.
Guys like Jake Peavy draw a good crowd at home and on the road. Who would you pay to watch just for the chance to watch him (and Peavy doesn't count)?
Corey Brock: Greg Maddux, always. They don't call him the Professor for nothing.
Born and raised in Washington, Brock finally left home when he moved to San Diego in April, 2007. A former high school baseball player and coach, Brock worked in newspapers from 1990 (when he was still in college) to 2006. MLB.com offered a position that year to cover the Seattle Mariners and was offered the San Diego Padres job a year later during Spring Training, meaning he crossed the parking lot in Peoria, Arizona to see how the other half (and better half) lived.
Recently married (January 5, 2008) in Balboa Park, Brock lives in Hillcrest with his wife and their schnauzer, Sofie.