Crank it up: Padres' first workout features tunes, optimism
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) The sights and sounds around the San Diego Padres' first full-squad workout Wednesday morning were much different than a year ago.
Gone were many of the big names, all of the high expectations and most of the media attention from 2015.
In were a rookie manager, lots of questions -- and a 196-song selection playing on speakers all around the complex.
''We have music down on the fields even this year,'' catcher Derek Norris said of the changes implemented by 38-year-old skipper Andy Green. ''He brings an energy, he's energetic, he's positive. He doesn't think about what's the worst that could happen.''
The worst did happen for San Diego in 2015. General manager A.J. Preller's offseason spending spree that brought in Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel flopped.
The Padres, considered contenders, went 78-84 and longtime manager Bud Black was fired.
Now Upton, Kimbrel, Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are gone and the payroll is lower. The Padres aren't picked to contend in the improved NL West, but they've also resisted a complete rebuild.
Kemp, Myers and Shields are still around, and that's no accident. President and CEO Mike Dee said they're not rebuilding, but ''building.''
''Clearly we had higher expectations than what were realized last year. But there were significant strides made in the organization,'' Dee said. ''There was a lot of interest, I think it's fair to say, in parts of that core group from other teams. But our decision was to stay the course with this major league group and try to improve the team. We believe this is a roster that can compete.''
They've entrusted it to the second-youngest manager in baseball, who faced far fewer reporters than Black did a year ago. Green must find two starting pitchers, work in a new shortstop and center fielder, oversee Myers' shift from the outfield to first base and mesh the veterans with the youth.
''I wouldn't so much say that we're under the radar, but we didn't make a heavy splash as far as the media goes and signing a bunch of high-priced free agents,'' said Norris, another of the 2015 acquisitions. ''People want to get better. People want to make a lot of money. They want to make an All-Star team. They want to go to the postseason. I think that aura that he's trying to instill is positive for this team.''
Players experienced Green's enthusiasm when he addressed the entire team for the first time.
''For me, it was about them taking ownership of this club,'' Green said of his speech. ''Them understanding it's been a players' game, it's always been a players' game and always will be a players' game. If we're going to be great, they've got to rise up and lead.''
Players scattered to different fields for the first workout amid music ranging from hip-hop to alternative to classic rock. Speakers and constant music are near every practice field, the clubhouse and weight room.
The tunes don't stop even when players walk between the clubhouse and weight room thanks to a speaker on a table placed in the hallway.
The players like it, keeping in line with Green's promise to empower them. Tweaks have already been made, with AC/DC and other hard rock now off limits until after 7 a.m. so the coffee can kick in.
Managing partner Peter Seidler didn't need any caffeine as he squeezed a baseball in his hand while players stretched in front of him.
''I'm more excited this year than last year, frankly, because we're one more year into Preller's reign of building a great organization at all levels,'' Seidler said of his GM. ''There's a lot of work to do, but there are a lot of great, exciting things to come here.''
NOTES: Green said left-handed hitting OF Jon Jay and 2B Cory Spangenberg are the top candidates to lead off. . Green indicated they'll be cautious with expected closer Fernando Rodney (hamstring) because ''he doesn't need a full spring's worth of outings'' to be ready. . RHP Kevin Quackenbush (hamstring) could throw off the mound by the end of the week.