SAN DIEGO (AP) - After spending Christmas in his native Kentucky, new San Diego Padres manager Andy Green embarked on a winter tour.
He visited first baseman-outfielder Wil Myers in Charlotte, caught up with reliever Kevin Quackenbush and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. in Tampa, right-hander Andrew Cashner in Houston, outfielder Jon Jay in Nashville and catcher Derek Norris in Wichita.
He didn’t want the first face-to-face introductions to come the first day of spring training.
“I thought it was incredibly important to make a face-to-face connection with a number of our veteran guys,” Green said.
He figured he’d give it a bit of a personal touch, spending time with players on their turf, at their favorite restaurants.
“I didn’t want to invade their whole offseason, play a round of golf and go kiss their babies or anything like that,” Green said. “It was just, ‘Let’s get to know each other a little bit.’ The whole idea was, listen, not to come in and cast some dynamic vision for this season but find out who these guys are, get an understanding of them.”
Green hopes the payoff comes when pitchers and catchers report to Peoria, Arizona, on Thursday, and position players check in on Feb. 23.
He inherits a club that failed miserably to deliver on the high expectations that sprang up after general manager A.J. Preller’s wild shopping spree the previous offseason. The Padres began to fizzle in late April and manager Bud Black was fired in mid-June. He was replaced by interim manager Pat Murphy, who had no big league experience of any kind. The clubhouse culture appeared to suffer, and the Padres finished 74-88 and fourth in the NL West.
Here are some things to look for as the Padres begin spring training:
REBUILDING? The Padres don’t like that word, but Preller’s offseason had a decided lack of buzz compared to his aggressive approach a year earlier.
Instead of flashy news conferences to announce acquisitions such as Matt Kemp, Myers, Norris, Justin Upton and James Shields, there were more big exoduses than arrivals. After the farm system was drained of talent to fuel all the deals of a year earlier, Preller restocked it by acquiring prospects for closer Craig Kimbrel and setup man Joaquin Benoit. Justin Upton and right-hander Ian Kennedy left via free agency, helping to give the Padres six of the top 85 picks in the June draft.
SO, WHAT HAPPENED? Preller says it’s “a tricky topic” trying to figure out why the 2015 Padres flopped.
“I think we had good character guys,” Preller said. “For whatever reason, part of was like on-field; we had some deficiencies and what not, but it just never really fully gelled together. Obviously we had the managing change, and I think from that standpoint it just didn’t really have the ability at either point to kind of connect and get that team to go to a different level. To say, hey, it was a chemistry issue or not, I probably wouldn’t go there, but clearly we were lacking a little bit in terms of either on-field talent or the dynamic that good teams have.”
NEW SKIPPER: Green is 38, putting him closer in age to the players than Black and Murphy. He played parts of four seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Mets. He was Arizona’s third base coach last year. Prior to that he managed for four seasons in the Diamondbacks organization. He guided Missoula to the Pioneer League championship in 2012. With Double-A Mobile, he was named Southern League Manager of the Year in 2013 and ‘14. Overall he was 219-189 in the minors.
SHORTSTOP: The Padres finally have a legitimate shortstop, signing Alexei Ramirez to a one-year, $4 million contract, with a mutual option for 2017. An All-Star in 2014, Ramirez dropped off last year, hitting .249 with 10 homers and 62 RBIs. Ramirez is 34 and could be a stopgap until top prospect Javier Guerra is ready. Guerra was among four prospects acquired from Boston for Craig Kimbrel.
BIG MAC: Former home run king Mark McGwire will be Green’s bench coach after spending the last three seasons as hitting coach of the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
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