February 20, 2015

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) In the span of 15 minutes Friday, San Diego Padres manager Bud Black successfully converted yards into feet to answer a reporter's question, made references to three sports and casually mentioned - correctly - that Khalil Green had 97 RBIs on his first San Diego team in 2007.

''He's a good communicator, a good people person,'' pitcher Ian Kennedy said. ''He remembers people's names. He remembered my dad's name instantly. He comes across as real genuine.''

Players gush over Black. Employees love him, too. His knowledge is wide and memory sharp.

''He's a guy you love to work for and obviously love to win for,'' first baseman Yonder Alonso said.

The problem, though, is baseball's third-longest tenured manager hasn't won enough. At least not enough to get a contract extension from new general manager A.J. Preller.

As Black began his ninth season Friday with the first workout for pitchers and catchers, he's managing for his job.

''If you look at the landscape of all head coaches, managers, whether NBA or whatever, not all of them are on multiyear deals,'' Black said.

''A lot of them are on the last end of their deals. That's what we do. That's part of this. It's fine,'' he said.

The 57-year-old Black is highly regarded for getting a lot out of a little. He led an overachieving club to 90 wins and won NL manager of the year in 2010.

The Padres scored 535 runs last season - 38 fewer than the second lowest-scoring team, Atlanta - and still won 77 games. The ex-big league pitcher has been praised for how he handles pitchers and in-game strategy.

''We're both in the last year before we're free agents,'' Kennedy said, smiling. ''But I don't think he should have any worries. A lot of people really hold him in high regard. He's one of the best I've been around.''

Despite posting just two winning seasons, Black's reputation helped bring James Shields to the Padres. Shields, who led Kansas City to the World Series last season, signed a four-year, $75 million free-agent deal to become San Diego's ace.

''I've heard nothing but great things about him, as far as being a player's manager and letting the players be themselves,'' Shields said. ''I played for Joe Maddon for a long, long time and they kind of come from the same type of breed.''

But Maddon, with whom Shields played for in Tampa Bay, has postseason experience and used that to bolt to the Chicago Cubs in the offseason.

The only other skippers who have been with their teams longer - Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels and Bruce Bochy of San Francisco - have combined for 10 playoff appearances and four World Series titles.

The closest Black has come to the playoffs was in 2010 when the Padres lost a 13-inning wild-card play-in game to Colorado. He's won 71, 76, 76 and 77 games in the past four seasons and is 617-680 overall.

But after Preller's busy offseason that remade the roster, Black agreed he has the best team ''on paper'' in at least five years.

Shields is part of a deep rotation. Newly acquired outfielders Matt Kemp and Justin Upton bring much-needed power to the third and fourth spots. There's more depth in the infield and bullpen.

''There was a lot of work by baseball ops to make all this happen,'' Black said. ''And now we're seeing it firsthand on the field. That's what it's all about.''

Preller, who wasn't available for comment on Friday, praised Black after last season.

There's no doubt Preller didn't want to upset the clubhouse with making an immediate managerial move. But it's also clear Black must get the most out of a team that will have a record payroll of about $100 million this season if he's to return in 2016.

''This is about our players, our coaching staff, our team. This is about all of us,'' Black said on the high expectations. ''I'm a part of that, no doubt about it. I'm looking forward to this, my role.''

You May Like